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Party time for Greens on Franklin's anniversa -

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Party time for Greens on Franklin's anniversary

The World Today - Tuesday, 1 July , 2008 12:26:00

Reporter: Felicity Ogilvie

ELEANOR HALL: A quarter of a century ago today Australia's High Court ended one of this country's
most passionate and divisive environmental campaigns by stopping the Tasmanian government from the
damming the Franklin River.

That campaign saw the new Federal Labor government of Bob Hawke take on the Tasmanian government
and it also launched the political career of the man who is now likely to be a thorn in the side of
the Rudd Labor Government.

From today, the leader of the Australian Greens, Senator Bob Brown, will share the balance of power
in the Senate and the Government will be courting his vote. But already some are questioning
whether the Greens will exercise that power responsibly.

Felicity Ogilvie reports.

FELICITY OGILVIE: From today Senator Bob Brown will have one of the most powerful positions in the
country but will he use that power for causes other than the environmental activism that launched
his political career?

BOB BROWN: It was a delicious double celebration that that monumental decision which empowered the
Hawke government to save the Franklin and was celebrated right across the country back in 1983,
falls on the same day that we ascend into full party status in the Senate now 25 years later. I
think Mother Nature is having a little hand in politics here.

FELICITY OGILVIE: You started off as an environmentalist and became a politician - are you an
environmentalist or a politician or still a bit of both?

BOB BROWN: (laughs) I hope a thoughtful human being because there's a bit of environmentalist in
everybody but maybe there is a bit of politician is everybody.

FELICITY OGILVIE: The journey that led him to the Senate began in 1976 when he rafted down the
Franklin River.

BOB BROWN: It was transforming. Sea eagles, platypuses, waterfalls and when we got to the end and
came round the corner into the Gordon River, jackhammers, explosives and the work camps where they
were trying to find an anchor point for a dam.

FELICITY OGILVIE: After his trip down the Franklin, Bob Brown quit his job and moved to Hobart to
co-ordinate the Wilderness Society's campaign to stop the Franklin Gordon Dam.

The anti-dam campaign lasted years culminating with a protest on the river in the summer of 1982 to

It was called the Blockade and the Wilderness Society says 1217 protesters were arrested. Bob Brown
was one of them.

BOB BROWN: I must say the young constable was very nervous about this and I gave him a steadying
hand because we were on the top of a bank and quite a long fall into the river.

FELICITY OGILVIE: While he was being held in prison he decided to take a seat in the Tasmanian

BOB BROWN: In Risden we were locked in single cells for 14 hours a night so 10 hours out, 14 hours
in and it gave you lots of time and I tossed and turned and each day somebody would come in and say
you have got to stand to fill Norm Sanders place and others would say, you have got to come out and
keep helping to co-ordinate this massive protest that we had underway.

But I finally decided that I would take Norm's place in the Parliament and on a recount, I came out
of jail on the 5th of January and was almost directly elected into the House of Assembly.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Even in his new role, Bob Brown's first priority was to continue to lobby against
the dam and instigate national support for the cause.

Within six months Labor was elected with a promise that the new Prime Minister, Bob Hawke would
stop the dam but the Tasmanian Liberal Premier, Robin Gray, was defiant.

ROBIN GRAY: The environmental significance of that area has been grossly overstated. For 11 months
of the year, the Franklin River is nothing but a brown ditch, leech-ridden, unattractive to the
majority of people.

FELICITY OGILVIE: The dispute was settled in the High Court on the 1st July, 1983.

ARCHIVAL EXTRACT: The High Court in Brisbane has ruled that the Gordon below Franklin dam can not
be built.

(Sounds of cheering)

FELICITY OGILVIE: While environmentalists celebrate Bob Brown's role in stopping the dam, he has
plenty of critics.

In the 1989 state election, the Liberals won more seats but Labor formed government by aligning
with the Greens.

The Labor Premier Michael Field tells a cautionary tale.

MICHAEL FIELD: Well, Bob always goes to beyond the last minute. That is he will hold people hanging
and he'll squeeze every little bit of publicity and every little bit of bargaining power and not
agree until the last minute on any changes.

They acted as though they were a pressure group rather than a political party.

FELICITY OGILVIE: What do you mean by a pressure group because the Greens are a political party in
their own right?

MICHAEL FIELD: Well, they see themselves as bargaining with the government in order to get
concessions, particularly on forestry matters and their support base is predicated on them being
very radical in that regard.

FELICITY OGILVIE: A disagreement about forestry broke the Labor Green accord.

Soon after Bob Brown made the switch to Canberra.

He is now one of five Greens sharing the balance of power in the Senate and he plans to use that
power for more than environmental reform.

BOB BROWN: I'll be pursuing legislation to restore to both the Territories, the ACT and the
Northern Territory, their right to legislate on dignity in dieing. That is the euthanasia laws.
That was taken off them by the Howard government.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Richard Herr is as Associate Professor of Politics at the University of Tasmania.

Despite their recent success, he is unsure if the Greens will ever become a major political party.

RICHARD HERR: Well they have certainly tried to broaden their agenda from the purely environment
focus. The problem that third parties like the Greens have, and indeed as the Democrats had is that
at a certain point, if you don't cross that threshold of becoming a challenger for government, your
agenda tends to be taken over by other parties.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Bob Brown disagrees.

BOB BROWN: The big old parties put on green spots in Opposition and they shed them in government
and we have to get in there and keep on our green policies and be an alternative voice because
those big parties simply are so conditioned by the last century, they can not give the environment
its due.

ELEANOR HALL: That is Green Senator Bob Brown ending that report from Felicity Ogilvie.