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Oct 6, 2008

Ronan Lee and the Greens, strange bedfellows indeed

The Greens are buying themselves trouble with Queensland MP Ronan Lee, writes Bernard Keane.

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The Greens are buying themselves trouble with Queensland MP Ronan Lee.

Put aside the issue of whether an MP who bails out of their own party should resign. You’ll never get a consistent answer from any political party on that.

It’s just that Lee is not going to fit particularly well into the Greens.

Well, he will in part. Lee felt strongly enough about his own environmental impact to publicly declare he had become a vegetarian. No wonder the carnivores in the Queensland ALP hated him long before he defected.

But there’s a few problems with his green record. Anna Bligh said yesterday that, contrary to his claims to have advocated action on climate change within the ALP, he had never persistently advocated anything to her. His interest in Queensland dams — he cited the Government’s handling of the Traveston Crossing Dam as one of the main reasons for his defection — seems to have developed since 2005, when he couldn’t answer questions on the issue; nor has he ever spoken in Parliament about Traveston Crossing.

Lee took Indooroopilly from the Liberals — remember them? — in 2001 and held it in 2004 and 2006. Such was Lee’s environmental track record that the Greens didn’t even preference Lee in 2004. In fact, they preferenced the ALP in every other seat except his in that election.

With the ALP polling badly, Lee faced almost certain defeat at the next election. But let’s assume his departure from the ALP was motivated by his alleged environmental interest rather than the fact that he thinks his slim chances of political survival are maximised by building a profile as the only Greens MP in Queensland, although his decision gifts the seat to the Nationals at the next election.

It’s just that Lee’s social views place him way outside the rest of his new party. Lee is a Catholic from Ireland — a seriously hardline one, who has very strong anti-choice views. The Courier Mail has already pointed out the discrepancy between Lee’s opposition to reproductive choice and the Greens’ policy that “women have the right to decide whether or not to continue a pregnancy” and that abortion should be available in all areas of Queensland. Lee also voted against stem cell research.

His views on the Federal Greens’ current Senate Bill backing the right of Territories to legislate in relation to euthanasia would be most interesting.

In fact, Lee is such a hardline conservative on social issues that he is the darling of the lunatics at the Queensland Festival of Light, which in 2004 declared he “deserves top marks for having the courage of his pro-life convictions… [his] Indooroopilly win despite a statewide swing of about 2% to the Coalition shows that voters are willing to support candidates who want to protect babies and embryos before birth.” Some constituents have wondered whether Lee has obtained political funding from anti-choice groups.

It appears, though, that Lee’s Catholicism is a bit selective. He’s divorced from the mother of his seven-year-old daughter.

Lee was a big promoter of Bill Shorten, who in return launched his 2006 campaign. The other Bill, the big Bill, as in Ludwig, was also a Lee backer since Lee switched to his AWU faction in 2005. And Lee shares a former staffer with Kevin Rudd. Rudd second-in-command Alister Jordan worked for Lee as an electorate officer in 2001.

There’ll be some very disappointed people in the ALP. They don’t like rats, at all.

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10 thoughts on “Ronan Lee and the Greens, strange bedfellows indeed

  1. Ah so jaded, so sure. At 25 years of age methinks the guy deserves some slack and might actually care about the global future regardless. And one surely ought to warn of Green party machine politics as much as vice versa. As for pro choice/life some Green constitutions allow a conscience vote, others don’t. But one thing is pretty sure – no Green Govt, no Life. It’s a matter of time really and a few tipping points, all too late sadly. Otherwise its business as usual Government for Rich folks by Rich folks for … you get the picture. And to be loathed by the ALP – it’s like being divorced from a drunk (inebriated with power), generating an abiding sense of liberty and peace of mind. And what’s the alternative – 20 years of self loathing culminating in a serious bout of pancreatitis?

  2. Oh bollocks Tom! Have another cognac. He’s not 25 or green. He’s a 32-year-old seasoned MP who thinks he can grow up on the public purse! If he’s still there in ten years time he’ll be turncoating for the Liberals as Barenboim ‘unplugged’! I know its Queensland but this state needs to get serious about governance. Dipsticks like Lee perpetuate the deep north as the bad deal or bum steer state of the nation. Lee just wants out of the ALP, not politics and the only way he can go is via the Green door. The question is why is he so desperate to get Labor off his back?

  3. Bernanrd, setting aside the fact you are a Canberra correspondent commenting on a Queensland story, I think your selective quoting is at least a little suspect. For example, Premier Bligh stated that Mr Lee never persistently raised environmental issues with her, don’t you think that would be in her interests to say? Secondly, The Greens allow consience voting on abortion, euthanasia, etc. One only needs to look at Mr Lee’s media releases and speeches to the House to confirm his environmental credentials. You might also find on the public record that Mr Lee regularly commutes to parliment using public transport or a bicycle. You’ll never know what Mr Lee’s has said in the Labor caucus, but consider the fact that some of his caucus colleagues have attacked him in the last 24 hours for being a dissenter. Premier Bligh can’t say on the one hand he wasn’t a team player and on the other say that he never raised any concerns with her. You should think about that little contradiction for a moment… Also, if Mr Lee was such a loose cannon, why was he promoted to being a Parlimentary Secretary, some of his caucus colleagues must have seen some talent to support him. Lets face it Ronan Lee is obviously a man of principle, lets respect him for it and ignore the personal jibes and consider what he’s advocating. The media will probably need to grapple with the challenge of more than two ideas being expressed in the one sentence, but most journalists did finish university I presume…

  4. Cathy, you sound very upset. Obviously an ALP diehard such as yourself must have some inclination of the trouble it finds itself in in more than a couple of states. With regard to your comments about Queensland as a political back water, the current going ons within the NSW ALP hark back to the bully days of Joh up here, with MPs and ministers throwing out threats left and right. Unfortunately the same sort of ‘born to rule’ mentality is gradually taking hold here (Qld), with blatant ‘golden handshake’ appointments becoming a daily unquestioned occurrence amid seemingly unrelenting factional payback assassinations. Whereas Beattie no doubt committed the same fouls, he did it with that cheeky smile we all seemed to love. Bligh does it then appears on the evening news with bloody knife still in hand. With regard to the article on Mr Lee, a number of facts are way off, but that doesn’t matter does it!!

  5. I’m no ALP die-hard or have any political persuasion. I’m focussed on getting safe, fair and balanced workplaces of the genuine kind. And that’s not what’s on offer up there in Queensland in too many areas of political influence. As you know there are people who take their lives, attempt to take their lives and many just lose their health, careers and families. If that’s Joh’s legacy endorsed by Beattie and Bligh then it needs a full inquiry.

  6. Marc – you could say I’m one of those people who are hopelessly cynical about the standard of MP we’re seeing in our parliaments lately. So would you like to back your claims this guy’s got Green credentials? You say his speeches reflect his concern for the big E issues – there’s not a mention of the Mary River, Traveston Dam, the de-sal plant or carbon emissions trading. He has 3-hits on global warming (2005-06 and 07 – silence since). His water speeches show support for the Beattie water grid and that he drinks Mt Franklin water which prompted him to propose the installation of recycling bins near the parliamentary canteen drink dispenser! The big green issues for Ronan appear to focus on riding a dinkey to work, wearing a green Irish cycling federation jersey and some rot about duck shooting damaging the environment because the lead shot “traditionally used to shoot the poor little blighters has led to significant lead poisoning in wetlands and can also result in waterfowl dying of lead poisoning. They have a natural tendency to swallow lead pellets, because they do not have any teeth and they need to swallow grit in lake and lagoon beds to help them digest their food. If an animal swallows a lead pellet, it will be broken down and absorbed into the animal’s bloodstream and it is an incredibly painful way for the bird to die”. No doubt but hardly a major environmental calamity. Perhaps Bligh is stunned because his defection draws enormous attention to his professional and personal standing. Such as listing on his parliamentary website one child when for all intents and purposes it appears he has two. In a 2003 speech he told the parliament he took his 3-month-old daughter to Graceville Park for an Anzac Day service. For someone expounding right to life it’s a shame he doesn’t acknowledge it. May be a former staff member could clear that one up?

  7. Word of advice to his staff: don’t make the same mistake I did and travel across the political divide with your boss. Far too much stress, far too foreign a way of thinking in a new (and pretty mad) party and nothing looks worse on the cv than being a former greens staffer in a state not known for electing greens MPs.