FRESH FROM LEADING Tasmanian Labor to a crushing electoral defeat (and the worst in its history), news that Lara Giddings wishes to contest the leadership of the ALP in opposition is a curious development. Premier-elect Will Hodgman richly deserves his thumping election victory, but for the graceless Giddings, the time to go — from the Premiership, the leadership of her party, and from Parliament — has now come.
Like countless thousands of Australians last night, I watched the 25-minute “concession” speech given by outgoing and beaten Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings with horror, and a gradually rising sense of disgust; the trend in recent times for defeated Labor leaders to treat such occasions as an opportunity to grandstand in the interests of their own self-vindication is inappropriate, and tasteless in the extreme.
Call me old-fashioned, but concession speeches should be precisely that: an acknowledgement that the voters have spoken, and an expression of good luck to the victorious party.
There is nothing wrong with showing a little grace in defeat, and it is yet another marker of the nasty brand of politics practised by the Labor Party of today, devoid of integrity or even decency, that Giddings’ speech last night is simply the latest given by a long line of Labor leaders who have been thrown out of office to highlight notions of humility and grace only by omission.
There is nothing wrong with even saying that they are proud of their record; there is nothing wrong with saying they believe they served the people well.
But in a state blighted by the highest unemployment rate in the country, with a budget haemhorrhaging money and public debt ballooning — contrary to Giddings’ assertion otherwise — there is no justification to spend 20-odd minutes rattling on about socialist pedagogy and a restatement in great detail of the policies that have just been emphatically and decisively rejected, as Giddings had the temerity to do.
In a particularly low act, she even landed a despicable barb on Hodgman, noting — to put it bluntly — that as his father (former state and federal Liberal stalwart Michael Hodgman) was dead, the younger Hodgman would be unable to share the joy of his triumph with his family as he would have liked.
It was a jab that registered and drew a slap-down response from Will Hodgman, who might have been excused from the eloquent tribute he nonetheless paid the graceless, offensive Giddings at the commencement of his victory speech.
Now, Giddings has expressed a desire to remain in the leadership of the Tasmanian ALP.
Whilst the exact breakdown of seats won will take a couple of weeks to finalise, courtesy of Tasmania’s Hare-Clark proportional electoral system, we can tell enough from last night’s result to know that for the ALP, the 2014 state election has been a singular and unmitigated disaster.
Of the 25 seats in the House of Assembly, Hodgman’s Liberals have won at least 14 of them, an increase of four seats from the 2010 poll; this is the figure I predicted on Friday, and as I noted at the time have thought for some time that the Liberals were likely to win that number of seats.
The general consensus — again, as foreshadowed in this column — is that the parties of the Left will end up with 11 seats; many other commentators are suggesting these will split 7-4 between the ALP and the
Communist Party Greens, although even that is a fluid situation that could see the Greens reduced to a mere three seats (down from five last time).
As an aside, I would note that as gormless and odious as Giddings’ concession speech might have been, the one delivered by Greens leader Nick McKim — also 25 minutes of self-aggrandising claptrap — went very close to trumping it.
As expected, Clive Palmer’s outfit failed to win a single seat; far from winning the state election in its own right, the Palmer United Party’s leader, Kevin Morgan, couldn’t even muster half a quota in the seat he stood in. The result should be a reality check on the ego of Clive Palmer, and the steady march across Australia he seems to believe his party is making. But it won’t be. It just won’t be. Of course it won’t be.
And the Liberal tally of 14 seats could change, too: upwards. So comprehensive has Hodgman’s victory been that nobody foresaw the prospect of the Liberal Party taking four of the five seats in any of the five electorates.
Yet in the electorate of Braddon, in Tasmania’s north-west, that scenario is a distinct possibility, with Liberal candidates collectively sitting on better than 3.6 quotas and a real chance of taking four MPs into the new Parliament from Braddon when the final results are posted.
This election defeat has been the worst Labor has suffered in Tasmania in 100 years; it isn’t simply a loss, but a virtual annihilation, and were it not for the ubiquitous presence of the Greens to enable future governing coalitions to be formed, it is a shellacking Labor might otherwise take many years to recover from.
If we are going to talk about decency, and — in the political sense, responsibility — it is now incumbent on Lara Giddings to resign: both the ALP leadership, and her seat in Parliament.
Yesterday’s shattering election defeat is very much hers to own; having served as Premier for more than three of the four years of the parliamentary term that has now concluded, blame for the election loss lies squarely upon her shoulders.
I note she has made noises to the effect that whether she stays in the leadership or moves on, her (few) remaining colleagues will have the final say on it; rather than simply pay lip service to the possibility someone else might lead Tasmanian Labor, she should do the honourable thing and make certain of it.
I wonder — given both her “concession” speech and her exploration of continuing as Labor leader — whether Giddings even comprehends what the verdict of the Tasmanian electorate amounts to. Politics can be a cruel business, and the realities of that message are cruel indeed.
Tasmanians have rejected Giddings, her government, and the policies it stood for.
They have indicated they have no further use for her services.
They want a government led by someone different, and which will do things differently: things, indeed, that run counter to virtually every point Giddings raised in her ghastly speech last night.
Simply stated, the electorate has spoken: they don’t want her. It is time to go. And she should go now.