That golden opportunity is still available to Labor.

In times of great crisis, national governments have been spontaneously cobbled together from parties across the full breadth of the political spectrum. World War II saw such a time. Britons, left with no option but to tackle the menace of Nazi Adolf Hitler’s Germany, closed ranks and formed a coalition of the best minds from right, left and centre. It was a coalition that lasted until Hitler was dead in his bunker. Australians, in solidarity with their “mother” country, did much the same.

By and large, humans, wherever they may be, seem oblivious to the threat that now hangs over them — probably the greatest threat humanity has ever had to contemplate. That it must be extraordinarily serious is evidenced by the statement last week by a past vice president of the United States of America that his country is not pulling its weight in confronting the prospect of global catastrophe. Whoever heard of an American who had risen to high political office — bad mouthing his country at an international forum in a foreign land? I had not, until last week in Bali. There he was, Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore, lamenting the performance of the administration of a man now generally acknowledged as having made the world’s greatest power a very frightening laughing stock.

That alone should have been enough to convince doubters that climate change — which John Howard, in the dying months of his disastrous prime ministership, was fecklessly determined to do nothing about “if it threatens the Australian economy or Australian jobs” — has no precedent in the degree of its gravity.

And yet, with Howard now a nonentity, Australia’s new leader, who ought to know better than expect common sense from George W. Bush, was there at the Bali talk fest stalling for time in the hope that the US president would show a bit of the nous (like California’s Arnie has been displaying) and get serious about saving a planet that frightened Americans know they must continue to control if their bankrupt union is to prevail.

Sure, Kevin Rudd is keen to reassure the US that Australia is still a devoted ally, but surely this shouldn’t stop him from committing to at least a reasonably attainable carbon-reduction target at the same time putting his imprint on an agreement that aspires to even greater savings? As it turned out, the US ended up paying lip service to the wording of the final document and then, when the meeting was over, started knocking essential aspects of its import.

Now to the Australian home front. We face a threat without precedent, not just to Australia; it is to the whole planet. Surely this is a time when we should be thinking national political unity rather than just depending on one group somewhere central on the political spectrum to run the country.

It’s hard to spot any talent at all left in the parliamentary ranks of the vanquished Liberal-National coalition (not even Turnbull, who, in defeat in his bid for the party leadership has displayed poor-loser qualities that should forfeit him his right ever to bid again for the leadership; or that blustering wimp Costello, who seems to have executed yet another amazing public back flip to, just in case, position himself for a Lazarus/Howard-like comeback).

So forget the Lib/Nat option and look elsewhere. Sitting there in both houses of parliament is talent that Labor would be wise to consider co-opting (should it be willing, and it ought in the national interest) to its team confronting climate change.

Who better than Bob Brown and his fellow Greens, in this time of global emergency, to be invited to join the fight rather than be left on the cross benches as merely constructive critics?

Brown is an astute, informed and eloquent advocate of measures that would be immensely valuable in helping Australia remain a viable entity even with the depredations of global warming. His counsel as an adviser, rather than as an outsider critic, would be of immense value to a Labor Government that has yet to show it has got what it takes to run our country (rather than muddling on as some kind of imperfect, probably more benign, clone of the rabble it vanquished).

Brown, by the decency and steadfastness he consistently displays, is one of those few MPs whose presence tends to be the one of the exceptions that prove the rule that quality humans rarely enter politics — or, equally rarely, garner enough voter support to win a seat in parliament.

It is sad to think that a man of his quality should be destined never to serve his country in a ministerial or equivalent role, especially now at a time when our planet has never more needed the services of the likes of Bob Brown.



Bob Hawkins

EVERY ONCE in a while, an opportunity arises for humans to stifle their characteristic selfishness and self-interest and collaborate in a movement for a greater good. The Australian Labor Party was presented with such an opportunity in November when voters tossed out the morally corrupt and intellectually bankrupt government that had coasted, on the iron ore heap’s back, through 11 years of unavoidable prosperity, in the process possibly criminally committing Australia to a war it had no right or reason to be in; and, without question, abusing thousands of defenceless children and heaping degradation and suffering on impoverished, defenceless would-be refugees.