On a big week: The Greens, Tim Williams and a visit from the boss at the UN
What a huge week. Christine Milne resigned from the Greens and installed a new leadership team that is going to change the face of politics in this country. The head of climate for the UN Christiana Figueres visited Australia and demonstrated diplomacy, hope and inspiration in equal measure. And in Sydney the oligarchy that runs this nation made the feisty Tim Williams from the Committee for Sydney back down (a bit) on his annihilation of the argument for the $15 billion WestConnex.
Bad luck you can’t put the cat back in the bag. Bad luck that you can’t “unsay” a good argument.
On the Greens, the newspapers on Thursday said the election of Richard Di Natale would be good for the Abbott government because Di Natale would negotiate, he’s more mainstream, and “he eats meat”. Unlike Milne who held firm to a whole number of ethical positions.
As one observer said, there’s a good proportion of the electors – 10-12 per cent to be precise – who are perfectly happy for the Greens to take a strong ethical stand, to the party that says, “no”. This means the Greens have been branded extreme and koala-loving, tree-hugging hippies by some. But what may well happen now is that this sharp new leadership team, with Di Natale backed by co-deputies Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters, will consolidate the appeal they’ve been building with a whole new swathe of the electorate – mainstream, young, technology focused, and far from hippie-ville – which will now feel comfortable with coming out of the green closet.
Meanwhile Christine Milne leaves the party in a way that makes the major parties look like schoolyard louts. The timing of her resignation, the almost bloodless method and the team to which she bequeathed her and founder Bob Brown’s legacy was a master stroke.
Politics just got a whole lot more interesting. Again.
On Williams, was it too good to be true? Last week Committee for Sydney’s resident firebrand and chief executive made a huge impact by laying out a well constructed argument, backed extensive visual data, against the crazy waste of $15 billion on the WestConnex.
Williams already had a reputation for speaking his mind. And that’s a hugely valuable thing for anyone in Sydney. Compared to Melbourne the public debates, the rallies and protests are generally more consensus focused and polite. Between the nation’s two largest cities it’s Melbourne’s crowds that ignite the news and look large and fearsome. Sydney’s are generally more controlled and smaller – the race riots in Cronulla aside.
Ask someone who’s lived in both cities and they will probably tell you it’s about the weather. Or something about class. Sydney is perhaps more egalitarian while Melbourne’s more extreme conservative establishment tends to breed its opposite, as extremes tend to do.
So what to make of the pressure we imagine was brought to bear on Tim Williams to claim his comments were his own and no reflection on the committee whose members make up the corporate establishment. And what an indictment of his members who now appear to be saying that it’s maybe not the greater Sydney they represent, but rather their own sensitive souls.
- See Cameron’s must read analysis of this, We need a Committee for Sydney that represents Sydney
In response to the news on Tim Williams NRMA president Kyle Loades came out saying his outfit was agnostic on transport, that it supported roads and public transport in equal measure because half of its members use public transport. That’s a bit of a long bow and spin merchandising too clever by half. It’s pretty clear who’s buttering the NRMA’s bread. Public transport use is not why NRMA members join the association. But then again maybe the NRMA can see the writing on the wall and is trying to shore up its future membership loyalty because car use is falling all over the place. You’d feel nervous indeed if you were the NRMA. (It might explain why it’s dipping a toe into other services, such as home handywork of all things.)
Loades said we need connected roads. Why? They’ll only get full again, or if they’re like the expensive tunnel under Sydney, be a waste of money as hardly anyone uses it.
If roads are really congested then they become unattractive and demand for them will fall. Is that a bad thing? In the end people will do what they do in the bigger cities during the permanent peak hour weekends – they stay home with their families and relax, or visit their local village café, small supermarket and local market.
In Milne’s last big speech before her departure, she said Australia needed to reclaim democracy. No more, no less. Just hand the power back to the people instead of the corporations that run this country.
In forcing Tim Williams to retract his argument, the corporations of Australia demonstrated Milne’s message and analysis was spot on.
The thing is, no one is looking for a Russian Revolution, no one is asking for any revolution. We live in a capitalist democracy, right? All we want is our basic property rights.
Let’s listen to a woman farmer asked by the news reporter why she opposed mining in her region. Because farming is something you can do for the next 100 years, she said. Mining is something you do for five minutes. Why we give up our private property rights – or custodial rights, since we can’t take this with us – in favour of rent-seekers.
Let’s apply the words of Aunt Millie, who made the Welcome to Country for the UN’s Christiana Figueres.
Among all the words spoken this week (and retracted), the most resonating came from Aunt Millie.
The Aboriginal people have been custodians of this land for 40,000 years, she said. “We are all custodians now.”
“We now need to come together,” all those who could feel the “spiritual connection to this land and to each other”.
“Our culture is your culture. Let’s have this fight together.”