Borderless Ideology and the Road to the Emerging Democracy: The Asia Pacific Greens Federation Study Tour

By Kiko C. Labro, Jr., Chairperson of Partido Kalikasan / GREENS PH, New South Wales, Sydney Australia, May 14 2016 to May 27, 2016

Introductory thoughts on weather, trains, and democracy

A humid and cold air welcomed me in the doorstep of Sydney. After nine (9) hours of travel and another six (6) hours of waiting patiently to board, I have finally reached our destination. I have never been a train aficionado. For one, my transportation in the Philippines usually involved public jeepneys. And second, the train system also confuses the adult out of me. No wonder, the train platform in Sydney International Airport left me befuddled. Nevertheless, my confusion with train has not lessened the excitement I had with this trip.

The journey to the Museum Station, a block away from the Vibe Hotel, was supposed to be billeted. Unfortunately, because of the big luggage I had, instead of taking the practical walk, I rode a taxi costing me around $6.50. The excitements rouse high as I arrived in the Vibe Hotel despite hand carrying a couple of luggages which my wife, Jenny, lovingly managed to prepare for my long stay in another continent.

This Sydney trip has been under the gracious guidance by the Australian Greens from May 15 to June 26, 2016. Naturally, I have been looking forward both personal and institutional development at the end of my study tour. My itineraries were distributed into three (3) parts:

(1) May 15-24, 2016 is devoted for Study Tour which comprise most of my narratives here;

(2) May 25-26, 2016 for the Face-to-Face meeting of the Council which I belong too (Asia Pacific Greens Federation); and

(3) May 28 to June 25, 2016 is the extensive part which involves technically working in Sen. Lee Rhiannon’s office (on the 1st week), in the New South Wales Australian Green’s office (for two weeks) and to the Parliamentary office of David Shoebridge, MP, NSW Greens (last week).

My itineraries have been basically outlined with the intention of comprehensively understanding the process undertaken during the formulation and the implementation of the Greens agenda in the different governance level among the Greens branch and to the community in general.

With me were representatives from the different corners of the world as far as Mongolia, Pakistan, Japan, Nepal, Taiwan, Indonesia, Lebanon, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands. Each country represents different stories of poverty, inequality, oppression of the indigenous people, human rights abuses, environmental degradation, so on and so forth. The socio-political situation of the countries within the Asia Pacific Greens Federation (APGF) constitutes narration of facts and the same challenges that the “Greens” were trying to contribute for the social change in the region. The hegemonic desire of every country representatives to the event is a reflection of the strong desire for social change.

The recognition of the total integrity of the leaders of Greens leaders is among factors essential in influencing people to support the advocacy of the Australian Greens as a social movement and its platform of government in the parliament. This is how John Sheldrick and Jaqueline Marks defined the significance of the Australian Greens in the peninsula. The thought and reflection on the paper were based on the understanding and perception of the author. The focus of this paper is primarily on (1) party building process-the internal democracy; (2) Amalgamation as threat to the democratic process”; and (3) The Aboriginals’ role in a developing party.

An Analysis on the Democratic Importance of the Study Tour

The trip to Australia is crucial to me as it involved complex issues of the study tour. More so because of the introduction by experts and MP’s of the Australian Greens particularly from the New South Wales Australian Greens of the “amalgamation” or the “dissolutions” of the local councils in New South Wales.  This particular concern is the most challenging situation that the Australian Greens is facing at the very moment. It is also the most important issue of every democratic country or group in the region. The Premier of NSW, Mike Baird had an authority to dissolve and sacked members of the local council for number of reasons provided by the State – according to the Greens, one among them were the “economy of scale”.

On the other hand, some discussion about the Liberals’ intent in implementing projects with the contractors but was prevented in view of the strong resistance from the opposition has been intertwined with the government’s removal of the strong council opposition to powerful local interests.  According to Sean Nicholls, it didn’t take long for accusations to emerge that the sacking of the councils, composed of strong public (and elected) voice,  was a deliberate attempt to shut down public opposition to motorway and coal seam gas projects.

How the Greens local branch of the Greens reacted

What about the Australian Greens as a federation, how do they see this in the macro perspective?

How this affects the ideology of the Greens being espousing the “Green Democracy” in the Asia Pacific Greens Federation and the Global Greens?

The foregoing questions pre-occupied my mind and focused my attention in the duration of my presence in the study tour organized by the Australian Greens' International Development Committee (AG-IDC). This is somehow reinforced from the input of Ms. Jenny Leong, MP of NSW, specially her commitment and convictions on social change and the Party Building process shared by Dr. Stewart Jackson. Some points were generated in the process of immersion with the local branch and some of the leaders of the party.

According to Melanie Kembrey (Sydney Morning Herald, May 28-29, 2016), nearly 400 Councillors across the state have been dismissed as part of the Baird government’s council reform agenda. The administrators, who are mainly former public servants, council managers and a few former mayors, have given the same powers and a few former mayors as councillors until the next local government elections in September 2017. Interestingly, Thom Mitchell (, May 26, 2016) commented that New South Wales Premier’s coup against local democracy has the people revolting, and for good reasons.

The Australian Greens summarizes the issue on the “amalgamation” and the “grassroots democracy” in its sincere desire and commitment in ensuring that residents, not politicians, have the final say on the make-up of their local council. This means that Greens will guarantee to support and develop legislation that gives residents in each of every council that is the subject of a forced merger the right to vote in binding plebiscite on de-merging. Since the amalgamation got its only authority at the state level of the government, the Greens further believe that a meaningful constitutional recognition gives legal protection to local democracy. Green Councillors and MP’s are united by a shared commitment to grassroots democracy and genuine community involvement.

Jenny Leong, one of the popular MP’s of the NSW contextualized her input about the greatest value of looking back to the history of the party and put it in the challenging perspective of the current situation. Leong acknowledged the fact of the Australian Greens evolved from a different process of transition until it reached the present stage of a stable political party at the region, particularly in Australia – from the social movement character into a full blown alternative political party. The existence of the party represents different experiences, ideological and theoretical perspective among the pillars of the party who contributes to where the AG now in the political setting of the peninsula. What inspires me on Ms. Leong’s narration is her view about her experience as an individual. Her views reflected more on the need to commit and devote one’s time in helping to consolidate on one’s own community. That makes a lot of sense. Her reflection about her involvement in the Global network of activism and the passion in the solidarity movement across the region, denied her the very opportunity to be attached in the grassroots. Seemingly, it detached her to the reality at the community level. Consequently, that made her less effective to contribute in the development of her own community. These perspectives became the motivating influence to refocus Leong’s priority, thus her transition to becoming one of the potent forces in the Greens advocacy in her own state.

The intricacies of the party building process as shared by Dr. Stewart Jackson of Sydney University and former Australian Greens national convener narrowed down my expectations on the so called “technical procedures” and the “philosophical boundaries” of Greens on building the party.

The general idea is based on the respective countries geo-sociological, historical and political situation. The general principles is universally accepted norms which evolves in the development of the party; the (1) charter, (2) its political structure (3) who were the members and the supporters and the (4) the significance of the presence of the core of the party or the “party activist”. The importance of the “transparency and accountability” serves as the party’s core value.

The development of a full blown political party is not easy as the conservatives were talking. It is a long process born out of the passion for (1) social equality, (2) active nonviolence, (3) grassroots democracy and (4) respect on individual adversity. It is the process wherein different principles and political beliefs based on the historical context nurtured to be an alternative political tradition, and that is the “Greens”.

Theoretically, Greens had an expressive tradition about the “internal democracy” in its different level of governance. My visits in Manly, Byron Bay and with some campaign offices of the party branch have the strong values on “sense of independency” from the federation. Respective branches have their own program, direction and strategy. This gives the substance of the nature of the Australian Greens as a federation. Technically, the strength of the “federation” is its respective branches operating on its natural course. This is evident in the issues of the “amalgamation” in selected state of the country. While the “federation” had its political stand against the “attack” on the “democratic system” by the Liberals – the party branch is the only empowered branch that has the mandate to “accept”, “work on it” or “fight for it!”

Each of the respective states/branch has had its own program, direction, set of policies and charters. The principles of the Greens are relevant to its commitment in supporting the Green platforms in the different level of the parliament in the peninsula. Greens PH is working hard to reach the same status that the Australian Greens is politically enjoying right now. The National Coordinating Body of the Australian Greens plays the vital role in coordination, policy development, program development and among other things. The National office had no authority on the branch/states or sectoral groups operation.

The late John Kaye’s statement captured my attention as these were his dying message to his colleagues and fellows of the “Greens” on changing the government. According to John Kaye, “This is about changing what people expect from government, what they expect from the possibilities of working together for the common good and the collective outcome. This is about rejecting the selfish, narrow solutions of neoliberalism. Its about explaining to people that surviving the climate change, surviving the massive challenge of reducing greenshouse gas emmisions, building a sustainable economy that spreads wealth in a way that doesn’t eat up and doesn’t rely on epxploiting labour in the third world countries, that the challenge can only be met by the demands of the people and those demands can only be grown by the work that we do not, not as an aspiring opposition, but as an aspiring agent of social change.”

It is also impressive to note that the Greens practice the tradition of “acknowledging” its countries mistake to the “real” owner of the land, the Indigenous People/Aboriginal People. It is also evident in every formal or informal gathering of the party that a ceremonial acknowledgment of the “colonialization” of the native land of Australia is crucial, thus emphasizing historical and intergenerational injustices against ancestors and aboriginal people in general.

Kaye, in his inaugural speech to the NSW Legislative Council, furthered in saying “As a matter of protocol, and also as mark of respect, I acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, the traditional owners of the land on which this Parliament sits. I pay respects to the elders, past and present.”



Acknowledging the fact that the party’s significant strength and presence in Australia’s political life was not an easy evolution that those sceptics were trying to argue, the evolution involved a great review and immersion of different philosophies, practices and traditions. The presence of the party’s characteristics being a social movement and parliamentarian requires so much discipline about how the internal democracy works within the party.  

The party’s significance will be gauged by its consistent actions and responses from the government. To realize and achieve the fundamentals of “grassroots democracy” being among the pillars of the “Greens”, inherent “internal democracy” must be exercised. In this case, an emerging party like Greens PH must be conscious of its primary task to build and strengthen the party branches/chapters. It is a conscious effort in building the party based on the “issues” not on the “personality”.

The party is founded on the basic call of the majority to have a structural change in the government and the ability to comprehend the problems of the community.

Greens acknowledge the fact that the legitimate stewards of every nation are the aboriginal people or the Indigenous People. It is also acknowledges that the Green platform is basically tied on how the party works on the preservation of its eco-system, protection of the eventual environmental degradation cause by the social inequality and greed for profit. The importance of understanding the historical values of the indigenous people strengthens the party in general. It is essential for every activist, party member and supporter to understand the significant contribution of the indigenous people in building the community and the country as well – strengthen the role of the Indigenous People in every level of governance within the party and to the parliament.