Former Labor senator and minister Graham Richardson is on a popular (not to say populist) ride in his column in The Australian today, on the twin issues of the Greens and Australia Day. I’ve attached the text of column here for the benefit of the wider readership that it might therefore gain:
There was a time when the Greens were all that their name suggests they should be. They were passionate about our environment and they fought really hard to protect Australia’s forests.
I was proud to be their ally in the noble endeavour of protecting rainforests and old-growth forests. I placed more than 20 per cent of Tasmania into World Heritage and, despite resolute opposition from the Bjelke-Petersen government in Queensland, I managed to list the rainforests of the Daintree region and the far north on the World Heritage register as well. Sadly, it did not take too long for me to realise that I could never do enough for them. No matter how much I achieved, they were always disappointed.
The Helsham inquiry was set up to finally settle which Tasmanian forests were to be protected. Many learned conservationists were disappointed at its outcome and I set about undoing the inquiry’s final report. It took a three-day cabinet meeting that grew pretty heated at times before a very close vote overturned that report. I was ecstatic and raced to share the news of this huge win for Tasmanian forests’ preservation. I rang Bob Brown, who could only express his disappointment at the cabinet not going far enough. The Greens could never be satisfied. For them it was all or nothing.
Brown, despite everything, was a tremendous voice for the environment and by far the best leader the Greens have had. The Greens began their life in Australia as a mainly Tasmanian group. They were able to export their fervour to the mainland on the back of an environmental purist in Brown.
He was never seen as a politician on the make or consumed by personal ambition. He projected decency and Australians responded. The Greens were able to achieve a national vote of 10 per cent very, very quickly. The problem is that they have never been able to increase that number.
They are stuck at 10 per cent because they no longer have the Greens purity of a Bob Brown. Since they stopped worrying about the trees and adopted the mantle of the true party of the left in Australia, they limited their horizons and seem determined to remain a minor party.
Sure, they will win inner-city seats in the parliament and if the Liberals think that the short-term gain of Labor losing a by-election in the seat of Batman in Victoria is more important than keeping out a Greens member who believes in everything the Liberals don’t, then the Greens will secure that victory in the next few months. The Greens will no doubt trumpet this as a major win and predict they will march on to greater glories. They won’t, of course. As long as they lean as far to the left as they do at present, they will remain on the fringes of power. They can rattle their sabres in the Senate and have a minor role in shaping legislation but real power will continue to elude them.
As long as they are determined to push issues that not only alienate the bulk of Australians but infuriate them as well, then their campaigns will fall on deaf ears and blind eyes. One of the first indications that the Greens have fundamental difficulties in accepting the way the great majority of Australians live was when now-vanquished Queensland Green Larissa Waters took on the cause of changing the toys our children play with. She wanted to ban Barbie dolls because they were gender-specific. Little girls have played with dolls since the Son of God played on the wing for Jerusalem. I have managed to live my 68 years seeing absolutely nothing wrong with little girls playing with dolls. And even if I am accused of being a truly dreadful person, I readily concede that I would not have been comfortable with my son playing with dolls. Fortunately, he never did.
On the last day at my son’s school last month, there was a Christmas carols evening with a religious theme held at St Andrew’s Anglican Cathedral in Sydney. Silent Night still sounds like a wonderful song to me and the children and their parents had a terrific time. The harmonies, the musicianship and the most brilliant music teachers brought songs we had all been familiar with since we were children to life yet again. This was a great Christmas celebration following a great Christmas tradition. The Greens don’t want us to have these celebrations.
Tasmanian senator Nick McKim and a few of his mates drew up a non-denominational card to be sent out at Christmas. Why do these miserable bastards want to attack how we play and what we celebrate? The tradition of sending Christmas cards has been breaking down for some years. As a kid I remember my family received and sent a hundred cards. Now it is only a few. The Greens, though, should not read into the decline in cards anything about celebrating Christmas itself. That tradition is alive and kicking. The Greens can only stand outside the mainstream if they continue to deride it.
Today’s leader of the Greens, Richard Di Natale, surprised no one this week when, in line with the black-armband view of history they peddle, he called for Australia Day to be moved away from the commemoration of the landing of the First Fleet at Botany Bay. Again, he stands against what a huge majority of Australians want and believe in.
I was at the harbour in 1988 when the 200th anniversary was being commemorated. There were so many boats, from the workers’ tinnies to the billionaires’ luxury yachts, out that day that there was very little space on the water. Australians voted with their feet and came out in their millions to be a part of it. The Greens will never dampen the way we feel about Australia Day.
Di Natale said his party would take it up with their representatives in local government. As far as most of us are concerned, this will merely mean that a few nuttier councils will lose their right to conduct citizenship ceremonies on this day. By the way, the number of people who seek to have their Australian citizenship conferred on Australia Day itself speaks volumes for the popularity of the day.
Australia Day can be a time when we celebrate the wonderful country in which we live and renew our vows to do better with indigenous health and education.
We cannot roll over and allow the Greens to tell us how to live and what to think.