Leadership, truth, fear and bobbing for Bob Brown


hen I was a kid in the early eighties Bob Brown was a hero and a leader. He, along with only a few people, stood-up against the damming of the Franklin River against the Tasmanian Government. At the time, the green movement was practically non-existent but the support Bob eventually received stopped the construction of the dam and you have to admit, the Franklin River is one of the most beautiful pristine areas in Australia and it was worth saving.

Bob’s efforts secured him a seat in the Tasmanian Parliament where he eventually formed the Tasmanian Greens and subsequently became the leader of the federal Australian Greens. Now, with the current campaigns on climate change, Bob has come out of retirement and again started to wave the Greens flag for change. And good on him. It’s his passion, no one else in the Greens has the profile, he can inspire others to follow, and he’s a leader – or is he?

There is no doubt we all need to change, and climate change is an issue that needs to be addressed. I’m sorry, but if you deny that you’re self-interested in your own ego. However, the debate needs to be based on facts not ideology on all sides because if the issue is not based around facts, we’ll never know the truth, and unfortunately without the truth we’re all damned (excuse the pun).

Eight years ago, I was involved in one of the most controversial projects in Australia environmentally. Working in media, communications and stakeholder engagement it was my job to get the message out with a focus on being truthful, open and transparent. What I learned was being truthful was the last thing the Greens wanted. I remember attending a prominent Greens senator’s information session where the information provided was outright mistruths and lies and I realised then it wasn’t about the environment, it was more about membership growth and votes using the age-old tactic of anger and fear.

Today, those same tactics are being used regarding climate change, coal and the resource sector. There is no doubt we must move from fossil fuels to a greener economy but at what expense to the truth. The Adani Carmichael Mine is the latest target for the Greens to spread their message about its effects on the environment and climate change however, much like the project I worked on eight years ago, the Greens are using fear, anger, mistruths and often exaggerated claims to gain membership and votes which I believe is not leadership.

In 1982, Bob Brown was a leader. The Greens movement was dismissed easily, laughed at, and was not supported, but through his leadership attitudes changed and a national movement began. At the time, corporations with invested interests used anger and fear tactics to create division and spread their message which was eventually seen through. You may say some corporations are using the same tactics today which is true however, many have changed or are changing as they realise they can no longer do business in a society that demands ‘conscious capitalism’ which leads to what I call ‘conscious communications’ where their stakeholders demand values that protect the community and the environment they live in.

The current campaign by Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg is admirable but is also based on untruths and fear with claims civilization will collapse in ten to 15 years however, the facts show a completely different truth. The latest United Nations Development Report states the environment over the last decade has improved significantly where developed counties are polluting less, annual deaths from climate-related disasters declined by one-third, air pollution declined by almost a fifth worldwide, rich countries are using less basic materials and wealthy societies are well positioned to deal with climate change. Now those are just statistics but if we’re to believe the United Nations, society is improving where humans are polluting less however, if we’re to listen to popular commentators and leaders like Greta Thunberg and Bob Brown, climate catastrophe is threatening our very existence and the world in doing nothing about it which is simply untrue.

Leading may mean having a vision, inspiring people, and sharing it with others but it should also mean telling the truth. Leadership should not be a popularity contest as it’s often a hard and lonely game because leaders tell the truth even if it does not support their own ideology and they certainly should not use anger and fear as a tactic. Currently, the climate change movement and its popularity are stifling real factual debate and for the Australian Greens the reality is it’s just about membership and votes much like any other political party. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in climate change and I respect Bob Brown but sometimes a popular leader’s message is only there to disguise the truth and without the truth we are all guaranteed to remain in the dark.

Kieran Moran.

• Kieran Moran is the managing director of Resource Industry Media, a consultancy firm specialising in media-driven public relations, marketing, communications, engagement, events and promotional programs for the mining, engineering, manufacturing, construction and services sector.

Picture: John Tiedemann.