Greens pick Tasmanian banker for Senate
Greens leader Christine Milne has won internal backing to broaden the party's appeal with the choice of a moderate businessman to replace the retiring Senator Bob Brown.
Senator Milne said Tasmanian viticulturist and economist Peter Whish-Wilson's credentials made a perfect fit as she moved to extend the support base outside the cities. ''I'm keen to build this new relationship, stronger relationship with rural and regional Australia,'' Senator Milne said yesterday.
Mr Whish-Wilson, 44, is an Australian Defence Force Academy economics graduate and former international investment banker with Merrill Lynch and Deutsche Bank. He came to prominence campaigning against Gunns Limited's projected pulp mill near his family vineyard in the Tamar Valley.
The choice means the Greens will be better able to speak to business on level terms, University of Tasmania political analyst Tony McCall said. ''Peter is a Green who reads the Harvard Business Review.''
Mr Whish-Wilson said his appointment sent a message of opposition to the pulp mill project and pointed to the environmental battleground shifting to company boardrooms.
''My experience of the pulp mill is there's a lot of campaigning at board level,'' he said. ''A lot of the issues tend to be perceived as being conflict between companies and development and conservation, but obviously it's a lot more complicated than that.
''I've got a lot of experience in how corporations work, decision-making, etcetera. And I believe that it's time to start putting all the divisiveness aside … and focus on how we can get conservation issues to everyone's benefit.''
Standing between the seasoned activist senators Brown and Milne, Mr Whish-Wilson said he thought it a shame there had to be direct action by environmentalists.
He said the closest he had come to being arrested was when a group of pulp mill opponents tried to force the Tasmanian Parliament to disclose reasons for approving the project's environmental permits.
''Then we got a letter from the bailiff saying we were in contempt of the Parliament, and if we didn't withdraw our legal letter within 24 hours, we would be imprisoned underneath Parliament House,'' he said. ''So we seriously considered it, but obviously it didn't happen.''
Mr Whish-Wilson was chosen in a secret ballot of 11 state executive members after what Senator Brown said were many hours of agonising over ''nine or 10'' candidates.
His choice was announced at a press conference with him wearing Senator Brown's shirt. ''I spilled coffee on [mine],'' Mr Whish-Wilson said. ''And it fits me perfectly.''