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Not easy being green

  • 11 May 2006

It could be argued that most politicians enter public life with the best intentions. But such intentions are soon sacrificed to party expediency, narrow self-interest, and short term political goals. Here, the politician hopes the public won’t notice they’ve given up working for the common good, that they act only to keep the public distracted by relying on a form of sleight-of-hand resulting from the separation of words from deeds.

It therefore says a lot about Australia’s democracy, when a person like Bob Brown is seen as a political anomaly, rather than the norm. For over two decades Brown has been shaping his political mettle by bringing his words and actions into closer accord, trying to protect our long-term national and global interests, often at personal expense.

A cynic could argue that he can afford to behave the way he does because, not being in a major party, with all its pressures and responsibilities, he has the least to lose. But to argue this would be to miss the point, and that is that Bob Brown behaves the way he does out of necessity; solely because he—along with everybody else—actually has the most to lose.

It is this point that Brown is trying to convey in his latest book, Memo for a Saner World. ‘It consists of stories from along the road I have taken’, he says, in the introduction, ‘as an environmental campaigner concerned for all humanity and as a Greens senator, with discussion of some of the issues on the way’. These campaigns include the Franklin River blockade, the logging of both Farmhouse Creek and the Styx Valley, and more. As a senator for the Greens, he discusses the need for strong human rights and environmental protection laws, reflects on how the Greens behave in government, and exposes the violence directed against environmentalists in Australia and around the world.

He even includes an interesting essay regarding the consequences of his interjection of George W. Bush’s parliamentary address in October 2003: this exercise in free speech came after Bush’s earlier visit to Manila, where five opposition members walked out rather than be lectured by the President without the right to reply or question. Following Brown and Kerry Nettle’s actions in Australia, Bush’s planned address to the British parliament was abandoned, for fear that, emboldened by such displays of democracy, dissenting British MPs opposing the war in Iraq would protest.

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