We are up to the challenge

There are two urgent challenges facing us eight billion human beings if we are to make it into the future. The Greens were addressing both when we won our biggest vote ever at the last election.

Leader of the Australian Greens, 2005–2012



s I am writing this, Australia’s new Minister for the Environment, Tanya Plibersek, is taking a long time to decide whether to let Xi’s state-owned mining giant, MMG, go ahead with its toxic waste dump in Tasmania’s takayna/Tarkine rainforest. She answers no campaigners’ letters. While MMG has alternatives outside the Tarkine, the threatened Tasmanian masked owls in that rainforest have none. It took a Federal Court appeal to stop MMG from its first invasion of the masked owls’ forest, but Plibersek can override the court.

MMG will be watching for the minister’s decision as closely as the 80 good citizens arrested so far for impeding its destruction – though I doubt that MMG, like them, will be excommunicated by Plibersek. What is certain is that she will inform MMG before the public.

This Albanese Labor government began its environmental career by ticking off on the vast Scarborough gas project in Western Australia and the consequent further destruction of Aboriginal rock carvings on the Burrup Peninsula. Then Plibersek, in her first decision as Minister for the Environment, sent the bulldozers into the rare Gelorup woodland south of Perth to begin a Bunbury bypass. That road could and should have been planned on alternative routes that didn’t smash the woodland and its array of threatened wildlife.

After four critically-endangered western ringtail possums were killed, the works were temporarily stopped. As with the Tarkine, Plibersek completely ignored her constituents at Gelorup. No answers to their polite letters. No acknowledgement of their appeals. Nothing. Can you imagine a Labor, Liberal or Nationals minister for resources ignoring their constituency of mining or logging corporate executives?

Bob Brown images

Which brings me to that old Labor adage, so beloved of Murdoch, ABC and Guardian commentators in reference to we Greens turning down Kevin Rudd’s pathetic Liberals-agreed CPRS climate change bill in 2009: that the Greens ‘should not let the perfect get in the way of the good’. Interpret that as the Greens should not let the adequate get in the way of the pathetic. It’s all a matter of the old parties doing what the corporate lobbyists want and it’s called corporate capture.


o be simplistic, there are two urgent challenges facing us eight billion human beings if we are to make it into the future. The first is to give everyone an equal chance at life and that means ending this era of billionaires. It means all of us have to pull in our belts and cease wanting, way beyond our needs, more stuff. Growth economics is killing everyone’s future security.

The second is to end the wrecking of the biosphere and that is closely linked to the first. These challenges overshadow all else in politics.

“All of us have to pull in our belts and cease wanting, way beyond our needs, more stuff.”

Bob Brown image black and white

The Greens were addressing both when, at the last election, we won our biggest vote ever. The parallel advent of the Teals emphasises the electorate’s belated but growing fear for the future and eagerness for political saviours.

From now on, each native forest tree that falls, each coal mine that expands or is newly begun, each hole drilled in farmlands for gas, each industrial fish farming invasion of our seas, will see more votes carve off the old parties. That is why they are so desperate to criminalise peaceful defenders of the environment. The Green MPs’ job is not to be arrested at the barricades but to be on the parliamentary benches as advocates and supporting those who are at the barricades.

In the duality of political advocacy and civil action for equality and ecology is the winning of the world.

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