of The Greens
James Brown (born 27 December 1944), is an Australian
Senator, the inaugural Parliamentary Leader of the
Australian Greens and the first openly homosexual
member of the Parliament of Australia. He created
international headlines on 23 October 2003 when he
was suspended from the Parliament for breaking with
protocol and interjecting during an address by the
visiting President of the United States, George W.
Bush. Brown's Senate colleague, Kerry Nettle, was
Brown was born in Oberon, New South Wales and attended
Trunkey Public School and Blacktown Boys High School,
and in his senior year he was elected school captain.
After graduating from high school he enrolled in medicine
at Sydney University. He moved to Tasmania in 1972
and worked as a general medical practitioner in Launceston.
He soon became involved in the state's environmentalist
movement, in particular the campaign to save Lake
Pedder, and was a member of the United Tasmania Group
in 1972, Australia's first "green" party.
In a newspaper interview at this time, Brown announced
he was gay.
1978 Brown was appointed director of the Tasmanian
Wilderness Society. In the early 1980s he emerged
as a leader of the campaign to prevent construction
of the Franklin Dam, which would have drowned the
Franklin River valley as part of a hydroelectricity
project. Brown was among the 1500 people arrested
while protesting during this campaign. He subsequently
spent 19 days in Hobart's Risdon Prison. On the day
of his release in 1983, Brown was elected into Tasmania's
Parliament. The Franklin campaign was a success after
Federal government intervention protected the Franklin
River in 1983.
his first term of office, 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. His
1987 bill to ban semi-automatic guns was voted down
by both Liberal and Labor members of Tasmania's House
of Assembly, seven years before the Port Arthur Massacre
resulted in a successful Federal Liberal bid to achieve
the same results.
1989 Tasmania's system of proportional representation
allowed the Greens to win five out of 35 seats in
the Tasmanian House of Assembly, and Brown became
their unofficial leader (at that time, the Greens
did not have formal leadership positions). He agreed
to support a minority Labor Party government, but
this agreement broke down over forestry issues in
1992. In 1993 Brown resigned from the House of Assembly
and stood unsuccessfully for the federal House of
was elected to the Australian Senate for Tasmania
in 1996, and was an outspoken voice in opposition
to the conservative government of John Howard, and
in support of green and human rights issues, including
international issues such as Tibet, East Timor and
West Papua. He also introduced bills for constitutional
reform, forest protection, to block radioactive waste
dumping, to ban mandatory sentencing of aboriginal
children and for greenhouse abatement.
the 2001 federal election Brown was re-elected to
the Senate with a greatly increased vote, and was
outspoken on Prime Minister John Howard's refusal
to allow 450 asylum seekers (mostly from Afghanistan)
to land on Christmas Island after they had been rescued
from their sinking boat in the Indian Ocean by the
MV Tampa, a Norwegian freighter. Brown was equally
critical of Opposition Leader Kim Beazley's acquiescence
to John Howard's stance on the Tampa incident.
was particularly vocal in his opposition to Australian
participation in the 2003 invasion of Iraq and became
recognised as a leading voice for the anti-war/peace
his rather dour and humourless public manner, he is
widely admired as a man of courage and conviction,
even by those who disagree with him. One example of
Brown at his most tolerant (as well as an indication
of a dry sense of humour) is his welcoming of Fred
Nile's intention to run as a Christian Democratic
Party of Australia candidate for the Australian Senate
in the 2004 federal election. Brown was quoted as
saying "He will give the opportunity to highlight
the Greens' humanitarian policies which have doubled
the vote for the Greens in the last three or four
President Bush visited Canberra on 23 October 2003,
left-wing members of the Labor Party decided to present
him with a letter setting out their opposition to
the Iraq war, but not to disrupt his speech. Only
Brown and Nettle took their opposition to the point
of interjecting during his address to a joint sitting
of the two Houses of Parliament. During Bush's speech
Brown and Nettle wore signs referring to David Hicks
and Mamdouh Habib, two Australian citizens held at
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba at that time (Habib has since
been released), following their apprehension by United
States forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan respectively.
After the speech, however, Brown shook Bush's hand.
accepted the interjections with good humour, but the
Speaker of the House, Neil Andrew, formally "named"
Brown and Nettle and they were suspended from the
Parliament for 24 hours which prevented them from
being present for -- and making similar interjections
during -- a similar address from Chinese President
Hu Jintao the next day.
opposed the Howard Government's amendments to the
Marriage Act in 2004, stating that "Mr Howard
should relax and accept gay marriages as part of the
future's social fabric".
December 2004, forestry and export woodchip company
Gunns Limited attempted to sue Brown and others for
$6.3 million, in an action which media reports say
related to "ongoing damaging campaigns and activities"
against the company. The original Statement of Claim
issued by Gunns was struck out by the Supreme Court
and costs were awarded against Gunns for the initial
was formally elected as the first Federal Parliamentary
Leader of The Greens on 28 November 2005, following
almost a decade of service as de facto leader since
his election to the Senate in 1996.
is due to face re-election at the 2007 federal election;
should he do so successfully he would be 69 by the
end of his third term. He announced his intention
to stand again at the Greens National Conference in
has published several books including Wild Rivers
(1983), Lake Pedder (1986), Tarkine Trails (1994),
The Greens (1996) (with Peter Singer), Memo For A
Saner World (2004) and Tasmania's Recherche Bay (2005).
In 2004 James Norman published the first authorised
biography of Brown, entitled Bob Brown: A Gentle Revolutionary.
Brown lives in Hobart with his long-time partner.
Brown official website
Greens official website
and the environment