Saturday, December 5, 2015

What happened to Brendan Nelson?



I have hesitated to post this, but Dr Brendan Nelson is a public figure in Australia, as a former leader of the Opposition. While I was sitting on the floor of parliament house, during the Peoples' Parliament - a protest about Australia's excessively slow action on climate change - I spotted Brendan walking down the steps towards us. I hoped I might catch his eye but he affected not to notice any of us. He looked in supreme self control.

Brendan was one of the co-owners (with the Labor politician David Crean, brother to the Federal Labor politician Frank) of the Launceston and Hobart After Hours Medical Services, which I regularly worked for in 1989-91.

At that time I found Brendan an extremely nice man. (Many took the view, even then, he would become prime minister.) Patients loved him. Soon after, he did a lot to raise the profile for Indigenous health, particularly as president of the Australian Medical Association.

But then he joined the Federal parliament on the Liberal (right wing, conservative side.) He became more and more conservative. In 2003, the Australian government was mindlessly supporting the George Bush junior led folly in Iraq (something George Bush senior has recently been publicly critical of). My last contact with Brendan was to write to him at that time, lamenting his support for Australian participation in that invasion. Brendan did write back, but just with the party line. Later he became the Australian Minister of Defence, then leader of the opposition, against Kevin Rudd. He never did become prime minister, nor  Minister of Health, though he remains a well-known Australian figure, director of the Australian War Memorial.

However, what happened to his sense of global justice?