Saturday, January 22, 2005

Bob Brown Gentle Revolutionary, by James Norman

This covers in more detail Amanda Lohrey's (excuse my mispelling of her name) dull as dishwater Quarterly Essay detailing what she called the 'rise' of the Greens. Bob Brown's biography really is the story of the Greens, from the Frankin River anti-dam campaigns to his prominent role as Leader of the Greens.

Sure, this book is a love-in for Bob Brown and his fellow Greenie travellers. Nevertheless, Brown should get more kudos for his achievement in - almost unwittingly - creating a national political party. A party which goes from strength to strength, despite many political commentators putting down their 2004 federal election result. Sure, they didn't pick up all the voters who departed the Democrats. Nonetheless their vote has increased.

To build all of this out of a Tasmanian enviromental protest movement, in the midst of a conservative culture, deserves more serious attention than it gets. (Also worth noting, the gay rights movement in Tassie achieved amazing success, passing the most progressive gay laws in the country, this also out of a very conservative culture. People at the top of this movement, such as Rodney Croome, were also in Bob Brown's orbit.) Instead, they're ridiculed and called all manner of absurd things things. Most notably, they've been accused of being just like the Nazis by the likes of Liberal Senator George Brandis and Murdoch press columnist Andrew Bolt. Really.

I know I'm sounding completely partisan in saying that. I've voted Greens for the past decade. Of course I'd say such nice things about them. Look, they're not perfect, they're not for everyone, but they suit me. I welcome any criticism of the Greens and Bob Brown, even if you're loopy enough to say things like Senator Brandis and Andrew Bolt. Greg Sheridan's criticisms of Bob Brown after he heckled President Bush were pretty reasonable. (In retrospect, with Mr Habib to be released from US imprisonment, he seems to have been in the right by standing up in our Parliament and demanding that Bush release Hicks and Habib. Especially if both those men have been tortured.)

For anyone wanting to get an inkling of how the Greens grew from a Tasmanian enviromental movement, in such unlikely circumstances, to a National movement, this is the book for you! How long the Greens last is another matter. Nevertheless, they deserve a more serious study of their slow but sure rise to prominence.

Another thing: all those enviromental protests that were the rumbling beginnings of what would later turn into the Greens were a real grass roots political movement, totally unlike the other professional parties (in their current state). Reading this biography, you almost get the impression that the Greens never should have developed into a political party. Bob Brown seemed to almost fall into it. His primary interest was the enviroment. The politics seemed to follow him.

1 comment:

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