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“.