GQ&A

A DOC­TOR, PIG FARMER AND A FOR­MER FOOT­BALLER WALK INTO PAR­LIA­MENT HOUSE – IN­TRO­DUC­ING THE CU­RI­OUS NEW LEADER OF THE GREENS.

GQ (Australia) - - INSIDE - WORDS MATTHEW DRUM­MOND

Greens leader, Richard Di Natale, slices through stereo­types and salami.

It’s the evening of Fed­eral Par­lia­ment’s frst sit­ting for 2016 and Richard Di Natale is in his of­fce per­form­ing his salami trick – of­fer­ing up thin slices of sausage he made from his own pet pigs. Chris­tened Salt and Pep­per by his two sons, the pigs once lived, hap­pily, on Di Natale’s farm in Vic­to­ria’s Ot­way Ranges. Now the Sen­a­tor is serv­ing them up along­side Coop­ers Pale Ales. Butcher­ing pet an­i­mals isn’t what you’d ex­pect from the leader of the Greens, a party formed to pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment – but chang­ing ex­pec­ta­tions is ex­actly what the 46-year-old wants to do. The as­cen­dancy of Mal­colm Turn­bull to Prime Min­is­ter has trig­gered a dash to­wards the cen­tre in Aus­tralian fed­eral pol­i­tics, and Di Natale has no in­ten­tion of be­ing stuck out on the far-left fringe. On the day he be­came leader, in May 2015, he im­me­di­ately an­tag­o­nised the La­bor Party by claim­ing the Greens are in fact “the nat­u­ral home of pro­gres­sive main­stream Aus­tralian vot­ers”. Then he an­tag­o­nised many within his own party by cut­ting a deal with the Coali­tion – a taboo and some­thing his pre­de­ces­sor Chris­tine Milne had re­fused to do – thereby al­low­ing pen­sion cuts to pass through the Se­nate. And then, at the be­gin­ning of this year, Di Natale took aim at one of his party’s most dearly-held be­liefs – op­po­si­tion to ge­net­i­cally-mod­ifed (GM) foods. A med­i­cal doc­tor be­fore en­ter­ing Par­lia­ment, Di Natale told jour­nal­ists that he didn’t think GM crops posed a sig­nif­cant risk to hu­man health. Political com­men­ta­tor Mungo Maccal­lum, writ­ing in ever-wor­thy pub­li­ca­tion The Monthly, noted Di Natale later stepped back from the is­sue, know­ing to push such would cre­ate an open break be­tween leader and party faith­ful. “But he is too hon­est to be com­fort­ably silent,” wrote Maccal­lum, “and so, too hon­est for his party, and per­haps, for the cur­rent political sys­tem.” A Mel­bourne boy who showed tal­ent with an AFL foot­ball, Di Natale is the frst ‘main­lan­der’ to lead a political party forged in the en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivism of Tas­ma­nia. Ap­pear­ing more con­cerned with refugees than old growth trees, his deal- mak­ing sug­gests he’s the most prag­matic leader the Greens have had. To many, his el­e­va­tion to lead­er­ship when Milne re­tired was swift and sur­pris­ing, push­ing aside deputy leader Adam Bandt who was widely tipped to be the heir ap­par­ent. It prompted NSW Greens Sen­a­tor Lee Rhi­an­non, from the party’s hard left, to pub­licly com­plain on the night of the change that the process hadn’t been trans­par­ent. Here, on the re­sump­tion of Par­lia­ment in an elec­tion year – and on the hunt to dou­ble his party’s pri­mary vote – Di Natale’s slic­ing through the stereo­types of the Greens as a bunch of rad­i­cal mung bean eaters much like the sharp knife he’s us­ing to carve through the salami. GQ chews a piece (it’s good) takes a swig of Coop­ers, and we be­gin.

GQ: When did Salt and Pep­per shuf­fle off this mor­tal coil? Richard Di Natale:

Around the middle of last year. I’ve never had pigs be­fore, but we got a cou­ple of piglets, raised them on the prop­erty and ba­si­cally made salami pancetta and capoc­ollo. I’m Ital­ian. To make the salami you add salt and spices, you can use syn­thetic skins or in­tes­tine – th­ese ones have in­tes­tine – and then you hang them up for about six weeks. You have to keep wip­ing them – they start to look a bit gross and get a flm on them, but then they get a white mould – the healthy sort of mould that’s pro­tec­tive. And then you’re ready to go.

GQ: Do you butcher the an­i­mals? RDN:

We get some­one in who does a home kill.

GQ: We heard you dis­patched your own Mus­covy ducks for Christ­mas din­ner. How was that? RDN:

My view is if you’re go­ing to eat an an­i­mal… [Chokes] Sorry, I have pep­per caught...

GQ: ... that’s Pep­per com­ing back to haunt you. RDN:

That’s right, ex­tract­ing re­venge. If you can guar­an­tee it’s had a good life, that’s a good

thing. It’s hon­est, you know, what’s in­volved. But you don’t take any plea­sure in it. GQ: So you’re at peace about eat­ing an­i­mals when you know how they live and die? RDN: Yes, I was a veg­e­tar­ian for quite a few years be­cause I’m con­cerned about the im­pact of an­i­mals on the en­vi­ron­ment and an­i­mal wel­fare stan­dards. Then I moved to the coun­try – I’m orig­i­nally a city boy, brought up in the north­ern sub­urbs of Mel­bourne. I moved to the coun­try and was veg­e­tar­ian, then some­one in the coun­try would have a kill and they’d have a cou­ple of chooks or some­one would raise an an­i­mal and you’d go to their house for a bar­be­cue. And I felt bet­ter about eat­ing meat that way. GQ: What was the first piece of meat you ate? RDN: A beef steak. GQ: How’d it go down? RDN: I wasn’t the kind of veg­e­tar­ian where if some­one would serve you some­thing I wouldn’t eat it. So it wasn’t a huge shock. But it was tasty. GQ: You’re the first Greens leader to not be ar­rested while protest­ing for the en­vi­ron­ment. If you weren’t chain­ing your­self to trees at univer­sity, what were you do­ing? RDN: No, I wasn’t political at univer­sity, I was con­cen­trat­ing on get­ting through medicine. I played a lot of sport. I was play­ing VFA footy [now the Vic­to­rian Foot­ball League] at the time. In the frst cou­ple of years I was off skiv­ing, play­ing golf or ta­ble ten­nis or some­thing that wasn’t re­lated to my stud­ies. GQ: What you’re re­ally say­ing is you were down the pub – fair? RDN:that. I Some­was in­ter­est­ed­peo­ple havein pol­i­tic­s­said as an ob­server but I didn’t see it as a ca­reer path. It was sort of sep­a­rate to ev­ery­thing I was do­ing. I wasn’t in­ter­ested in stu­dent pol­i­tics – peo­ple in stu­dent pol­i­tics seemed more fo­cused on the ‘game’ of pol­i­tics. I was more in­ter­ested in foot­ball. GQ: How long did you spend in the VFA and why’d you stop? RDN: I played for fve years, for Oak­leigh and Coburg. I gave it up in my in­tern year as a doc­tor – it was a big year and I didn’t have time to play. GQ: Do you still kick a Sher­rin? RDN: My knee’s cac­tus – I tore my menis­cus, had surgery, got an in­fec­tion and needed a knee re­place­ment. So I’m ac­tu­ally… GQ: Shot? RDN: I’m shot. GQ: So how do you keep your­self look­ing so fit? RDN: I’m al­ways ac­tive – I work on the farm. And be­ing in par­lia­ment is such an un­healthy job, so I swim, I get on an ex­er­cise bike in the morn­ing at the par­lia­ment gym. When­ever I can, I surf too. Sport and ex­er­cise has al­ways been part of my life. GQ: Your par­ents were from Italy and toiled in Aus­tralia to build a bet­ter life. What’s the strong­est mem­ory you have of what they faced as mi­grants? RDN: I re­mem­ber Dad com­ing home and just col­laps­ing on the couch, chuck­ing on SBS news and not mov­ing. He was work­ing bloody hard – he left the house early and got home late. Also, I don’t think we ever went to a restau­rant grow­ing up. Even now, go­ing to an Ital­ian restau­rant, is a tough gig for me when I think of how good Mum’s cook­ing is. GQ: What a good Ital­ian boy. Your par­ents must have been proud of you, study­ing medicine and be­com­ing a doc­tor. What did they say when you told them you were go­ing into pol­i­tics? RDN: Dad said, in his Ital­ian ac­cent: ‘When you hang around with pigs you get cov­ered in shit.’ GQ: Nice, and do you think he had a point? RDN: So far I’m still rel­a­tively clean. Pol­i­tics is in­ter­est­ing be­cause on one hand you have peo­ple think­ing it’s a hor­ri­ble pro­fes­sion and ev­ery­one is in it for them­selves. But they also recog­nise peo­ple are in it for the right rea­sons. So peo­ple have con­tra­dic­tory views about it. My par­ents are proud of it now. When I started to run as a can­di­date they threw their sup­port be­hind me, wak­ing up at fve in the morn­ing and claim­ing pole po­si­tion at the polling booth. The thing they hated, what hurt them most, was that I kept los­ing – I lost three close elec­tions be­fore I got elected to the Se­nate. They were up­set each time I lost, but I’m pretty re­silient. GQ: And now you’re run­ning the Greens. The day you be­came leader you said your party was ‘the nat­u­ral home for peo­ple who’ve got pro­gres­sive main­stream val­ues’. How’s that gone down with La­bor? RDN: They hate it. But I be­lieve it. When you look at all th­ese is­sues – cli­mate change, refugees, treat­ing peo­ple seek­ing asy­lum with an ounce of dig­nity, mar­riage equal­ity – our po­si­tions are smack bang in the cen­tre of pro­gres­sive, main­stream pol­i­tics. The in­ter­pre­ta­tion put on that has been that the Greens are main­stream­ing their poli­cies and drag­ging their poli­cies into a dif­fer­ent place. But what I meant by that state­ment is that our poli­cies on th­ese things are in the pro­gres­sive main­stream cen­tre, and the chal­lenge for us is to en­sure peo­ple un­der­stand that. It’s about break­ing down a few stereo­types and mak­ing sure peo­ple un­der­stand that’s where we sit. GQ: You’ve said the Greens have to pre­pare for the day when they take min­istries in a La­bor govern­ment… RDN: ... in a govern­ment. GQ: So it could be a Coali­tion govern­ment? RDN: Look at Tas­ma­nia. At one point the Tas­ma­nian Greens formed govern­ment with the Lib­eral Party. My com­ment was that at some point in the fu­ture we will be a party of govern­ment. I joined the party when it polled two or three per cent. Over the course of the last 15 years our vote has grown to 10-12 per cent. In my view it’s much more likely that the op­por­tu­nity to form govern­ment rests with La­bor, but you should never rule out any pos­si­bil­ity [of an al­liance with the Lib­eral Party], though it’s un­likely. ‘Never say never’ is the quote I’d use about ev­ery­thing in pol­i­tics. GQ: Can you see a day the Greens form govern­ment with the Lib­er­als? RDN: It’s a ques­tion for the party but I think it’s never go­ing to hap­pen. I don’t see a time when we can form a coali­tion with the Lib­eral Party, par­tic­u­larly this Lib­eral Party, be­cause our views are so far apart. GQ: Still, never say never? RDN: That’s ex­actly right. I made a com­mit­ment when I started this job of not play­ing the game about be­ing defnite. I think [Mal­colm] Turn­bull called it the rule in, rule out game. It’s the prin­ci­ple of mak­ing an iron­clad com­mit­ment about some­thing at this point in time. GQ: To build the Greens’ pri­mary vote to 20 per cent you’ll have to tackle some of the party’s cen­tral be­liefs. Is the party’s stance against GM foods one of them? RDN: It’s about chang­ing the con­ver­sa­tion. With a po­si­tion like GM foods, you’re boxed into a pro-sci­ence camp or an anti-sci­ence camp. It’s ac­tu­ally more nu­anced than that. As I said at the time, in medicine ge­net­ics has ap­pli­ca­tion in vac­cine de­vel­op­ment. In agri­cul­ture, GM foods are hugely prob­lem­atic, par­tic­u­larly

in driv­ing an in­crease in the use of her­bi­cides and is­sues around in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty. It’s hugely prob­lem­atic. Too of­ten peo­ple want to put the is­sue into an anti-sci­ence or pro­science camp. When it comes to ge­net­i­cally-mod­ifed or­gan­isms, it’s im­por­tant to have a more nu­anced con­ver­sa­tion and our po­si­tion is a more sen­si­ble one. GQ: Is it a mat­ter of nu­ance or are you back­track­ing? Af­ter you made those com­ments the party is­sued a press re­lease con­tra­dict­ing your stance. RDN: There was a press re­lease elab­o­rat­ing on my po­si­tion. GQ: Are there other Greens poli­cies that you don’t en­tirely agree with? RDN: There’s not one pol­icy that I don’t back. The thing about be­ing in my po­si­tion is I feel lib­er­ated in this job, I get to speak freely about all th­ese things, I don’t feel held back like La­bor and Lib­eral MPS. I know MPS in those par­ties who sup­port a vote on gay mar­riage but can’t pub­licly say that. I have a free­dom to talk about is­sues I care about be­cause they’re in line with the party’s poli­cies. GQ: But be­ing a leader means chang­ing things? RDN: It does. GQ: In do­ing so you also have to keep the party’s base be­hind you. What do mem­bers think of cut­ting deals with the Coali­tion govern­ment? RDN: I recog­nise that for some in our party, it’s dif­fcult to sup­port a po­si­tion that the Lib­eral Party puts for­ward. Even though I dis­agree with the Lib­er­als on al­most ev­ery­thing, on oc­ca­sions there’s an is­sue where we can get an out­come in the na­tional in­ter­est. So you have to put the pol­icy be­fore the pol­i­tics... It’s true that there are some peo­ple who say we should never do any­thing with the Lib­eral Party, but it’s my view, and the view of my party room, and I don’t make any of th­ese de­ci­sions with­out the sup­port of the party room, that you have to put the pol­icy frst and then the pol­i­tics looks af­ter it­self. GQ: How well do you get along with Mal­colm Turn­bull? RDN: I’ve only met him a cou­ple of times so far. GQ: Do you like him? RDN: I don’t know him well enough to have an opin­ion on him as an in­di­vid­ual. GQ: On some is­sues you’d be closer to Turn­bull than the La­bor party, right? RDN: Well clearly he sup­ports mar­riage equal­ity. He sup­ports a re­pub­lic. He no­tion­ally sup­ports ac­tion on cli­mate change. And I agree with him on all that – from that per­spec­tive there are opin­ions we share. But in pol­i­tics it’s im­por­tant to fo­cus on is­sues, not per­son­al­i­ties. GQ: The Greens’ lead­er­ship change was so quick and blood­less that many sug­gested Milne gave you ad­vance warn­ing she’d step down – al­low­ing you to cor­ral the votes against deputy leader Adam Bandt. True? RDN: When we changed from [for­mer leader] Bob Brown to Chris­tine Milne, the same thing hap­pened – it was quick. There are 11 peo­ple in the party room, it’s a pretty straight­for­ward process. GQ: Did you get ad­vance warn­ing from Chris­tine Milne that she planned to step down as leader? RDN: I think we all knew it was a pos­si­bil­ity. When Chris­tine made the de­ci­sion, it was a shock. But in the end it was an un­con­tested bal­lot and ev­ery­one had a vote. GQ: Are you up to date with House of Cards? RDN: I en­joy it be­cause it’s a re­ally good pro­duc­tion, but it doesn’t re­flect life in this place [Par­lia­ment House]. If you want to see a more ac­cu­rate de­pic­tion of what life in pol­i­tics is like, watch [ABC se­ries] The Hol­low­men. I was close to an is­sue that was go­ing on in­side one of the ma­jor par­ties and I re­mem­ber watch­ing The Hol­low­men and not know­ing whether it was a com­edy or a doc­u­men­tary. GQ: You were the first Greens leader to go on Chan­nel Ten’s The Bolt Re­port. How did that come about? RDN: He’d been ask­ing me for a year and we’d re­fused. Then I de­cided part of the rea­son peo­ple like An­drew Bolt have any le­git­i­macy is be­cause politi­cians take them se­ri­ously and treat them with far too much def­er­ence and re­spect. GQ: And fear? RDN: And fear. GQ: You seemed to get the up­per hand de­bat­ing on whether Aus­tralia should ac­cept more Syr­ian refugees. That must have been sat­is­fy­ing? RDN: No, not re­ally. We walked out and thought it was an in­ter­view like any other. But the feed­back on it was pos­i­tive. A lot of peo­ple thought, ‘Thank God some­one’s will­ing to stand up to a bully like that.’ I went in there with the per­spec­tive that I’m not go­ing to kow­tow be­fore him. And peo­ple liked that. I was a bit dis­ap­pointed we didn’t get to talk about cli­mate change. GQ: Still, on refugees the Greens seem to sit on the fringe of pub­lic opin­ion – op­posed to both boat turn-backs and off­shore de­ten­tion. Deaths at sea have largely ceased. Do you re­main con­fi­dent in your party’s po­si­tion? RDN: I don’t agree that we’re on the fringe. There’s a big pro­por­tion of the Aus­tralian com­mu­nity very up­set with our treat­ment of peo­ple seek­ing asy­lum in Aus­tralia. And that’s the point of lead­er­ship – you take a po­si­tion be­cause you be­lieve it’s the right one; you ar­gue the case as per­sua­sively as you can to bring the com­mu­nity with you. And the Greens are the only peo­ple lead­ing the com­mu­nity on this and I do think things are chang­ing. Look, it’s a straight­for­ward propo­si­tion: is it ever jus­tifed to lock a young kid up in a jail, be­cause that’s what de­ten­tion cen­tres are, where they’re sex­u­ally abused? Where they’re self-harm­ing and are per­ma­nently dam­aged? GQ: No, but if it means peo­ple aren’t drown­ing at sea... RDN: ... I don’t ac­cept it’s bi­nary like that. And I don’t think it’s ever OK to lock up a young kid and dam­age them for life. GQ: On gay mar­riage, do you think we should save the money of hold­ing a plebiscite and in­stead let par­lia­ment vote on the is­sue? RDN: Yes, we should call the vote to­mor­row and get it done. GQ: Should we le­galise mar­i­juana for recre­ational use? RDN: I don’t think crim­i­nal penal­ties work. GQ: What do you think Tony Ab­bott is up to? RDN: I think he’s cre­at­ing mis­chief and he’s plot­ting his re­venge. And I think he’s fu­elled by all the wrong mo­tives. GQ: Do you have a sense of how it will play out? RDN: Badly. What he’s do­ing is ac­tively un­der­min­ing his own party. He should take up a nice hobby, maybe golf or fsh­ing, and con­sider re­tire­ment. GQ: If the Greens move from a party on the edge into a party of power, you’re go­ing to have to get your hands dirty. Are the Greens ready for that? RDN: What do you mean by get­ting ‘hands dirty’? GQ: Deal-mak­ing – in the in­ter­est of a larger achieve­ment. RDN: No, we won’t give up things we be­lieve in. On the ques­tion about would you sup­port some­thing that is a small step for­ward, if you can get that done, and not hold out for some­thing that’s per­fect, that’s a dif­fer­ent ques­tion.

GQ: Bob Brown of­ten talked about ‘re­plac­ing the bas­tards’, but you’re talk­ing about join­ing them in govern­ment. It feels like a pretty dra­matic shift in party strat­egy. RDN: The ques­tion of form­ing a coali­tion with an­other party is vexed and peo­ple have dif­fer­ent views. My own view is that we don’t want to end up like the Na­tion­als Party in a for­mal, per­ma­nent coali­tion with the Lib­eral Party – it means giv­ing up on so many is­sues. That’s a dif­fer­ent ques­tion to whether at some point in time you might en­ter into pow­er­shar­ing agree­ments. That will be a de­ci­sion for the party to col­lec­tively make. GQ: Would you do a pref­er­ence deal with the Coali­tion to get the Greens ahead of La­bor in in­nercity seats? RDN: I’m not in­volved in do­ing our pref­er­ence deals. To my knowl­edge we haven’t pref­er­enced the Coali­tion be­fore. I re­ally can’t see it hap­pen­ing at this elec­tion, not with this govern­ment. But it’s not my de­ci­sion. GQ: What makes a gen­tle­man? RDN: In­tegrity is at the heart of be­ing a gen­tle­man. Au­then­tic­ity. It’s got noth­ing to do with how you dress or what im­age you present to the world. It’s about re­spect, and be­ing re­spect­ful to oth­ers, whether that’s some­one of the op­po­site gen­der, a dif­fer­ent cul­tural back­ground, some­one older or younger than you, or a dif­fer­ent pro­fes­sional back­ground. Re­spect is right at the heart of it. GQ: How re­spect­ful are party col­leagues when it comes to your salami mak­ing? RDN: They’re OK. Some are veg­e­tar­ian, some aren’t. They re­spect that if peo­ple are go­ing to eat meat, it’s good to do what I do – raise an­i­mals eth­i­cally and give them a good life and have a fairly light foot­print on the en­vi­ron­ment. And I’m proud of my cul­tural her­itage, some­times I come to Can­berra with a bag of Mum’s lasagna.

“WHILE I DIS­AGREE WITH THE LIB­ER­ALS ON AL­MOST EV­ERY­THING, ON OC­CA­SIONS THERE’S AN IS­SUE WHERE WE CAN GET AN OUT­COME IN THE NA­TIONAL IN­TER­EST.”

GQ.COM.AU 93

Grey cot­ton polo shirt, $446, by Or­ley; dark blue cot­ton jeans, $465, by Ba­len­ci­aga at Matches Fash­ion; black ac­etate glasses, $280, by Marc Jacobs.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.