THE confirmation of him leaving came in code. It took the form of a note, scribbled by Bob Brown at the Global Greens Congress in Senegal a fortnight ago, and passed to his partner, Paul Thomas. ''One week and six days,'' was all it said.
Thomas' handwritten reply conveyed a mix of joy and relief that something that had been a matter of private discussion between them for weeks had finally been resolved. ''Thank goodness!'' he wrote.
No one who intercepted the notes would have had the foggiest notion that they concerned the end of one of the most remarkable political careers in Australia's history - one that began 37 years ago when a young idealist GP stood unsuccessfully as a candidate for the United Tasmania Group, the world's first green party (which later morphed into the Tasmanian Greens).
It is clear he chose to do what few federal leaders have managed - walk away at the peak of their powers and maximise the prospects of their successor at the next election.