Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Reflections on a green connection

I guess getting personal is part of the blog experience, something I probably need to work on and will do so this post. I’ve never been secretive about my voting directions or my strange political turns, but voting a straight Green ticket is something I’m still coming to terms with just now.

When I resigned the liberal Party sometime back in the mid 1970s it was partly spurred on by the personal stress of a young family, a mortgage and a few very intense years of politics. We had a quick succession of Federal campaigns, plus a State campaign in those chaotic times.

I was angry over the swing of the Australian Liberals to the right, and I guess was copping a fair bit of fire for remaining a moderate. My health was suffering and my doctor was on leave. The locum was a young bloke (weren’t we all?) called Bob Brown.

Dr Bob was straight to the point, for my health sake, get out of politics. Well I was ready for a break, but Bob’s emergence, within months, as a leader of a seminal environmental movement did rock me. Not that I disagreed with his sentiments, just that he shunted me out while he was moving in.

Bob came to prominence as leader of the Wilderness society, fighting the destruction of Tasmanian pristine wilderness to create hydro electric power stations. It wasn’t a party, but it was a major movement.

For my part, politics was just part of who I am. I had admired the former liberal minister for customs, Don Chipp, and when he broke from the Liberals to help form a new party, the Australian Democrats, he had my support.

The democrats were about moderate politics, about a fair go for all, about supporting small business and individual enterprise. The party was about democracy and equity. Having refused to run as a bunny candidate for the Liberals, I was quick to actually stand in an unwinnable seat of Bass for the Democrats to help the vital Senate campaign.

Robin, the almost candidate of late, was my campaign manager and we swung 8% of the vote. I am still proud of that effort. But more, we were also representing the environment, the cause which took fire in Tasmania over those years. It was a strange position for me, as I was employed by Tasmania’s biggest timber (lumber) plunderer, Gunns Ltd.

I maintain I was and remain a moderate. I was in a position where I could talk with both the exploiters and those trying to save an incredible and globally significant natural environment. I did try to do that for a few years, talk to both sides and bring them together occasionally. Not a smart move, but I would probably do it again.

My whole thrust was to encourage dialogue, even knowing the two sides were poles apart. The emerging Greens were happy about that, but the industry hated it. This was also a period when I had moved into part time journalism and there were major corruption revelations in the state. I tended to be in the wrong place at the wrong time there too.

I had given up organisations and parties, but I did still support individuals if they appealed to me. One happened to be a Green candidate who had worked on my earlier Democrats campaign. We went back a way and got on well.

The Greens, as a party, didn’t really appeal, despite having known so great people in that organisation. The policy base was narrow and at time a bit extreme for my tastes. To be fair, Bob Brown was always a decent bloke, but he had a big mark to make on our national political scene.

Like Brown, his party has matured. The policy base is broad, albeit reflecting environmental concerns, and the presentation excellent. I broke my own rules this election and voted for the individual I most respected – a Green – then a straight Green Senate ticket.

The latter because the only safeguard this country has against greedy, self-seeking politicians is a balance of power in the senate. And the Greens can deliver that with appropriate moderation.


D.K. Raed said...

This was a fascinating political history lesson for me! I'm always so jealous of the parliamentary system where you can actually have more than 2 meaningful parties, where coaltion-building is vital. As you know, any 3rd party in the US is doomed, locked out at every level. I remember studying about when Israel was first forming its govt, brand-new from scratch, when it could have gone in any direction, that they chose the parliamentary system. To me, that pretty much said it all.

Very interesting that the Doc who advised you to leave politics for your health, immersed himself shortly thereafter. Still, I notice you did not totally leave politics, so perhaps you managed to find a good balance between health & sanity. Hope so.

Cartledge said...

"Very interesting that the Doc who advised you to leave politics for your health, immersed himself shortly thereafter." Well interesting is not the word I would have used back then, but obviously the warning didn't deter me.
The other issue is that you do have a system able to allow a meaningful 3rd party, it is more about how that is achieved.
The Aust Democrats disappeared this current election, but they still paved the way for another force.
It takes time and some creative approaches.
Again, I'm playing with ideas, but I believe it can happen.