Which is the luckiest political party in Australia? The Greens, of course. One of their star candidates resigns from the Party last week, and is criticised for not being enough of a tree hugger, and only one media outlet in the country bothers to give the story a decent run – the Hobart Mercury last Friday. If the story was about a resignation from the ALP, Liberals, Nationals or Democrats you can bet your house that the political media would salivate at the prospect of such a yarn. But Bob Brown’s Greens are, for the most part, off limits to criticism by the Canberra media.
The candidate in question was Andrew Wilkie. Wilkie, a man of genuine integrity and intellect, was the former Defence official who blew the whistle on the Howard government’s deception in making its case to the Australian people for involvement of our troops in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Wilkie was pilloried by conservatives and ended up running for the Greens against John Howard in the former PM’s Sydney electorate of Bennelong in the 2004 election.
Wilkie then moved to Tasmania and ran with Brown for the Senate at last year’s poll. Wilkie didn’t get elected and last week he announced he was quitting the Greens because of internal wrangling in the Party, and his concerns about a lack of professionalism in the way the Party ran its federal election campaign.
It seems that despite Wilkie’s ability to potentially capture voters who might not otherwise vote Green, some in Brown’s party don’t want him anyway because he is not enough of a tree hugger. One Green member quoted in The Mercury last Friday said of Wilkie that his sin was that he wanted to talk about issues other than trees – not a bad idea for a Party that says it wants to be seen as a genuine third force in Australian politics.
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Wilkie “was never a tree-hugger,” whined the unnamed Green described only as a “prominent Green member.”
“He stood for broader policy issues. That created some tensions with long-time local Greens who felt he did not understand or feel strongly enough about how important forest issues and protests are to the Greens in Tasmania,” this anonymous source said.
The resignation of someone as high profile as Wilkie from the Greens is a national story and one that the Canberra gallery should be investigating and interrogating Brown about. They should, for the first time, seek to discover whether or not Wilkie was a threat to Brown’s ego and personal dominance in the Greens. So why aren’t they? And why haven’t the Age/SMH, The Australian and the ABC – all of whom have rightly given Wilkie prominence over the past five years — bothered to get their Tasmanian correspondents to dig deeper on the resignation?
Ironically, Wilkie is now running an exotic rugs business in Hobart with his wife. His competitor is Bob Brown’s long-time partner who also runs a rugs shop in central Hobart!
Greg Barns writes a weekly column for the Hobart Mercury.