The Greens today appointed winemaker and economist Peter Whish-Wilson to take over from departing Senator and former Greens Leader Bob Brown. His mixture of activist and professional credentials are similar to the profile of Senators Penny Wright and Richard di Natale, who appeal to both the traditional Greens activist base and the new groundswell of inner-city professionals.
Whish-Wilson, who completed his undergraduate studies at the Australian Defence Force Academy and holds a Masters degree in economics from the University of Western Australia, has also previously worked in equity capital markets for Deutsch Bank and Merrill Lynch, where he was vice-president.
In his capacity as a lecturer Whish-Wilson established the University of Tasmania’s environmental finance course, which "includes consideration of spot, futures and derivative markets in areas such as carbon credits, fishing quotas, water rights, fuels and commodities" and "…alternative models available for financing in the debate on global climate change".
He will bring a hard economic and finance angle to a party room characterised by its critics as having a lack of economic and business credentials.
South Australian Greens Senator Penny Wright told New Matilda she was looking forward to Whish-Wilson’s contribution to policy and in the party room.
"I’m very happy that he has an economics background. He’s eminently qualified with his masters’ degree and experience. [He’ll contribute to] the economic narrative that the Greens are bringing to positioning Australia for the 21st century, making sure we’re looking at sustainable employment to take account of the challenges we face," she said.
Whish-Wilson is also a leading campaigner against the Tamar Valley Gunns pulp mill. In 2007 he considered standing as an independent in the seat of Bass to combat the mill before being snapped up by the Greens.
His belief that strict legal action against the mill is "virtually useless" may have contributed to his decision to run for political office.
Although Whish-Wilson’s subsequent bid for the Tasmanian Legislative Council in 2009 was unsuccessful, he garnered a strong local vote due to his anti-Gunns campaigning and was described as "an excellent local candidate" by the Tasmanian Times.
In a statement today, Greens leader Senator Christine Milne praised her fellow Tasmanian’s breadth of experience.
"Peter will be a superb representative for Tasmania. As an economist, business owner and campaigner to stop a polluting pulp mill in the Tamar Valley, he brings great experience and an excellent skills-set to the Senate and the Greens party room," Milne said.
Whish-Wilson’s interstate colleagues, many of whom are yet to meet the new appointee, have also endorsed his appointment.
"Peter Whish-Wilson’s CV shows he’s a real person. He has economic credentials, he’s run a small business, he’s a father. He has strong community connections, he’s worked for environmental organisations and he’s an executive member of the surf-riders’ association," Senator Wright said.
Commentary on Whish-Wilson in the Financial Review and The Power Index has already highlighted his perceived "light green" status, but NSW Senator Lee Rhiannon, whose state branch is taken to be further to the Left, has welcomed the appointment.
"When you come to talk about dark greens, light greens etc and about division, again it’s shown to be wide of the mark. The transition has been done so smoothly," she told New Matilda.
"We can take some of the comments that were made when Bob resigned — which was obviously a very emotional time and a unique time — predictions that we’d collapse, how damaging it would be. It’s certainly not the case. I very much welcome Peter. We’ll be working together in a collaborative way on a whole range of projects."
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