Conservative Australian leader gets green during election year

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has long been viewed as an implacable foe of environmentalists, scoffing at the Kyoto Protocol, supporting logging in old-growth forests, and declaiming his unwillingness to lose a single job or dollar of economic growth in the name of environmental protection. However, it’s an election year in Australia, and opinion polls show that Green Party voters constitute 6 percent of the electorate, more than enough to sway the results. Thus Howard has discovered a heretofore unacknowledged love of all things green, competing with the opposition Labor Party to make the most eco-promises — e.g., $1.4 billion to save the country’s rivers and a halt to logging in Tasmania’s old-growth areas. However, to prevent anyone from actually voting for Greens, he maintains that their non-environmental policies are “kooky,” and Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson reminded voters that Greens are “like a watermelon, green on the outside and red [socialist, people, socialist] on the inside.”