From the conscription fights of the late 1960’s, through the Lake Pedder protests in the 1970’s; from the Franklin Dam to the decriminalisation of homosexuality you have been in the forefront of Left-wing activism.
When you were elected to the Tasmanian Parliament after your jailing over the Franklin Dam protests you introduced a wide range of private member’s initiatives to Tasmania. Freedom of information, death with dignity, lowering parliamentary salaries, gay law reform, banning the battery-hen industry and advocation for nuclear free Tasmania were all issues you introduced and promoted.
Always a prophet, in 1987 you introduced a bill to ban semi-automatic guns which was voted down by both Liberal and Labor members of Tasmania’s House of Assembly, nine years before the Port Arthur massacre.
Moving to the Federal sphere in 1996 you were, as in Tasmania, a lone voice in the beginning. As in Tasmania, you have helped the Greens grow into a position of influence. On the greater stage of the entire continent, you have carried on your fights for the environment and for human rights without compromise even when it was “not politic” to do so. You showed your constancy by returning to the fight for Peace with your welcome and determined opposition to the invasion of Iraq and the subsequent occupation of Afghanistan.
Now, at 67, you are retiring. Watching your resignation speech and your off the cuff answers to the assembled media, I have been struck by your good humour and humble thanks to all your colleagues, your partner and even to the media which has, at times, made your life Hell.
“I am sad to leave but happy to go. It is good knowing that the Greens have such a depth of talent and experience lined up for leadership – I could only dream about that a decade ago”, Senator Brown said.
“It is prime time to hand over the reins. I offer a huge ‘thank you’ to the 1.7 million Australian voters who elected our Green team, and to my 9 colleagues: they have made each Green year in this parliament better than the year before – though the best is yet to come. For example, our policies for fairly taxing the resources boom and carbon polluters, uniquely enable the Greens to fund a national disabilities insurance scheme, the Gonski education reforms, Denticare, renewable energy businesses, as well as progress on High Speed Rail linking our major cities.
“I also thank my splendid staff, including my longtime friend, confidant, and fount of good political sense, Chief of Staff, Ben Oquist,” Senator Brown said.
Despite the huge increase in the power and influence of your creation, The Australian Greens, you, Bob Brown have not forgotten that activism is about small causes, about small people doing small things. In your resignation speech, you referred to having time for, “…fresh green pursuits including writing, photography, music, occasional talks, bushwalking, and getting out with Paul to see Miranda Gibson who has been perched for 120 days 60 metres high, in defence of a giant tree facing destruction in central Tasmania,”
While fighting for the big things in our world; peace, human rights, climate change and “a fair go”, you have not lost sight of the small things. That a single tree has value, that a single life has value is still an important part of your philosophy. You have always stayed connected to your roots.
You have given so much of your life to us. I hope your retirement is long and, when you escape doing the dishes, that it is filled with a joyous rediscovery of all the things you have sacrificed to bring your vision, a great vision, of Australia’s future closer to fruition.
Thank you, Dr Bob Brown, Honourable Citizen of Australia.