Hero: In a public life spanning over 40 years he’s copped a lot of opposition and hostility, but no one can ever accuse Bob Brown of not practicing what he preaches. In the early 1970s he arrived in Launceston as a young GP. Shortly thereafter he bought a small property at Liffey – 14 hectares of bush with a very modest cottage, nestled in the shadow of a rocky bluff. It was in that cottage at the property, named Oura Oura after the call of the native black cockatoo, that the campaign to save the Franklin River was planned and the political party now known as the Australian Greens was born. In 1990 Brown was awarded $49,000 in the Goldman Environment Prize and used the money towards the purchase of two blocks adjacent to Oura Oura which were slated for clear-felling for the Tasmanian woodchip industry. In order to meet the debt incurred by the purchase as well as ensure that other areas of wilderness could be protected in perpetuity, Brown started the Australian Bush Heritage Trust – a not-for-profit organisation that buys and conserves bush properties. Last week he formally handed his beloved slice of the Tasmanian bush over to the Bush Heritage Trust so that it may be conserved and enjoyed for countless generations to come. There are not many people, much less politicians, who would entertain the thought of donating their own property for conservation. At a time when acquisition, wealth and greed drive so much of public life and private ambition, Bob Brown stands out as a hero for values of environment, generosity and selflessness. Cheers, Bob, and thanks on behalf of all Australians, here now and yet unborn.
Villain: Unfortunately, there is no shortage of contenders for this week’s villain. That unfortunate display of hatred and prejudice at Parliament House on Wednesday tossed up all sorts of characters, known and anonymous, who could be potential candidates, and events in the Middle East with totalitarian leaders violently oppressing dissention gives us a lot of choice. However, my villain of the week is again a sportsman – and I use the term loosely here. Ricky Ponting is one of the finest cricketers to have donned the baggy green. Sadly, he is not one of the greatest sportsmen to have done so. His displays of petulance and tantrum-throwing during the World Cup competition in India have now put his job as Australian Cricket Captain under question but more than that, he is reflecting a deeper malaise in the cricket team generally: they can dish it out but they just can’t take it. I suspect I am not the only Australian who is quietly (actually, not so quietly) pleased that our team is out of the finals. Ponting’s juvenile antics and pouting would not be tolerated in a local game of Under 14s, and such behaviour should not be tolerated at international level. Yes, in the world of professional sport there’s a lot at stake by losing. There’s much more at stake by losing badly.