"Politics will be a lot duller without Bob Brown"

A quick update on the facts:

– Bob Brown has quit as Australian Greens leader after 16 years.- He will also resign from the Senate in June.

– Christine Milne has been elected as the new Greens leader and MP Adam Bandt is the new Deputy Leader.

– Bob Brown will continue in the Senate until June when he will be replaced.

– His replacement, from Tasmania, has not yet been decided.

– There will be no change to the Greens agreement with Labor to support the Gillard Minority Government.


Farewell Earthian; loved and loathed in equal parts.

At 67, Bob Brown has the energy of a 40 year old. He still has a zest for politics, still loves a fight. It seemed he could lead the Greens forever. But today, he’s announced it’s time for “renewal” and he’s handed the reins to Deputy Christine Milne.

Terrible news times two: Australian Parliament will be a lot duller without Senator Brown; and Christine Milne – she of limited charisma – will be on our TV screens a lot more.

Bob Brown, with the rich chocolatey voice and the relentless smile will be a great loss to the character of Parliament House. He has an air of happy benevolence: a warm calmness that descends, as he walks toward you.

It’s an effective smokescreen for the shrewd politician underneath. He may seem harmless enough, but he’s single handedly turned The Greens into Australia’s third political party, and is the man who gave Julia Gillard the keys to The Lodge.

Bob Brown is also an eccentric, like your Uncle, who collects cicada shells and tobacco tins. When he delivered a speech that started “Fellow, Earthians” in March, it seemed the pot was cracking even further. The media commentary was scathing. Eccentric is fine, there’s plenty of that in Parliament, but speaking to aliens was a step too far.

But Brown can handle scathing. He’s openly gay and from Tasmania – from a time when being openly gay in Tasmania was illegal. He’s fanatically anti-war and unashamedly tree-huggy. He was thrown out of Parliament for heckling US President George Bush as he delivered a speech to Australian politicians. He wrangled a Carbon Tax from a Prime Minister who’d promised never to introduce one.


Bob Brown has never baulked at the controversial.

Of all his regrets, Senator Brown says he wishes he’d held a ministership like “Minister of Westerly Winds”. Trademark Bob Brown cheek.

We won’t see that sort of humour from Christine Milne (with the aforementioned charisma deficiency). A skilled negotiator and tactical politician, she was the real force behind the carbon tax. When the Prime Minister accused the Greens of being extremists last year, she would’ve been talking about Milne. What she lacks in charm and media clout, she makes up for in resolve. MP Adam Bandt has been handed the Deputy Leadership. He certainly has the necessary personality, but he’ll lose his seat at the next election. It’s questionable whether the more moderate Greens voters will stay the course with Milne and Bandt at the helm.

Tony Abbott doesn’t think so. He‘s predicted this will spell the beginning of the end for the party.

The Greens were decimated in the QLD elections. They’re tied to the poisonously unpopular Carbon Tax. Now they’ve lost Bob Brown. And rather than go for a new fresh face to lead the party, they’ve given us Christine Milne.

He may have some detractors, but Senator Brown is what’s kept The Greens stable and relevant. He built the party from nothing. From one lone Senator, to a party of ten that collected 1.7 million votes at the last election, and now holds the balance of power in the Senate. He did it by being passionate, with a touch of nutty. Some of his colleagues, however, are marching to much funkier drums than him.

It’s hard to imagine The Greens without The Brown. As relieved as he looked today, I think he feels the same.

“I will be Green until the day I die,” he said. “If not for a long time after.”

What they said:

Bob Brown

“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.

“I look forward to 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 days60 metres high, in defence of a giant tree facing destruction in central Tasmania.”

Julia Gillard

Prime Minister Julia Gillard

“Bob Brown has been a figure of integrity with a deep love for this country and its environment.

Bob has also been an active voice on the rights of same sex couples, having bravely used his own experiences to campaign for change.

I wish him well for his life beyond politics.”

Tony Abbott

“He has been a very effective politician and many would say he’s run rings around Julia Gillard and look, I don’t agree with him, I don’t support him, but you’ve got to admire the effectiveness of the politician that he’s been”

Paul Thomas – Bob Brown’s Partner

“I’m looking forward to testing Bob’s athleticism on the mountains of Tasmania and getting him to do the washing-up more.”

Christine Milne

Christine Milne, New Greens Leader

“For 25 years, Bob has been an inspiration to millions of Australians and a great force for good in our country. But he’s also been a colleague, a mentor and friend to me. I thank him from the bottom of my heart for everything he has done and look forward to the next stage in his career.”

Senator Eric Abetz, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and Bob Brown’s arch nemesis.

“Undoubtedly his principle legacy in the Federal Parliament was the deal he and the new Greens leader did in putting Ms Gillard into power and the consequences that have flowed from that deal.

“Senator Brown will be leaving the Senate just as the Carbon Tax he helped broker begins to impact detrimentally on every Australian.”

Lauren Dubois is Mamamia’s Canberra-based political contributor. You can follow her on Twitter here

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