Patsy’s high hopes for a greener Tasmania
IT’S been 40 years since Patsy Jones and her husband Dick became part of Australian political history when Dick moved to create the world’s first green political party in a meeting at Hobart Town Hall.
The pair, who had met as members of the Young Country Party in Queensland, came from Queensland farming families (his family in sugar cane and hers in dairy) and had spent a short time in Deniliquin, where Dick was a local councillor and Patsy taught high school.
They moved toTasmaniain 1970 as a new environmental awareness took hold.
“Dick would tell people he was an ecologist and very few people at that time knew the word,” Patsy said.
“When we came here there was a committee called the South West Committee which was made up of people who liked to bushwalk, but they didn’t have much idea how to change government ideas.
“Actually using political pressure, not just lobbying pressure, was pretty much in its infancy.”
That was where Dick Jones, who died in 1986, came in. He successfully moved to create the United Tasmania Group to lobby against the flooding ofLakePedderfor a hydro-electric scheme. They lost that battle but Patsy, now 71, has been at the centre of environmental politics inTasmaniaever since.
She was the state’s first Greens politician to be elected to a local council when she joined Hobart City Council in 1992.
“It was quite an affront to a lot of
people who said I was bringing politics to local government,” she said.
“There are three Greens members on Hobart City Council at the moment, which is 25 per cent, and there are several in councils around Tasmania.”
While they lost that first campaign to saveLakePedder, Patsy said it was an important stepping stone for the movement.
“We say we lost Lake Pedder, but what the community learned in that fight was how to use politics to change people’s minds,” she said.
“We stopped the damming of the Franklin River using that knowledge.”
Former high profile party leader Bob Brown provided a public face for the
battle after joining the United Tasmania Group one month after that initial meeting.
Brown later formed the Tasmanian Wilderness Society, the United Tasmania Group faded and green MPs came together to form the Tasmanian Greens and later the Australian Greens.
Patsy says despite the impact Bob Brown’s recent retirement will have, the Greens movement is still strong.
“I’m not going to say Bob retiring will not have an impact on us, and it might have a different impact here inTasmaniathan it does on the mainland,” she said.
“But (new Australian Greens leader) Christine Milne really is a first class clever woman and I’m really looking forward to seeing what she does.”
For Patsy Jones, life remains busy.
A mother of two and grandmother of four, she is also president of the Children’s Book Council Tasmanian branch, treasurer of the Tasmanian National Parks Association, active in the Florentine Protection Society and runs the library at Sustainable Living Tasmania.
And as for the campaign that started it all?
Patsy is a member of Pedder 2000 committee and still hopes Tasmania will some day follow the example of some United States authorities and decommission the dam, restore the glacial lake and rehabilitate its white quartzite beach for the enjoyment of her grandchildren’s generation.