The week in green politics


Greens stretch Nile for NSW upper house

With counting still under way to decide the important 15th seat in the NSW Legislative Council, the Greens are giving Call to Australia's Reverend Fred Nile a run for his money. With more than 50% of votes counted by last Friday, Nile and the Greens' Ian Cohen were neck and neck, with no clear trend evident.

Labor Party observers say the decision could hang on a few hundred votes. Should Nile lose his seat, the minority Greiner Liberal government will not control the upper house, making its position even shakier.

The strong vote for the Greens confirms the support for a genuine alternative to all the major parties and the widespread rejection of the rightward shift in parliamentary politics in NSW over recent years.

National meeting

Discussion continues about formation of a national green organisation. The proposal for a postal ballot to decide methods of representation and voting at a national meeting, currently scheduled for August 3-4, has generated many responses.

The Greens (WA) responded early by circulating a list of results for green candidates in the last federal elections and suggesting these as a possible basis for representation at the proposed national meeting.

The Queensland Green Network, to date not consulted by the five "conveners" of the national meeting, has written to them pointing out that, since it includes most active greens in Queensland and has recently conducted a broad and successful municipal election campaign, it should be included in any national discussion. The network argues that the proposed pre-meeting ballot "contradicts the principles of grassroots participatory democracy" and that a more acceptable model would be one which is "open and all-inclusive". A June 16 meeting of the QGN will discuss more fully the proposed national meeting.

In Sydney, a June 13 meeting of the NSW Green Alliance reaffirmed decisions of a conference last month that the proposed national meeting "should not involve major decision-making" and refused to support any method of voting for this meeting. Instead, the alliance suggested that any national meeting should "sort out more concise proposals to be taken back to grassroots membership". In a letter to the Greens (WA), the alliance questioned the "need for such haste" and suggested that discussion might focus on whether a uniform national structure

could guarantee grassroots participation. The alliance will hold an open, statewide meeting on July 6 for further discussion on the question of a national green party.

Two South Australian groups have responded: the federally registered Green Party (SA), and the state-registered SA Green Alliance. The Green Party questions the anonymity and participation of the Melbourne Group, raising questions about the links between this group and the "mainstream movement [which] has consistently supported Labor".

The SA Green Alliance, which like the QGN has not yet been consulted by the "conveners", has expressed concern about decisions so far which "appear to exclude a number of specifically green and other related groups". The alliance also points out that "this will limit the effectiveness of the party, not only in terms of grassroots support, but in the eyes of the still-to-be-convinced public, who will see it as just another party".

Other registered green parties in NSW (Eastern Suburbs Greens, South Sydney Greens, Western Suburbs Greens) have also expressed concern at the exclusiveness of the ballot and the role of the Melbourne Group. The Sydney Greens have proposed that each participating party/group be entitled to three voting delegates at the proposed national meeting.

Greens (WA)

In a letter to all greens placed on the Pegasus network last week, a member of the Avon Greens (WA) expresses concern over consultation and discussion within the WA party on the question of a national organisation. The letter claims the Greens (WA) last April questioned the need for haste on this question and generally agreed that a loose network (as opposed to a centralist party or federation) was the preferred option for national coordination.

The April meeting also agreed that no decisions should be made by Greens (WA) representatives at any proposed national meeting, but rather "any discussion would have to be brought back to the full membership". The letter concludes: "... it is my strong feeling as an active Green that the initiatives made in the name of the Greens (WA) were made by a small group acting in virtual secrecy, and in direct contradiction of the views and values espoused by members at General Meetings". It adds that the national meeting might be an appropriate place to open dialogue between members of the Greens (WA) and greens in other states.

Tasmanian second thoughts?

Hall Greenland, one of the five "conveners" of the proposed national meeting, reported to a meeting of the Sydney Greens that the Tasmanian green independents had recently decided to withdraw from the national green party process with a view to joining the Australian Democrats instead. It was reported that the Greens (WA) convinced the Tasmanians to reconsider on the proviso that the formation of a national green organisation proceed in some way as a stepping stone towards an eventual merger with the Democrats.

Democrat for Labor Council

Armon Hicks, former central figure in the NSW office of the Australian Democrats, was recently appointed an industrial officer for the NSW Labor Council with special skills in the media and communications, public relations and parliamentary liaison. His appointment was endorsed by the June 6 meeting of the Labor Council on the motion of right-wing supremo Michael Easson, seconded by railways union right-wing heavy Jim Walshe.