To read some Australian media reports you’d think that
any rural resident west of Sydney despised the Green
Party as tree-hugging, latte-sipping urban wankers, out
of touch with the gritty realities of living on the land.
Yet Bob Windsor, one of the independent ‘country’ MPs
holding the balance of power across the Tasman at the
moment, had this to say yesterday:
‘A lot of people in the country are concerned about the
Greens, I'm not. In fact over time I've developed a
good relationship with [Greens leader] Bob Brown.
‘We've got to recognize that every environmental policy
is not necessarily bad. I don't agree with everything the
Greens do, but I'm not petrified about the circumstances
of them being in the Senate.
‘I say to the farm groups that these people are going to
be in a very prominent position in the Senate for some
years. Rather than just write them off as being just anti-
agriculture, which in my view they're not, go and talk to
them, go and raise the issues.’
ABC News, reporting a Sky News interview, also says
that ‘even self-described anti-Green Bob Katter (another
rural independent MP) said there were areas of policy
that he agreed with the Greens on, such as restricting
food imports, biofuels and the power of the major
supermarket chains, and quotes him as saying: ‘I was
surprised that there was common ground—and very
aggressive common ground.’
Well, how about that. Fact is, for all the negative
imagery peddled about them, and for all the sad
nonsense spouted by Federated Farmers’ current
leader, the Green parties in Australia and New Zealand,
both countries with strong pastoral sectors, have by
definition a lot in common with farmers and rural
people generally, and I have watched with interest the
way this commonality has been developing in recent
years. The New Zealand Greens have certainly not been
shy of getting involved in the practical side of
agriculture and making constructive suggestions about
farming methods and care of the land and animals.
Despite, as I say, Don Nicolson’s obstructionist bluster,
my feeling is that many farmers are not averse to taking
a greener approach. Most farmers are in fact ecologists
at heart, but the industrialization of agriculture and the
corporate pressure to keep ramping up profits has
driven some of them into taking damaging shortcuts
and ignoring the downstream (literally) consequences.
But every day in the media you will see or hear reports
of farmers adopting or considering more sustainable
and ecologically responsible practices. The Greens are
well placed to capitalize politically on this in a country
like ours, and notwithstanding some misgivings about
their current leadership, I believe Russel Norman and
Metiria Turei are the ones to take the Greens forward.
They both just need a couple more years on them; the
sense of shrewd maturity projected by Bob Brown is
clearly a big electoral asset for Australia's Greens.