“I intend to continue to call to the attention of the Australian people the extremely alarming, frightening similarities between the methods employed by contemporary green politics and the methods and the values of the Nazis.” Liberal Senator George Brandis launches a government campaign to destroy the Greens as a political force.
George Brandis is a Queensland Liberal Senator. The Government chose him to conduct the tactics for and lead a front-on Parliamentary attack on the Greens which asserted that the party was an enemy of the State. The speech responds to a Greens’ motion for an inquiry into procedures for joint sittings of Parliament. Senator Brandis’s political biography is at the end of his speech.
28 October, 2003; Senate Hansard
Senator BRANDIS (Queensland) (3.59 p.m.)
Omit all words after That, substitute the Senate:
(a) condemns the behaviour of Senators Brown and Nettle during the address to the joint meeting by the President of the United States of America (the Honourable George W Bush) on 23 October 2003, in defying the order of the chair and the proper direction of the Serjeant-at-Arms;
(b) considers the behaviour of Senators Brown and Nettle to have been grossly inappropriate, discourteous, lacking in good manners and reflecting poorly upon the Parliament and Australia; and
(c) in light of the behaviour of Senators Brown and Nettle, asks the Procedure Committee to consider what steps should be taken to ensure the proper conduct of joint meetings to welcome foreign heads of state.
Copies of the amendment have been circulated at least to party leaders and have been given to the attendants.
When the people of Australia last Thursday saw the antics and the predetermined sideshow of Senator Brown and Senator Nettle during the course of President Bush’s address, I think most people – I dare say more than 90 per cent of the people of this country – thought that Senator Brown and Senator Nettle were responsible for an insult to the President of the United States and to the American people. Of course they were, but they were guilty of much more than that: they were guilty of a contempt of this parliament.
In the name of free speech, Senator Brown and Senator Nettle sought to deny the freedom of speech of the invited guest of the Australian people – sought to prevent the Australian people hearing what President Bush had to say. In the name of parliamentary democracy, Senator Brown and Senator Nettle sought to suborn parliamentary democracy.
And now they come to this chamber, bleating, awash with crocodile tears and pretending to be the custodians of free speech – pretending to be the custodians of this institution. Their own conduct last Thursday in belittling this institution – in denying the freedom of a foreign head of state to be heard by the Australian people and by the representatives of the Australian people – demonstrates the hypocrisy of their position.
Let us remember what it was in this premeditated, preordained and orchestrated stunt that Senator Brown and Senator Nettle contrived to do. First of all, they interrupted the President three times. Then, in response to a lawful direction by the Presiding Officer, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, operating under standing orders that this chamber had agreed to, they refused to abide the lawful direction of the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Thirdly, when the Speaker of the House of Representatives lawfully and properly directed the Serjeant-at-Arms to escort Senator Brown and then Senator Nettle from the chamber, they refused to obey that lawful direction. So it is not merely a question of bad manners, Senator Brown. That is offensive enough, but it is the least of your offences. It is the premeditated contempt shown by you and your colleague Senator Nettle for the procedures and the standing orders of this chamber, as agreed to by this chamber; the defiance of its presiding officer; and the defiance of its officer the Serjeant-at-Arms. To this day, you have not had the decency to apologiseto purge your contempt of this parliament.
I think until fairly recently the Australian people tended to divide the Greens party into two camps. There seemed to be two points of view about the Greens party. There were those Australians who thought that the Greens were a collection of well-meaning oddballs – and there was certainly a degree of evidence to give comfort to that view.
There were others, I think, in Australia who regarded the Greens not so much as well-meaning oddballs but as a mob of scruffy ratbags. There was certainly plenty of evidence to give comfort to that point of view. But, as their behaviour last Thursday demonstrated, the Greens are not well-meaning oddballs and they are not scruffy ratbags; they are something much more sinister than that. They have introduced into our democracy – one of the world’s greatest and most successful democracies – a new and sinister element. The journalist Andrew Bolt, in a very perceptive piece published in the –
Senator Brown: Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. I have been listening carefully to what the member has said, but I would ask you to be careful to defend the standing order which states that he shall not reflect on a member and to be very careful about the quotation he is about to make, whether or not it is made.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Lightfoot): Which standing order are you basing your point of order on, Senator Brown?
Senator Brown: The standing order which says that he shall not reflect on a member.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT There is no point of order.
In a very perceptive column syndicated throughout Australia in last Sunday’s newspapers, the journalist Andrew Bolt pointed out the striking and very dangerous antecedents of the fanaticism of contemporary green politics in this country, and its commonality and common source with the views that inspired the Nazis in prewar Germany.
In an earlier piece, published in July, Mr Bolt directed our attention to two studies that have been written of contemporary green politics – and I have read them in the last day or so; they make chilling reading – which go all the way to explaining the modus operandi of the Greens last Thursday. The first, by an American scholar, Professor Raymond Dominick, examined the common source of the fanaticism of contemporary greens with the nature worship practised by the Nazis in the 1930s. The book is called The Environmental Movement in Germany.
Senator Brown: That is a clear –
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Lightfoot): Senator Brown, are you rising on a point of order?
Senator Brown: Yes, I am.
Honourable senators interjecting
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Are you rising on a point of order, Senator Brown?
Senator Brown: Yes, I am. If you will control the house, you will hear me say that, Mr Acting Deputy President. I am referring to standing order –
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: I will control the house, Senator Brown, not you. What is your point of order, Senator Brown?
Senator Brown: My point of order relates to standing order 193
Senator Boswell: Mr Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order.
Senator Brown: You can’t. Sit down.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Boswell, I will take your point of order after I have heard Senator Brown’s point of order.
Senator Brown: On the point of order, you can see under standing order 193, ‘Rules of debate’, that a senator ‘shall not use offensive words’ against either house or against members or officers. It also mentions ‘personal reflections’. The senator on his feet has been making references to a very obnoxious regime, and to writers. That goes all the way to the behaviour of Senator Nettle and me last Thursday. That is an objectionable reference; it cannot be countenanced and I ask you to have it withdrawn.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: I understand that Senator Brandis is quoting from a media article and, unless I have advice to the contrary, I intend to allow those quotes.
Senator BRANDIS: Mr Acting Deputy President, in speaking to the point of order, may I also observe that the sentence of my speech to which Senator Brown took objection was a remark about contemporary green politics; it was not specific to an individual.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: I listened intently to what Senator Brandis had to say. I understand that he was not reflecting on the Senate or on the senators and therefore there is no point of order.
And I intend to continue to call to the attention of the Australian people the extremely alarming, frightening similarities between the methods employed by contemporary green politics and the methods and the values of the Nazis.
Mr Acting Deputy President, I was referring to the book by Professor Raymond Dominick, The Environmental Movement in Germany, but even more illuminating is a work by a person who is known to be on the far left of green politics in Europe, Professor Peter Staudenmaier, who wrote a book four years ago called Ecofascism: Lessons from the German Experience. He, too, drew the comparison between the political technique of the Greens in contemporary Western societies and the political technique of the environmental movementor the naturalist movement, as it was then knownin Germany in the 1920s and the 1930s. The work of both of those scholars caused Patrick Moore, a former head of Greenpeace International, to say: “In the name of speaking for the trees and other species we are faced with a movement that would usher in an era of eco-fascism.”
The commonalities between contemporary green politics and old-fashioned fascism and Nazism are chilling.
First of all – and this is the most obvious point of the lotis the embrace of fanaticism, the embrace of a set of political values which will not brook the expression of legitimate difference. So, as we saw from Senator Brown’s and Senator Nettle’s behaviour in the House of Representatives chamber last Thursday, they are unable to listen to somebody whose political colour they dislike, whose political views they disagree with, without screaming at them. They will not even brook the legitimacy of alternative points of view. The zealotry – the fundamentalism – we saw from Senator Brown and Senator Nettle last Thursday identified them as true fanatics.
The second feature that we see is so much a common feature –
Senator Brown: Mr Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order. I thought that standing order 193 had been made apparent to you. I ask that that comment be withdrawn.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Lightfoot): Senator Brandis, perhaps I should invite you to withdraw the term ‘fanatic’ or ‘true fanatic’.
Senator BRANDIS: Mr Acting Deputy President, I am unaware that the word ‘fanatic’ has been ever considered to be in breach of standing order 193 and I invite you to rule that an allegation of fanaticism, which is merely an allegation that somebody holds a political opinion with unreasoning zeal, is not a reflection upon the person but merely a comment on the intensity of their view.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Brandis, that seems to be a discriminatory term and when applied to a senator it is unparliamentary. I would ask that you consider withdrawing it.
Senator BRANDIS: I abide by your ruling, Mr Acting Deputy President.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT :You should withdraw, Senator Brandis.
Senator BRANDIS: I withdraw.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Thank you.
The second feature of contemporary green politics which bears chilling and striking comparison with the political techniques of the Nazis and the fascists is not merely their contempt for democratic institutions but a very cynical willingness to use those democratic parliamentary institutions to achieve antidemocratic ends. Let it never be forgotten that the Nazis came to power in 1932 when they won a majority in the Reichstag in free elections.
Senator Robert Ray: They didn’t win a majority.
When they won control of the Reichstag – thank you, Senator Robert Ray – in free elections. The mechanistic use of democratic institutions – the invocation of the good repute of democratic institutions by those who wish to destroy those institutions – is a hallmark of contemporary green politics, just as it was a hallmark of those who were their antecedents.
The third feature which we see in common between the Greens and the Nazis is a kind of ignorant nationalism, as reflected most obviously in their hatred of globalisation. Professor Staudenmaier, in his book about ecofascism, tracing those values back to their philosophical antecedents, their philosophical roots, writes: “At the very outset of the nineteenth century the deadly connection between love of land and militant racist nationalism was firmly set in place.”
Yet again, another connection that we see between the values which Senator Brown represents and the values which were the antecedents of European fascism is commented on by Professor Staudenmaier and found in the writings of Ernst Arndt and Wilhelm Riehl. Wilhelm Riehl, in a 1853 essay ‘Field and Forest’, said –
Senator Brown: Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. The imputation that my values are the same as precursors to Nazism is abhorrent and should be withdrawn.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Lightfoot): Senator Brown, as far as I was able to ascertain, and I listened intently, Senator Brandis did not refer to you. He did refer to the Greens, but I do not recall him referring to you since the other point of order.
Senator Brown: Mr Acting Deputy President, I invite you to look at the Hansard, because he referred to me by name. You were not listening carefully enough, if that is the case. No member of this parliament – whether it be Senator Brandis or I or anybody else – should have that sort of reflection on them in this place. It is against standing orders and he should withdraw.
Senator Robert Ray: I rise on a point of order. Every time that Senator Brown interrupts Senator Brandis, he gets his second wind and he can read his notes again. He is running out of puff. Can we just hear him finish his speech?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: I would be delighted to so rule, Senator Ray, but I have a procedure to follow.
Senator BRANDIS: Mr Acting Deputy President, I was merely quoting from a learned text and I was making the point, which I would submit to you is not against standing orders, of identifying the common roots of different ideas.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: I think the point is, Senator Brandis, that if you mentioned Senator Brown by name then you should withdraw. If you mentioned ‘the Greens’, I understand that term is not unparliamentary. It may be unsavoury to some people but it is not unparliamentary. I ask you to withdraw if you mentioned Senator Brown by name.
Senator BRANDIS: To that extent, Mr Acting Deputy President, I withdraw.
Senator Faulkner: Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. With your extensive knowledge of the standing orders, could you inform me if there is a standing order against pomposity?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: There is no point of order, Senator Faulkner.
I want to quote to the Senate a fairly long extract from Professor Staudenmaier’s book Ecofascism: Lessons from the German Experience. He identifies the antecedents of those views in the writings of Arndt and Riehl. He says this:
“Riehl, a student of Arndt further developed this sinister tradition. In some respects his ‘green’ streak went significantly deeper than Arndt’s; presaging certain tendencies in recent environmental activism, his 1853 essay Field and Forest ended with a call to fight for the rights of wilderness. But even here nationalist pathos set the tone: We must save the forest, not only so that our ovens do not become cold in winter, but also so that the pulse of life of the people continues to beat warm and joyfully … Riehl was an implacable opponent of the rise of industrialism and urbanization; his overtly antisemitic glorification of rural peasant values and undifferentiated condemnation of modernity established him as the founder of agrarian romanticism and anti-urbanism.”
These latter two fixations matured in the second half of the nineteenth century in the context of the volkisch movement; a powerful cultural disposition and social tendency which united ethnocentric populism with nature mysticism. At the heart of the volkisch temptation was a pathological response to modernity. In the face of the very real dislocations brought on by the triumph of industrial capitalism and national unification, volkisch thinkers preached a return to the land, to the simplicity and wholeness of a life attuned to nature’s purity. The mystical effusiveness of this perverted utopianism was matched by its political vulgarity. While the Volkisch movement aspired to reconstruct the society that was sanctioned by history, rooted in nature, and in communion with the cosmic life spirit, it pointedly refused to locate the sources of alienation, rootlessness and environmental destruction in social structures, laying the blame instead to rationalism, cosmopolitanism, and urban civilization. The stand-in for all of these was the age-old object of peasant hatred and middle-class resentment: the Jews.
Reformulating traditional German antisemitism into nature-friendly terms, the volkisch movement carried a volatile amalgam of nineteenth century cultural prejudices, romantic obsessions with purity, and anti-Enlightenment sentiment into twentieth century political discourse. The emergence of modern ecology forged the final link in the fateful chain which bound together aggressive nationalism, mystically charged racism, and environmentalist predilections.
That is the text to which the journalist Andrew Bolt referred in his article last weekend and in his earlier article in July. It is, as I said earlier in the speech, a chilling reminder of the common antecedents of late 20th/early 21st century Green politics and early 20th century German fascism. The antirationalism, the perverted mutated naturalism, the mysticism, the hostility to cosmopolitanism, capitalism, global structures and to the global economy are all there to see.
It is time that somebody in this country blew the whistle on the Greens. The Greens are not the well-meaning oddballs we thought they were. The Greens are not the scruffy ratbags we thought they were. The Greens are a sinister force in this country inspired by sinister ideas, wrapped up in a natural mysticism – which is hostile and which sets its face against the very democratic values which this parliament represents and then cynically uses the procedures of this parliament in order to give itself political cover so that the sinister and fanatical views represented by Green politicians can grow and gain strength under the cover of democratic forms.
As well – and I will not go too much further into this – we see other common features. We see the very clever use of propaganda. We see the absolute indifference to truth. We see the manipulation of bodgie science in order to maintain political conclusions. We see the hatred of industrialisation. We see the growth of occultism built around a single personality. We see a fundamentalist view of nature in which the integrity of the human person comes second to the whole of the natural system.
My point is that the behaviour we saw from Senator Nettle and Senator Brown last Thursday was not just a publicity stunt. It was not just a random event. It was the very mechanical prosecution in this parliament of a profoundly antidemocratic ideology having deeply rooted antidemocratic antecedents. To hear Senator Brown – and no doubt Senator Nettle in a momentstand up and seek to claim democratic cover for their actions and for their ideology should shock us. It should alert us to their game and it should send a message loud and clear to the Australian people – not just to the 90 per cent of Australians who condemned their behaviour last Thursday but to 100 per cent of Australians – that this is the kind of crypto-fascist politics we do not want in this country.
Senator BRANDIS, George Henry
Senator for Queensland
Liberal Party of Australia
Chosen by the Parliament of Queensland on 16.5.2000 under section 15 of the Constitution to represent that State in the Senate, vice the Hon. WR Parer (resigned).
Temporary Chair of Committees from 18.9.02.
Senate Standing: House from 8.6.00 to 19.3.02; Regulations and Ordinances from 8.6.00 to 1.7.02; Senators’ Interests from 8.6.00 to 19.3.02; Procedure from 1.7.02 to 25.3.03.
Senate Legislative and General Purpose Standing: Community Affairs: Legislation Committee from 8.6.00 to 11.2.02; Employment, Workplace Relations, Small Business and Education: Legislation and References Committees from 8.6.00 to 11.2.02; Employment, Workplace Relations and Education: Legislation and References Committees from 13.2.02 to 19.3.02; Finance and Public Administration: Legislation Committee from 8.6.00; Economics: Legislation Committee from 13.2.02 (Chair from 14.2.02) and References Committee from 14.2.02.
Participating member, Employment, Workplace Relations, Small Business and Education: Legislation Committee from 31.8.00; Participating member, Economics: Legislation and References Committees from 8.3.01 to 11.2.02; Participating member, Finance and Public Administration: References Committee from 8.3.01; Participating member, Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade: Legislation and References Committees from 8.3.01; Participating member, Legal and Constitutional: Legislation and References Committees from 8.3.01.
Senate Select: A Certain Maritime Incident from 11.3.02.
Joint Statutory: Corporations and Financial Services from 14.2.02.
Joint Standing: Electoral Matters from 28.8.02.
State President, Young Liberals (Qld) 1981.
Chair, Constitution and Rules Committee, Liberal Party (Qld) 1993-94 and 1999-2000.
Chair, Agenda Committee, Liberal Party (Qld) 1993-95 and 1997-99.
Vice-President, Liberal Party (Qld) 1994-95.
Chair, Ryan Federal Electorate Council 1996-99.
Life Member, Young Liberal Movement.
Born 22.6.1957, Sydney, NSW.
Qualifications and Occupation before entering Federal Parliament
BA(Hons), LLB(Hons) (Qld).
Barrister from 1985.
Liberals face the future: essays on Australian liberalism (with T Harley and D Markwell), Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1984.
Australian liberalism: the continuing vision (with Y Thompson and T Harley), Melbourne: The Liberal Forum, 1986.
Source: Parliamentary handbook of the Commonwealth of Australia