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Greens moral vision safe in Milne's hands


Christine MilneJust how special a human being Bob Brown is may be seen from reading the full text of his third Green Oration, given to the party faithful days before he announced his retirement from parliamentary politics.

Mocked and pilloried by lesser minds, it was a visionary speech, freshened by a sly sense of humour and irony. It set out his irrepressible optimism and sense of our common humanity across this fragile planet, and of the duties of compassion and mutual respect we owe to one another as shared stewards of our wondrous earthly home.

This is the Greens moral vision. It is the same grand vision Tony Judt came to in the later years of his rich scholarly life: that we all share the same universal rights as human beings, not as rich or poor or as citizens of one powerful country or another.

Vale, Bob — enjoy your well-earned retirement and continue to inspire us with your wisdom and humanity.

Christine Milne inherits the Greens' ecological and humanist vision. In every sense, she is Brown's rightful heir. The next promising generation of Greens leaders will be nurtured and grow under her leadership. There are many of them: the party continues to grow and attract real talents.

Milne shares Brown's Tasmanian roots and wilderness inspiration. They manned the forest barricades together. At 59, she has fire in her belly and years of productive politics to come.

An interesting paradox — a feet-on-the-ground Tasmanian country woman, a farmer's daughter, who became a fervent Green, now sees her prime task as being to build coalitions of trust and policy cooperation between the Greens and the threatened rural and small business communities of Australia, against the power of plutocracy.

There will be interesting new coalitions of interest taking shape under Milne: she will network with people who might otherwise go to Barnaby Joyce or Bob Katter, keeping a decent Australian populist vision alive.

Her apparent ordinariness will be an asset. Don't be fooled by this, for she has a keen mind and a firm grasp of the Australian political style.

Enemies of the Greens are painting her as a rigid eco-ideologue, a cold fanatic who cannot compromise and do pragmatic deals as they say Brown could do so well. Such a critique falsely paints Brown in retrospect as an avuncular teddy-bear politician who knew how to compromise better and more gracefully than Milne will.

Don't believe it. Brown ruthlessly pulled the rug from under Kevin Rudd's failed climate policy, precipitating Rudd's loss of credibility and fall from power. Brown and Milne share the same steel and political acumen.

I know from personal experience Milne's grass-roots humanity, her attention to human detail in her concern, for example, for the safety of life at sea of asylum seekers, and her refusal to be fobbed off with lies and half-truths whenever things have gone bad.

She has the same human concern for the threatened security of people in country towns and along our inland rivers. As I see her, her feet are firmly on the ground of Australian country decency and hospitality, with a sense of human scale and of our possibilities to be a better nation than we are now.

The Greens are lucky to have her ready now to inherit Brown's mantle.

Can she command from the Greens party faithful the same fervent loyalties Brown attracted? This is the wrong question, proceeding from a hostile misreading of what kind of party the Greens are. They are hard-nosed pragmatists, but united by a shared ideological vision of moving towards more responsible stewardship of the nation and of the planet. They are not woolly-heads, easily swayed by personality-cult leadership politics.

The Greens' present fortuitous window of direct policy-influencing power as junior partner in a minority-led coalition government may soon be passing. Or it may not. The electors will decide at the next election. In either event, I believe the Greens under Milne will continue to thrive as a vigorous creative force in Australian politics, pushing and prodding the major parties to come up with better policies in the national public interest.

The Greens are the party that says we Australians are capable of a better vision for the future than either major party is currently offering us. They will continue to throw sand in the gears of the competing plutocratic vision, of Australia as a feckless and profit-hungry world quarry, indifferent to dying country towns and the erosion of real jobs and working communities everywhere.

Tony KevinTony Kevin is the author of Crunch Time, a book exploring Australia's inadequate policy responses to the climate change crisis.

Topic tags: Tony Kevin, Bob Brown, The Greens, Christine Milne



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Existing comments

To my way of thinking the four pillars of Greens philocophy come directly from the Sermon on the Mount. Social Justice, Peace and non-violence,Environmental sustainability and Grass Roots Democracy. The latter has yet to be adopted by our Church - but give it time - hope not another 2000 years

Glenys North | 19 April 2012  

Is abortion on demand compatible with "Australian country decency and hospitality?" I doubt it.

grebo | 19 April 2012  

These wonderful souls are two of Australia's finest ever. What a privilege it is to live in the country that has produced them! Humanity has no choice but to go Green for it is our duty as temporary visitors on God's amazing planet to care for it, to protect and to nurture. Our choice is really quite stark - if we're not Green, we're dead!

Peter Bright | 19 April 2012  

I respect Tony Kevin not only as a decent and courageous human being but also as a diplomat,a writer and an advocate for asylum seekers and refugees. However I find his panegyric in praise of Christine Milne verging on The Cult of Personality. The Australian Greens is a peculiar political phenomenon both in its structure and how it formulates its policies. In some ways it is like an old-fashioned Communist Party which had to have a Party Platform, with just about a policy on everything. It had to - because it claimed to be a party for the masses without being a mass party. If the communists had stuck to one policy - a more equitable distribution of the earth's resources - it may have fared better in the West. But no. It had to press for a completely secular (no religion) society and so lost or couldn't gain the support of socially conscious religious groups. It declared itself part of a world wide movement and so lost or couldn't gain the support of fervent independent nationalists, except by deception. The comment by Grebo illustrates what I mean. The Greens have over-stretched, and continue to overstretch, their mark.

Uncle Pat | 19 April 2012  

Tony Kevin misrepresents so many Australians in his praise of Greens as the one party to offer Australians a bigger vision for the present and the future. There is only between 11-14% of Australians who would agree with him, (latest estimate of federal voting intentions for Greens), so, with the risk of over-simplification, that means only that percentage of Australians who want generally the package-deal promoted by them. That the package-deal seems to exclude any common moral framework or foundation - such as the dignity of life, then for me, and for the rest of the 89-86% of Australians, the Greens are not the ones to be trusted or promoted as worthy of consideration. As a Catholic Christian my conscience would not allow me to give an all encompassing vote to The greens, or for other parties which actually campaign for something other than dignity of life morality.

Fr Mick Mac Andrew | 19 April 2012  

Thank-you, thank-you Tony Kevin!! You are spot on! Those political adversaries who fear and mock Bob Brown see in him all the things they should be but aren't, and they despise him for it! Having seen and heard just a fraction of the extrordinary talent pool of local Greens senate candidates during pre-selection processes here in central Victoria, alone, I know that the depth of intelligent humanism within the Australian Greens puts our entire manistream polity to shame - and they know it, hence the vitriol and propaganda. The times they are a changing... those who consider the Greens to be Bob only do so at your peril. There is nothing so politically advantageous as an arrogant opposition with a long standing sense of entitlement, who grievously, stupidly, under-estimate the power and appeal of enlightened progressive politics underpinned by a genuine committment to social justice and equality and respect for our shared environment, who insult the intelligence of the people by doing so.

Michelle Goldsmith | 19 April 2012  

"The Green's moral vision...that we all share the same human rights as human beings" provided those human rights do not include the unassailable right to life: the right to live an independent life according to one's own belief and philosophy: the right to work and to not have the fruits of labour taken without consent to prop up others who choose not to contribute to this planet or humanity in any way; the right to choose rather than be controlled by the desires of others; the right to belief in a Christian god. "Moral vision"??? Not by any definition as understood in the English speaking world! However, there is little need for concern regarding the future damage the Green's hope to do if the political history of women in power is anything to go on, particularly in the last 20 years or so in the Labor Party, Democrats and Green's in this country. Yes, I know, the misogynist conservatives don't like women no matter who they are, despite the fact that most are married to one and love any daughters they may have. The "touchy-feely" compass does not necessarily always point in the right direction it seems.

john frawley | 19 April 2012  

David Shoebridge, calling an Inquiry into abuse in NSW so I have just heard, I had never heard of him until just recently. If all her members have his ethics, they'll do OK. An earnest MP as far as I can see. Good for you David.

L Newington | 19 April 2012  

Bob Brown had misused the environment to push his own left-wing nihilistic political agenda. In the past the environment was one issue which united all political parties. From Bob Hawke to John Howard, Australia gradually addressed many environmental issues. We had new laws to protect our natural heritage, our soils, water and air. They created and improved National Parks and sanctuaries, on land, the sea and wetlands. Effective steps were taken to reduce our reliance on fossil fuel such as solar PV schemes etc. The Greens misused the environment as a political football. The Greens managed to divide Australia by blackmailing a weak under skilled Gillard Government to introduce bad laws, such as the divisive and ill thought out carbon tax. Bob Brown killed true environmentalism in Australia! That is his legacy!

Beat Odermatt | 19 April 2012  

The Greens are awful; essentially self-satisfied and self-serving. They certainly do not deserve the praise heaped on them by Kevin. It is not surprising that their leaders have been a public hospital doctor and teacher...people with comfortable lives protected by the public purse and formidable guilds/trade unions. They want to change nothing that may disturb this comfortable way of life, but at the same time appeal to every populist NIMBYist, and anti-development cause. They want an amoral secularist atheistic utilitarian society, with the singular exception of fervent protection of trees and "nature", the former taking on almost Druidic spiritual importance regardless of the common good.

Eugene | 19 April 2012  

Social Justice, Peace and non-violence,Environmental sustainability and Grass Roots Democracy are all ideals - and shared by all parties. The question of how and when these are delivered that causes issues. Perhaps the writer should have cup of tea and a good lie down with the Greens website open in front of him and examine very closely what some of their stance leads to: ask farmers how they manage with the Greens - despite having great care and love for the natural world they are told by these politicians what they can and can't do. Ask those opposed to euthanasia and abortion what their Green member thinks. Sounds good on paper but the reality is so very different.

Jane | 19 April 2012  

Bob Brown was, in my view, a true statesman for his integrity on environmental matters, East Timor, refugees and anti-Iraq war...until the Greens got in the position of holding the balance of power, then Bob conceded on the Palestinian BDS decision in Marrickville Council where the Greens could have held onto their integrity and their responsibility to the suffering Other rather than demeaning themselves for the sake of electoral pragmatism. The Palestinians are oppressed terribly under an apartheid regime and an illegal Israeli occupation...and the Greens (except for a brave few) abandoned them. Perhaps Christine Milne has the conscience and courage to support BDS.

Vacy Vlazna | 19 April 2012  

Hear hear Grebo. I have on occasion voted for a Green, knowing they couldn't win, as a protest against our contemptible major parties. But I couldn't take part in voting them into government.

Gavan | 19 April 2012  

What Grebo said...

Meg | 19 April 2012  

I agree with Uncle Pat. There is much to like about the Greens' policies in some,maybe even most, areas. Their narrow minded education philosophy and their anti life beliefs preclude my ever supporting them. What's more their duplicity in concealing their real ideas concerning these issues is playing the political game at its most devious.

grebo | 19 April 2012  

I couldn't have put it better, Tony! Both Bob & Christine are indeed the best Australia can offer the world. And I agree with you in your well-worded praise of such fine characters! Hopefully, they will continue to anger some people (writing in this blog)... and God will smile at you! All power to the Greens!

Nathalie | 19 April 2012  

A good essay Tony! Bob Brown is a great Australian and I particularly am grateful for his humane stance on the Tampa refugee crisis in 1999 (I think!). Brown and the former independent Peter Andren were the only federal parliamentarians to show any humanity to these people in contrast to inhumane attitude of Howard, Beasley and most of the other parliamentarians. As a practicing Catholic, I am in favour of the Green policies on euthanasia and abortion. I am always bemused that most of the Catholics who oppose abortion are conservative men. I think Christine Milne will be a good leader of the Greens along with Adam Bandt as her deputy. To Jane, I think you might find that Christine Milne is a farmer and probably has some empathy for farming issues.

Mark Doyle | 19 April 2012  

Well I don't know Eugene, first and foremost, any one who stands for the protection of our children, and bring to account those who haven't has to stand for something. It used to annoy me how the refugee isues was always being touted yet the likes of staunch Catholic Tony Abbott, a devotee of Bob Santamaria and close friend of Cardinal Pell, remaining ever silent, until just the other day. Taking all this into account, it was the International Humanist and Ethical Union, who took the Holy See to the United Nations for not complying to the by the rules in September 2009, and look how Humanists are regarded. This should rise above politics, and if it takes someone here in Australia with conroverisal agendas, to run with it good luck. We have Liberal Premier Ted Ballieu, a non-Catholic doing it for us here in Victoria. The opportunity has always been there for whosoever will.

L Newington | 19 April 2012  

Bob Brown February 12, 2007 in the Australian: "Australia must urgently kick the coal habit..." Chris Uhlmann, 15 May 2011, ABC 7.30 report "Didn't you say back in 2007 that we had to kick the coal habit?" Bob Brown: "No, I did not. You're looking at the Murdoch press,..." Chris Uhlmann: "It wasn't the Murdoch press, it was a comment piece that you wrote." Days later we read: "Bob Brown widens attack on media to include ABC" Touche, Chris Uhlmann, for an all too rare MSM expose. There's our coddled Bob, with his moral vision in action for all to see. I've only got one thing (AFAIK) to say for Christine Milne, but it's a biggie: unlike all other Green federal politicians she voted against embryonic stem cell research.

HH | 19 April 2012  

Behind it all - this loyal cant, does one detect a sycophant?

Claude Rigney | 19 April 2012  

I read a few religious and secular publications. I noticed that Eureka Street (I was told it is a Catholic publication) seems to be promoting the "Greens party" from the main writers and most of the contributors. I shake my head and sometimes I wonder if I was told the truth.

Ron Cini | 19 April 2012  

Tony Kevin has done a good service for us all to critique so well the progress of The Greens in Australia. This is undoubtedly the party of the future for Australia, having already ebnabled this country to set itself in front of the rest in taking the development of planetary change in climate serously.

It is incredibly frustrating to hear and read in the media the incredible focus on "the economy" with all its inequities and blindness as shown in ever increasing exports of coal, thus keeping it within the reach of other economies where development of alternative energy sources is thereby delayed. We are guilty and The Greens are the only ones speaking truth to that madness.

Fundeamentalists cry out about humanist policies regarding population planning and abortion where the life of the mother is threatened. Greens policy has the planet as its focus, this magnificent work of creation, billions of years in the making, in which the human species is but a blip. Our power of self consciousness, language and insightful knowledge of natural processes does not bestow the right to lay waste any species or resource to increase wealth and power. The Greens believe in nurturing earth.

Mike Foale | 19 April 2012  

I find it deeply ironic, Tony Kevin's reference to Tony Udt and his "rich scholarly life" in his hagiography of Bob Brown. Judt was a rusted-on Marxist into the 80's. I mean, he may have even outlasted the communist Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon in this fanatical, anti-rational fervour - who can say? Now, how is that the product of a "rich scholarly life", as opposed to a dedicated averted gaze?

But the irony doesn't stop there. Judt was famously silenced in the U.S. and Europe for his conscientious stance against what he saw as Zionist aggression against Palestinians. Who is being silenced in Australia's media at the moment? Bob Brown? Perish the thought! No: it's Andrew Bolt, for conscientiously asserting that maybe some people asserting they are aboriginal are attracting government funds to themselves that more deserving aboriginals should be getting - a position embraced even by some aboriginals themselves without fear of legal attack. So who, in this regard, is the "Tony Udt" in today's Australia? Certainly not Bob Brown, the strident advocator of draconian and unprecedented media censorship. No: it's his nemesis, Andrew Bolt.

So where do you stand, Tony Kevin?

HH | 19 April 2012  

I'm an ALP member (I thought it was a broad church but I found it is a culturally Catholic party). Nothing wrong with that except the 'Dignity' of life issues like de-criminilising abortion(Qld) and euthanasia are blocked consistently. Then we had the Christian Right at the State conference telling many of us women we were immoral for pro-choice - humanist - Sermon on the Mount type living!!! The writer is Right - Christne Milne's first instinct as leader is to go to the people of the land and speak to them with clarity and facts. On my blog I describe The Katter amongst the pigeons as a retrograde step in social democracy and speculate about a coalition with the Greens against the LNP. www.woman-in-labor-politics.blogspot.com

Julie McNeill | 20 April 2012  

Like Ron Cini above I too read Eureka Street because it is a Catholic publication and have done so for the past 20 years. Sadly, again like Ron Cini, I sometimes shake my head in sadness and wonder if it is still Catholic. It is becoming increasingly clear that some contributors and commentators have little or no concept of Catholic teaching, some are anti-Catholic and vitriolic in the expression of their sheer distaste for the Catholic Church and its teachings, while others support philosopies such as "choice" of abortion and euthanasia while proclaiming Christian and Catholic adherence, a textbook oxymoron. But the greatest sadness is that never is there and clarification from Eureka Street of the true or informed Catholic position on important issues of faith and morals.Such usually comes from commentators. Pity really.

john frawley | 20 April 2012  

John Frawley, you obviously believe that your opinion of Catholicism is better than other more liberal Catholics. I think that you should understand and appreciate that the Catholic Religion is a very broad community of people with a range of opinion from the conservative/fundamentalist to the liberal philosophical opinion. You should also understand that issues such as euthanasia, abortion, artificial contraception and family planning are not religious issues; they are feminist, social and political issues.

Mark Doyle | 21 April 2012  

To Mark Doyle-The Catholic Church in no uncertain manner has condemed the use of Abortion and Euthanasia. It has nothing to do with being a so called liberal Catholic or a so called Conservative Catholic. This is the official Church ruling on these two particular matters.

John Tobin | 29 April 2012  

I thank God that, with political leaders of integrity in short supply, we have been blessed with Bob Brown as a polical leader of integrity and are now similarly blessed with Christine Milne. Christine has been one of the driving forces behind the carbon tax, which will not only make the big polluters pay, but also make renewable energy more competitive.

The World Health Organisation estimates that 150 000 people die annually from the effets of climate change. This number will rise astronomically unless quick carbon mitigation action is taken. Christine, you are a life saver! I honour you! God bless you and all those who are joining you in endeavouring to bequeathe an inhabitable planet to future generations. While some mercenary people in Australia are counting the cost of implementing a carbon tax, people in low-lying island like Kiribati are seeing their homelands being slowly swalloed up by the rising seas. How can anyone claim to be a Christian and do nothing about stopping global warming and climate change?

Grant Allen | 02 May 2012  

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