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, unguarded in his public pronouncements and 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.
La Trobe Law School academic Anthony O’Donnell has co-authored a political biography-cum-memoir celebrating Cass’s legacy.
And it is a legacy that extends beyond environmental politics. As the Minister for Media, Cass 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 also advocated for the reform of abortion law and the decriminalisation of homosexuality.
Moss Cass and the Greening of the Australian Labor Party 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.
Co-authored with Moss Cass and Vivien Encel, the biography is available from Australian Scholarly Publishing and good bookstores.