Senator Bob Brown has remained quiet on the Latham-front, but stood up to be counted last night at Melbourne University. I've always had mixed feelings about Brown - whilst I reject his misanthropic ideology, I think he's an exceptionally talented and perceptive politician. Far from being a voice from outside the political establishment, Brown is capable of the sort of brutal tactical approach that would make even the most seasoned Labor numbers-men proud.
His talk last night was on the topic of "Ten reasons why a young person should get involved in politics", a very direct contradiction of Mark Latham's speech at the same venue last week. Brown stuck loosely to his theme, although meandered through all sorts of themes. By the end, though, it seemed that Brown's attitude was not far from Latham's: the Labor Party is not an appropriate vehicle for social change, parliamentary democracy in Australia is highly flawed, popular public movements are more likely to achieve action than voices in parliament.
Brown is remarkably positive and upbeat about the prospects for the Greens. Given that the coalition have secured the balance of power in the Senate, the voting power of the Greens Senators have been severely diminished. Rather than being despondant at this parliamentary impotence, Brown seems to relish the task. Perhaps this offers some insight into the way the Greens like to play politics - rather than get involved in the pesky business of making decisions which actually affect political outcomes, and the compromise that inevitably comes with it, they prefer to be shrill and absolute. Ironic as it is, but fact that the Greens votes count for so little mean that Brown and his party have avoided some difficult dilemmas.
Brown made a frank admission. When asked about the future prospects for the Greens, he acknowledged that "the trajectory of human history" suggested that once the Greens become an established part of the political scene that they would become as compromised as the Liberal and Labor Parties. It was a bold admission, and a truthful one as well.
A couple of quick snippets from Brown's speech:
- Brown admitted he attempted to join the Liberal Party when he was 21 and by his own description, "young and confused". According to Brown, the fact that his local Liberal office was closed at the time he approached it. Strange.
- The Senator threw himself behind a rather juvenile campaign being run under the banner "Out education shouldn't cost the Earth", a campaign encouraging students to bombard the Australian Vice Chancellor's Committee switchboard with calls encouraging 'greener' campuses.
- Brown spoke at length about the principle of "One person, one vote, one value" without even the slightest hint of irony. Someone ought to tell the Senator that as a Tasmanian he was elected with just a tiny fraction of the votes that a NSW Senator is elected with. Hardly 'one value'.
What about Bob?