Home > Oz Politics > A real end to an era

A real end to an era

April 13th, 2012

Bob Brown has just announced his retirement from politics. It comes as a shock, but such announcements usually do. I can’t do justice to Bob’s thirty or more years of activism in a blog post, but there have been few people in political life who’ve achieved as much while not compromising their integrity to secure political support. The Green Party which Bob effectively founded and has largely embodied for many years, has made a big positive contribution to Australian political life

Given the rubbish in the comments threads recently, I’m going to be ruthless in moderating this one. There will be plenty of time for critical thoughts on Bob Brown’s political career and on the Green Party. If you can’t wait for a more appropriate occasion, take such comments to the sandpit. Anything in this post that crosses my subjective line will be deleted with prejudice.

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  1. TerjeP
    April 13th, 2012 at 13:20 | #1

    I’ll go out on a limb and predict that the Greens have peaked federally and will struggle without Bob.

  2. socrates
    April 13th, 2012 at 13:42 | #2

    Although I am not a member of the Greens, I do respect Brown for his commitment to his principles, particularly environmental, but also on equity and social justice. The challenge will be to see if the Greens can grow further after him.

    That being said, I think this is a sensible decision on Brown’s part. He has probably achieved all he can. It gives Milne as successor time to establish herself clearly as the new leader. Handled well, the change gives them an opportunity to do a little rebranding, which may be of benefit. The Greens have a considerable opportunity given Labor’s disarray. They also have a good chance of holding the balance of power in the Senate again after the next election, with only 3 of 9 up for re-election, and the prospect of further gains.

  3. Mike
    April 13th, 2012 at 13:47 | #3

    I hope The Greens will continue to grow and develop without Bob. More than ever we need a progressive party to challenge the increasingly hollow, rootless and right-wing electoral machine that the ALP has become.

    Have a long and happy retirement Bob.

  4. Fran Barlow
    April 13th, 2012 at 13:51 | #4

    Thanks John … well said.

    As I’ve said in a number of places, Bob Brown’s contribution to The Greens is hard to overstate. He set a standard in reason, ethics, compassion and political courage that honours not only our polity but humanity more generally. The world has been a measurably better place for his contribution.

    By an odd coincidence, I was reflecting just yesterday on when he might retire — “Mel” on the other thread reminded me of an April 2011 post I’d made at LP — which said nothing of the sort, but mentioned the obvious — that one day he would retire and that he would recognise that the party was for all the membership. That got me thinking about what he would do next.

    Today, in the manner of his departure, he has affirmed my point about his selflessness. There was no ego, or drama or spin or wailing and gnashing of teeth. There was nothing like a whiff of anything attending him but the respect and amity of all of us who’d ever had anything positive to do with The Greens.

    I feel very happy for Bob, and hope that he continues to find his life with his partner Paul rewarding, but on this day I confess to more than a little sadness that he has felt the need to move on when he was still at the top of his game.

    I just hope he makes it to Sydney so people like me can thank him personally.

  5. frankis
    April 13th, 2012 at 14:09 | #5

    Bob Brown’s made an immense contribution to the nation and been I think the most honourable and considerable politician of his time. Missing him already.

  6. Jim Birch
    April 13th, 2012 at 14:18 | #6

    I can’t think of anyone in Oz politics who would match Bob for integrity. He was forthright but generous to his enemies, gave considered public statements and abstained from the lower side of the process.

  7. gerard
    April 13th, 2012 at 14:23 | #7

    this news has all the makings of a monster LP thread! nice timing folks.

  8. Troy Prideaux
    April 13th, 2012 at 14:40 | #8

    Agreed with all the praising comments made about Bob and I too wish him the very best of luck and happiness with the new chapter of his life.
    Question for the forum: what’s your view on Scott Ludlam? My view for a while now it that he appears like one of the sharpest people involved in federal politics on an intellectual sense – I appreciate that doesn’t always translate to ambition. Is he potential future leadership material?

  9. Troy Prideaux
    April 13th, 2012 at 14:44 | #9

    …and please excuse my usual myriad of typos…

  10. Freelander
    April 13th, 2012 at 14:47 | #10

    Sad that Bob Brown is going. The right decision because one doesn’t live for ever, and he will be around to help with the transition. Better to hand the reins over early than too late. Just once more speaks to the integrity of the man that he leaves early, thinking of the well being of the party he has done so much for.

    Too many politicians need to be pryed from a whiff of power with a crowbar. Thinking of Howard,Rudd,and others.

  11. Tom
    April 13th, 2012 at 14:49 | #11

    @Fran Barlow

    With due respect, the part about Bob Brown being selfless might be a little exaggerated. Although I cannot speak on his behalf, I doubt that he doesn’t have even just a little self ambitions on politics. However I do not doubt his integrity and I agree with you that he had done the Australia society a bigger favour than any politician had done in the past 30 odd years. It’s difficult to imagine how hard it was for him to build a social democratic party in a country with such a biased media. I too feel sad about him resigning and I hope Milne can keep the party the way it is (unlike ALP), advance the party and achieve more than Bob achieved.

  12. Fran Barlow
    April 13th, 2012 at 15:01 | #12

    Bob Brown’s Letter of Resignation to The Greens

    @Tom said:

    the part about Bob Brown being selfless might be a little exaggerated. Although I cannot speak on his behalf, I doubt that he doesn’t have even just a little self ambitions on politics.

    Well plainly, whatever “ambition” he had, he set it aside today. There was no ego-based reason for him to leave. While nobody who enters politics and succeeds is a shrinking violet, never once did I see him put himself ahead of principle. He was without doubt the most admirable political figure in Australian parliamentary politics since World War 2, and probably of all time.

  13. Freelander
    April 13th, 2012 at 15:04 | #13


    Tom… Tom…

    Oh, come on, Tom… The man is a saint! A secular saint! You certainly can’t speak on his behalf.

    Bob Brown… Secular Saint.

    I am sure if Catholics prayed to him we would quickly see a couple of miracles!

  14. Tim Macknay
    April 13th, 2012 at 15:18 | #14

    I am sure if Catholics prayed to him we would quickly see a couple of miracles!

    He’d be a more effective intermediary than Pell, in any case.

  15. Freelander
    April 13th, 2012 at 15:19 | #15

    @Tim Macknay

    Obviously Pell can’t perform miracles, but he does speak for god.

  16. Tom
    April 13th, 2012 at 15:29 | #16

    @Fran Barlow

    Nicely put; I wasn’t doubting his integrity at all, he’s resignation did show he puts the interest of the party first. However saying someone is selfless is another story and I personally dislike things or people’s integrity being exaggerated. I wish to stop here so flaming doesn’t start in this thread and if I did in anyway offend you, I apologise.

  17. Jim Birch
    April 13th, 2012 at 15:35 | #17

    One thing that the Greens do have with or without Bob is a real constituency, albeit a political minority. They won’t go away.

    It’s a bit hard to work out who the Labor or Liberals constituency is at present. Which is probably why they expend so much energy trying to white ant the Greens.

  18. Tim Macknay
    April 13th, 2012 at 15:46 | #18

    Obviously Pell can’t perform miracles, but he does speak for god.

    Nope. That’s the Archbishop of Canterbury’s job. Or maybe the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Or is it the High Priest of the Temple of Kali on the banks of the Hooghly? I get so confused. *sigh* Things were so much easier when you just went to Delphi, paid your money and a crazy woman sat on a tripod, inhaled some mephitic vapours, babbled the words of god and then the priest wrote them down for you. Simple.

  19. April 13th, 2012 at 16:03 | #19

    Bob Brown’s hardly some sort of populist demagogue. People liked the policies, and disliked the major parties first and foremost.

  20. iain
    April 13th, 2012 at 16:25 | #20

    Massive loss. I’m in China and heard this through normal channels, so quite some news from Aus.

    The big problem is that this has dems ex-Don Chipp written all over it. The Greens will maintain (for a while at least) but are unlikely to grow.

    Milne suffers from similar challenges as Gillard — competent, but completely unsuited to a representative democracy leadership position.

  21. Sam
    April 13th, 2012 at 17:04 | #21

    Even leaving the environment and civil rights out of it, The Greens under Bob have been much more sensible economically than the major parties. They have been consistently against middle (and upper) class welfare, and have valiantly resisted US efforts to dictate our trade and IP laws.

  22. David Allen
    April 13th, 2012 at 17:37 | #22

    I just wish he wasn’t so remarkable. He has shown how poor or mediocre most elected reps sadly are.

  23. Freelander
    April 13th, 2012 at 17:39 | #23

    @David Allen

    Very true!!

  24. Salient Green
    April 13th, 2012 at 20:19 | #24

    I became a member of the Greens shortly after Rudd was elected although had voted for them as a non-member in a couple of state and one federal election previously.

    I wasn’t drawn to the Greens by policy or personality. I was pushed to them by the major parties’ economic rationalist policies first and environmental concerns second.

    Now I am very much concerned about the environment first but know that it is threatened by Growth economics and all its poisonous tendrils which are entwined with the politics of the major parties.

    I do have some concerns about Bob leaving but I joined for the Greens policy, not for Bob Brown. The policy is still there. I think Christine could be even better at communicating Greens policy than Bob – she will have to if they are to make progress.

    I would love to meet Bob personally. That’s no small thing for me as I’m not a people person but I rank him at the top of the heap of admirable people with the likes of David Suzuki and Richard Attenborough.

  25. April 13th, 2012 at 20:31 | #25

    @Troy Prideaux

    Firstly, I agree with PrQ’s very well put post.

    Re: Scott Ludlum, a very intelligent, honest, principled and decent senator who would easily be a future leader. The same goes for every single one of their senators.

    Unlike the other parties the greens are “cursed” with nothing but talent from which to choose.

    Try, without cheating, to name the 12 senators representing your state.

    Queenslanders might ask themselves what they know of, or think about, the achievements and principles of, say, Sue Boyce, Mark Furner, Jan McLucas, Claire Moore or Brett Mason.

    Bob Brown has been a huge asset to our democracy.

  26. Dan
    April 13th, 2012 at 23:05 | #26

    @Salient Green

    He is a warm, regular guy. Just a nice, thoughtful, warm fella.

  27. 2 tanners
    April 13th, 2012 at 23:29 | #27


    If you live in a democracy deprived territory, your task is a lot easier. Personally, I could name several Green senators who I could do without but of course that certainly didn’t include Bob Brown.

    I think you’re right. Without Bob Brown, the watermelon tag is going to be hard to shake, rightly in some cases and wrongly in others. But a lot of them seem to be style over substance which is what killed the Dems.

    Hope I’m wrong.

  28. April 13th, 2012 at 23:54 | #28

    @2 tanners

    Please do, with reasoning.

  29. Troy Prideaux
    April 13th, 2012 at 23:58 | #29

    @2 tanners
    Hope you are too. As Christine Milne said tonight on Lateline though – many wrote the Tasmanian Greens off when Bob Brown left and Christine took the reigns. They subsequently went from strength to strength.

  30. Freelander
    April 14th, 2012 at 00:00 | #30

    The Greens need to take an effective cure for dandruff and get rid of the flakes once and for all. If they do that they might be a force and replace the Labor party. Otherwise it will always be for them “I could’a been a contend’a”.

  31. Adit
    April 14th, 2012 at 00:25 | #31

    I’d like to join everyone in their praise for Bob Brown, his achievements, his policies, his character and principles.

    I just have a contrary thought for those suggesting the decline of the Greens from here. (apologies in advance if the following is the kind of thing JQ wanted in the sandpit)

    I can only see the Greens moving upward and onwards. I think in every election to come they will make gains, chipping away at disaffected labor voters, but also continue to gain support from newly registered voters as they have been already. Young voters represent 30% of the electorate. In the 18-24 demographic, the Greens are particularly serious players – abc put them only 3% behind the Coalition in voters intentions in this bracket (not sure how scientific this polling was though). Their support base will only keep growing, especially if the two major parties keep driving policy to achieve votes rather than outcomes.

    The greens look to be the only party standing by their most core beliefs with consistency, but without dogma (they’re willing to compromise some things to achieve the goals consistent with their core. ALP and LNP are willing to compromise anything to win the next election, or news cycle. I think this has been one of The Greens’ greatest strength, and should they continue this I cannot see them becoming irrelevant any time soon.

    I hope moving forward the Greens party start becoming more vocal and their policies better known/understood on industry/infrastructure/the economy etc rather than just on, what are seen to be, fringe issues like gay rights/gender equality/the environment. I think the greater Australian population will be pleasantly surprised.

    On ya Bob!

  32. Freelander
    April 14th, 2012 at 00:39 | #32


    YoU might be right. Labor is so on the nose something has to replace them. Maybe the Greens with or without flakes.

  33. Peter Franklin
    April 14th, 2012 at 07:56 | #33

    Re your moderation comment. Fully support that, moderating all unworthy comments out is something that should be done much more often.

  34. April 14th, 2012 at 08:27 | #34

    You have to hand it to Bob Brown as a man. He has proven that personal and political integrity go hand in hand, something of a surprise for hardened cynic Machiavellians. Although I sometimes wish he would dismount from his high moral horse and give the stern and lugubrious Presbyterian sermonizer look a bit of a rest.

    I respect and applaud Bob Brown’s policies on the environment. He and the Greens were ahead of their time on AGW the major environmental issue of the day. They have even made a sizeable dent in the nuclear industry, something that it pains me to say.

    I don’t have any respect for Bob Brown’s non-Green policies, especially his moral cowardice on the immigration issue, which is the single biggest destructive influence on both ecologic and economic externalities. He has let the Green issue down by kow-towing to political correctness and the Business Council lobby.

    My loathing for Green Left liberalism on cultural issues (drug liberalisaiton, multiculturalism, asylum seekers) is known well enough so no need to bore readers or wear out Pr Q’s comment delete button with another long-winded rant. They are on the wrong side of History on those issues, I am content to let Clio’s harsh judgement stand.

  35. Freelander
    April 14th, 2012 at 08:27 | #35

    @Peter Franklin


  36. CJ
    April 14th, 2012 at 08:39 | #36

    When considering the future of the Greens, we need to consider whether they will now lose voters. I am not convinced that they will – their vote has increased steadily and most Greens supporters I speak to are firm in their support (and disdain for the major parties). It is probably safe to assume that absent any major problems they can hold their current support, give or take a couple of percentage points. The bigger challenge I think is for them to continue attracting new supporters. Bob Brown was charismatic, in a sort of folksy way, and Milne is not.

    More generally, my view is that the Greens need to inch to the right and focus on presenting themselves as rational, considered and driven by logic. The MSM and major parties like to portray them as radicals – and some of their Senators, MPs, MHRs and councillors are (and certainly some of their branch members). The point is that at present the Greens are not going to lose their radical, left-wing base. But to grow, they need to move in on the ALP (as an aside, I also wonder about moving in on the Nationals, using CSG and protection of the land – Jeremy Buckingham is an interesting Greens figure in this regard).

    As to Bob Brown himself, I don’t think he was as principled or saintly as many would have it. Some of his stunts were opportunistic. There were times he said truly bizarre things. And my personal view is that he was wooden in his presentations. I think though that most people could see that he was an ordinary, decent bloke. Sometimes I like to compare him to Barnaby Joyce – another unpolished politician (ain’t that part of the charm?).

  37. Alan
    April 14th, 2012 at 09:12 | #37


    Moving to the right, defiance of their members and supporters, has worked so well for the ALP I wonder the Greens have not thought of it before.

  38. Dan
    April 14th, 2012 at 09:21 | #38

    @Jack Strocchi

    Thanks for not banging on much on this occasion, Jack, it’s appreciated.

    Given that Australia now has a cabinet minister on very, very public record as saying the war on drugs is a failure, I am afraid you might find that history is on the wrong side of history here.

  39. Freelander
    April 14th, 2012 at 09:31 | #39


    The war on murder and the war on crime more generally have been failures.

    And don’t get me started on the war on jay-walkng, or the war on death!

  40. CJ
    April 14th, 2012 at 09:37 | #40


    Sure, they need to do it carefully. Hence, I wrote “inch to the right”. If they wait for the populace to come to them, then they’ll be waiting a very long time. If they stay right where they are, they will never achieve Brown’s stated aim of forming a government in their own right.

  41. Dan
    April 14th, 2012 at 09:56 | #41


    I think it also has a huge amount to do with sensible-looking and -sounding people (eg. Ludlum, Bandt), explaining their policies clearly and repeatedly with an emphasis on how unsustainable and, uh, specially-interested the major parties’ policy positions are.

    I was handing out Greens how-to-votes near Sydney Park (background: on the radar for CSG; also densely populated!) during the last NSW election and a woman said to me and the two other candidates’ how-to-vote people: does your candidate oppose CSG mining? Simultaneously, they dithered and I said yes. So, she took my how-to-vote.

  42. Dan
    April 14th, 2012 at 10:08 | #42


    It’s difficult. There is a wide ideological spectrum in The Greens, from Socialist Alliance types to social democrats that Chris Warren likes to call capitalists (like me); working out a coherent and marketable political-economic stance under such circumstances is tough. But everyone else has it worse: the Liberals’ inability to reconcile their neoliberalism with the fact that it bleeds their coalition partner’s constituency dry should be made more of; the vested interests and complete lack of principle in the Labor party should be made more of (Tanya, how do you sleep at night?).

    Also to be considered is the fact that everyone claims to be in favour of equality of opportunity (from Michelle Bachmann all the way to the Australian left!) but The Greens are the only ones in the Australian political sphere with the maneuverability and humanism to follow through on that.

  43. April 14th, 2012 at 10:20 | #43

    Dan @ #38 said:

    Given that Australia now has a cabinet minister on very, very public record as saying the war on drugs is a failure, I am afraid you might find that history is on the wrong side of history here.

    Oooh…a former cabinet minister said something that is different from what I said. Well I guess that settles it. Emeritus disease has now leapt the academic species boundary.

    Just for that I am going to unleash my inner=ranter. Brown backed the wrong horse on drug liberalisation.

    The War on Drugs is something of a success, given the low-status accorded to chronic drug users. Heed the way young people look down on stoners and junkies. Do we really need the next generation of young people to sink further into bong-sucking, cable tv surfing couch-potatoe land? Its not like they are already over-motivated to get up off their lard-arses and explore the world, as things stand now.

    Walk down Venice Beach sometime soon to see the results of two generations of drug dudes shuffling along the board walk. What a bunch of pathetic losers.

    And then there is mandatory drug testing by employers and RBTs. No manager or public officials want to wear a law suit or criminal conviction under new “chain of responsibility” laws.

    Face it Greenies, on drug laws you have had your chance and you blew it.

    I’ve got a lot of time for Bob Brown and Greens on ecological policy where they proved that adherence to principle is good practice. But on extra-ecological policy their influence has been baneful.

    Brown, for all his doleful moralising on asylum seekers et al, was fundamentally a Green at heart. But his successors, in their heart of hearts, have a much Redder hue on the inside. Fran Barlow being a pardigmatic case of a Watermelon Green.

    I predict that, assuming ALP gets the Carbon Tax up and running and wins the next election, the GREENs penetration into Broad Left wing voting pool will have peaked.

  44. Dan
    April 14th, 2012 at 10:28 | #44

    Oops. Moderator!

  45. April 14th, 2012 at 10:31 | #45

    And whats up with Sarah “Accidents Happen” Hanson-Young? When Brown got up to give his resignation speech she was emanating a weird kind of vibe, very shifty eye movements, like when Nixon was on the spot during Watergate.

    My advice to her is to get married again and lose the roving eye. Women pick up on it and it is not a vote winner.

    The Greens should make it a matter of policy to only elect very old people into positions of authority. She looks way too young to be in a position to have a large say in running the country.

  46. CJ
    April 14th, 2012 at 10:36 | #46


    Yes, they need to focus on the sensible sounding and looking people, and they have plenty of these. I wrote that they need to present themselves as rational, considered and driven by logic. In my view, these two points are crucial to the long-term viability of the Greens. Having a sensible figure speak clearly and rationally about issues will appeal to voters slightly to their right, who are hesitant because of the radical, hard-left image of some prominent Greens.

    CSG is one issue that I think they can focus on – not by chaining themselves to mine equipment, but by explaining repeatedly and clearly what the risks and potential impacts are. Who knows, they might even cut through to farmers – equally interested in sustainability and custodianship of the land.

    Personally, I’d also like to see them hammer former Nationals such as Mark Vaile and John Anderson, who professed to be acting in the interests of their constituents, but after leaving politics joined major coal or CSG companies doing serious damage to prime farmland, ground water and the broader environment.

  47. Paul Norton
    April 14th, 2012 at 10:39 | #47

    Whilst I’m far from unbiased where the Greens are concerned, I think there a sound political science grounds for believing that Bob’s departure isn’t the beginning of the end for the Greens.

    Firstly, the evidence internationally is that where Green parties (or parties that might as well be called Green, as in Denmark) make the breakthrough to significant parliamentary and other elected representation and a share of the vote that supports this, they don’t go away, notwithstanding changes in leading personnel and fluctuations of electoral fortune on particular occasions.

    Secondly, the trend, since the 1990s, of steady growth in Greens support in Australia in elections at all three levels of government is explicable in terms of broader systemic political, social and historical factors which would have come to bear with or without Bob.

    None of this should be taken as downplaying my great admiration and gratitude for the role that Bob Brown has played in public life.

  48. Paul Norton
    April 14th, 2012 at 10:42 | #48

    Since my fellow election maven Jack Strocchi is participating in this discussion, I’ll opine that the Green vote at the 2013 Federal election is most likely to be about the same, or slightly less, than in 2010, but almost certainly more than in 2007, and that therefore the Greens parliamentary representation is most likely to either be maintained or to increase.

  49. Hermit
    April 14th, 2012 at 10:48 | #49

    Interesting that Bob Brown decided to quit after attending an international Greens conference. Perhaps he saw the writing on the wall. Note in Queensland the long established Greens got a lower total vote than the new Katter party. Next week SBS will air a documentary on the backlash against the Greens in Germany over energy policy.

    I think the public’s perception of Brown was that he was genuine as a former medico and hardline protester. Other incumbent Greens seem like political careerists who are shrill without having done the groundwork. I suspect the media will keep returning to him in retirement for hard edged comments. As the Greens decline as a political force perhaps the protest vote will go increasingly to independents.

  50. Paul Norton
    April 14th, 2012 at 10:57 | #50
  51. Doug
    April 14th, 2012 at 11:00 | #51

    what is interesting about Bob Brown’s career was that he saw social change as requiring action outside as well as inside politics. Bush Heritage Australia stands as a massive achievement in furthering habitat survival.

    I think the actual electoral evidence that is available would support Paul Norton rather than Hermit.The Greens have a substantial presence at the local government level that provides a level of grass roots engagement that the Democrats never had and that KAP are never likely to have outside far north Queensland.

  52. Mel
    April 14th, 2012 at 11:09 | #52

    Bob Brown is a great man and the new leadership team have very big shoes to fill.

  53. Fran Barlow
    April 14th, 2012 at 11:26 | #53

    Welcome to the delusional Daily Tele universe. Simon Benson is your tour guide:

    Brown was trying to head off rising tensions inside a party which is now clearly defined down ideological lines between the moderates like Brown and the so-called hardline “communists” like Christine Milne and Lee Rhiannon.

    Will The Greens turn Red now that Brown is down?

    Heaves huge sigh ….

  54. Freelander
    April 14th, 2012 at 11:39 | #54

    The investigative media gives us the truth once more. The Greens watermelon inside is now out!

    The reds are back under our beds. Keep one eye open as you sleep!

  55. April 14th, 2012 at 11:52 | #55

    Paul Norton @ #48 said:

    Since my fellow election maven Jack Strocchi is participating in this discussion, I’ll opine that the Green vote at the 2013 Federal election is most likely to be about the same, or slightly less, than in 2010.

    Hmmm…tricky to call at this stage. But on balance I tend to support the Norton view. The GRN vote is an index of more general electoral polarisation, varying inversely with the ALP and directly with the L/NP.

    GRN prospects in 2013 depend on how well the public take their carbon tax medicine. If the voters spit the dummy then I guess the Green vote may increase a bit as the electorate polarises between Green GRN and “Brown” L/NP. If they swallow it without protest then I predict the Greens vote will plateau or maybe slump a bit as Green Lefties drift back to the ALP. Why vote for a Brown-less GRN party when the ALP is delivering the proper policy, without the charismatic figure of Bob Brown to adulate?

    OT: One thing that stands out when comparing Brown to the Rest of the Green leadership group is his sombre and sober demeanour which greatly assisted the Green cause. Many of the Greens policies looked far-out at the time and it would not have helped if their spokesman had come out sporting dread locks, juggling fire sticks or blipping furiously on everyones gaydar. The fact that Brown was a GP and came across like a WASP undertaker with a “Green” eye-shade reassured many people who might otherwise have been disposed to discount his views.

    As Oakeshott remarked, “some politicians, like Pitt, laughably called “the Younger”, are born old and are eligible to engage in politics almost in their cradles”. Brown is one such the GRNs should resist the temptation to pander to the yoof vote, whose opinions on politics are, in any case, vastly over-rated. SH=Y looks perpetually young and in any case she is bossy-sounding and wants it too badly.

  56. Peter Rickwood
    April 14th, 2012 at 12:36 | #56

    Ever since labor walked away from their values there has been no party for the centre-left. Under brown the greens were gradually becoming that party. I hope that continues, and best wishes to brown for steering them this far

  57. Catching up
    April 14th, 2012 at 12:54 | #57

    Peter, what are the values that Labor walked away from.

    Peter what are the values you would like to see Labor have.

  58. Jexpat
    April 14th, 2012 at 12:59 | #58

    As a former American, let me tell you what Mr. Jack Strocchi sounds like:

    An embittered old school Republican still carrying on about drugs and hippies- and projecting (as is their wont) the characteristics of their own demonstrably failed policies and regressive movement onto others.

    Dime a dozen in the states- but alas, since the Republicans have gone quite literally delusional, people like Strocchi really have nowhere else to go. No other outlet.

    And the irony of course that any longtime observer of politics can see, they brought it all on themselves.

  59. Alan
    April 14th, 2012 at 13:26 | #59

    @Catching Up

    For the sake of keeping the thread manageable in size, perhaps you could identify what values the ALP has not walked away from.

  60. Catching up
    April 14th, 2012 at 13:30 | #60

    Alan, I am not making the statement. All I am asking is that they identify what they mean. Is that too much to ask.

    I am very comfortable with the values of Labor today.

    Surely it is not too hard a question to ask.

  61. Peter Rickwood
    April 14th, 2012 at 14:03 | #61

    Perhaps it is not the right thread for a debate on labor values. But I don’t know what labor stands for or believes in, and find the ‘ working families’ mantra disingenuous. JQ has blogged about julia’s value-vacuum a few times and I agree with him. Recent state labor governments have exhibited the same hollowness – worst in NSW.

    Returning to the thread topic, Bob Brown has done a lot to turn the greens into a party that can aspire to fill the vacuum left by Labor (and the Democrats). He has done this despite the fact that the greens carry some extremist baggage.

  62. Catching up
    April 14th, 2012 at 14:22 | #62

    I never raised the topic. I take it that one does not really have an answer.

    It is just a throw away line that one uses to condemn Labor. Thanks for clearing that up for me.

  63. April 14th, 2012 at 15:02 | #63

    @Catching up

    Rather than derail here, I’ve had a go at answering your question over in the sandpit.

  64. 2 tanners
    April 14th, 2012 at 15:33 | #64


    The reason I can name all the Senators from my territory are that we only get two, and they are elected on 3 year cycles, not 6 year cycles, so their names stay fresh.

    The Senators in question are Kate Lundy (ALP) and Gary Humphries (LIB), both decent, hardworking people.

  65. Mel
    April 14th, 2012 at 15:49 | #65

    Actually the catalyst for me joining the Greens many years back was a series of conversations with my then physiotherapist, who is a close friend of Bob’s. My physio recounted numerous Bob stories during my visits to him over a 12 month period. He told me one story of how Bob was so happy to see a possum scampering along a branch that he leapt on the tree and climbed it with all the enthusiasm of a little kid. That’s what I like about Bob; his uncomplicated decency and simple, wholesome goodness. One hopes the Red cadres never gain control of the party and change it into something Bob would never have approved of.

  66. plaasmatron
    April 14th, 2012 at 16:48 | #66

    I too will greatly miss Bob Brown’s influence on Oz politics. Being relatively “green” I cannot remember a time without him and cannot imagine who might fill his shoes.

    An interesting development in my adopted homeland of Germany; for the first time the Pirate party has overhauled the Greens in the polls. Have the Pirates surfaced in Oz yet? Nobody is really sure what they stand for, but surely an official “protest vote” of 15% is significant in a modern democracy.

  67. Alphonse
    April 14th, 2012 at 17:11 | #67

    @Catching up

    If ALP has centre-left values, it doesn’t dare admit to them. Both Greens and LibNats say this, though with but opposite animus.

  68. April 14th, 2012 at 17:20 | #68

    I think it is very important that the post-Brown GRNs do not succumb to the temptation of embracing the fashionable liberalism of the Rainbow Alliance push. There is no better way to turn off the common folk than obsessing over nth order derivative issues like same-sex marriage and asylum seekers. Ecological policy is critical to AUS’s national interest and is too important to be held hostage to the ideological fantasies of the inner-city lycra-wearing, latte sipping media-academia complex.

    The idea of making common cause with the drought-threatened bush or the job-threatened manufacturing sector against the foreign owned mining oligarchs sounds good to me.

  69. Salient Green
    April 14th, 2012 at 18:26 | #69

    Jack, I agree with your final para but would add that it is the bush AND the manufacturing sector .
    Large multinational agribusinesses have no connection with the land but they threaten the viability of smaller family farmers who generally have a love of their property in the environmental sense.
    Same goes for Multinational manufacturing which has no loyalty to Australians.

    I too would be happier to see the Greens put more emphasis on environmental issues and in the context of the damage which Neoliberal policies and Growth economics are doing to it.

    I think this is Christine Milne’s forte.

  70. April 14th, 2012 at 19:11 | #70

    Gotta say Christine Milne comes across well as a public spokesperson. Very practical, down-to-earth and easy on the eye. I think this is a Tassie thing.

  71. Freelander
    April 14th, 2012 at 19:59 | #71

    Jack Strocchi :
    Gotta say … Very practical, down-to-earth and easy on the eye. I think this is a Tassie thing.

    And six toes? Any other typically tassie characteristics?

  72. Moz
    April 14th, 2012 at 20:14 | #72

    Jack: Yes, Christine Milne is a woman. And she leads a political party. Which aspect do you think is going to affect us more?

    I’m a little sad to see Bob go, but at the same time I’m glad to see him step down and retire while he can still enjoy it. Better that than quitting the way Rod Donald did. I’m sure he’ll hang around and make his presence felt, but hopefully get to spend more time relaxing and having fun.

  73. April 14th, 2012 at 20:42 | #73

    Okay sorry to let the personal intrude on the political. Almost forgot we are dealing with devotees of the Plato cult.

  74. April 14th, 2012 at 21:23 | #74

    The sound of one hand typing.

  75. Freelander
    April 14th, 2012 at 22:07 | #75

    Plato? Please explain?

  76. April 14th, 2012 at 22:34 | #76

    Freelander @ #24 said:

    Plato? Please explain?

    Platonists hate judging things by their appearances as they believe appearances are always deceptive and are a pale shadow of the underlying true reality. They truly believe that transactions in the human world ought to be conducted on the basis of their conformity to pure abstract ethical ideals uncorrupted by the passionate appetites of those poor forked creatures, mere mortal men. Hence the phrase “Platonic love” to indicate an affection for a person based on admiration for their purely intellectual qualities, not the superficial aspects of their base appearance.

    Most ordinary people regard taking Platonic philosophy seriously as a sign of incipient madness and indeed it is in many of the paranoid inhabitants of psych wards. But it is an absolutely routine method of judging certain types of political behaviour among media-academia types. Which is one major reason why ordinary people regard media-academia types with mistrust, how could they talk about normal human affections and aversions as if they were a sign of moral corruption? Obviously they regard themselves as better than regular folk.

    So Platonism is really a form of intellectually camouflaged social snobbery.

    So when I make a common-place remark on the agreeableness of Mrs Milne’s appearance this is not greeted with (at worst) an extended yawn. Instead the Platonists are driven out of the woodwork and queue up to denounce me for judging politicians by their appearances.

  77. Freelander
    April 14th, 2012 at 22:39 | #77

    Elections as beauty contests ; I guess each voter is entitled to use their own selection criteria.

  78. alfred venison
    April 14th, 2012 at 23:25 | #78

    i’m no platonist (i’m a ‘pataphysicist) but you have judged a politician by her appearance, as on the previous page of this thread, in reference to sarah hanson-young:-
    “she looks way too young to be in a position to have a large say in running the country.”

  79. April 15th, 2012 at 00:20 | #79

    The “ruthless” moderating seems to me to be either on holiday or switched to selctive bias.

    Apart from the quote chosen by a.v., what’s this?:

    “My advice to her is to get married again and lose the roving eye. Women pick up on it and it is not a vote winner.”

    I’m heartily sick of what I refer to as ‘fascists’ getting away with blue murder in the name of ‘fair and open debate’ while the rest of us have to mind our Ps and Qs (Ooops, a pun!) for fear of upsetting the fairness and balance of allowing them to get away any outrageous rubbish they like.

    I’m calling BS on letting neo-con fundamentalists and faux libertarians have the run of the roost while the reasonable people have to walk on eggshells.

    Stuff that, this thread was supposed to be a place to comment on Bob Brown’s departure from politics or to be silent if you have nothing sensible to say.

  80. Jill Rush
    April 15th, 2012 at 01:17 | #80

    Like many things he has done in life Bob Brown has made sure that he has created a party strong enough to survive the departure of its creator. I am not sure why the Murdoch Press is gleefully sowing the seeds of the thought that this will create disunity and lead to the party becoming defunct. Perhaps they are annoyed that they didn’t see it coming and couldn’t speculate about it for weeks beforehand and also that the leadership change appeared to be smooth. Strange that the issue of gender has arisen as an issue for the Greens in this thread with silly remarks by Jack S and yet the fact that there are now two women leading government policy is surely ground breaking.

  81. Freelander
    April 15th, 2012 at 01:30 | #81


    The most effective way to ridicule some, is simply to let them speak. This may be basis for some of JQ’s moderation decisions.

  82. April 15th, 2012 at 07:39 | #82

    Alfred Venison @ #27 said:

    i’m no platonist (i’m a ‘pataphysicist) but you have judged a politician by her appearance, as on the previous page of this thread, in reference to sarah hanson-young:-

    Whoopy do. Build a bridge and get over it.

    S H-Y’s performance as spokesperson on (“accidents will happen”) asylum-seekers has been disgraceful and it is an act of charity by me to put this folly down to her comparative youth and inexperience.

    Every sane person on earth allows appearances some weight in making an overall judgement of of a person’s capacity to perform. The public are not gifted with second sight, so to some extent, we can only follow the tell-tale signs and go with our gut feelings.

    A politicians presentation to the public is not the only thing we judge him by. But you would be mad not to notice it and take it into account as one of things you judge him by.

    The duties of political salesman – boosting the political demand side – is at least 50% of a politicians job statement. Which requires attractive presentation. The policy production side is mostly hidden from sight and does not require all that much in put from politicians. Thats what we pay bureaucrats and academics for, and perhaps accounts for their limited sex appeal.

    So if Bob Brown had one day decided to present in public as high camp then this would have made no difference to your judgement of him? And if Menzies had been cursed with a high-pitched voice, it would have been irrelevant. And if Gough Whitlam had been five foot four instead of six foot four then, again, no big deal.

    Brown’s lugubriousness, Menzies melifluousness and Gough’s imposing stature were essential parts of their persona and crucial to their appeal. Brown’s persona, which is uncannily like a Presbyterian minister, was especially worthwhile, both in itself (I trust Presbyterian ministers) and as a way of breaking down unappealing stereotypes of gays and Greenies.

    Its weird and kind of creepy that crypto-Platonists are so desperate to deny the bleeding obvious in this, as in so many other things.

  83. April 15th, 2012 at 08:00 | #83

    Jill Rush @ #29 said:

    Strange that the issue of gender has arisen as an issue for the Greens in this thread with silly remarks by Jack S and yet the fact that there are now two women leading government policy is surely ground breaking.

    Oh for God’s sake read what I wrote woman. Appearance is not a gender issue per se.

    I am introducing appearance as an issue in judging politicians performance, specifically Bob Brown’s v S H-Y v Christine Milne. To a certain extent their appearance is predictive of their performance, with S H-Y coming across and actually being a bit of an air-head.

    FWIW, I am a huge supporter of Gillard as PM. But her appearance (including especially her voice) does let her down. Quentin Bryce’s appearance is flawless in every respect and is a large and well deserved factor in her popularity. The GG’s job is ceremonial and we expect celebrants to look the part.

    Anyone who appears in the public eye has to make the best of their appearance. Anyone who disputes this is on a fools errand who should retire to a barrel in their futile quest for a Platonic person.

  84. Fran Barlow
    April 15th, 2012 at 08:22 | #84

    @Jack Strocchi

    who should retire to a barrel in their futile quest for a Platonic person.

    I think that was Diogenes …

    The remarks on appearance are incipiently misogynist of course …

  85. April 15th, 2012 at 08:30 | #85

    Of course, thats why I referred to Bob Brown who was all the time appearing in drag. How silly of me not to notice.

  86. Paul Norton
    April 15th, 2012 at 08:41 | #86

    Fran @3/53, the only thing that should be turning red is Benson’s face after writing such a barking mad column. He’s out-Akermanned Akerman.

  87. alfred venison
    April 15th, 2012 at 10:09 | #87

    thanks for elaborating deeper, jack.

  88. JB Goode
    April 15th, 2012 at 11:54 | #88

    @Jack Strocchi
    Calm down Jack,you’re never going to get anywhere with those fact type thingys on this blog.

  89. Salient Green
    April 15th, 2012 at 16:24 | #89

    A collection of praise here for Bob Brown from the Tasmanian Times.

  90. Jill Rush
    April 15th, 2012 at 16:44 | #90

    Jack S #33 – You rather prove the point that you have “issues” in regard to women by deciding to use a hackneyed phrase used often in the past against uppity women. Possibly you don’t even realise that you are patronising – your impatient response suggests that this is the case.

    While all politicians will be judged on their dress – Paul Keating springs to mind – it is trivial and particularly nasty in regard to Julia Gillard. But to focus on my gender in your answer suggests that there is a long way to go to reach enlightenment. We will certainly miss Bob Brown who has managed issues in regard to his sexuality and I am sure that Christine Milne and the PM will stay calm as well. However it does mean that some men will have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

    What I have found amazing is that the Oz has endless articles this weekend on how they loved Bob and that no-one will be able to replace him and keep the Greens together. This is surely the height of hypocrisy from a paper that declared a campaign against the Greens, while he was the leader, because it was so left wing. It seems that the Murdoch Press are cross that he didn’t consult them first and they have a new approach not suggested by them.

  91. alfred venison
    April 15th, 2012 at 17:24 | #91

    dear Jill Rush
    nice point about keating’s wardrobe; they didn’t like his interest in 2nd empire gold clocks, either, seems that too was supposed to have made him an inauthentic advocate for the working class. yeah. but for the australian to couple the lie that, as you put it, “they loved bob” together with the self-serving speculation that “no-one will be able to replace him and keep the greens together” signifies to me that their faux (fox) encomium itself is indeed just another grubby, cynical manoeuvre in their unending campaign to discredit & destroy the greens. the australian lies as a matter of course to further its master’s political interests; this is no exception. its not hypocrisy, its class war.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  92. paul walter
    April 15th, 2012 at 17:39 | #92

    Why do they want to smash the Greens? For the same reason they’ve gone after Labor and before that, the Democrats.
    Because they abhor ANY questioning of the imagined prerogatives of capitalism, let alone reasoned inquiry from organised sources who might have them employ even a fraction of their profits for OHT, fair wages, compensation or environmental preservation.

  93. Norman Hanscombe
    April 15th, 2012 at 18:18 | #93

    Several aspects of the Tasmanian ‘green’ scene have never received the publicity they deserve. Up until 1975, for example I accepted their unambiguous nation-wide claims that Lake Pedder Dam would produce far more electricity than Tasmania could possibly use. Only after I moved to Tassie in 76 did I realise that this was completely untrue. An effective rallying cry for a ‘noble’ cause, no doubt, but simply not true.
    Then they invented the ‘last wild river’ slogan for their Franklin River Campaign. This wasn’t true, but once again it was an extremely effective slogan.
    After they sent a collection of beautiful photos around the country and overseas showing delightful spots about to be flooded by the Franklin Dam, but none of them were actually in the area which would be flooded, I visited the Tasmanian Wilderness Society Office in Hobart to see if I could find a photo of something which would be flooded. On the wall was the biggest map of Tassie I’ve ever seen; but I had to show the four TWS staff where the Franklin River was — perhaps because they were all from Victoria?
    This wasn’t surprising, mind you, since the biggest TWS branches were in Sydney and Melbourne.
    Most amusing of all, however, was their position in those days on the greenhouse gas effect. They were advocating the construction of a Thermal Power Plant using the notoriously dirty Fingal Valley coal. Since I’d debated Senator Harradine on television when no one else would do it, the ABC approached me re a debate with the brownish ‘greens’. Guess who thought that wasn’t a safe idea, so it never took place?
    Finally, I’d suggest checking the Tasmanian Hansard to see what Bob Brown argued during the First Gulf War. It might cause readers an even bigger shock. But I must give credit where credit’s due, and concede that he’s a consummate politician.

  94. JB Goode
    April 15th, 2012 at 18:21 | #94

    @Jill Rush
    So where do you stand on Gillard calling Pyne a mincing Poodle,the abuse that Howard and Abbott have to put up with and were you one of the people who roared with laughter when your cheerleader Germaine Greer said”You’ve got a big arse Julia,get used to it”.I thought that was a disgusting thing to say about anyone,let alone the prime minister.

  95. Freelander
    April 15th, 2012 at 18:27 | #95

    @JB Goode

    Goode, Goode, Gum Drop …

  96. April 15th, 2012 at 20:15 | #96

    This thread has to a certain extent stagnated into a Bob Brown love-fest. Brown is a formidable figure on the Far Left, comparable to Whitlam on the Centre-Left as a constructor of a political constituency and articulator of a policy platform. My question is what are the flaws or pitfalls in the GRNs political strategy, largely crafted by Brown.

    They have certainly done well to break out of their sub-10% minor party ghetto. But much of this is down to the way the ALP dropped the ecological policy ball with its double back-flip on carbon costing. So their recent success is a function of the sins of omission by their political bed-fellows, not their own “graces of commission”.

    My argument, endlessly banged-on, is that the GRNs have limited their political appeal by their “organic” association with the inner-city Left-liberal constituency whose status-ascendant concerns have limited resonance with the rest of Australia and whose growth prospects are also limited (demography is destiny). I think they might get a more enduring niche if they broke out of their inner-city ghetto and grabbed a chunk of outer-suburban and rural-regional votes.

    OTOH perhaps that is as good as it gets. Maybe the GRNs national-historic role is that of One Nation, to shift one part of the the political spectrum to the Left and force the main political parties to adopt key aspects of their platform. But ON depended on Hanson as a leader in a way that the GRNs do not depend on Brown as a leader. Of course bushies tend to be a little harder to organize than the so-called free=thinking “indies”, so no leader would ever be good enough, Katter take note.

    The key test is going to be the GRNs performance in the after-math of the embedding of the carbon tax. That is, do they have ideological-psephological self-sufficiency to carve out a living as ecological custodians?

    If they maintain their political constituency after carbon tax is institutionalised then their political future is secure. If they slump then the Turnbulls and Rudds in future incarnations of L/NP and ALP will scavenge the bulk of their vote and the GRNs will go the same way as the DEMs.

  97. Katz
    April 15th, 2012 at 21:08 | #97

    Jack Strocchi :
    My argument, endlessly banged-on, is that the GRNs have limited their political appeal by their “organic” association with the inner-city Left-liberal constituency whose status-ascendant concerns have limited resonance with the rest of Australia and whose growth prospects are also limited (demography is destiny). I think they might get a more enduring niche if they broke out of their inner-city ghetto and grabbed a chunk of outer-suburban and rural-regional votes.

    Strocchers, while I agree with much of your analysis, I believe that the quarternary section of the economy will grow more quickly than any other economic sector. These folk are your archetypal latte sippers. Moreover, they represent the aspirations of outsiders in much the same way as the new classes of the New Left in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

    While they’ll never be a statistically dominant class, they will nevertheless punch above their demographic weight.

    In short, there is still growth potential for the Green-voting demographic.

  98. April 15th, 2012 at 21:26 | #98

    @Norman Hanscombe

    As you are aware, the online record of the Tasmanian House of Assembly Hansard begins in 1992.

    Bob Brown was a member of the Tasmanian House of Assembly when, on 4th April 1991 he gave the speech you might be referring to.

    He was as opposed to Hawke’s Gulf War as he was to Howard’s Gulf War.

    If you are going to make the assertion you have, the onus is on you to provide the link rather than force me to go down to the local law library and copy out proof that you are wrong and dishonest.

    Please provide the full text of his speech which makes out your argument, thanks.

  99. Norman Hanscombe
    April 15th, 2012 at 22:19 | #99

    I had absolutely NO idea when Tassie’s online Hansard began began, because I’d left by then. Your anonymous sniping re my honesty doesn’t concern me. A fe years back when I received similar challenges from Bob’s devoted true believers I contacted a friend working for a NSW politician (who like you was initially doubtful about the story) but had no difficulty tracking down the speech in which Bob urged the Australian Government to back moves to remove Sadam without expressing any of the concerns Bob showed later in the Federal parliament for a UN resolution backing it.

    Bob’s disciples dropped off then, as I’m sure you will IF you track down what Bob actually said.

  100. Jill Rush
    April 16th, 2012 at 00:50 | #100

    JB Goode #44 – Germaine Greer has always been shocking but her comments on the appearance of the PM in such trite sexist terms was a true revelation. Rather disgusting. One wonders if the mouth on wheels will dish it out to Christine Milne as well.

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