Australia’s first openly gay MP and first gay party leader, Bob Brown announced today he was retiring from politics. He will handover the leadership of the Greens party to his deputy Christine Milne and will step down from his senate seat in June.
Senator Brown, 67, said in a statement: ‘I am sad to leave but happy to go. It is good knowing that the Greens have such a depth of talent and experience lined up for leadership - I could only dream about that a decade ago.’
During Brown’s 16 year leadership of the Greens they have gone from a small minority party with 2.4% of the vote in the 1996 federal election to 13% of the vote in the 2010 federal election. They won a seat in each of Australia's six states, a first for a minority party.
The Greens now hold the balance of power in the Senate, with nine senators. And the first Greens MP in the House of Representatives, Adam Bandt, holds a powerful position supporting Labor's minority government.
Brown started in politics in Tasmania in the 1970s as part of the grassroots environmental movement. He was a member of United Tasmania Group, Australia's first green party, and was always open about being gay.
In his statement Brown said that he wanted to return to those green roots in retirement. He said: ‘I look forward to fresh green pursuits including writing, photography, music, occasional talks, bushwalking, and getting out with Paul to see Miranda Gibson who has been perched for 120 days 60 metres high, in defence of a giant tree facing destruction in central Tasmania’.
Paul Thomas is his partner, a fellow activist and farmer who Brown met in 1996.
Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesperson, Rodney Croome said: ‘Bob Brown's charm, erudition, bravery and compassion, and most of all his pride in being gay in face of deep prejudice, have made him a beacon for three generations of gay and lesbian people in Tasmania and across the nation.’