The most ———-* man in Australia

*Choose one: Courageous, Cunning, Principled, Dangerous, Pragmatic, Misunderstood.

At the same time as Hanson wittered on about how good Aborigines in Australia had it, an openly gay man with no children stood in an almost empty Senate to deliver his vision. In his deep and reassuring voice, like rain on a tin roof, Bob Brown outlined the enormous challenges we faced living on a planet collapsing under the weight of human activity. “The future will either be green,” he stated, “or not at all.” Hanson’s speech sparked a bushfire, while his was barely reported, and now all that remains of her is a charred stump.

It’s the Greens, led by Brown, that are the new political reality in Australia, a seemingly permanent, menacing force for the once cosy two-party system, mauling Labor’s left flank and gnawing away at softer morsels of conservative flesh. In 1996 fewer than 350,000 Australians voted Green in the Senate. By the last election, that had grown four-fold to almost 1.7 million votes, compared to 4.5 million for Labor and 4.9 million for the conservatives. The Greens hold the balance of power in the Senate with nine senators and a crucial seat in the lower house. And now each week that parliament sits, Bob Brown gets to plonk his sensible shoes beneath Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s desk for a cup of tea and a chat about the direction of the nation.

“I am having a ball,” says Brown, 66, as we talk in his Parliament House office. He’s a man who often forgets to eat and so his face is all sinew and smile. “I am having too much fun to retire.” He flippantly says that Rupert Murdoch – his nemesis – is somewhat of an icon, still going strong at 80 — via

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