Can the Tasmanian Greens learn from the fate of the National Party? I raised this question with students in my Contemporary Australian Politics tutorials today, before the news of the Green entry to cabinet. Recently read Paul Davey’s excellent The Nationals which considers the dilemmas of the Nationals in Coalition and also reminds us that Australian politics has lost something by the passing of men such as farmer-politicians Michael Bruxner, just as by that of trade unionists such as William Somerville on the Labor side. Stuart Macintyre’s beautiful description is my favourite Australian biographical paragraph:
Somerville was a pipe-smoking, free-thinking teetotaller. Large-framed and straight-backed, he became bald early. His pleasures were solitary: gardening, fishing, reading and writing in his study, or working in the smithy at his weekend cottage at Chidlow. He disliked idleness or frivolity; his daughter was once instructed to ‘stop that knitting and read something’. Humourless, he could be stubborn and dogmatic. As he said, ‘There is a good slice of the big-headed Scotchman in me’. He was disdainful of Perth’s business and professional elite but sensitive to their slights, and rebuked the governor for backing ‘that small section of the community who with insular arrogance arrogate to themselves the title of society’. He cast an equally censorious eye on old comrades whose achievement of ministerial office caused them to succumb to creature comforts. He continued to live in his modest weatherboard house and saw his children pass from government schools to the public university. He was a member of the Australian Round Table. Somerville died at Fremantle on Christmas Eve 1954 and was cremated. His children survived him.
Probably this was Malcolm Turnbull’s problem a man out of his time: the brilliant professional turned Liberal MP in mid-career once this was common but no longer. Davey describes how the Nationals have always felt that their independence was comprised by being in Cabinet but on the other hand were committed to the Coalition on anti-Labor principle. if the Greens are to be Labor’s National Party can the Greens avoid being subsumed within Labor just as the Nationals have been within the Liberals?
On another Tasmanian matter observe the Liberal candidate for Franklin:
Ms Howlett says she is concerned at the way the Rudd Government has “lumbered our children and grandchildren with massive debt”. She also believes Franklin has not received its fair share of infrastructure stimulus projects.