The week in green politics


Democrats and greens

"If a Green Party forms and then almost immediately loses its identity by merging, this could prejudice the credibility of both organisations", writes Australian Democrat Senator Janet Powell in the first issue of Forest Reporter, magazine of the Forest Campaign Group of the Australian Conservation Foundation.

Discussing prospective relations between the Democrats and a new green party, Powell canvasses the possibilities of merger and "alliance or coalition". She adds that merger could offer "maximum cohesion and pooled resources", while "the alliance option signifies less unity in the eyes of members".

On the other hand, "an alliance would be easier to achieve and a successful model exists. Queensland's Green Alliance brought parties and community groups together in an effective campaign in the recent local government elections ... Given that we are two years from the next federal election, the passage of time favours an alliance over a merger in the short term."

National meeting update

The national meeting to discuss formation of a green party (originally scheduled for May 18-19) has been postponed to August 3-4 due to the NSW elections, "feedback suggesting a longer lead-time for consultation" and a proposal for a pre-meeting ballot on representation and voting at the gathering, according to a letter sent to green groups by the five "conveners" (Steve Brigham, Bob Brown, Hall Greenland, Drew Hutton and Jo Vallentine).

The conveners have invited groups to submit proposals on these matters by June 7 in preparation for a mail-out on June 10, with responses required by July 8. For the purposes of this ballot, the conveners propose that the Tasmanian Greens, the "Melbourne Group" and each of the 14 presently registered green parties would get one vote.

The circular doesn't elaborate on the composition of the Melbourne Group, which, unlike the other participants in the ballot, appears to be a private group rather than a public political organisation. As well, it seems the conveners are proposing not to consult the South Australian Green Alliance, the Hunter Greens (Newcastle) or the North Shore Greens (Sydney). The conveners suggest that the ballot should be decided on the basis of a "clear majority" rather than by the more usual green method of consensus or a 75% majority.

Rainbow to contest Vic elections?

The Rainbow Alliance annual general meeting in Melbourne on May 5 agreed in principle to contest the next Victorian elections. The decision, which is subject to a referendum of members, marks a shift from the group's previous avoidance of electoral politics because the system is undemocratic and participating would merely reinforce parliamentarism.

A proposal was also floated for a "people's tribunal", which eetings to generate discussion on the electoral system. The Rainbow's attitude towards proposals for a national green party is still unclear. Spokesperson Joe Camilleri refused to comment on the question when contacted by Green Left Weekly.

Brisbane alliance winds up

The Green Alliance, a temporary broad coalition formed to contest the recent Brisbane local government elections, held its final meeting on May 12. The meeting discussed last month's elections and the future of green politics in Brisbane. While all agreed Green Alliance had been a positive experience, there were different views on the timetable for formation of a national green party.

Some wanted such a move within the next few months, while others wanted to continue with an alliance framework until structure, membership and policy were democratically sorted out. The discussion will continue on June 16 at the next meeting of the Queensland Green Network. n