It maybe hard to imagine the Greens' Senator Bob Brown as minister for the environment.
But if he lived in Europe that is just what the Tasmanian senator might have been, as are four of his counterparts in Greens parties in Finland, Belgium, Germany and France, in coalitions with left-leaning parties.
More than 300 Greens MPs, councillors and officials from 60 countries have got together in Canberra this weekend at Senator Brown's invitation for a conference that is due to devote much time talking about the downside of globalisation.
The big drawcard was to have been the French Environment Minister, Ms Dominique Voynet, but she had to pull out at the last minute to attend talks in Washington on greenhouse gases.
One of her colleagues, a French member of the European Parliament, Mr Didier Rod, recalled that she was on one of the Greenpeace ships that opposed the nuclear testing at Mururoa Atoll.
Then, in 1997 she became part of a coalition government that put an end to such testing and shut down two nuclear power plants. "Les Verts [the Greens], were set up in France in 1984 but were not only a setting for environmental concerns, but also big on social issues which other parties would not take up," Mr Rod said. Those issues included securing a 35-hour working week, and more rights for illegal immigrants and gays.
Greens parties have come a long way since Senator Brown, 56, helped set up the United Tasmania Group in 1972 and the Values Party in New Zealand in 1975.
In Germany, where the Greens took 6.7 per cent of the vote in the last Federal election 2 years ago, there are 47 Green MPs, out of 660, and three Greens ministers in the ruling coalition with the Social Democratic Party.
The secretary-general of the German Greens, Mr Reinhard Bütikofer, is, like Mr Rod, a product of the 1970s radical student movements, and found his niche when the West German Greens were formed in 1979.
The German Government has now set itself a tougher target on greenhouse gases than it agreed to when signing the Kyoto protocol in 1997.
Its target is that 10 per cent of its farming be by organic methods by 2010, and to close the country's 19 nuclear power stations.
Mr Bütikofer says the rise of Greens parties is no surprise, coming naturally from those involved in human rights and social justice issues in the 1970s.
"The Greens talked about sustainability when most people would have thought this was outlandish," he said. "Now sustainability has become a catchphrase of almost anybody."
Visiting American Green Ms Annie Goeke said this week that President George Bush might have done the US a favour with his comments that his country wanted nothing to do with the Kyoto protocol, because it focused attention on the issue and put more domestic pressure on Mr Bush.
Other conference delegates include the former Finnish environment minister Mr Pekka Haavisto, a Colombian MP, Ms Ingrid Betancourt, forced to travel with bodyguards in her own country, and the leader of the Kenyan Green Belt Movement, Ms Wangara Maathai, who until recently was imprisoned for speaking out against the government on landclearing.
Senator Brown said it was an opportunity to form an alliance between Greens to counter what he regarded as the running of the world out of corporate boardrooms.
"The Greens are the positive globalisers," he said.
Copyright © 2001 Sydney Morning Herald