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Do Australian voters care about sleaze in politics?

By Peter Tucker - posted Thursday, 2 November 2006

There is a political scandal in Australia that, with the laudable exception of The Australian, has not received much coverage in country’s the mainstream press.

It is the arrest and charging of Tasmania’s dumped deputy premier, Bryan Green, with conspiracy under the state’s Criminal Code.

Mr Green has been charged over a secret deal he signed in February, when also infrastructure minister, with private building industry accreditation company Tasmanian Compliance Corporation.


Also charged were TCC director and former Labor health minister John White and Mr Green's political adviser Guy Nicholson. As The Australian reports, the deal was later ruled to be illegal by Solicitor-General Bill Bale because it bound any future government ministers responsible for building matters to an arrangement that was contrary to Tasmania's building laws.

The maximum penalty under sections 297 and 69 of the Criminal Code is 21 years' imprisonment.

Although Tasmanian politics rarely makes a mark on the consciousness of most commentators, the way this particular saga plays out should be an interesting case study on how scandal affects incumbent governments, and whether oppositions can take advantage.

I imagine that politicians and their advisors around the country are “going to school” on what is happening in the island state at the moment.

The most important question for them is this: will Paul Lennon’s Labor government be permanently damaged? After all, the premier himself, with only a hint of understatement, said on the day Bryan Green was charged, “Obviously, it's not a good day for the government”.

Not a good day indeed - but is it the beginning of the end for Labor?


On the evidence, the answer is “Perhaps”, but more likely, “No”.

There are many variables still to be factored into the political equation before any confident predications can be made. The most important of these is how the trial of Mr Green and his co-accused plays out. But even if the court case goes badly for Mr Green and Labor, it would be foolish to think that the Lennon Government is, by default, finished.

There are three key reasons why the government has a good chance of surviving.

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This item is based on an article by the author that appeared in the Mercury, October 31, 2006.

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About the Author

Peter Tucker has worked in Tasmania as an advisor for the Liberals in opposition and in ministerial offices for both Labor and Liberal governments. He is author of the Tasmanian Politics website, and is a researcher at the University of Tasmania’s School of Government.

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