Greens leader Bob Brown â€“ whoâ€™ll be 68 years old at the next election â€“ was in a state of scarcely-controlled fury over this week’s leadership transition speculation according to well-placed sources.
The normally zen spiritual leader of the Greens sect is believed to have spewed out a profane stream of wintry words aimed at those responsible for the talk. As is so often the case when aging lefties rant, Rupert Murdoch, himself 80 years young, was invoked as being part of a vast right-wing conspiracy against Brown. Somehow we think the media proprietor has better things to do than worry about the leadership of an Australian minor party but in case there is a secret, vast, right-wing conspiracy theory going on that convenes at Nobu at Crown, we want in. Love their sushi.
POLITBURO MEETS IN CHILLY MELBOURNE
All this melodrama comes at a time when tensions are still high in the Greens party after their party National Council met in Melbourne last weekend. It is the highest-ranking official decision-making structure in the authoritarian party.
Many members â€“ outside the elite parliamentary ranks â€“ expressed concern that the Gillard government would ultimately â€œsell-outâ€ on the carbon tax and that it would ultimately just slightly re-badge Penny Wongâ€™s failed CPRS legislation which constitutes some kind of market mechanism.
A good number of the Greens party high command are deeply suspicious of trading systems, preferring a directly imposed tax on â€œpolluters.â€ Some would no doubt like a polluter prison or gas gulag or two too, possibly occupying the same facilities as the immigration detention centres theyâ€™d like to close.
At this stage Brown and his likely successor in the leadership Christine Milne were successful in fobbing them off, encouraging them to expend energy on passing motions demanding various things of government on climate, very few of which will be put on the negotiating table by Brown who has his own agenda. Like that other leader who planned to stay in charge til his 90s, Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, Brown knows how to â€œfeed the chooksâ€ or keep the little people deceived and mollified.
Party critics of Brown say they are suspicious the old bloke will blindly support the governmentâ€™s carbon tax plan once he gains veto-power in the Senate because he is already thinking about his â€œlegacyâ€ with a retirement from party leadership and possibly the Senate too expected before 2013.
The Greens party structures donâ€™t tend to meddle with Brownâ€™s old man winter leadership that much, he is a commanding presence and certainly their most sneaky and popular spokesman. He has a reassuring manner that plays well in middle Australia and is certainly less jarring than the rest of them.
Other federal Greens include Christine Milne who sounds very whiny, Sarah Hanson-Young precocious, Ludlam pompous and Senator-Elect Lee Rhiannon is going too sound like a crazy old ultra-leftist extremist. Melbourne MHR Adam Bandt isnâ€™t going to be leader because heâ€™s way too smug and self-satisfied, insiders say, and has not done much to win over colleagues. We suspect heâ€™ll struggle to hold on to his seat too with many locals in Melbourne furious about the poor quality of constituent service theyâ€™re getting from his dysfunctional office.
GREENS NOT AFRAID TO CRACK THE WHIP ON BROWN
So while heâ€™s their most media manipulating possible leader, Brown has been brought to heel by his party organisation several times, most notably on the Telstra privatisation pushed by John Howard. Brown shook on a deal with Howard to agree to the sale in return for a massive amount of federal money for Tasmanian forestry. Brown was forced to renege in the most humiliating fashion by a hastily-convened meeting of his party executive.
The ultra-lefties in the Greens party structure donâ€™t like privatisation but they are far more hot-under-the-collar over taxing carbon. Many of them are convinced the government will be nobbled by big business â€œpollutersâ€ and they have already expressed concern that Brown appeared to sign on to a carbon tax and CPRS plan without any detail.
They have made it clear they will bounce Brown on any policy agreement with the government that doesnâ€™t meet the criteria theyâ€™ve set out. Some are concerned about being to be too close with Gillard, especially as Laborâ€™s numbers collapse and are openly discussing the political opportunity that might come from again rejecting Laborâ€™s climate change response as â€œnot enoughâ€ or hopelessly inadequate.
Meanwhile, Bob Brownâ€™s wintry old presence continues to cause speculation about the future. When under pressure about it yesterday, he said heâ€™d be looking to stay on as Greens party leader for two more decades.
Heâ€™ll be lucky to be allowed to stay on for two more years, Greens party insiders are loudly saying, with an expected tussle between Milne â€“ the favourite â€“ and SA Senator Sarah Hanson-Young who tried to challenge Milneâ€™s deputy leadership after the last federal election but embarrassingly couldnâ€™t find a seconder.
One to watch is Nick McKim, currently a Tasmanian minister for Prisons who has taken on what he calls â€œunion bossesâ€ and tried to bust strikes over workplace safety issues. He hopes to replace Brown in the Senate and believes his unique experience as a Greens party minister of the Crown would give him a claim to lead. What will count against him is that heâ€™s a male and that the Greens have only ever had male leadership despite many of their members and supporters being women.