The week in green politics


Green Labor defection to Democrats

Gordon McQuilten, a founder of the Green Labor faction of the Labor Party, has joined the Australian Democrats and will seek preselection for the Victorian state seat of Richmond.

McQuilten is the second prominent former Green Labor member to join the Democrats. He follows Helen Caldicott, who announced her decision in early April.

Democrats spokesperson Hans Paas said the party considered six seats winnable in the next Victorian elections, "and we expect to hold the balance of power in the Legislative Assembly".

Credentials questioned

Illawarra Greens member Steve Brigham thinks the Democrats lack green credentials. "There are structural and historical reasons why the Democrats cannot at this stage claim to be a green party", he told the April 18 Illawarra Mercury. "In the last federal elections, the Democrats fielded candidates that were not particularly green at all", he said.

"I think they're concerned, as already some political commentators have implied, the formation of a green party may in fact take away a significant percentage of their vote. I think they're trying to establish their space in the political arena and they're trying to do that quickly."

Illawarra candidates

From Wollongong, Bernie Brian reports that the Illawarra Greens have selected Steve Brigham to contest the seat of Wollongong and Carole Medcalf for Bulli in the May 25 state elections. Brigham, a psychologist, won 7% for the Greens in the 1990 federal elections. Carole Medcalf is a welfare worker for the Wollongong Women's Centre. Priority issues will be public transport, pollution of Port Kembla Harbour and plans to expand the town of Helensburgh into the Royal National Park.

Green preferences could be vital to the election results. Bulli, a new marginal seat, will be contested by ALP right-winger and former member for Burragorang Ian McManus, while Wollongong is held by right-wing independent Frank Arkell.

NSW Green Alliance meets

A May 4 meeting of the NSW Green Alliance in Sydney unanimously called for a national gathering of green parties, groups and individuals next August. Responding to a proposal last month for a national meeting on May 18-19, the meeting began what it hopes will be an open and thorough discussion between local green organisations and individuals on prospects for a national green party.

The August date was proposed to avoid meeting in midst of the NSW elections. It was also felt that a national meeting before late July would not allow time for even preliminary consultation n groups across the state, including an open statewide conference prior to any national gathering. An August meeting would also be able to take account of a Greens WA statewide conference planned for July 26-28.

The Green Alliance agreed any national gathering should be open to all able to attend, rather than restricted to 30-40 key activists as had been proposed earlier. The meeting also noted that the process of forming a new green party would be important in shaping politics and organisational practices.

It was agreed the first national gathering should provide for open and detailed discussion of a variety of documents and proposals without undue pressure to arrive at decisions based on the one proposal so far submitted by the Greens WA and the Denison Greens. The meeting also accepted a proposal to set up a greens conference on the Pegasus computer network to facilitate an open exchange of structure proposals and other information.

Despite formal cancellation of the proposed May 18-19 national meeting, it was reported that a meeting of the original Melbourne Group together with Jo Vallentine and possibly others, will go ahead in Sydney on May 19. If, how or when grassroots activists will hear the outcome of this meeting remains to be seen. n

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