16 Jun 2009, Comments (10)

Brown SLAPPed down, bobs up again

Author: Helen

A while ago I wrote a post on LP about SLAPP suits, the weapon of large corporations against ordinary people and non-government organisations who threaten their hegemony. Then, just after the long weekend, I had one of those “I heard the news today, oh boy” moments: Bob Brown had been SLAPPed down.

Score one for the woodchip industry, and against parliamentary democracy.

Sometimes I wonder why Bob Brown is the target of so much hate from Mr and Mrs Typical Australia, more so than other left-ish politicians. Has the steady drip of disinformation from the media and politicians, Labor and Liberal both, convinced so many “working families” that they’d be living the high life if only the logging companies could just remove the last vestiges of old-growth in South-Eastern Australia? It’s not just the environmental activism; the animus against Brown is so personal. He isn’t annoying, or trollish, in the way that other parliamentary “personalities” like Wilson Tuckey or Steve Fielding are trollish. He’s not from a rich or elite background. His NSW country drawl is real and unforced, and he looks as if he’s stepped out of a Russell Drysdale painting. Perhaps it’s because he’s a gay man in a homophobic culture that he incurs an extra dose of bile from the News commenters and talkback.

I was trudging through the rest of the week, filled with gloom, thinking that the Forces of Darkness had won again. Then, this.

Australian businessman Dick Smith has pledged to help Australian Greens leader Bob Brown pay a $240,000 legal bill which is threatening to force him into bankruptcy.
…Speaking from his helicopter over Lake Eyre today, Mr Smith said it was inappropriate for the industry to threaten someone’s political future.
“I’m very disturbed when I understand the legal letter which came in to Bob Brown threatened to make him a bankrupt, and of course, Forestry Tasmania would know that means he’d have to vacate his seat from Federal Parliament,” Mr Smith said.
“And I don’t really like that at all. I think that type of threat is quite uncalled for in Australia.”

…”I believe it’s just not acceptable and Forestry Tasmania will do themselves great damage if they think they can remove Bob Brown from Parliament because he doesn’t have much money,” he said.
“I know if need be, I’ll come in with some money and I’m sure others will too.”

Before the anti-Brown forces could work up a full head of steam about how terrible it was that Brown would take money from a businessman and how morally bankrupt that made him – never mind the steady stream of corporate money to the Liberal and Labor parties, not all of it above board – the story took another twist: Brown wouldn’t need Dick Smith’s offer after all, because the public had donated the money. All of it.

It was really wonderful to see the level of support for Brown, even in unlikely places and the condemnation of such antidemocratic SLAPP litigation tactics. Flicking around a few comment forums, I noticed many comments from people who said they disagreed with Brown and would never vote for him, but would still donate because Forestry Tasmania’s action was simply wrong. The animus against BB had abated somewhat (although I’m sure it’ll be back.) I think that middle Australia had been shocked out of its complacency, and Dick Smith had reminded them what human decency could do.

Score one for Bob Brown, and none for “Gunns, Forestry Tasmania and the [Forestry wing of the] CFMEU, which, at this stage of the game, are basically different arms of the same misshapen beast“.

Comments (10)

  • Shaun says:

    To be honest, I don’t get the impression his sexuality is only a minor issue if one at all. A lot of the animus to Bob is likely simply because he is a “greeny.” Though the Greens have a better profile now there is still some residual mistrust.

    Regardless of political leanings, the support for him from all corners show that his integrity as a politician is well respected.

    I heard on the radio this morning that Eric Abetz is whinging about Brown not revealing all of his donations. Then again, Abetz is the Opposition’s leader of pointless Upper House Whnging.

  • Hendo says:

    Thanks for writing this, I donated last week and never found out what happened (because I happen to be working overseas and don’t have regular internet access). Now I know! Hurrah! And good on Dick Smith, too.

    I do like that people who reckon they would not vote for Brown still donated.

    And, am I super-slow because I didn’t realise Brown was gay? oops. I do think the animosity towards him is overtly mostly because of the environmental stuff, and probably also because he speaks his mind.

  • Kath Lockett says:

    Well written Helen. I’ve loved ‘ol Bobbie since 1982.
    We were on a holiday in Tassie and Dad booked a boat tour of the Franklin River. We all leaned precariously over the side of the boat to shake Bob’s hand as he pulled up alongside us in his canoe.

  • Russell says:

    While admiring Dick Smith’s intervention I was slightly annoyed by it. I had already sent off a donation and I was POSITIVE that the amount would be raised by Greens and other progressives without any help from big donors. Of course it was, and that is a very satisfying thing.

  • Caroline says:

    I heard that Dick was going to pay the whole thing.

    I voted ALP to help get rid of the rat, but I think that will be the last time. I’m going Green from now on and mainly because I like Bob Brown.

    Your description of him looking like he just stepped out of a Drysdale painting is spot on. Poor bastard, looks more drawn and haggard and dejected by the whole pointless process every time he appears to state the bleeding obvious or make a point concerning the novel reintroduction of (hiss) civic morality.

  • Helen says:

    Bloody good onya Russell, Hendo and others!! I confess I was beaten by the Wielangta site payment page, which requires you to log on, and I was casting about for other places to get my $ in. WHere did you two donate?
    Now that the 240 grand is already in I thought I’d give my $ to the Gunns 20 fund instead. For non Australians, the SLAPP suit is in fact against 20 people, of whom Bob is only the biggest and juiciest target.

  • David says:

    Good on you Bob and good on Dick Smith for making a stand also! I heard them interview him and felt inspired to know there are people who will defend what they feel is right. It’s a good reminder that we have the power to defy what appears to be an overwhelming force!
    Thanks to all those who dare to say NO!

  • M-H says:

    I’ve given up trying to understand the Great Aussie Public, but it’s possible that the fact that he looks like country NSW but manages to explode all the stereotypes could have something to do with it – some idea that he’s betrayed his heritage by being openly gay *and* radically green. Plus his apparently endless ability to calmly deal with all the shit that’s thrown at him without losing his rag.

  • Bernice says:

    I first came across Bob in about 1975 when he staged a hunger strike while sitting in a tent on the top of Mt Wellington in protest at the visit of the USS Enterprise (sic?), a US nuclear powered and armed aircraft carrier that bobbed like a huge grey turd in the Derwent for a R&R visit.
    NSW authorities had refused the thing entry over concerns about the inability to respond to a radioactive leak – the witless Tasmania government greeted the thing like it was the second coming. As Bob quietly pointed out, Hobart’s geography was such that the entire area was a good deal more vulnerable than Sydney.
    The response from most Tasmanians? Incredulous disbelief closely followed by fury that this this doctor bloke (as Bob was at the time) could dare to point out the bleeding obvious and ask you to respond rationally. Never a good tactic with either Tasmanians or their northern cousins, Ozstrylans. Besides they werz all gunna get rich from them Yankee sailors. Just like they’re gunna get rich from Gunns, or Comalco, or EZ or Union Carbide.

  • Colin says:

    I’ve always felt the the general public liked and respected Bob Brown to a greater extent than his politics would indicate. He comes across as honest – a conviction politician – and even people who disagree with his politics respect that.

    And his sexuality is largely unknown amongst the public. I’ve had some interesting moments where I’ve told people he was gay only for them to disbelieve me because “he doesn’t look gay!”.

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