Bob Brown was elected to the Senate in 1996, after 10 years as an MHA in Tasmania’s state parliament.In his first speech in the Senate, Bob raised the threat posed by climate change. Government and opposition members laughed at his warning of sea level rises and it has taken 10 years for them to finally begin to acknowledge the causes and effects of climate.
Bob Brown, born in 1944, was educated in rural New South Wales, became captain of Blacktown Boys High School in Sydney and graduated in medicine from Sydney University in 1968. He became the Director of the Wilderness Society which organised the blockade of the dam-works on Tasmania’s wild Franklin River in 1982/3. Some 1500 people were arrested and 600 jailed, including Bob Brown who spent 19 days in Risdon Prison. On the day of his release, he was elected as the first Green into Tasmania’s Parliament. After federal government intervention, the Franklin River was protected in 1983.
Bob Brown has been a life-long activist. In 1986 he was shot at and assaulted during protests against logging at Tasmania’s Farmhouse Creek. He was arrested and jailed twice in 1995 for demonstrating peacefully to protect Tasmania’s Tarkine Wilderness from roading and logging. In 1990 Bob Brown established the Australian Bush Heritage Fund to buy land for conservation. His books include Lake Pedder, Wild Rivers, Tarkine Trails, The Greens, The Valley of the Giants, Tasmania’s Recherche Bay and Memo for a Saner World. Bob has a house on the Liffey River beneath snowy Drys Bluff in central Tasmania. He enjoys photography, bushwalking, poetry, and philosophy.
As a State MP, Bob Brown introduced a wide range of private member’s initiatives, including for freedom of information, death with dignity, lowering parliamentary salaries, gay law reform, banning the battery-hen industry and nuclear free Tasmania. Some succeeded, others not. Regrettably, his 1987 bill to ban semi-automatic guns was voted down by both Liberal and Labor members of the House of Assembly, seven years before the Port Arthur massacre.
In 1989, he led the parliamentary team of five Greens which held the balance of power with the Field Labor Government. The Greens saved 25 schools from closure, instigated the Local Employment Initiatives which created more than 1000 jobs in depressed areas, doubled the size of Tasmania’s Wilderness World Heritage Area to 1.4 million hectares, created the Douglas-Apsley National Park and supported tough fiscal measures to recover from the debts of the previous Liberal regime. Bob resigned from the State Parliament in 1993 and Christine Milne took over as leader of the Tasmanian Greens.
Bob was a driving force in forming the Australian Greens in 1992. He has travelled extensively, fostering Green politics and forming close links with Greens in Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia.
In 1996 Bob was elected to the Australian Senate, where some of the bills he has introduced include constitutional reform, forest protection, blocking radioactive waste dumping, voluntary euthanasia, banning mandatory sentencing of Aboriginal children, an Australian republic, banning junk food advertising to children and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. He was re-elected in 2001 and again in 2007, with 17.74% of the Senate vote.
Bob stepped down as Leader of the Australian Greens, and then retired from the Senate in June 2012.
Bob currently lives in Hobart with his long-time partner, Paul Thomas, a farmer and activist whom he met in 1996.
Brown was the founder, in 1990, of the Australian Bush Heritage Fund (now Bush Heritage Australia), a non-profit environmental organisation dedicated to purchasing and preserving Australian bushland. He was President of the organisation until 1996.[ On 20 March 2011 Brown donated a 14-hectare (35-acre) property and house he had owned for 38 years to Bush Heritage Australia. The property is located 47 kilometres (29 miles) south-west of Launceston, Tasmania, in the Liffey Valley. According to the Australian Geographic, it is a site of historic and symbolic significance.
Brown describes himself as a “lapsed Presbyterian”.
In an interview with Richard Fidler on ABC radio, Nigel Brennan, an Australian photojournalist who was kidnapped in Somalia and held hostage for 462 days, revealed Brown had contributed $100,000 of his own money to help pay the ransom for his release. It was also revealed that Brown contacted Australian businessman Dick Smith asking that he also contribute funds towards the release of Brennan. Brennan, who was released in November 2009, also stated in this interview that Brown had to borrow this money, an assertion also made in various media outlets at the time of Brennan’s release. In the same interview, Brennan notes that in contrast to Brown’s compassion, the Australian government seemed unconcerned with his welfare, with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd dismissing his mother’s anxiety at having her son released because she wasn’t showing Rudd the level of respect he deemed acceptable.
Bob Brown was inducted into the Hall of Frame at Coffs Harbour High School in July 2012, where he completed his first four years of high school.