Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury at his Braddon home.

Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury at his Braddon home. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

Shane Rattenbury has experience working both sides of the political divide, and it started long before he was ever elected to the ACT Assembly.

As a young Greenpeace activist, Rattenbury was often seen traipsing the corridors of Federal Parliament to call on ministers, shadow ministers, senators, backbenchers and crossbenchers – anyone who would lend an ear to his environmental campaigning.

He found his best bipartisan reception over the issue of whaling in the Southern Ocean.

At the height of contentions over Japan's so-called scientific whale hunting in Antarctic waters, Rattenbury was in the thick of it.

Not only did he lead an expedition of two Greenpeace ships for 72 days between Cape Town and Antarctica shadowing the Japanese whaling fleet (and copping all sorts of grief from Sea Shepherd because he wouldn't be part of that group's more aggressive activities), Rattenbury also lobbied federal politicians.

"I think it's fair to say that both sides of politics here in Australia have pretty clear views when it comes to whaling and from that perspective it's a little bit easier to work with both sides," he said.

"Whaling was much easier to talk to politicians about than was climate change or fisheries issues."

It was the summer of 2005-06 and Japan had told the world it was increasing the quota of whales it would hunt in the Southern Ocean.

Rattenbury, as Greenpeace's global director of oceans campaigns, was leading the charge for the organisation against the whaling plans.

John Howard was prime minister at the time and Rattenbury was pleased that the Liberal government's enthusiastic environment minister Ian Campbell was also fiercely anti-whaling and had good dealings with him.

Labor in opposition was also very welcoming of Rattenbury's campaign.

Frontbencher Anthony Albanese hosted a parliamentary event for Rattenbury to tell MPs, media and others what he had observed in the Southern Ocean and what the threat was to our whales.

Peter Garrett was there and it was clear Labor could see the issue as good election fodder.

Yet while Rattenbury got a decent hearing from both sides over whaling, it was not the case for every issue he wanted to talk to politicians about.

"I started with Greenpeace as a political lobbyist in Canberra in 1998," he said.

"I remember as very new in the job trying to talk to MPs about the threat to southern Bluefin tuna and I was in the office of a Howard government minister at the time saying that stocks could collapse in ten years.

"This minister just looked at me and said 'I won't be here in ten years so it's not my problem'. That was very instructive to me as a young activist as to how one needed to operate in a political environment.

"I'd been in the job eight weeks and it was quite an eye opener.

"It's been more than ten years now and that minister is no longer there and it is no longer his problem. So he was right about that."

Rattenbury's problem – today and for the next four years – will be found in the ACT Assembly where his diplomacy skills will be repeatedly put to the test thanks to his substantial influence in a minority government.

With fellow Greens MLAs over the past four years Rattenbury had become used to balance of power status.

But things have changed.

In the last four-year parliamentary session he had the comfort of three other Greens colleagues who had also been elected.

And he had the esteemed role as Assembly speaker.

But now the other three Greens have exited courtesy of the voting public, and the speakership is no longer a task Rattenbury will continue with.

As the Assembly's man of the moment, Rattenbury will decided which side of politics forms government for the next four years.

Remaining speaker would not allow him to hold that government to account, keep the opposition in check and argue for Greens policy objectives on the floor of the Assembly.

"It has been a privilege to be the Speaker I've learnt a lot about parliamentary process, about the history of parliament and I know the rule book much better than if I was just a regular MLA," he said.

"There is a lot of community engagement and parliamentary education visits I have hosted and have really enjoyed.

"Then there's the time in the chair and that can be very difficult to manage. I often say it is a lot like being a referee in a football match where you have opposing teams trying to win and who will inevitably each get upset at times with the referee."

Fellow Greens Amanda Bresnan, who lost her Brindabella seat at the recent election, says Rattenbury managed his tasks well.

"I really think he did an excellent job in terms of having that role as speaker but also being spokesperson for a number of Greens portfolios," she said.

"He did it in a very professional and diplomatic way – having to deal with some delicate circumstances at times.

"And he handled criticism well. The Libs really did target him and some of the criticisms got very personal, especially about his time working for Greenpeace.

"He worked for that organisation for 10 years and he should be very proud of what he achieved at Greenpeace."

Rattenbury believes the skills he learned at the giant environmental group have helped him enormously in his political life.

"They have been very valuable for me in politics," he said.

"I had ability to work with and negotiate with a whole lot of people. I've met politicians around the world, company directors around the world, and had high level negotiations at the United Nations.

"All of those sorts of things that I've done have been very useful in politics."

But so too, he says, has more than 20 years running triathlons.

He has represented Australian seven times in world championships and says sport is a great escape.

"It is also a great time to clear the mind and let the issues filter through and perhaps come to some wiser thoughts," he said.

"But I run shorter distances these days. I don't have the time anymore."

Rattenbury came to the ACT to start his high school years after he received a full scholarship to attend Canberra Grammar School. He was the dux of his primary school in Batemans Bay.

He then went onto study at the Australian National University, work for a federal government department (Industry), then various roles within Greenpeace, reaching the pinnacle as the international political director for Greenpeace International.

He first ran for the Greens for the ACT Assembly in 2001, but was not successful until his second attempt in 2008.

He loves contemporary hip-hop (think Hilltop Hoods) and good old Aussie pub rock (think Cold Chisel) and supports the Giants in the AFL and the Bulldogs in rugby league.

Many who know him say Rattenbury is focused, hard-working, consultative and a deep thinker.

Others say he can be demanding and sometimes insensitive to other viewpoints.

Canberrans will get to judge Rattenbury for themselves over the next four year as he plays out what is arguably his most influential role to date in Territory politics.