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Tasmanian ALP in for an 'annus horribilis'?

By Peter Tucker - posted Tuesday, 6 March 2007

It is only just March but the more I see of Tasmanian state politics, the more I get the feeling that there will be some change in our party leaderships by this time next year.

For a start, one of either the Labor premier, Paul Lennon, or the Liberal leader, Will Hodgman, I think will go.

Which one will depend on the opinion polls.


From Labor’s perspective, if the polls through 2007 and into 2008 show that the 50 per cent primary support enjoyed at the last two elections is persistently stuck at around 40 per cent, then Mr Lennon’s parliamentary colleagues will start to worry.

In Tasmanian politics, majority government is difficult with 45 per cent of the primary vote, and only starts to approach certainty in the high 40s. An election is not due until 2010, but I don’t think Labor would want to go much past 2008 with a leader deemed unable to take them back to those heights.

Already local polling agency EMRS and national mob Morgan have shown Labor, and Mr Lennon personally, to be on the nose with the voting public.

Consider this annus horribilis Labor scenario for the next 12 months: continuous poor polling; sacked deputy premier Bryan Green in and out of court, providing a steady stream of shock-horror headlines; the health portfolio a constant open sore (pardon the pun); and even more bad news on the economic front.

Not hard to imagine, is it? And that is just the bad stuff we can be pretty certain about.

The Bryan Green story is yet another state Labor ministerial “fiasco” not dissimilar to those seen recently in Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales. In this case, Mr Green is facing criminal charges over an exclusive deal he approved which allowed a company run by an ex-Labor minister to accredit builders in the state.


And I haven’t even mentioned the pulp mill assessment “debacle”. (Is it possible to write a state Labor story - any state - without “fiasco” and “debacle” in it?)

This involves wood chip “bad boy” Gunns Ltd. wanting to build said mill on the banks of the Tamar River north of Launceston. Without going into detail, Mr Lennon has given firm hints that he may legislate to allow the mill, putting aside an independent assessment - but what do his colleagues think about that?

Labor members will have picked up on the electorate’s unease over the whole issue and there is no guarantee that the party room would agree to a pulp mill enabling act.

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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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