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Keep it Green

Wed 26 Jan 2011 In: Comment View at Wayback

What electoral prospects might Green political parties provide for LGBT voters? Let's compare our own Green Party and those in Australia and Germany. In New Zealand, the Values Party were one of the first global green political parties. Under First Past the Post, though, some of its more pragmatic members decided that entering the Labour Party would be a more feasible prospect for environmental policy reforms, which did eventuate. However, in the nineties, the New Right Bolger and Shipley administrations led to revival of the Green Party, and the advent of MMP led to the election of the first Green List MPs as part of the multiple-party centre-left coalition known as the Alliance. When the Alliance suffered schism in the late nineties, the Greens decided to go it alone and Jeanette Fitzsimons stood for election in the Coromandel as a candidate. She won the seat, and the Greens reached the five percent threshold, above which they have remained ever since. As a centre-left party, they've done well on issues of perceived risk and safety, although it was probably a mistake to elevate opposition to genetically modified crops above shared centre-left issues of concern like climate change. The latter led to unnecessary estrangement and the temporary entry of United Future's caucus. The Greens are strongly supportive on issues like inclusive adoption reform and voted for the passage of the Civil Union and Relationship (Statutory Reference) Acts and Care of Children Act in 2004-5. Kevin Hague is their health spokesperson. Without New Zealand First and United Future, they'll be Labour's coalition partner of choice when the next centre-left government is elected in New Zealand, whether 2011 or 2014. The federal Australian Greens were formed in 1992, although their beginnings can be dated from the United Tasmania Group, which claimed to be the world's first green political party, although that is open to debate (given the existence of our Values Party). During the early eighties, the Australian environmental movement scored one of their landmark victories, successfully preventing the expansion of Tasmania's Franklin Dam and the flooding of Lake Pedder, after the federal government intervened in 1982. Given that Tasmania has a highly proportional Single Transferable Vote electoral system for its Legislative Assembly lower house, Bob Brown, a medical practitioner and out gay man, acquired a state parliamentary seat in 1977. In 1989, he became leader of the newly formed Tasmanian Greens political party and in 1992, he became an elected Green Senator for Tasmania. In 2011, the Australian Greens have nine federal senators, three of whom are women. Brown became their first leader in 2005, and is the first out gay man to lead an Australian political party. The Australian Greens have been a beacon of sanity over issues like climate change, antinuclear policies, uranium mining, humane treatment of refugees and asylum seekers and opposed Australian entanglement in the Iraqi War quagmire after 2003. From 2004, the Australian Greens have opposed the federal same-sex marriage ban, and tried to remove it in 2010. The Exclusive Brethren cult and Tasmanian forestry companies have repeatedly attacked Senator Brown over his opposition to expansion of logging in Tasmania, due to its possible endangerment of rare Tasmanian bird species. Due to anger against ALP abandonment of climate change and social liberalism, the Australian Greens now hold the balance of power within the federal Australian Senate and have surged in most Australian states that have Single Transferable Vote proportional representation electoral systems for their bicameral state parliamentary upper houses or single chambers In Germany, their Green Party arose in the seventies, much like our own. Environmentalist and peace groups were more electorally viable in Germany under MMP, leading to the election of the German Greens to the Bundestag in 1983. Due to environmental concerns and the Cold War, their voter share grew markedly in 1987. They were temporarily evicted from the Bundestag in 1990 due to German reunification, but were back in 1994. In 1998, they formed a coalition with Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats. Leader Joschka Fischer became Vice Chancellor of Germany and Foreign Minister. Kosovo military commitment and the gradual phasing out of nuclear power plants proved to be contentious, although the German Greens won the latter concession as a major policy platform in 2000. In terms of LGBT rights, the German Greens were significant supporters of Germany's registered partnership legislation and enhanced antidiscrimination law protections. The SDP gradually lost support, leading to the end of this first coalition centre-left government in 2005. As with New Zealand's Greens, transport policy and climate change are significant concerns. They are a predominantly urban party although also do well in university towns. So, what can one conclude from the above? Green political parties are the product of the sixties New Left. They may be centred on environmental responsibility concerns, but there's nothing wrong with that. As well, they arose in a shared milieu that also included feminism and LGBT rights as well as the peace and green movements, so they're probably the most comfortable political prospects for LGBT voters outside the Labour Party. We can be confident that they will wisely use the responsibility of elected power, so we should not hesitate to give our party votes to them. Craig Young - 26th January 2011    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Wednesday, 26th January 2011 - 2:27pm

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