Global issues at the National Conference


In a world where everything is interconnected, we mustn't lose sight of global issues at our National Conferences.

By Viv Glance

We live in a world where communications and economies, movement of people and human rights are all interconnected. As part of a global movement the Greens are well placed to highlight our concerns and to work with others to advocate for change.

So it was great to see global issues strongly featured at the recent National Conference in Brisbane. This happened in several different ways: a workshop and resolution on West Papua, a resolution on Western Sahara and a workshop on the growing global interest in alternative measures to gross domestic product (GDP).

We were honoured to have three guest speakers at the workshop On Our Doorstep: West Papua’s Deadly Struggle for Independence: Jacob Rumbiak, West Papuan spokesperson from the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP); Veronica Koman, human rights lawyer and member of the Indonesian solidarity group FRI-WP (Front Rakyat Indonesia – West Papua); and Jason MacLeod from the Make West Papua Safe campaign. They were joined by federal senators Andrew Bartlett and Richard Di Natale.

A local perspective

Jacob Rumbiak spoke passionately about the history of human rights abuses and economic exploitation by foreign interests against the indigenous people of West Papua, situated on the island of New Guinea, just north of Australia.

Since the withdrawal of the Dutch colonial administration in 1963, West Papuans have suffered indiscriminate violence and suppression of freedoms, including freedom of expression. Even the act of raising the West Papuan flag, called the Morning Star, can result in a charge of treason.

Jacob’s presentation also showed how West Papuans contributed to the Allies efforts in the Pacific during the Second World War, but this has never been formally recognised or acknowledged.

Support from beyond West Papua

Jacob was followed by Veronica Koman, who offered some hope that there are people in Indonesia who are appalled by the human rights abuses that are happening in West Papua. Veronica outlined the ways Indonesians are acting in solidarity with the West Papuans, and also spoke about the impact of Australian corporate interests in the region.

The last speaker was Jason MacLeod, who is campaigning to stop the Australian government’s support to the Indonesian police in West Papua, who are the main oppressors of human rights there. Between the years of 2012 and 2016, Indonesia received the second largest number of Australian armaments after the United States of America.

Following the speakers there was a Q&A which included Senator Richard Di Natale and Senator Andrew Bartlett. Richard spoke about his long interest and support for the West Papuan cause, and his hope that the Parliamentary Friendship Group reconvenes, but this needs cross-party support before it can happen.

This session followed on from two resolutions passed at our November conference, one of which included a request for elected representatives across the country to raise the West Papuan flag at their office on 1 December – the day the flag was first flown in 1961, when West Papuans were still under Dutch rule. We are hoping that this year on 1 December we will see many flags raised in support of the West Papuans.

As a result of the session, it was agreed to present an urgent resolution to conference in support of the struggle of the West Papuan people. This was approved by Conference at the plenary.

The Western Sahara resolution

Another global issue highlighted at Conference was the resolution put forward by Jamie Parker MLA, Member for Balmain in NSW. The Western Sahara has been occupied by Morocco since 1976. This long occupation has led to human rights abuses, political oppression and plundering of natural resources – a similar pattern to what is happening in West Papua. The resolution called for several measures including support for the rights of the indigenous Saharawi people and their fight for self-determination.

The resolutions on West Papua and Western Sahara can be found in the conference papers in the National Meetings section on the Australian Greens Greenhouse online resource. They are both in line with our Greens commitment to human rights, anti-colonialism and self-determination for all peoples, as noted in the Australian Greens Charter and our International Relations policy. These are also the aims of the Global Greens Charter.

If not GDP, then what?

The second workshop with a global focus was Alternatives to GDP: How do we measure progress in social, environmental and economic well-being? The aim of the workshop was to begin a conversation at an Australian level that could be included in a wider discussion with Greens parties to build a consistent position across the Global Greens Movement. 

It explored how we might integrate the discussion around alternatives measures to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) into our policy formation and our campaigns. It was exciting to hear from Senator Peter Whish-Wilson about the developments in New Zealand where they plan to introduce a wellbeing budget in 2019.

Other speakers included Diane Evers MLC for the South West in WA and Mark Cooper (Greens Economic Forum). They reviewed the history of GDP, discussed some key alternative measures and outlined how other countries are approaching this concept.

The workshop resulted in a commitment to continue the conversation via email, and for Senator Whish-Wilson to review which indicators and measures New Zealand are considering for their 2019 budget. If anyone would like to join the email list to keep abreast of these issues, please get in touch.

Thanks to all the people who participated in these workshops and in framing the resolutions. Thanks also to the Global Issues Working Group – I look forward to working on future workshops and building our global Greens movement.

Viv Glance is the Australian Greens International Secretary and Convenor of our Global Issues Working Group.

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