Tasmania: Time For Lara Giddings To Quit Parliament

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.



Liberals Win Tasmania With 15% Swing

EARLY COUNTING — less than two hours after polls closed — the Liberal Party has very clearly won government on the Apple Isle; there appears to have been a swing of some 15% to the Liberals on primary votes, with Liberals set to win three of the five seats in each of the five electorates and the ALP massacred.

This is a quick post; just after 7.30pm (AEDT) it is obviously very early in the evening so far as the counting of votes is concerned.

Even so, the trend and the outcome are already beyond doubt.

The result brings down the curtain on 16 years of Labor government, the last four years of them in lockstep with the Communist Party Greens, which — like Labor — now appears certain to lose some of its five seats.

I will continue to monitor developments both in Tasmania and South Australia (which, remember, is half an hour behind us here on the eastern seaboard); the SA result promises to be far closer than was apparent a few weeks ago, and so I think we will be here for a long night.

I will be back a little later in the evening.


Final Newspoll Signals Liberal Landslide In Tasmania

SIXTEEN YEARS OF LABOR GOVERNMENT in Tasmania is set to come to a crashing halt tomorrow, if final polling from the Apple Isle is correct; Newspoll, appearing in The Australian today, suggests Liberal leader Will Hodgman will easily be elected Premier on his second attempt, with the Liberal Party poised to snare 53% of the primary vote. The election looms as a cataclysm for the ALP, and an embarrassment for Clive Palmer.

Before we start — and at the risk of sounding like a broken record — I must apologise for yet another absence of some days’ duration; regular readers will know there are a few “real world” distractions occupying my time at present, and so it has been again this week. These things should finally resolve over the next couple of weeks, and I am aware that we’ve missed a few issues this week.

That said, with two state elections on the go tomorrow, I want to talk about the last poll in Tasmania from Newspoll which is showing the Liberal Party sitting on a colossal 53% primary vote; this should be enough for Will Hodgman to be elected Premier on his second shot at the title, and depending on the vagaries of Tasmania’s Hare-Clark proportional voting system yield somewhere between 13 and 15 of the 25 seats in the House of Assembly.

For reference (and the amusement of aficionados) a 53% Liberal vote rivals the huge victories former Liberal Premier Robin Gray recorded in 1983 and 1986, and would outgun the 52% scored by Ray Groom in 1992 off the back of an unstable ALP-Greens “cohabitation” which, unsurprisingly, collapsed halfway through its term of office.

Unstable ALP-Greens “cohabitations,” wherever and whenever they have occurred in Australia, have proven a recipe for instability, poor governance, and an anti-business, anti-industry agenda that destroys living standards and jobs. Like its federal counterpart last year, the latest such iteration of this unholy matrimony is set to end tomorrow as Tasmanians file for divorce based on “irreconcilable differences.”

To put it thus is hardly dramatic.

Tasmania is burdened by the highest unemployment rates in Australia, with whole industries and jobs disappearing in the name of “environmentally sustainable” policy outcomes that generate no tangible benefits to the communities set to turn savagely on the ALP tomorrow and eject it from office for just the fourth time in 80 years.

As noted, Newspoll finds primary vote support for the Liberal Party at 53%; it sees the ALP and Greens scoring 23% and 16% respectively, with Clive Palmer’s emergent outfit on 4% and “Others” also attracting 4%.

Given the Hare-Clark system, there is no two-party preferred figure although if these numbers were to be applied to a preferential voting system, my best estimate would see the Liberals romp to a 61.5%-38.5% outcome, emulating the slaughter inflicted on the ALP at state elections in NSW and Queensland in 2011 and 2012 respectively.

Very simply stated, it is inconceivable that a Labor-Green axis will be re-elected tomorrow. In fact, despite the small number of seats that comprise Tasmania’s lower house, the result looks to be (by Tasmanian standards) an absolute landslide.

On these numbers, it seems Labor’s fears of winning fewer seats than the Communist Party Greens are likely to prove unfounded. Yet that will be the only consolation for Labor in what will otherwise be a bloodbath.

Numbers on approval of the leaders — and “preferred Premier” — follow the breakdown of the voting intention to an unusual degree in this Newspoll; it finds on the “preferred Premier” question that its respondents break 53% to Hodgman, 22% to Premier Lara Giddings, and 14% to the Greens’ Nick McKim.

On the individual approval ratings, Hodgman scores 53% here as well, with 36% (again, very similar to the combined number of intended ALP/Green primary votes) disapproving of his performance.

The numbers break a little wider on the other leaders: Giddings scoring a 29% approval number, with 62% disapproving, and McKim 27% and 64% respectively.

Even so, the closeness of these numbers to the breakdown in the intended vote is striking; generally the ratings of leaders fluctuate a lot further from the voting numbers, even at a polarising change-of-government election as this one appears to be. It underlines just how starkly the numbers coming out of Tasmania reflect the determination that apparently exists to get rid of its decrepit Labor administration — and its cronies at the Greens with it.

A few comments.

First, one of the few surprises in these numbers is that the Green vote, at 16%, is holding up extremely well; if reflected in the ballots cast tomorrow, the Greens could well hold all five seats they are defending if the distribution of votes across electorates falls their way. It is very clearly the Labor Party that is being singled out for punishment by Tasmanian voters.

Second, I would expect the Liberals to win tomorrow in their own right, even if this poll proves an overstatement of their eventual vote; I have felt for a while that 14 seats is a likely result for Hodgman, barring anything unforeseen (and a 6-5 split between the Labor Party and the Greens in opposition the likeliest outcome there). Hodgman has said he will govern outright, or not at all; were he to deliver Labor’s dream scenario of 12 Liberal seats only, he would have no choice but to resign as leader. It won’t be a relevant consideration. Hodgman will be Premier-elect tomorrow night.

Third, this election does have ramifications for federal Labor, despite my insistence that increasingly sophisticated electorates are easily able to distinguish between state and federal issues. Very simply, federal “leader” Bill Shorten and his acolytes have spent their time in Tasmania campaigning on what is fast becoming a tired theme that — in short — the Abbott government is in the process of destroying the country, Will Hodgman is a fellow traveller of Abbott’s, and therefore electing Hodgman will destroy Tasmania.

This kind of syllogistic reasoning hasn’t worked for Shorten so far and it won’t work tomorrow: in fact, by framing his contribution to the Labor campaign in such flagrantly stupid terms, he legitimises the portrayal of a Labor slaughter at the state level as a colossal kick to the head of his own “leadership.”

Yet he won’t learn. He’s done the same thing in South Australia. Another outing for this silly Labor mistake is being cooked up for the rerun of the Senate election in Western Australia, too. All of this is damaging to Shorten, and Tasmanians will sink the boot into him by proxy tomorrow in electing a Liberal government.

Fourth, Newspoll suggests 76% of Tasmanians are expecting the Liberal Party to win. That figure, clearly, is rather self-evident.

This Newspoll — whilst pitching support for the Liberals a little higher than has been suggested elsewhere in the past few weeks — is nonetheless broadly consistent with all of the opinion polling undertaken by all outlets in Tasmania over the course of the campaign. Any discrepancies can be readily attributed to differences in methodology and/or margin of error. Whichever way you cut it, it seems inconceivable the result will be anything other than a thumping Liberal Party win.

And finally, Clive Palmer’s eponymous party — recorded in this Newspoll as registering 4% of the vote — is set to win no seats at all tomorrow, counter to Palmer’s ridiculous and ill-advised prediction that it would win the state election in its own right.

Failure to score a single seat in tomorrow’s election will be another embarrassing setback for Palmer politically, continuing the pattern of wildly exuberant predictions that literally yield nothing that has been the marker of Palmer’s political activities ever since the federal election six months ago.

All of this comes as late polling in South Australia — the other election tomorrow — suggests the Liberal Party is poised to win there too, albeit perhaps not quite so handsomely as in Taswegia. If I get time, I will post again on that election prior to the polls opening tomorrow morning.

Either way, I’ll be watching counting online in both states tomorrow night from 6.30pm, AEDT (yes, I’m staying put in Melbourne for these, despite having been in Adelaide for both the 2006 and 2010 state elections) and I will post later in the night once the results are known.

Opinion Polls: Liberals Set To Storm Home In SA, Tasmania

NEW OPINION POLLS show the Liberal Party on track to romp home in imminent state elections in South Australia and Tasmania; both elections are to be held on 15 March, and this increasingly looms as a black day for the ALP with landslide defeats beckoning at each. After Labor’s feeble win in the Griffith by-election, the prospect of these elections signalling Labor continuing its national slide — despite otherwise conducive conditions — is very real.

It seems likely that in a little more than a month, the only major jurisdiction under ALP control anywhere in the country will be the ACT assembly: and even there, it holds government as a minority dependent on the Communist Party Greens.

There are two new opinion polls out today, and tonight’s post is really just to share the headline numbers and make a couple of comments. Whichever way you look at it, however, it seems the Coalition is about to record the clean sweep across the states enjoyed by Labor just six years ago — a potent reminder, were any required, that things can change at the shortest of notice.

In South Australia, it seems the ridiculous farce of Labor’s self-indulgent factional spat a week or two ago has backfired; unsurprisingly, a Galaxy poll released today finds Labor going backwards, with the electorate splitting 55-45 after preferences — a result which, if repeated on election day, would constitute a 3.4% swing to the Liberals and see leader Steven Marshall easily elected to the Premiership.

The Liberals need to make a nett gain of six seats to win 24 of South Australia’s 47 lower house seats, and government; Galaxy’s managing director David Briggs suggested today that his poll’s findings would see the Liberals win an extra 11 seats in and around Adelaide: this seems high to me, but if Galaxy’s research detects greater movement in the city than in rural areas it could well come to pass.

It seems that Labor’s woes in SA pale into insignificance, however, when compared to the belting apparently awaiting it in Tasmania.

The Latest EMRS poll released today finds the Liberal Party on track to score an even 50% of the primary vote in Tasmania, a level of support it has not recorded on the Apple Isle since the 1992 state election; if it materialises at the ballot box, 50% of the vote is enough to see the Liberal Party score at least 13 or 14 of Tasmania’s 25 lower house seats under the state’s Hare-Clark proportional electoral system.

EMRS also finds primary support for the ALP sitting at a dismal 23%, with the Greens hot on Labor’s heels on 17%; despite the fanfare and pompous suggestions of an outright win for his party, Clive Palmer’s outfit continues to languish on a lacklustre 5% of the vote — enough, as I have opined previously, for perhaps one seat in the Parliament depending on how and where his votes fall.

So much for turning Tasmania into a dinosaur park, or a set for a remake of the Titanic movie.

And EMRS has also conducted one of its peculiarly Tasmanian three-way “preferred Premier” questions; the results from this split 48% for Liberal leader Will Hodgman, compared with 21% for Premier Lara Giddings and 13% to the Greens’ Nick McKim.

It is relevant to point out that anecdotal evidence out of Tasmania — from what little polling is conducted there compared to the mainland states — is that the Liberal Party has now been on track to win this election almost from the day former Labor Premier David Bartlett reneged on a pledge not to form an alliance with the Greens after the 2010 election, proceeding to do exactly that.

The Liberal vote has been stuck at 50% — or within the proverbial bee’s diaphragm of it — for almost four years, and it seems that barring an unforeseen scandal of almost unimaginable dimensions, Tasmanians are resolute in their determination to elect a Liberal government.

There is a school of thought that suggests that with a Coalition government in office federally — and beginning to take precisely the tough and unpopular decisions it was elected to take, and to begin the colossal task of cleaning up after the ALP in office soiled the nation yet again with its incompetence — these two state elections would be much harder for the Liberals to win.

To date, there is no evidence to suggest this to be true.

The Liberals’ fortunes in South Australia, to be fair, appeared rosier in polling 12 months ago than today’s figures indicate. Even so, Labor has done its best to throw this election away, and it does bear remembering that South Australia — over the past 50 years — has actually been Labor’s best performed state at the state government level, with the party in office for 37 of those 50 years.

There has been a lot of noise emanating from ALP circles this week to suggest any comment that diagnoses Labor’s narrow retention of the federal seat of Griffith as “weak” amounts to nothing more than a case of “sore Tory losers;” I’ve been on the receiving end of it and would make the requisite observation about sticks and stones, but such bleating from ALP spivs misses the point.

Labor should have romped home in Griffith; in fact, it was expected to do just that, including by many seasoned observers on the conservative side of the political fence. It is incontestable that Labor underperformed at that by-election; call it weak, tepid, whatever — the ALP almost gifted Tony Abbott an additional seat that it should never have been in danger of losing.

Tough action and unpopular decisions starting to be taken by Abbott’s government should be a boon for the ALP which, in the proper political execution of its role as an opposition, should be streaking ahead of the conservatives in both published polling and at the ballot box.

Even given the decrepit state of the Labor regimes in SA and Tasmania, it’s reasonable to contend the party should be far more competitive than it is in those contests now the festering boil of the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd government — the primary driver of anti-Labor hostility around the country — has been lanced.

Recording a clear (albeit rapidly dwindling) lead over Abbott in the polls is one thing, but it doesn’t count for anything at all if Labor loses what matters most: actual elections.

If the maulings these state-based polls portend emerge at the hands of SA and Tasmanian voters in a few weeks — and there is no reason to think they won’t — Labor will have wasted three brilliant electoral opportunities to exert maximum pressure on the Liberals for the year to date, and when the votes at those elections are counted, the year will only be 10 weeks old.

All of this makes the state by-election in the Queensland seat of Redcliffe next weekend all the more significant; if the LNP retain that seat — even by a sliver of the vote — that will make four out of four failures for Labor for the year, and if that occurs, it will be impossible to draw any other conclusion than one of Labor continuing to lose ground from the position it recorded at the 7 September federal election.

The message for federal Labor “leader” Bill Shorten is clear. Beware the Ides of March.


An Idiotic Prediction: Clive Palmer To Win Tasmania Outright

CLIVE PALMER has made his first high-profile foray into the state election campaign in Tasmania; in an echo of his discredited prediction prior to last year’s federal election — that his eponymous party would win 100 seats, and that he would be Prime Minister — Palmer now claims to be sitting on polling showing his party poised to win the Tasmanian election outright. Who was polled is unclear, but this prediction is as idiotic as his last.

Tasmanian newspaper The Mercury is carrying a story this afternoon that beggars belief; indeed, I had to read it twice to be certain that federal MP for Fairfax and mining tycoon Clive Palmer has predicted his eponymous party is set to win 13 of the 25 seats in Tasmania’s Hose of Assembly at the 15 March election and with them, government in its own right.

Perhaps this prediction — like the one he made before last year’s federal election, at which he foresaw the Palmer United Party securing “100 seats” and himself the Prime Ministership — is some sort of tactic to make his party feel like a more comfortable entity to voters deciding who to support; I don’t know.

It certainly isn’t grounded in reality.

Palmer’s claim that his party undertook polling of “about 500 Tasmanians” begs questions of who and where they are or were; readers might recall that the basis for his wild predictions prior to 7 September last was “online polls” conducted by local news outlets on the Gold and Sunshine Coasts. Such polls are easy to manipulate, and are not based on any scientific methodology.

Naturally, no details of Palmer’s internal polling have been released to substantiate his ridiculous claims.

Still, Palmer claims that his PUP “(has) the major parties running scared,” and that the Tasmanian leader of his party, Kevin Morgan (Kevin who?) “will be the next Premier of Tasmania.”

Presumably all of this is why the latest reputable polling out of Tasmania — research conducted by ReachTel, published yesterday — found the state’s Liberal Party on 48.8% of the primary vote, and the PUP sitting on just 4.8%.

Palmer, on those figures, would stand a reasonable prospect of picking up a single seat somewhere under Tasmania’s proportional Hare-Clark electoral system.

But ReachTel — whose findings of Liberal support usually understate the eventual Liberal vote — finding the Liberals on 48.8% identifies adequate support for the Liberal Party to pick up 13 of the 25 seats itself, and possibly one or two others, depending on preference flows and the distribution of votes across the five electorates.

Palmer’s story is laughable, and no more than the kind of fatuous huff and puff that has characterised most of what he has had to say ever since it first appeared he might have won his seat of Fairfax last year.

On balance, he should be ignored, and this column recommends that any Tasmanians contemplating voting for him really need to take a look at themselves.


ALP Headed For Richly Deserved Belting In Tasmania

TASMANIAN VOTERS will vote in an election on 15 March that is likely to terminate 16 years of Labor government and elect the first majority Liberal administration since 1992; in terms of economic indicators, Tasmania is Australia’s worst-performed state, and the circus that has been government in Tasmania for more than a decade — complete with clowns in the form of the Communist Party Greens — is about to meet an involuntary end.

Jumping into bed with the Greens — as Labor has now learned several times — initiates a tryst destined to end bitterly, and in tears; the smiles and bonhomie may have been plentiful yesterday, as Premier Lara Giddings sacked the two Greens ministers from her cabinet, but the petty brutality has merely been deferred by a couple of months.

In fact, the eight-week election campaign announced by Giddings yesterday is a potent indication of Labor’s expectations of the election result; any government that senses itself to be on course for re-election generally gets the act done as soon as possible, and the only real purpose for dragging the matter out is to hope the opposition slips up on the way through, and makes a hash of its campaign.

It’s the same strategy used by the Victorian ALP in 1992, when Joan Kirner — fully cognisant that a belting awaited Labor, as voters retaliated against the financial incompetence of the Cain years — drew out proceedings for so long, in the vain hope Liberal leader Jeff Kennett would commit one of his famous gaffes during the campaign, that the move backfired badly when Kennett executed a trouble-free, focused campaign that culminated in a landslide Coalition win.

Labor and the Coalition begin the campaign with 10 seats apiece in Tasmania’s 25-member House of Assembly, with the Greens holding the remaining five; this election is the first for Giddings — who replaced previous Premier David Bartlett in 2011 — whilst Liberal leader Will Hodgman and the Greens’ Nick McKim are both going around for the second consecutive time.

Labor’s stint in government in Tasmania — as so often seems to be the case — began with great promise; under the strong leadership of a popular, telegenic and articulate leader in Jim Bacon, Labor promised to restore stability to government after a disastrous minority Liberal government, in unholy alliance with the Greens, represented anything but.

Following Bacon’s resignation due to ill health in 2004 (he died of lung cancer soon after), Labor has since been through three Premiers — Paul Lennon, David Bartlett, and Giddings — in the ensuing ten years. A fourth change of leadership, widely rumoured but summarily squashed by Giddings’ election announcement yesterday, would have seen Tasmanian Labor eclipse the shocking record of its NSW counterpart in playing “musical chairs” with the Premiership of the state: self-consumed acts of introspection that show a cavalier degree of respect for the electorate at best.

Whichever way you cut it, Tasmania is not in good shape. Certainly, it is a beautiful part of the world and an ideal place to visit, but in terms of the legacy of its recent governance, the place is a shambles.

Underneath the showy surface glamour of tourist drawcards such as Constitution Dock and the Salamanca precinct lies a very different story: high unemployment, a shrinking manufacturing base, and the steady disappearance of traditional Tasmanian industries, such as the timber industry, which have provided a backbone for the state’s economy — and jobs for its citizens — for decades.

At the end of 16 years in office, Labor must take the blame for much of this; it long ago ceased to be a “new” regime, able to point to its Liberal predecessors in apportioning blame for all manner of ills, and has “owned” the actions of government in Tasmania for many years, and must now own the consequences of those actions.

Much of the damage that has been done in Tasmania derives from the ideological, rigidly doctrinaire influence of the Greens; the decline in areas such as the timber industry (and compounded by issues such as the fiasco over the proposed pulp mill on the Tamar Valley) derives either directly from Greens’ blackmail as participants in government, or from fear of losing votes to (and failing to win preferences from) the anti-business, anti-industry, anti-family and anti-jobs fruit cakes masquerading as a responsible environmentally-based political party.

This election should, once and for all, end the era of governing alliances between one of the major parties and the Greens — a practice initiated by the ALP in Tasmania in 1992, and perpetuated since to its cost.

The Tasmanian Liberals made the same mistake after a state election in 1996 robbed them of their majority; since then, Labor in Tasmania in 2010, federally in 2010 and in the ACT in 2012 have repeated the experiment.

That federal Labor government is now gone, the Tasmanian Liberals paid a heavy price after 1996, and Giddings will do so again in a couple of months’ time.

So-called “stable, functional” government — the rhetoric used to justify such unions — is no substitute for effective or productive government; there is a world of difference between the two. Most recently, federal Labor learned this to its cost. Soon, its Tasmanian cousin will do so as well.

Whilst the only poll that counts is the one held on the day, there seems little doubt about the outcome in Tasmania; the modest amount of opinion sampling conducted in the Apple Isle has been consistent, and conclusive, for most of this term of Parliament.

The latest EMRS poll put the Liberals in an election-winning position, with 49% of the primary vote; in the same survey Labor rated 22%, and the Greens 19%. Other polls have consistently found the Liberals to be on track to win more than 50% of the primary vote, and as recently as this week, unnamed Tasmanian Labor Party figures saw to it that fears the party would win just 6 of the 25 lower house seats — or less — were made public.

Liberal leader Will Hodgman has, as he did prior to the 2010 election, pledged to govern in majority, or not at all.

It seems the Tasmanian Liberals heeded the lesson of their folly in coming to terms with the Greens during the Premiership of Tony Rundle in the 1990s, and are determined not to repeat it: and it would be a brave observer indeed who did not expect to see Hodgman to lead the Liberals to victory this time.

Giddings, by contrast, yesterday sacked the two Greens ministers in her cabinet, in a cynical and unbelievable pantomime designed to con voters that Labor and the Greens are anything other than two ends of the same dog act.

Labor knows — through its misadventures in Tasmania, and from the disaster a similar arrangement turned the Gillard government into federally — that voters will not buy alliances with the Greens, even in a proportionally-elected bubble like the Tasmanian Parliament exists within.

The divorce proceedings between the two parties are little more than a charade; each knows the other will be needed if either is to sit in government in Tasmania again, and perhaps ever again.

In the wake of the inconclusive 2010 election, then-Premier David Bartlett famously declared that “a backroom deal with the Greens is a deal with the devil” and in words that haunted him until his departure from Parliament the following year claimed that “I am not going to sell my soul for the sake of remaining in power.”

Nonetheless, Bartlett remained Premier.

Today, Giddings has made it known that she is campaigning “to win a majority” for Labor; whilst this is rather obviously the electoral objective of the leader of any mainstream political party at an election, that objective, in this case, is a claim for trip on a hiding to nothing.

Expect Bartlett’s 2010 pledge — and those made by Giddings now — to feature prominently during the campaign.

The simple fact is that the Tasmanian ALP neither deserves to win re-election, nor boasts a record worthy of anything other than hiding it.

High unemployment, a stagnant economy, business failures, below-trend long term growth and a state in recession are the end results of 16 years of Labor government in Tasmania, and after a torrid and gruelling campaign lasting almost twice as long as it should, the ALP is set to be thrown from office in what, historically, has been its strongest state.

I will be following this campaign — excessive in length as it will be — along with the soon to be formalised campaign in South Australia; today’s post is really by way of overview.

But to illustrate just how far out of touch Tasmanian Labor has grown — and just how divorced from reality or sanity its leader is — I encourage readers to check out this article by Piers Akerman, dealing mostly as it does with the warped, almost perverse, attitude Giddings and her cohorts at the Greens have taken to the fraught issue of asylum seekers.

And for those readers who regularly accuse me of giving Piers oxygen because of some purported right wing plot, here is today’s editorial from Hobart’s newspaper, the Mercury, and here is the Mercury’s report on Giddings’ sacking of the Greens’ ministers — and her commissioning of two others, putting two extra ALP snouts into the taxpayer trough solely for the length of the caretaker period leading up to polling day.

For those that think otherwise, it’s not all a right wing conspiracy: sometimes governments are just this bad, and the most recent generation of Labor governments have proven, in the end, to be far worse than most.

Like its defeated counterparts elsewhere, Giddings’ government will not be missed when its tenure ends at the end of the election campaign that has now officially begun.


Greens Monster: How To Lose An Election, Tasmania-Style

PERHAPS TERRIFIED of voter retribution over their dalliance with the Communist Party Greens, Labor figures — both in Tasmania and on the mainland — are lining up to disown the ALP’s alliance with the Greens, and to trash the Greens themselves. Although voters are sick of Labor and now awake to the nature of the Greens, it won’t work: Tasmanians are set to throw the Left from office, and its disunity will simply fuel their intent to do so.

We don’t spend a great deal of time talking about Tasmanian politics in this column, and I suppose there’s a reason for that: very often, little that happens on the Apple Isle at a state level has much effect on us here on the mainland.

This may change, however, with Tasmania and South Australia heading off to the polls in March — and in Tasmania’s case, a change of government seems virtually certain. We’ll keep an eye on these contests as they develop.

I was originally going to entitle this article “Greens: ALP Comes To Its Senses In Tasmania,” but even the most cursory consideration of what’s been going on in Tasmania suggests the game Tasmanian Labor is playing should be taken with no more than a grain of salt.

Some time ago (and forgive me — I haven’t had time today to locate the piece) I wrote of the nature of governing alliances between one of the major parties and the Greens; in every instance to date where such an arrangement has been pursued — Tasmanian Labor under Michael Field (1989-92), the Tasmanian Liberals under Tony Rundle (1996-98) and federal Labor under Julia Gillard (2010-13), the major party involved has gone on to face landslide defeat at the hands of voters when next an election fell due.

I think precisely the same fate will befall the ALP in Tasmania in about nine weeks’ time.

There has been a debate going on within the Tasmanian branch of the ALP for some time, essentially about how to rid itself of the odious stench of the Greens without bringing down the state government; some readers will be unaware that there are two Greens MPs who serve in the Labor state cabinet.

To some extent, it had to be so; the 2010 state election saw the electorate return 10 ALP MPs, 10 Liberals and 5 Greens. Both the then-Premier, David Bartlett, and the Liberal leader, Will Hodgman, had made stout declarations of their refusal to serve in any kind of alliance with the Greens prior to that election, but Bartlett quickly reneged on his pledge.

Tasmanian Labor therefore enters the state election period fighting on three unenviable fronts: the first is the general economic torpor that has enveloped the Apple Isle on its 16-year watch, particularly in later years; the second is the “it’s time” consideration that has been such a contributing factor in helping kill off unpopular, long-term state Labor regimes in the past few years.

The same issues of longevity will also adversely affect the re-election campaign of South Australian Labor in March.

But the third is this issue with the Greens: one destined to intensify the urge of Tasmanians to swing the proverbial baseball bats at the state government, and one the ALP will find impossible to outrun.

There has been a lot of noise emanating from Tasmania for months now from Labor circles, with a debate conducted in full public view on how best to dump the Greens whilst not risking the truncation of the remainder of Labor’s term of government.

Unlike the Gillard government, the Tasmanian Greens — despite federal leader Christine Milne being a Tasmanian, and once helping make up the Greens’ numbers in state Parliament — have declined to commit the act of infidelity themselves, robbing Labor of the opportunity to present its hands as clean (which federal Labor also sought to do).

The imperative of keeping Labor bums in green ministerial leather is the kind of imperative destined to impress Tasmanian voters no end, I suspect. The same can be said of the Greens, with their two Cabinet ministers.

Now, prominent union figure and senior Labor identity Paul Howes has weighed in, calling on the ALP to ensure its split with the Greens in Tasmania marks “a final end” to its power-sharing with “fringe political parties” in Australia.

Readers will see, from the article I have linked, that Howes indulges in a rant against the Greens and their alleged (actual) misdeeds in Tasmania; the irony is that what he has to say makes perfect sense, but that any action by the ALP — in this case, in Tasmania — to act on it is implausible, and cannot and should not be believed.

Contrary to Howes’ exhortation that “if we haven’t learnt our lessons after the last few years, then nothing will teach us,” not 18 months ago — after yet another typically hung Parliament resulted from an election in the ACT — Labor’s Katy Gallagher continued in office after negotiating a formal alliance with the sole Greens MP, Shane Rattenbury. That unedifying spectacle took place well into the life of the dysfunctional Gillard government, and at a time Labor figures nationally were in open warfare with the Greens as a result of the damage the ALP-Greens coalition was doing to Labor support in reputable opinion polls.

“You’d have to have rocks in your head to be advocating this type of future again,” Howes said.

The problem is, simply, that we’ve heard this kind of thing before; Labor has solemnly promised not to form these kinds of relationships with the Greens if found wanting for a majority at an election time and again — and then gone ahead and done it anyway.

There is no reason to believe the same thing wouldn’t happen again if another hung Parliament results from the looming state election.

And this, in turn, only increases the prospect of an outright Liberal victory.

Hodgman is going around again in March; he promised not to deal with the Greens four years ago, and he didn’t. The odds are very much on him becoming Premier of Tasmania.

Yet it isn’t possible to say “the next Premier of Tasmania” because — in the latest manifestation of an old Labor disease, rumours abound of a challenge to the incumbent Premier, Lara Giddings.

It’s not difficult to see why; the latest EMRS poll of Tasmanian state voting intentions had the Liberals on 49%, with the ALP on just 22% and the Greens on 19%. Other polls on the Apple Isle consistently find the Liberal Party doing better than 50% of the vote.

But Labor is a creature that doesn’t learn its lessons, even the hard way; just like the 16-year-old ALP government in NSW that was kicked out in 2011, Tasmanian Labor, too, has already had four Premiers in 16 years: the first of these, the popular and telegenic Jim Bacon, resigned and later died after being struck down with lung cancer and a brain tumour. But successors Paul Lennon and David Bartlett both resigned in circumstances that could most kindly be described as controversial. The current Premier, Lara Giddings, is as good as useless.

Even the chaotic NSW branch of the ALP failed to spin the door five times in 16 years; should their Taswegian counterpart elect to do so, it will be an additional nail in an electoral coffin long since nailed shut.

With friends like the Greens, Labor can ill-afford enemies; yet under the Greens’ patronage, economic activity and growth in Tasmania has ground to a complete halt: not bad for a state that could, and should, be a booming example to the rest of the country.

Australia, and its states, needs minority government like it needs the proverbial hole in the head. Yet increasingly, the balance of power in such situations falls to the Greens, and without fail, it is the Labor Party which acts on the opportunity.

Howes — despite the fact I detest utterly the union movement he represents and the brand of politics he stands for — is nonetheless someone I have some respect for; probably because he knows what he stands for and, more importantly, why he stands for it.

In this case he is right. Labor would have to have rocks in its collective head to entertain ever repeating the litany of politically lethal alliances with the Greens that it has been cohort to over the years. As a passionate Labor man, he is dead right in his assessment that such things should never happen again.

But the more things change, the more they stay the same, and the only way for Tasmanians to ensure the prospect of another Labor-Greens government does not materialise is to vote for the Liberal Party in March.

It seems the Tasmanian electorate is aware of this, and ready to proceed accordingly.