Former Greens leader Bob Brown may have retired from the Senate some three years ago, but he shows no sign of slowing down his activism, promising to take a bus-load of retirees to stop bulldozers if the Adani coal mine ever goes ahead, and fighting Japanese whaling and proposals to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight.
Brown, appearing at the Byron Bay Writers festival over the weekend, said that corporations wielded enormous power over governments in Australia and overseas, and while the controversial Adani project was unlikely to go ahead for economic reasons, it could still get government support.
The newly re-elected Coalition government includes a National Party promising to “do anything” to get the coal mine going. Indeed, newly appointed resources minister Matt Canavan is a big supporter of the mine, and has hinted at using funds under his Northern Australia portfolio to ensure it proceeds.
“It looks like it (Adani) is not going to make it economically, unless this government goes so far out there using public funds to make it viable,” Brown said. “That’s where we need to hear from the Australian people in no uncertain terms.” And he promised he would be in the front line.
“If the Adani coal mine goes ahead, I am going to get a bus-load of people from Hobart, and most of them will be white or grey haired like us, we’ve got the time and we got the money and we’re not tied down as much as younger people these days, and we’re coming up to Adani to sit in the way. And let’s hope that other people can do the same.”
Brown also railed against new laws being implemented that imposed fines and jail terms on environmental protestors, at the same time as penalties against corporations for criminal acts against the environment had been drastically reduced.
Brown was arrested in a protest to defend the heritage forest in Tasmania, and he and fellow protester Jessica Hoyt are taking the case to the High Court, to protect “our rights in the constitution which includes the right for peaceful protest.”
He said: “Corporations can see that civil insurrection to protect the environment is going to increase, so they moved in on spineless politicians to bring in draconian laws to ban protesting on the basis of protecting the planet’s environment …
“It comes down to money, power and influence of mega-rich corporations,” Brown said, adding that they had formed a “de-facto global government” that governs the distribution of resources in the planet. The ECPG act was being treated with “utter contempt”, he said.
Brown also issued a challenge to new environment and energy minister Josh Frydenberg to take action against Japanese whaling when it likely resumed in the coming summer.
He said last year, despite a federal court ruling making whaling illegal in Australia’s southern waters, and an international court of justice ruling that Japanese whaling was illegal, more than 300 Minke whales were harpooned last year – including 200 pregnant females – and their meat sent off to Tokyo markets.
“Our government did nothing. That is international high crime. Do we at last get a minister for the environment who says ‘I am going to stop this crime’, or do we again sit on their hands.”
“We have to defend the nature on this planet, and if we can’t defend the biggest animals we won’t be able to defend the smallest.”
Brown is also going to fly to South Australia next week to join the Sea Shepherd ship the Steve Irwin, which is protesting against proposed drilling by BP in the Great Australian Bight. Brown says this drilling creates the same risks as the BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
Asked where he would take the federal Cabinet to highlight environment issues and try to get them understand the need to protect the environment, rather than just economic growth data, Brown said he would take them to the Tarkine in north west Tasmania, also to highlight the Aboriginal heritage.
I would have a cabinet meeting on the beach. “I think it would be good for their Australian spirit.” Indeed, he had invited senior politicians to the Sea Shepherd trip, but only current Greens leader Richard di Natale had accepted.
Asked about the obsessions with “growth” and economic data, and which word or concept he would substitute, brown suggested “prosperity”. “It isn’t a bad word. We don’t have to extract more to achieve more prosperity. We simply have to innovate to get more out of what we got. We need to share, but we are not a sharing people.”