If there is ever anyone to credit for my engagement in politics, it is Bob Brown. A good leader never just dives straight into politics, they come from a long history of wanting to create a positive change. Party politics should always be a road amongst many, for democracy is not just about elections but a much longer campaign for a better society.
Bob Brown’s roots in direct action and green-anarchism are fundamental to understanding how the Green Party of Australia was born, and why it has grown so significantly in a country that still functions on a two-party system of government. The Greens’ success lies deep in its actions to not only promote an image of environmentalism, but a culture of caring. And, as we have seen in the UK and across Europe, it takes a brilliant leader to ensure that remains the case.
When I first wanted to join the Greens (at 15), it was not because of their brilliant environmentalism. Instead, it was their key engagement in asylum rights, international justice (for Tibet and West Papua, Papua New Guinea, East Timor, etc) and Aboriginal rights. For the first time, I read of political policies that were based on achieving unity and social justice rather than the lackluster rhetoric I had heard from the Liberals and Labor Party.
And it wasn’t rhetoric that the Greens were providing either. Whenever an issue was incredibly important, they actively encouraged direct action. I distinctly remember when Bob Brown led a march around Parliament because the Greens were ‘kicked out’ for heckling Bush and Howard over the War on Iraq. Green political action was also an initiation process for many of Tasmanian Greens – camping up in the trees to prevent logging of Old Growth forests.
Bob Brown has made the Greens what they are today. Under his leadership, the Greens have been shown to be intelligent, pragmatic and sound candidates for election. The policies they advocate and fight for come across as sensible and possible, despite the numerous hate campaigns that have been run by major newspapers like The Australian and the Herald Sun.
Brown’s greatness has also been his overwhelming personal engagement in broader political concerns. When journalist Nigel Brennan was kidnapped in Somalia, Brown made a personal contribution of A$100,000 despite Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s disinterest. And, if a liberal magazine like the Economist can give such a glowing report to a fundamentally left-wing party leader, he has been incredibly successful in challenging the Greens’ natural enemies.Bob Brown & Christine Milne
Bob Brown’s decision to resign is, for myself and others, the end of an era – a Golden Era. There are very very few politicians that I have ever really thought were amazing – and Brown is in that elite group.
However Brown’s decision is extremely wise; not only will it allow the Greens to grow away from a Single-Man leadership, but will be essential for Brown’s own well-being. I wish him the best of luck for the future, and only hope I can catch him on one of his national tours in the coming months.
Christine Milne, who replaces Brown as leader, has some big boots to fill. But as her visits to farmlands, her outcry against public service cuts, and her press conference against the power of large mining companies have all shown – Milne is on her way with a leap and a bound. I wish her the best of luck.