By Michelle Sheather, Australian Greens, International Development Coordinator
16-24 May 2016, Sydney and Byron Bay, Australia
During May, 22 delegates from Green parties across Asia Pacific spent 10 days in Sydney and the sub-tropical north of the state of New South Wales (NSW), Australia. The delegates were learning first hand from the Australian and NSW Greens on our own experiences over the past 30 years. Our exchanges amongst the 12 men and 10 women from 11 countries discussed how we and they develop policies, plan election campaigns, the common issues we address through our campaigning, and the importance of building infrastructure and procedures in emerging parties… In turn we also learnt of the challenges and experiences delegates from these countries face within their own political systems and circumstances.
Our work on women’s issues in parliament, the strength of the Young Greens, and our work with Indigenous Australians all provided learnings for the delegates. To experience rural Australia we visited the seat of Richmond and met with Greens candidate Dawn Walker in Mullumbimby, impressed by her persistence following the loss in the last federal election she kept working hard to highlight issues such as coal seam gas fracking and to come back stronger four years later to contest the upcoming July 2 election.
Byron Bay was inspirational for all delegates meeting with Greens veterans such as Senator Jan Barham who highlighted practical challenges for sea level rise. Something shared by many delegates from countries such as the Solomon Island, Indonesia and the Philippines. We spent an afternoon at Terania Creek, now part of Nightcap National Park, at aptly named Protesters Falls waterfall which was a hard-won issue against destructive forestry in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Highlighting areas that can be preserved when people stand up for what they believe in rejuvenated the delegates on many levels. The Asia Pacific delegates referred to the area as one of our Australian Greens homelands.
We also spent a day in NSW state Parliament House with MPs Mehreen Faruqui and David Shoebridge and were hosted by Lower House Member for Balmian, Jamie Parker. Delegates visited the Lower House Chamber and held our meeting in the historical library room, the Jubilee room. Delegates heard of the role of Greens being active parliamentarians, spotlighting key issues, media and election strategies.
A visit to the frontline Grayndler office where we hope to pick up a lower house seat, standing against the former Deputy Prime Minister, saw the delegates offer their support for our work in the lead up to the July 2 election campaign in this hotly contested seat.
Federal Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon hosted a reception for the delegates at her Sydney office on May 18. Senator Rhiannon, the Australian Greens International Aid and Development spokesperson, drew attention to federal government cuts as this year’s May budget saw $224 million cut from our overseas aid budget, driving it down to a low of 0.22 per cent of Gross National Income. Speaking with the delegates we talked of the need to rebuild our aid program, and help countries in the Asia-Pacific region cope with the impacts of climate change.
Countries represented on the tour were- India, Indonesia, Japan, Lebanon, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Taiwan, and the Solomon Islands, joined by representatives from the Australian Greens and New South Wales Greens.
“I consider this tour as an important opportunity for emerging parties across region, it empowers our new parties and encourages us to be both active and visible across our region,” Liaquat Ali Shaikh, President Pakistan Green Party and co-convenor Asia Pacific Greens Federation. “ The federation came away from the tour more united and determined than when we set out.”
The Election Study Tour Objectives:
- Contribute to strengthening connections across APGF and to increase knowledge and skills within APGF members so as to implement a range of possible effective electoral and campaign activities;
- Observe Greens meetings and gain training on activities such as media, campaign planning and strategy, policy, engaging volunteers, fundraising, and social media. Learn about issues involved in Australian politics, parliamentary procedures, voting system and measures to ensure the integrity of the electoral process.
- Meet Green parliamentarians, candidates and party workers in a number of key inner -metropolitan and regional seats to learn from their strategies, motivations, experiences and challenges;
- Facilitate discussion forums and networking events with others from the region on lessons learnt so as to learn from each country’s experiences;
- Improve the knowledge and understanding of Australian Green Party members of work within Green Parties and emerging Green Parties within the region and learn from these experiences and challenges.
Asia Pacific Greens Federation (APGF) Council meeting, May 25-26 Sydney
Building on from lessons, exchanges, and experiences with the study tour delegates held their second annual APGF Council meeting in Sydney to discuss growth, expansion and challenges countries in the Federation face. Countries represented were Australia, India, Indonesia. Japan, Mongolia, Nepal, New Zealand, the Philippines, Taiwan. The APGF will next meet at the Global Greens and European Greens Congress in Liverpool, the UK in March 2017.
06/10/2016 – 16:48