Sometime before 17 May next year, Tasmanians will go to an election.
If opinion polls, social media or editorial content in The Examiner were indicative, Will Hodgman’s party would sweep into power, leaving a handful of high-profile Labor stalwarts to argue from the opposition benches for a decade.
Personally, I doubt it.
Lara Giddings has, to date at least, managed to avoid the extremely personal attacks launched on her Federal equivalent. But she’s even less popular than Julia Gillard, and despite a valiant attempt to rescue a budget mess she helped create, doesn’t have the ability to win an election on her own merits.
Nick McKim, after establishing his credentials as a fair, reasonable, and at times tough negotiator for his Ministerial responsibilities, has recently been found wanting. The debacle over paying $260,000 to a prison boss who can’t cope with stress hasn’t started yet, and the appointment of Paul Lennon to act as McKim’s proxy to fix the bus driver problem shows how far Labor will go to divorce themselves from the Greens in coming months.
Then we have Will Hodgman. A nice guy from all accounts, and he’ll probably be just as nice in 2018 ... when he’ll be helping the new Liberal leader prepare for another election.
Just with less hair.
There’s a bit of chatter now and again about lifting numbers in the Lower House to 35. Nice in theory, but if we look at the current crop of 25, one must wonder whether another 10 would raise the bar much, if indeed another ten potential members could be found.
Surely, with the sniff of a Federal poll in the wind, the opposition party should be grooming some new, dynamic prospects to rattle the cages next year.
So what do we have?
Michael Hirst, a landowner, spent a night camped under Miranda Gibson’s tree-sit, which was enough it seems to qualify him to be considered for the Liberals in Lyons. He’s unlikely to be a big vote winner, even should he pick up a minor spot on the Liberal ticket.
Joan Rylah, a Burnie girl with plans to strip mine the Tarkine is off to a slow start in her bid to be pre-selected for Braddon with just 14 likes on her political Facebook page.
So where’s the action? An election could be called at any time. Either the Liberals are asleep at the wheel, or there’s an arrogant presumption they can’t lose an election. Sadly for them, they don’t have the people on the ground to take government.
The Greens have no hope in Braddon. Unless mild-mannered Paul O’Halloran introduces mandatory quad bike riding in the Tarkine, the North West Coast will instead rally behind Adam Brooks. He’ll pick up the massive bogan vote, with the onion growers backing the Liberal deputy. The Liberals are still hunting for a high-profile name to pick up their guaranteed third seat, so don’t rule out the Elphinstone name for a cushy retirement gig.
In Bass, there won’t be any change, unless a decent Independent stands, which would make Brian Wightman’s tenure look dodgy. Bass voters are uneasy about both Michael Ferguson (viewed as a religious nutter more suited to Braddon) and potential leader Peter Gutwein, who seems obsessed with handouts to loggers. Kim Booth should be easily returned, hopefully with his beard trimmed and washed.
Lyons offers the thrilling prospect of long-legged Rebecca White, preferably wearing leather boots, facing off against Rene Hidding. Both should retain their seats. If Michael Polley’s still alive, then he’ll be returned, even if his extended family are the only supporters. Mark Shelton will annoy Michael Hirst by confusing most of the Westbury farmers into voting informally, and nobody really knows who will pick up the remaining seat. Tim Morris possibly if enough teachers and public servants have retired to the country in the last year or two.
The real fun will happen in Franklin, where all four leaders (O’Byrne, McKim, Hodgman and Giddings) face off. Nick won last time, and Jacquie Petrusma’s fluke election won’t be repeated. The four leaders will hold on, and somebody will pick up Petrusma’s seat, unless God intervenes.
Finally, Denison. In a straw poll of Tasmanian voters, most wouldn’t be able to name a single member. Around 40% would probably pick Michael Hodgman or perhaps Nelson Mandela. Given the seat hosts most of the supposed intelligentsia of the State, it’s a mystery how we ended up with Archer, Bacon, Groom, O’Connor and Sturges. I’m tipping only three of the five will stay, but the party representation won’t change.
All of this assumes the election of a benign Tony Abbott Government in September, and the absence of a complete meltdown by Giddings or the Greens in coming months. Actually, that probably wouldn’t matter. The nature of our electoral system will ensure Labor will stumble across the line, probably with one fewer seat, but that’s enough to get cosy with the four remaining Greens.
The Liberals can’t win 13 seats. Bugger the opinion polls; outside Braddon, the party has no credibility. Sure, Lara’s on the nose. Yes, the Greens were to blame for the bushfires.
But what’s the alternative? A random collection of has-beens? Let’s not forget half the population remember the last few Liberal Governments, and will be warned by that. The other half of the population should learn from their elders.
Jarvis Cocker is an independent media and communications consultant specialising in the Australian financial sector. He has previously worked as a senior manager with one of the country’s largest stockbroking firms and as a policy advisor to a Federal Government department. Now living in Tasmania, he tries to temper his sometimes rabid capitalist views with infrequent visits to the Tasmanian wilderness. Jarvis is a pseud ... he is known to the Editor