The Greening of the Australian Labor Party
In 1972, Dr Moss Cass found himself minister responsible for Australia’s first Department of Environment and Conservation in Gough Whitlam’s newly elected Labor government. Long-haired, bearded, unapologetically a champion of progressive causes, Cass was to face an uphill battle. Even within his own avowedly reformist party, he fought against the odds to try to save Lake Pedder, Fraser Island and Kakadu.
But Cass’s legacy extended beyond environmental politics. As the Minister for Media he issued 12 ‘experimental’ radio licences that laid the basis for today’s thriving community radio sector. As the inaugural medical director of the Trade Union Clinic, he helped pioneer a new model of community health care. He advocated for the reform of abortion law and the decriminalisation of homosexuality.
This political biography offers an insider’s account of a tumultuous time in Australian politics. Cass’s story provides a compelling pre-history to many of the key issues in progressive politics today: the environment, refugees, homosexual law reform, the media, and health care.
It is also a story about the transformation of the Australian Labor Party: its ‘greening’ both in regard to environmental politics and its accommodation of new movements for social reform.
Moss Cass was federal member for Maribyrnong from 1969 to 1983 and a minister in the Whitlam government from 1972 to 1975. Vivien Encel is a writer and teacher. Anthony O’Donnell is a senior lecturer in the School of Law, La Trobe University.