Since retiring from politics in 2012, former Greens leader Bob Brown has continued to offer sharp perspectives on issues of national debate. After giving the closing address at the Canberra Writers' Festival at the weekend, Brown tells Michelle Grattan that Malcolm Turnbull should have “stood up to the right wing” of his party at the end of 2015.
“We now have a reactionary and conservative government. I don’t think that’s where Malcolm Turnbull wants to be. I think he would prefer to be a Bob Menzies, and his time’s running out.
“He either will stand up to that power base of right-wing reactionaries and conservatives, or he’ll be another prime minister who failed to reach their promise, and Australia deserves a very progressive and liberal-minded leader.
“Turnbull’s got it in him, but one wonders if he’s had the life experience to be able to say: ‘Well, I’m not going to be dictated to’. It’s pretty late in the piece. ‘I’m not going to be dictated by these right wingers. I will stand up to them and if I lose out as a result of that at least I’ve tried.’,“ he says.
In the wake of a Greens portfolio reshuffle last week, Brown pays tribute to Sarah Hanson-Young’s period as the party’s immigration spokesperson.
“I think she’s helped move this nation from feeling ‘oh, you know let’s forget about those people’ to saying ‘no, we can’t. They’re under our care.’
“I was sorry to see her move because she’s done such a fine job in that portfolio. On the other hand I think it’s a very, very daunting job. You know, you are dealing with the agony and suffering of men, women and children and she’s been doing that for years. So in a way it might end up being a hidden blessing.
“I think it’ll free her a little. You know, I just think it’s a harrowing job,” he says.
Opening music credit: What Tomorrow Brings, by Ketsa on the Free Music Archive.
Closing music credit: Earth Song, written by Bob Brown. Sung by Claire Dawson and accompanied by Craig Wood and Michelle Wood.
Authors: Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra