Rodney Croome: Grist to the Milne
I’m constantly amazed that the national press acts as if the Greens’ leadership transition from Bob Brown to Christine Milne poses imponderable questions about the future of the party and the nation.
The answers are right under their noses in Tasmania, where Milne succeeded Brown as State Greens leader in 1993.
The Greens continued to be a strong third force with Milne expanding the Greens’ focus to economic development and social justice.
Regarding social justice, Milne proved herself such an accomplished advocate and negotiator that in 1997 her legislation decriminalising homosexuality was successful under a Liberal State Government that only two years before was so antagonistic to gay law reform it proposed increasing the maximum penalty for homosexuality from 21 years in gaol to 25.
This bodes well for the future of marriage equality.
Should marriage equality fail this year because of Tony Abbott’s refusal to allow a fully-fledged conscience vote, and should he win the next election, he will probably still have to deal with the Greens holding the balance of power in the Senate.
This is almost exactly the situation that prevailed in Tasmania in 1997.
If Christine Milne could extract a conscience vote from the Tasmanian Liberal Party, there’s every reason to hope she can do the same with a more pragmatic and less homophobic Tony Abbott.
Don’t take this to mean I think marriage equality will fail this year.
There are still too many Labor members who haven’t stated their view on the issue, and too many Liberals who haven’t decided if they’ll cross the floor, to be certain of the final outcome.
Also don’t take it to mean I think Christine Milne can perform miracles.
The Coalition will only budge if grass roots pressure continues to be applied, including pressure in the lead up to the next federal election.
All I’m saying is that if marriage equality is not achieved this year it may still be achievable in a timeframe much shorter than the five to ten years put about by pessimists in the major parties and the media.
And having Christine Milne in a leadership role can only help.