Marching to his own tune

DRESSED in the same hard yakka pants and sturdy boots in which he wanders the carpeted halls of State Parliament, Kim Booth stomps around the muddy pathways in between machinery and timber stacks at his sawmill at Meander.

He may have handed the reins of Timber World to his son Bronte, who has grown the business to focus on pre-fabricated portable houses, but his passion remains as strong as ever.

``If you look after your timber and you're smart about it, timber is one of the most incredible products on Earth,'' Mr Booth said.

Mr Booth bought the abandoned block at Meander ``when Bronte was just knee high'' and developed the sawmill, employing 30 people at one stage.

It's rare these days for Mr Booth to get there between the endless work and travel between his Launceston office and Parliament in Hobart. That workload is set to only intensify after taking on the Greens' leadership after a major loss.

News of his shock elevation on Monday was immediately described by political analysts and rivals as a rejection of the collaborative, c-ooperative style of politics embraced by his predecessor Nick McKim in favour of a more antagonistic, hard-line approach. 

Mr Booth is perplexed at the ``deep Green'' label he carries. 

Three things motivated the 62-year-old to run for Parliament in 2002: the ``attack on democracy'' that was reducing the size of Parliament from 35 to 25 seats; the need to negotiate a treaty with Aboriginal people; and, of course, forestry. 

``The country sawmillers, craftsmen, boat builders had been used as Trojan horses by the woodchip industry, the fat cats of the industry. They didn't speak for me,'' he said. 

Mr Booth's hardline reputation was entrenched by his opposition to the Greens' deal with Labor in 2010, which produced the first Greens minister in Australia. He also voted against the Tasmanian Forests Agreement due to the compromised conservation outcomes.

``These are two things out of all the things I've worked on for the last four years,'' he contends. 

He goes on to list other achievements and issues he's fought hard on, including doggedly pursing the introduction of $1 bet limits, protecting Tasmania's GE-free status, cleaning up the Tamar River and establishing the energy expert panel's investigation which laid the ground work for major reforms to the sector. 

He throws words round like ``scandalous'', ``dictatorship'', ``corruption'' and compares new Premier Will Hodgman with various despots - ``maybe he's in Cairo to see how it's done there, take them out and shoot them''.

Such strong language from a political leader would normally make headlines, but it hardly raises an eyebrow when uttered by Mr Booth.

The power of such provocative terms is sapped not just by its overuse, but his monotonous delivery and tendency to run off on various tangents that would test even the most dedicated Green activist. 

The outcome of that fateful party room meeting on Monday was even more surprising given Mr Booth had earlier questioned the need for the party to have a parliamentary leader out of just three MPs. 

Five days since taking over the party, he still doesn't sound entirely convinced of the need for the title.

``I don't think it's vital, the executive of the party decided we needed a parliamentary leader, and I'm very happy with that decision.'' 

However, he is sure former leader and cabinet minister Nick McKim had to go after leading the party to an election where it suffered an 8 per cent swing against it and lost two seats.   

``We suffered a major loss. It's a principle really that the leader takes responsibility and steps down,'' Mr Booth said.

``It wasn't personality based. I don't know that I'll be better, history will be the judge of that.'' 

His elevation coincides with a revamping of party processes that is likely to result in members having more say over the parliamentary party leadership, preselection and key decisions such as forming alliances with other parties. 

Party convenor Austra Maddox said members wanted a meaningful say in the party, rather than to act as a rubber stamp. 

``I think with a different person as leader, there's just a sense of this is a time of change and renewal.'' 

For the new leader's part, he has vowed to reengage with the branches and shift the political agenda's focus North.

If it was up to Mr Booth, the Greens would only consider entering another minority government arrangement if there were concrete Greens policy outcomes on the table, rather than securing individual promotions. 

In the meantime, Mr Booth is resigned to being on the sidelines. 

``We will be three people out of 25, our ability to have more influence is not there for the time being.'' 

Greens leader Kim Booth  with his son Bronte. Picture: PHILLIP BIGGS

Greens leader Kim Booth with his son Bronte. Picture: PHILLIP BIGGS


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