Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Chris Harries

Who is Michael Kent?

WHAT most people did see was the return of a Labor majority government — a turn of events that defied all opinion polling until the closing days.

Tasmanian voters also witnessed a lavish advertising blitz designed to drive fear into their hearts. Fear is a potent political weapon. By election day enough voters blindly associated minority government as tantamount to contracting leprosy or AIDS.

And, on that basis, several thousand Tasmanians meekly changed their intended vote at the 11th hour.

Whether or not multi-party government is actually a good or bad thing for democracy is a much debated intellectual issue amongst political scientists, but now a moot point. The fear factor has sidelined any rational debate about that issue in the minds of the Tasmanian body politic.

Regardless of any intellectual merits or otherwise, the public mindset is now solidified in concrete, much to the relief of one man, Michael Kent — business entrepreneur and champion of the big retail industry.

Kent was an anonymous figure in the Tasmanian election until, in the dying days, when he was identified as a key funder of a shadowy front group Tasmanians for a Better Future (TFBF). Billed as a grassroots community pressure group TFBF placed slickly professional newspaper and television advertisements, prepared by the professional public relations agency Corporate Communications.

Powerfully emotive

The advertisements were powerfully emotive and proved to have an incisive impact on voters.

As to their precise impact, one does not have to be a rocket scientist to work out the rough figures. Over a four day period opinion polling showed a conversion of voting intention, translated into real result, of some 20,000 voters. Owing to its small size advertising in Tasmanian media is relatively cheap so an investment of a mere $100,000, well placed, can change enough votes to alter the outcome of government — a fantastic investment opportunity for certain interests. With Tasmania’s Hare Clark electoral system who wins and loses often comes down to a handful of votes and preferences.

TFBF ads, as well as those backed by the logging industry and a fundamentalist religious group, totally swamped the media and household letterboxes in the final week. Nobody knows how much money was forked out for them. On the final weekend of the campaign every single ad break on evening commercial TV featured an attack on minority government. Full-page advertisements appeared in the three daily papers every day. No previous Australian election campaign had ever seen such an avalanche of negative advertising, paid for by vested interest groups.

For the Green party (and the hapless Liberals) this saturation campaign was catastrophic to their predicted election chances.
Lest there be any argument over which advertising sponsor carried the day, forest logging has been an intense focus of Tasmanian politics for many years, so the hearts and minds of voters would not do a summersault overnight on that perennial issue.

Owing to the highly controversial impact that Tasmanians for a Better Future advertisements were having on the election outcome, it was inevitable that media would probe the identities behind it and TFBF’s financial backers. However, manager of Corporate Communications Tony Harrison had to suffer the embarrassment of not being able to disclose the identities, arguing that he was bound by commercial–in–confidence agreements with his clients.

There is nothing in Tasmanian law that require corporate sponsors to identify themselves in election advertising, so long as such advertisements simply carry the name and address of an authorising individual. So, there we have it! Without any illegality being committed, the Tasmanian democratic election process was being dramatically influenced by some very well heeled but camouflaged ‘entities’. This secrecy naturally raised eyebrows and some minor media attention, but, as happens in a rarefied election climate, all of this obscure muddy stuff goes over the heads of all but a few informed voters and political insiders. What counted was the impact of the ads, not who paid for them.

What was exposed is that Chamber of Commerce Chairman, Michael Kent was the key organiser and major financial contributor. It was in Mr Kent’s interests to make known his pivotal key role, as we shall see below.

Who is Michael Kent?

Kent maintained in the media that his involvement was ‘altruistic’ and ‘personal’, and further that he had forked out his own money to back the publicity campaign. Fair enough, but why would anybody be so altruistically disposed to an election outcome as to personally pay for it to come about — unless they had some sort of vested interest?

So, who is Michael Kent?

Not a casual philanthropist.

Kent first made a name for himself as a business entrepreneur as owner/manager of the Tasmanian supermarket chain Purity (later absorbed into the national Woolworths chain for a tidy sum). With his continuing engagement in the retail business arena, Kent has campaigned for years for market deregulation, in particular seven-day-trading. Stridently opposed by the small retail trading lobby (corner stores) it took many years of bitter disputation before seven-day-trading finally took effect, especially since Liberal Party supporters comprised many small retailers business owners. However, with the global mantra of market deregulation on his side it was inevitable that the small traders would eventually be worn down and the large retailers’ agenda was finally achieved.

What Michael Kent and the Chamber of Commerce did not achieve by then was full market deregulation. There is now another deregulation agenda being strenuously played out behind the scenes. Oblivious to most Tasmanians, a protracted dogfight has been waged for a number of years over who can and can’t sell alcohol, and this is the real story behind Mr Kent and the Tasmanian election campaign.

At present alcohol sales in Tasmania are regulated in favour of registered outlets, mostly hotels and drive-in bottle shops. Kent and the large supermarket conglomerates want large shopping outlets to sell grog — as is the case in some other jurisdictions. Just as with seven-day-trading, again we have a silent corporate war going on, the dominant supermarket chains (championed by Michael Kent) versus a bivvy of smaller drive-in liquor outlets. (To make matters more complex one of the major liquor outlets, BWS, is also owned by the Woolworths chain.) And let’s make no mistake, the stakes are very high; a change to the status quo of liquor trading laws would jeopardise many jobs in the present liquor retailing sector, many smaller Tasmanian outlets would go to the wall.

Major looming obstacle was minority government

Michael Kent is philosophical and patient about the time it takes to bring about policy change. But he knows all the ingredients, like the back of his hand. He knows that market deregulation, has a certain inevitability about it. Removing regulation and red tape is the mantra of economic reformers: “unless you adopt market reform, you don’t stay competitive”. He knows that public sentiment (as with seven-day-trading and gambling machines in your local pub) will always side with the convenience factor. Ask ordinary people if they want the convenience of buying their grog at the grocery store they will give a resounding ‘Yes’? He therefore knows that initial opposition to, and moral disquiet about, regulatory change will eventually be worn down.

But Michael Kent also knows that he has to win over support politically. His only major obstacle is getting the decision makers to change their minds. That means the government of the day, and any other parliamentary blocks that can inhibit market reform going his way. Most pertinently, his major looming obstacle was minority government. Kent knew from experience that the Greens in parliament had previously strongly opposed market deregulation, and had been instrumental in blocking or delaying the transition to seven-day-trading, and widespread extension of poker machines. The prospect of minority government forming would be a major blow to his crafted agenda to get further market deregulation, including changes to liquor trading laws, through the parliamentary system in the coming term.

The power of the Greens to exert a moderating influence on the governing party is much enhanced in a minority government context, so this prospect had to be foiled as a priority. As we now know, the election outcome removed this — in Kent’s word — ‘poisonous’ impediment to good government and market reform.

The liquor trading dogfight is in its early days. Both sides have lobbied the former Lennon administration and there is currently a stalemate, with temporary guarantees being made to protect existing liquor traders. (Minor concessions have been made, enabling Tasmanian bottled wines to be sold in certain outlets but the status quo remains largely intact.)

Now that the election dust has settled, the focus is about to turn to what the new administration will do in its coming four year term. Labor is aware that they owe their re-election, in large part, to Michael Kent. They know that his campaign delivered them at least two seats they otherwise would not have got, and therefore government in their own right. In political parlance, Kent has earned big favours that must now come to him. Although such favours are always denied and never transacted through transparent deals, it is the subtle way of politics, nonetheless. And, what’s more, it is perfectly legal.

Social problems

Any immediate moves to change trading laws would smack of opportunism and expose political wheeling and dealing. But Kent the entrepreneur knows that he must make his strike during this parliamentary term, whilst he has political certainty and favours that are owed. He has to persuade the parliamentary decision makers that supermarket trading of liquor can be regulated in such a way that alcohol sales through supermarkets do not pose social problems. These arguments are already drawn up and part of the dogfight being waged within the industry. Further, he has to avoid the development of any spirited public campaign that can derail his agenda, knowing there is an historical latent pressure on Labor governments not to enact laws that are socially regressive.

It is prudent for the liquor sales industry to be prepared for a surgical strike some time in the coming four years. It is in the public interest for the Tasmanian people to know the issue early, to avoid reforms being crashed through by the majority government before the people have a chance to understand the social implications and economic arguments. And it in the interests of opposition members of parliament, Liberals, Greens and Legislative Councillors to be prepared for a showdown.
Much of his potential opposition is already diffused. Kent is fully aware that Liberal party philosophy strongly sides with market deregulation and he was careful in his election campaign not to alienate the Liberal opposition, despite his backing for the only majority government that was on the cards — Labor.

‘A certain inevitability’

At the end of the day, Mr Kent has the numbers and a golden political opportunity before him. He has to bide time a little, but he is a patient man. And, as experience of history demonstrates, Michael Kent has ‘a certain inevitability’ on his side.

Before vote counting began, the Tasmanian Electoral Commissioner duly announced that the elections had been clean and above board. That is, no ballot boxes were stolen, advertisements were duly authorised and no major irregularities had occurred. Unlike places such as Burma and Zimbabwe, Tasmanians enjoy a perfect electoral system, it would seem.

Yet little by little, our election processes are being subverted by the market economy. Commercial investment in election outcomes is rapidly becoming an order of the day. Corporate Communications now has verifiable money-for-votes investment figures for its future clients. Though our electoral process may be ticked off as technically perfect, the fairness of elections has been almost totally usurped by the market. That there is no scandal about this is telling. The protectors of our democracy should pay close attention.

Michael Kent is officially Chairman of the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and also Chairman of the dominant gambling agency, TOTE Tasmania.
Michael Kent photo: From here

Chris Harries is a Tasmanian based writer and social advocate.

27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. Dave Groves

    April 2, 2006 at 8:56 pm

    I have a plan………

    Let’s make huge super duper markets with all the usual profit maximisers, but let’s have alcohol, not only to sell, but to drink.

    Then for those who like horses and those who can be coaxed when they’ve had enough drink, let’s bring in the TOTE.

    Then, to extract the last remaining coin from the unsuspecting punters, install rows of poker machines past the checkouts before they hit the doors.

    Mmmm… there must be a way to get (other attractive things) in there, casinos? … my we are gathering quite a list, may take a few elections to get it all together, but no time like the present.

  2. Richard Dowling

    April 3, 2006 at 3:14 am

    I think Chris Harries intention was to paint Mr Kent as a typical greedy capitalist villain. But he has failed. From reading this rather bias profile I think we need more people like Kent. Successful local entrepreneur reinvesting the profits into the State economy – good on him!

    There is nothing wrong with open trading. Why should consumers be forced to pay a premium to keep inefficient business alive? I always thought that business was there to serve consumers, not the other way around.

    Protectionism hurts those who are least able to afford it. I wish Mr Kent all the best in his endeavours to expand consumer choice and convenience. And it don’t really care if the motivation is selfish, the outcome remains the same.

    Your profile was also dishonest by omission, or simply poorly researched. You make an assertion about Mr Kent being no “casual philanthropist”. Yet fail to mention the many worthwhile organisations that he has been involved with, such as current President of the RSPCA (TAS).

  3. Geoff Law

    April 3, 2006 at 3:38 am

    And the other big questions about Tasmanians for a Better Future:

    – Was Gunns boss John Gay a major contributor?

    – How much did former Premier and current Gunns board member Robin Gray contribute?

  4. nudger

    April 3, 2006 at 5:57 am

    I am with Richard Dowling.

    Michael Kent has done an enormous amount for the Tasmanian community. You can’t agree with everyone on every view they hold, some people might be against Michael for his views on shopping hours, but have a look at a broader picture of the man than this one painted in all the dark colours by Chris “we’re all ruined” Harries.

    Like Chris Harries, Kentie has a powerful view of where he wants Tasmania to be in the future and is prepared to put his own time and effort into achieving it. He is not evil for having a different view to that held by a Wilderness Society veteran like Chris Harries who is a bit more than a writer and a social advocate.

    And the patronising attitude of the Greens to the voters of Tasmania might be as good a reason as any for why they are not sharing power. “Anyone who didn’t vote Green has been duped, all 80-plus per cent of them.” Leave it alone Chris, Tasmanians are a fair bit smarter than you might give them credit for.

    Oh and by the way, grog is sold in supermarkets elsewhere in Australia and, unless both The Mercury and Tasmanian Times missed the story – an unlikely occurence – the sky hasn’t fallen in.

    Make mine a charddy,

    Cheers,

    Nudger

  5. Alex Wadsley

    April 3, 2006 at 7:21 am

    Richard Dowling et al miss the point.

    At fundamental stake with Michael Kent’s activities is not whether alcohol distribution should be further liberalised but whether such changes are being procured by inappropriate financial contributions to Tasmania’s electoral process.

    It is good that policy should be debated, it is bad that it is being put up for sale. Now Mr Kent appears as a willing buyer.

  6. Ben Ridder

    April 3, 2006 at 8:03 am

    The real issue here isn’t the philanthropic intentions or otherwise of Michael Kent, but the practice of influencing election outcomes through advertising without disclosing who is footing the bill.

    Michael Kent has the privilege of being able to afford such advertising, which is a luxury unavailable to the vast majority. The public have as much right to know his intentions in advertising as we do in knowing the intentions of political candidates. Yet whereas the candidates generally promote theirs, this is not the case for Michael Kent. His intentions only become public knowledge through the efforts of journalists, or such investigators as Chris Harries.

    Perhaps if Michael Kent’s possible reasons for financing Tasmanians For A Better Future had been made public before the election, his advertising campaign may have been less effective as voters took its message with a grain of salt.

    In his comments about the ‘patronising Greens’, ‘Nudger’ suggests that anyone who saw the negative advertising would have retained a healthy, politically-aware scepticism as to its message anyway. Is it not a bit patronising of ‘nudger’ to assume that everyone is as politically-savvy as he is? It also seems likely that ‘nudger’s’ comfortable acceptance of Michael Kent’s electoral practices results from his sharing of Michael Kent’s views on minority government.

    Is it not patronising to believe that it doesn’t matter how the outcome is achieved provided people vote the way you want them? I’m sure if the Greens had funded a lavish election campaign whose funding has been primarily provided by unknown Asian entrepreneurs, ‘nudger’ would want to know exactly what was going on!

  7. Eyes on Denison

    April 3, 2006 at 8:51 am

    Sorry Chris, but your article is complete and utter crap.

    Michael Kent has done more for the Tasmanian community than most will ever dream of doing.

    Apart from having built-up a Tasmnanian-born company in the form of Purity that has employed thousands of Tasmanians, of all ages, in all corners of the state, for nearly half a century, Kent’s contribution to Tasmanian charitable organisations, sporting communities and business fraternity are second to none.

    And your kind of demonising of Tasmanian corporate-types does no favours to those who represent the alternate view in which your article supposedly seeks to articulate.

    It just panders to the same old prejudices of a naive minority that is out of touch from the mainstream Tasmanian community.

    If Michael Kent wants to spend his own money promoting his personal political views in a way that complies with the full letter of the law, than good luck to him.

    If the rest of us have a problem with well-off individuals using their inequitable financial resources to promote biased political comment in an election campaign, than let’s pressure to change the law on political advertising, not attack an individual’s character.

    There are many aspects of both Kent’s personal politics and especially his agenda for changing the Woolworths regulative framework that i personally am diametrically opposed to. Their long-held desire to sell grog in supermarkets is one you have rightly named, the way they are putting family-run service stations out of business right across the state through their aggressive activites in that industry is another.

    However, Michael Kent has done more than enough to earn a certain degree of respect that we who oppose his point of view should debate the issue, not his character.

  8. super Annoyed

    April 3, 2006 at 9:00 am

    Ed – I think my earlier contribution dropped out. I will have a go at reposting it here as much as I recall.

    Chris Harries is not only a Tasmanian based writer and social advocate, but also a former Greens advisor and strategist. Chris might recall the election in 2002 when a less shadowy, more annoying group calling itself the “Tasmanian Community Alliance” in which the Greens and Wilderness Society were involved touted that they had a $100,000 media campaign.

    Now, Chris, perhaps you would care to document the contributors to this fund – I can’t recall ever seeing a list of the financial backers? Could it be that some of them wanted to remain anonymous? Could it be that some may even had businesses that may have benefited from impediment to industrial forestry? Could it be that some may have businesses that might have benefited further if the Greens had obtained some degree of political power?

    Did the expensive media campaign by the TCA influence the last election? Well, the Greens did about 2% better in 2002 than in the 2006 round. Perhaps the TBF learned some lessons from the TCA?

  9. super Annoyed

    April 3, 2006 at 9:03 am

    Ben Ridder – why do the unknown entrepreneurs have to be Asian?

    Could Asian entrepeneurs be unwelcome in the Greens version of Tasmania?

  10. Barry Brannan

    April 3, 2006 at 9:30 am

    Eyes on Denison seems to be over-reacting. This article simply explains to me Mr Kent’s motives behind his support of the so-called Tasmanians for a Better Future. It comments on Mr Kent’s strategy to get what he wants in business.

    However, it naturally leads to the questions about whether we want these methods to be allowed.

    His charitable and community contributions are not at issue here.

    Just remember Tasmanians for a Better Future was not a charity and was not acting in the best interests of all Tasmanians.

    Mr Kent deserves criticism for backing a group that hides its true motives.

  11. Chris Harries

    April 3, 2006 at 9:45 am

    To those who are missing the point, my essay was not about Michael Kent, except by example. It was about the silent and gradual submerging of our electoral system into the market economy.

    We have become accustomed to wealthy entrepreneurs buying up entire sports teams, whereby sporting contests (such as the AFL) have, in effect, become a commercial contest between those corporate entities who can buy up the strongest players from around the country – even though the rules of the game haven’t theoretically changed. Much though we may decry the passing of genuine contest between say, the boys of Collingwood versus Footscray, we accept that we now live in a market economy, which envelopes sport and many other aspects of daily life.

    But, as citizens in a democracy we should have BIG concerns about the commandeering of our electoral system by the market economy. The principle at stake is how to restrain a complete takeover – as is the case now in the US – whereby the integrity of our democratic electoral system is virtually undermined by money.

    Have we become so enamoured by the market that we, as a society, do not even feel at all alarmed that commerce should become a major player in electoral politics? Blinded to the extent that we even applaud it?

    It almost doesn’t matter who does the vote buying – whether it be Michael Kent, Robin Gray or anybody else – the question needing a fertile debate is how can our electoral system be shored up in the face of commercial encroachment. What rules should apply?

    At the very least, those corporate citizens who engage in the electoral process mark themselves as political entities. That’s a risk they take themselves, and it is in the interests of democratic principle that their financial largesse be subject to scrutiny.

  12. lhayward

    April 3, 2006 at 11:00 am

    Why do so few of Michael Kent’s supporters have real names?

    Super Cynical

  13. nudger

    April 3, 2006 at 11:31 am

    If having a view that Tasmanians are intelligent, articulate and capable of thinking for themselves, then YES, I am patronising.

    Ben, everyone does things in politics that push the moral envelope, even the great St Bob. As was suggested earlier, let’s see Chris Harries name names of those other backers. It doesn’t seem to be exactly sprinting into print.

    The Greens; biggest problem is that they want everyone else to abide by the rules, but not them when it suits them.

    And believe it or not, I am not anti-Green. The presence of the party has added enormously to the rich tapestry that is Tasmanian life.

    But please, let’s stop kidding ourselves that they are purity (no pun intended) itself, and everyone else is tainted, especially in this case the former owner of Purity.

  14. Barry Brannan

    April 3, 2006 at 1:44 pm

    Nudger, the Greens are the ones who are suggesting we change our electoral laws to enforce greater disclosures.

    Once the other political parties agree to this, everyone will disclose.

    It is hardly fair for you to attack the Greens about disclosing when it is others that are resisting disclosure laws.

  15. Richard Dowling

    April 3, 2006 at 4:38 pm

    Mr Harries I do not consider it prudent to label your article “Who is Michael Kent” when you have just stated that it was not about Michael Kent.

    My initial response was not really about Mr Kent either, except to counter your pernicious and unfair treatment of him.

    Chris Harries has totally lost me on his follow up comment. What is this rubbish about AFL being a business contest? I don’t really want to get distracted on this silly point, but since you raised it, nobody owns AFL teams. And you say “though we may decry the passing of genuine contest between say, the boys of Collingwood versus Footscray” – if you actually followed AFL you wouldn’t have said this. The AFL actually still remains a highly regulated market that mandates collective bargaining and probably contravenes the Trade Practices Act as well – so another deficient example on your part.

    Does anyone really understand what point this guy is making? The follow up comment has little to do with your poorly conveyed commentary of Mr Kent.

    I can see that I’m wasting my time here because no doubt as soon as you read my comment you’ll be telling me that I’ve missed the point again.

    So what is the damn point? If it is about “the silent and gradual submerging of our electoral system into the market economy,” then please enlighten me. Attacking Michael Kent or alluding to the commercialisation of sporting contests does nothing to advance this doubtful argument.

    A D-minus for Mr Harries’ efforts so far.

  16. Nudger

    April 4, 2006 at 3:29 am

    I do have a real name, it is Neville, but my friends call me Nudger. You can too. And you can contact me at my e-mail address and I will converse with you there, too.

    Isn’t Richard Dowling a real person?

    Methinks straws have been clutched at since Mr Harries first put fingers to keyboard and that continues to be the case:)

    The election is over, the umpires in the shape of the good people of Tasmania have made their decision, so let’s get on with it.

    As they say in cricket, have a look at the scores in the paper tomorrow – you’re out!

    Still make mine a charddy!

  17. Chris Harries

    April 4, 2006 at 10:10 am

    To further the case for some sort of disclosure and election spending limits regulation, it was not so long ago that the Tasmanian Electoral Act specified a strict spending limit of $1500 per candidate. To exceed this amount was in breach of electoral laws and a breach actually resulted in a re-election in Denison in the early 1980s.

    Rather than modify spending limits, this law was simply repealed to prevent such awkward situations, and this has left our electoral laws with zero spending limits, and thus exposed to excessive influence from well-heeled vested interests.

    To make matters worse, nor is spending of any amount by anonymous interest groups in breach of the existing Act.

    Again, in the interests of democratic elections, there is a need for a re-think. It doesn’t matter if Mr Kent or Mr Goody Two Shoes intervenes in elections with buckets of money, the principle is exactly the same.

    As for the Tasmanian Community Alliance, which publicised forest issues in the 2002 elections, this was no shadowy, secretive group.

    Every TCA supporter was made public and still is on

    With the Electoral Commissioner agreeing that changes to the law would be sensible, it is only prudent to have a sensible debate over the efficacy of our existing electoral laws.

  18. super_Annoyed

    April 4, 2006 at 12:21 pm

    Chris – are you being a bit glib? We do know who was in the TCA but who funded the campaign? The $100,000 for the tv and other media ads? And how is this any different to TBF? And what conflicts of interest did these contributors have with regard to electoral outcomes? It is no different to the TBF – just a different set of values.

    And where were the TCA in 2006? Could it be that the Wilderness Society decided to do its own ads? And why no criticism of the Wilderness Society? This is a tax payer subsidised organisation that ran a less than obtuse ad campaign through the last election. How much did this cost? And what interest did the WS have in the outcomes?

    The hypocrisy of the Greens can be breathtaking at times. They are only willing to get on the high horse if it isnt their side with the buckets of money and tv ads.

  19. Chris Harries

    April 5, 2006 at 1:57 am

    The straight answer, Super Annoyed, is that the Wilderness Society should also be subject to any mooted electoral disclosure laws, of course. No worries.

    But no marks for working out which sides of politics are backed by the mightier corporate interests.

    Interesting that some folk seem dead opposed to a level playing field!

    You aren’t one of the secret election funders are you, Super Annoyed?

  20. super Annoyed

    April 5, 2006 at 2:41 am

    No Chris – I approached this election the old fashioned way – I looked at policies and people. Bartlett #1, O’Connor #2, SIngh #3 etc. I think I put Peg Putt last – I wouldnt want her anywhere near a role in governing the State based on her performance over the electroral period. I am not a member of any political grouping. I just dont like hypocrisy.

    Secret Tasmania has it wrong – my point wasnt about whether one cause was better than another, my point was that people come to elections with different sets of values. While businessmen may have many capitalist reasons to want majority Lab/Lib govt, it is just plain wrong to imply that both TCA or TBF didnt spend the money to try and influence voters, and that both groups didnt have a vested interest in the outcome – whether you love dollars or trees. I know a lot of Greens and they are just as greedy for political power as the Libs/Labs. High and mightiness on these issues wins the Greens no more friends beyond their committed brethren (not to say they are exclusive about the latter, but they could try being more inclusive as a novel electoral strategy).

  21. Justa Bloke

    April 5, 2006 at 4:20 am

    What a load of crap from both sides in this debate.

    Talk of democratic electoral processes and how to make them more transparent is just that. Talk.

    I have never met Michael Kent and have no opinion about him, but as far as I’m concerned, if he’s prepared to pay for the government he wants, then he can have it. So can John Gay, Federal Hotels, PBL, the Exclusive Brethren or the secret unknown Asians.

    There is far too much importance placed on social justice, the environment, education and health. None of these things contribute towards a short-term profit for the owners of capital.

  22. imogen

    April 5, 2006 at 6:29 am

    Escept you keep missing the main differences Super Annoyed:

    The Wilderness Society is a well-established NGO with a publicly audited membership-driven funding base. What it stands for is very clear. The fact that the Greens are their best allies in achieving the Wilderness Society’s stated aims is also clear. But it’s also equally clear that the Wilderness Society exists to advocate to ALL political parties – Lib/Lab like to conveniently forget this as just one way of trying to legitimise ignoring the constituents’ views represented by the Society.

    Comparatively, nobody knows who TFBF are bar one individual; nor who funds them, who runs them, and what other than a single position – majority government – they support. It’s even open to question whether they would have formed and funded advertising had the Libs been in power and facing a minority government, given the only known member is a close friend of Lennon’s. The lack of disclosure between the Wilderness Society and TFBF is glaring. Everyone knows who the Wilderness Society is, how it gets its money and what it stands for. You can’t even answer one of those questions adequately for TFBF.

    I’m green and I’d certainly never argue that the Wilderness Society wants to raise the public profile and inevitably effect therefore political decisions through its advocacy. Heck I’d personally have relatively little objection to TFBF if we could actually answer those aspects as I’ve stated them above. People have a right to know who is trying to influence them, and why, and whether the funds they are using to do so are legitimate.

    And this is the crux of the matter: the Greens support Electoral disclosure law reform, that would affect all groups, including those who are perceived to ally with the Greens. It’s called a level playing field. I’m at a loss as to why you don’t support it.

  23. super Annoyed

    April 5, 2006 at 10:08 am

    Imogen – It’s not that I don’t support disclosure reform, it was that I was pointing out that the Greens have benefited from expensive campaigns from the TCA (2002) and the Wilderness Society (2006). On disclosure, the public has no idea how much the Wilderness Society spent (plus I object to my tax dollars supporting it’s political engagement, but that is another matter) also the public has no idea which individuals or buisnesses associated with the TCA supported the 2002 media campaign, and whether they had anything to fiscally gain from greater number of Greens pollies and potential balance of power.

    It was the hypocrisy of the rabbiting on about the TBF mob, and the holier-than-thou attitude that annoyed me. I was suggesting that the Greens think about being a bit more inclusive in their approach to politics rather than drawing up ‘us and them’ divisions as far as ‘shadowy groups’. Painting TBF as a capitalist conspiracy also does nothing to dampen down the impression that the Greens have become the harbour for the far left either.

    For the future, if the Greens adopted a more inclusive agenda and set of platforms, the electorate may feel more comfortable about putting them into potential coalition roles. Otherwise, they will be stuck at 18% or less.

  24. Barry Brannan

    April 6, 2006 at 12:14 am

    There is nothing wrong with the Greens “agenda and set of platforms”. It’s all about perceptions.

  25. Justa Bloke

    April 6, 2006 at 11:24 am

    What’s wrong with them, Barry, is that over 80% of the voters don’t want them.

    It doesn’t matter how noble your agenda is, or how logically and sensibly you propose it, nor how compassionate and tranparent you plan to be when in power, the point is that the Greens lost this election even worse than the Libs lost it.

    Super, you are wrong, too. The Greens agenda would have to be so inclusive as to be unrecognisable for them to be a real force. After all, Labor has only got where it is by abandoning its principles. At least the Libs will never have to worry about that.

  26. Stephen L

    August 8, 2006 at 2:15 pm

    I’ve only just come across this article, so I’m a bit late to the debate. However, I thought I should point out to anyone still listening that there is a factual error in it. Harries says:

    Kent “knows that public sentiment (as with seven-day-trading and gambling machines in your local pub) will always side with the convenience factor”.

    The fact is that on the one occassion in recent years that a question such as this has been put to the vote public sentiment clearly did not side with the convenience factor.

    In 2005 WA had two referenda coinciding with their state election, one to extend trading hours until 9pm on weekdays, the other to allow Sunday trading, (both in the Perth Metro area only). Both had roughly 60% no votes. Of course this does not mean that the same result would occur in Tasmania on a different question, but certainly the idea that voters will always back convenience is wrong.

  27. ram

    August 1, 2008 at 3:11 am

    For the future, if the Greens adopted a more inclusive agenda and set of platforms, the electorate may feel more comfortable about putting them into potential coalition roles. Otherwise, they will be stuck at 18% or less.

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