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The time has come

Dear Green Friends —

This morning I resigned as Leader of the Australian Greens. I will leave the Senate in June when the Tasmanian Greens nominate a replacement Senator. The time has come.

I wanted to immediately thank you for your support, enthusiasm and direct involvement in Green politics on my watch. I can never forget or adequately repay the personal encouragement I have received over so many years from you, my family, friends, colleagues, work mates, party workers, voters and supporters.

Our Greens Party Room now has a depth of talent which stands out in Canberra. There are 10 of us, but every one is true to the Greens Charter and policies, and works hard to give Australia the finest new option for progressive politics in more than a century. We are Australia’s party with vision.

I have been contemplating parliamentary retirement for some time. I started 10 turbulent years in the Tasmanian parliament beginning with the Franklin River blockade in 1983, and ending with the very successful Labor-Green accord of 1989-92: witness Tasmania’s Freedom of Information laws, economic reforms, educational outcomes and 650,000 hectares of new World Heritage wilderness.

Since then, there have been 12 exciting years in the Senate with the Greens since Tampa, defending international law on refugees and leading calls for self determination in Timor, Tibet and West Papua. We have spearheaded political action for the Murray-Darling Basin and other rural lands threatened by dams and mining, the nation’s wild forests and marine ecosystems, the Northern Territory’s right not to have a nuclear waste dump, the Kimberley, the Great Barrier reef, the Traditional Owners’ plea to protect the wild rivers flowing to Lake Eyre, and every city’s need for bikeways and pedestrian amenities and fast, clean, cheap public transport. The Greens show how Australia can well fund a disability insurance scheme, Denticare, and the Gonski educational package without a budget black hole. And, of course, we invigorated Australia’s new package to curb carbon pollution while boosting the real incomes of poorer households. We are the advocates for marriage equality and euthanasia.

It is now time for me to hand on leadership to the experience and talent of my colleagues. I am, after all, 67. I want to leave of my own volition, content that the Greens will stay in good hands.

This morning Party Room unanimously elected Christine Milne as Leader. Christine has been my great colleague and friend for the past 25 years and she will be a fantastic Leader of the Australian Greens.

I am ready to enjoy the other green pursuits including writing, photography, a little music and bushwalking with my good companion and partner, Paul Thomas. Amongst many anticipated things to do comes accepting a kind invitation from Stuttgart University and the (world’s first) Greens government of Baden- Württemberg to give a speech in the city hall in Stuttgart in September. I have also offered to accompany the Rwandan Greens Party leader, Frank Habineza, whose deputy was recently found beheaded, safely back to his country later this year, to help re-establish the Rwandan Greens right to exist there. As well, I am keen to see Papua New Guinea Greens leader Dorothy Tekwi win her courageous bid for the seat of Vanimo – held by the current Deputy Prime Minister – in PNG’s elections due soon.

Of course, from the sidelines, I will be giving all the backing I can with you, to your candidates and elected Greens representatives, and our growing party around Australia in the years ahead.

It is not impossible that between now and the end of 2013 there will be unplanned upheavals in both the Labor Party and the Coalition. So this Greens transition will ensure we remain not only the most progressive unit in parliament, but also the most cohesive, sure-footed and settled.

I have just returned, with Rachel, from the Third Global Greens Conference in Dakar, Senegal. There I gained the rewarding impression of Green politics growing to meet the needs of the Twenty First Century world. The Australian and New Zealand Greens are taking key roles in that Greens advance. It was in the lead to, and at this get-together with the Greens global leadership, with Paul by my side, that we finally determined this is the right time for me to move on.

The Greens are a logical response to the post industrial age human community’s need to secure the biosphere, biodiversity, equal opportunity and long-term economic, employment and lifestyle security. Greens political philosophy will grow and spread regardless of any individual. I arrived in Tasmania shortly after the Greens established in 1972 and I will leave before we Greens inevitably gain much stronger roles in governance in Tasmania, Australia and beyond.

Out of elected office I will continue to enjoy being part of this optimistic and enlightened new politics and tangling with its often bleak and recriminating critics. The future is Green.

My deep respect, gratitude and best wishes to you all,


p.s. I hope to see you on a more personal level as I visit your state or territory in the coming months.

04/13/2012 – 12:00


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