Below is an opinion piece by Senator Bob Brown requested by The Sydney Morning Herald after the newspaper received a large response from its readers to Paul Sheehan’s piece on Monday.

Sheehan’s op-ed, entitled ‘Green by name, flaky by nature’ argued:

The Greens are a fraudulent brand. There are not enough letters of the alphabet to encompass the image fraud this party is perpetrating on the electorate. It is simply not a party preoccupied with the environment.

Sheehan then provided an A to Z of the Green’s alleged fraud, including B for Boat People, K for Kickbacks, P for Profiteering, R for River Red Gums, V for Voodoo Economics and X for X-Rated content.

According to Bob Brown’s office, the newspaper “yesterday heavily edited/censored Greens Party Leader Senator Bob Brown’s piece, removing all but one reference to Sheehan and then refused to reinstate the original focus of the piece, so we pulled the plug on publishing.”

Here is Senator Brown’s response in full:

The Greens, from our beginnings in the 1970s, came with four pillars of policy: social justice, peace, democracy and the environment. Paul Sheehan is not the only cranky commentator raging against the party, 40 years later, for not confining itself to environmental issues. The Greens are “fraudulent”, he thunders when we work on other issues. But, when we do champion the environment, he’s cranky about that too. How dare the Greens save river red gums, wild rivers or the Kimberley coastline; that is “ideological purity”.

I could feel sorry for this man. Life refuses to confirm to the quantitative analysis he demands of it. It would be so much easier for Sheehan if everything could be measured, bought or sold in dollars. But such a values-free world does not exist. Sheehan wants the universe reduced to straight lines and limits and he’s upset about the Greens “left-wing obsessions” but ends up focusing on his own right-wing scotomas, for example, the Greens supported and trimmed the cost of the Rudd government’s $42 billion stimulus package, which saved Australia from recession, thousands of small business closures and up to 600,000 job losses. It was the coalition conservatives who voted against that outcome in 2009.

And now we have the governor of the Reserve Bank, Glenn Stevens, backing the Greens’ call for a fund to put aside the proceeds of the mining tax for the future of the nation, similar to Norway’s approach.

It is the Greens who campaigned first and longest to get retired Australians and above-CPI increases in their pensions — the Howard government had always said no.

The Greens have led the promotion of high-speed rail.

We oppose the US-Australia free-trade agreement and that was because it puts 20 pages of restrictions on Australia’s farmers’ food exports but none on America’s and it is the Greens who oppose open-cut coal mines and coal-seam gas wells on productive farmland in NSW and Queensland. However, in a world where every day we wake up with less farmland and more mouths to feed, why we should be back foreign shareholdings in mining companies over the local farmers tilling fertile soils for food?

Once upon a time the extreme right hurt the nascent Greens’ spirit with wild claims about how we threatened the economy as well as society’s fabric. But in these changed times where sustainability, lifestyle and future security are at a premium, the Greens are growing in popularity and confidence. Commentary such as Sheehan’s seems like just another rant.

Sheehan is grumpy because the Greens defend the rights of “the world’s oppressed”, as if he has never seen the inscription on the Statue of Liberty. He attacks personalities in his list by noting Lee Rhiannon came from a “proudly activist communist family”. Well, what about my own Presbyterian background or Christine Milne’s Catholicism? The Greens, like everyone else, draw the best from our individual upbringing and have moved on to the shared new political philosophy, which, the voting figures show, is rising in popularity as fast as Sheehan’s isolationism is sinking back into the 1950s where it had its heyday.

The point of all this is that times have changed but Sheehan has not and his negativism is showing. He wants to pull the plug on the national broadband network, a long-term investment that Australia needs and that has escaped automatic privatisation thanks to the Greens’ innovation. And, no, the Greens rejected secret briefings and did not sign a confidentiality agreement.

In the hottest year in recorded human history, we’re cooling, Sheehan says. While China builds as many wind turbines every six weeks as Australian has ever built, he is still blindsided by counting and promoting coal-fired power stations.

Sheehan’s tirade begins with a rather silly attack on the Greens’ brilliant young MP from Melbourne, Adam Bandt, because he supports same-s-x marriage. “What has this got to do with the environment. Nothing. Obviously,” he growls.

Well, Paul at the risk of your dyspepsia getting worse may I point out the Mother Nature created the same-s-x phenomenon. It’s part of her kaleidoscope in which “no limit is ever set, no line is ever drawn”. Blame her. Meanwhile, the Greens are making the best of this beautiful little place and its biosphere that sustains us. We think you’re a little old-fashioned but, we accept Kermit’s famous dictum, and we’ll just have to put up with you.

Sheehan can still recite the alphabet but he has not kept up with political progress.

Peter Fray

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