Date of Award

1999

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Quentin Beresford

Abstract

From their beginnings as a protest party in the early 1970s to their election to the federal parliaments of countries around the world, the Greens have largely been seen us the political wing of a direct action movement. As a political organisation, however, Greens are now making a transition away from an exclusive focus on direct action to mainstream parliamentary activity. The key benchmark in assessing the success or otherwise of the Greens remains the environment, and their capacity to effect changes to the benefit of the environment. This thesis, then, addresses the central question in the evolution of the Greens: To what extent is parliament an effective means by which the Greens can advance environmental causes. This is done via a case study examining the activities of the three Greens (WA) parliamentarians in the Legislative Council over two periods; during the period 1993-1997 when Jim Scott sat alone in the Council, and; during the period after the 1997 change in composition of the Council. Analysis of the second period will focus particularly on the establishment of the Standing Committee on Ecologically Sustainable Development and its reports. The effectiveness of the Green parliamentarians during these two periods is examined in three ways, by assessing; the various methods that can be used by a parliamentarian to influence legislation and the policy process; whether there has been any positive changes to legislation or policy; and under what conditions those changes were able to be made. In taking up their seats in May 1997, the three Green parliamentarians became part of the first Legislative Council to have a majority of non-conservative members. This is important, because being in the balance of power dramatically improved their ability to effect Government legislation. Prior to this, Jim Scott sat alone as the only Greens (WA) Legislative Councillor in a Coalition controlled Council between 1993 and 1997. During the debate on the Environmental Protection Act Amendment Bill 1993 he was not able to effect any changes or to initiate much debate on the legislation. The ESD Committee process shows a different approach to parliament from 1993-97. The Committee was approached as a necessity by Christine Sharp, and followed on the work of the Wilderness Society's lobbying efforts at the time of the 1996 State election. Following Sharp's election, she worked with the various interested parties involved in the forest industry. During this time, Sharp found that there was some common ground on issues surrounding the sustainability of forestry in W A. If Green parliamentarians find themselves in the balance of power, as from 1997 until the present, then the opportunities for change are increased. In this situation there is of course a requirement to work with the other parties that may also occupy the non-Government benches, such as the Democrats and Labor, to achieve their aims, but the possibility for change is concomitantly higher.

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