Bob Brown:

Matt Davis writes: Re. “Bob Brown: the most successful third-party politician of his generation” (Friday, item 1). While I was a little surprised to read of Bob Brown’s impending retirement, I have to say upon consideration, that it makes sense and is probably well timed.

His Senate seat, despite the problems in the Tasmanian Parliament that will be undoubtedly blamed on the Greens, should be easily retained next year. Lately, Brown has been seen as being a little too close to the Prime Minister and he’s been an easy target for media big mouths and biased editors — whose audiences mostly wouldn’t vote Green in a fit anyway — it’s a lot harder to say “Christine Milne” with a sneer in your voice.

What might come as a surprise to some is the fact that some members of the Green fraternity will see Bob off with a sigh of relief, rather than disappointment. The decision to anoint Brown as “leader” was only taken in the years after the 2007 election and not without much discussion and some disgruntlement. Up until then, the Greens’ party room contained too few members to justify having a leader and Bob Brown being the most high profile of the Greens Senators was regarded as leader by the media, sort of by default.

The fact is, many Greens who are involved with the function of the party — those who attend meetings regularly and participate in the decision-making process — see having a “leader” as unnecessary. The Greens’ policy and actions (apart from nominations for seats that can be done by ballot), are determined by a consensus based decision-making process, open to anyone who believes they have something to contribute to the discussion.

The outcomes from this process are intended to be such that all — or as close as possible to all — members can agree to (or at least endorse). This philosophy of inclusion grates against the idea of having a “leader”, as such. Indeed, having Bob Brown as leader somewhat played into the right-wing’s double-think about enviro-fascism and secret communist plots.

But the media would have Brown as Greens leader and eventually the various state parties were dragged to it. Some in Western Australia — WA Greens have a separatist streak too — were particularly upset. Although she was originally elected on a local no-nukes ticket and became a Green when the party was founded during her first term, many back home regard Jo Valentine as Australia’s first Green Senator. But I digress.

There will be some within the Greens (and one or two that have left the party) who regard the anointment of Christine Milne unnecessary, pandering to a myopic media, who would rather call a horse race than report the genuine hard work that is put in by Senators on all sides and a distraction from Green members from outside the south eastern corner of the country.

John Kotsopoulos writes: The election, unopposed, of Christine Milne as federal Greens leader is bad for good policy in the short term but is the best news the Labor Party has had for a long time. Milne has all the dogmatic certainty of Bob Brown with none of his (oily) charm or political smarts and will turn off any wavering Labor voter.

The most talented Greens politician in the country is Nick McKimm, who is Greens leader in the Tasmanian Parliament. McKimm is a smart person with real world experience and excellent communications skills who understands that a bit of something is better than all of nothing, unlike Milne and her party rival, she of  the perpetual undergraduate mindset, Sarah Hanson-Young.

For the sake of good government he should be the one to succeed Brown in the Senate with a view to taking leadership of the party.

Safe Labor seats in Brisbane:

Paul Pollard writes: Re. “Mackerras: parliamentary representation and the case for reform” (Friday, item 13). Malcolm Mackerras notes, with many others, the absence of a solid block of safe Labor seats in Queensland which can withstand the periodic landslide. In contrast to Brisbane —  Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth are all much better placed for Labor in this regard.

Watching federal elections results for years I have noticed the large proportion of Brisbane seats that always seem marginal. There is a topographical reason for this. In the cities other than Brisbane, there are clearly large areas that are more salubrious, where the better off have come to live (nearer the harbour or coast, hillier, cooler, wetter, etc), and the clearly less salubrious where the workers ended up. Thus, there have always been substantial areas for either side of politics, which the could always rely on to hold.

In hilly Brisbane by contrast the traditional pattern has been for better off people to be up the top of the hills, to catch the breeze in its sub-tropical climate, across the metropolitan area, and for the workers to be in humbler dwellings at the less salubrious base of those hills.

Thus electorates are likely to be much more mixed socially, and more marginal politically, across the board.

Correction correction:

Sandi Logan writes: Re. “Media briefs: Oz waives rules … Foxtel-Austar is go … journo killed in Syria …” (10 April, item 16). I have waited all last week for the Department of Corrections about the Ottowa (sic) Citizen (Titanic date error) to be picked up, but nary a mention so let this lapsed Canuck correct the Department of Corrections who made the error in their April 10 listing: it’s Ottawa, not Ottowa. Pot, kettle, black.