Five easy pieces: Braddon

Guide to the Tasmanian state electorate of Braddon here. Two down, three to go: with only a fortnight to go until polling day, I might have to lift my work rate. UPDATE: Denison now up as well. UPDATE 2: Franklin too.

Highlights of the past fortnight on the Tasmanian campaign trail:

Sue Neales of The Mercury reports Greens leader Nick McKim saying any negotiated agreement for Labor or Liberal to govern in minority “would not involve ultimatums, threats or even demands for ministries”. Specifically, McKim told Matthew Denholm of The Australian last week that he did not rule out backing a party that would continue to back old-growth logging, fuelling complaints from environmental groups that the Greens were giving conservation issues short shrift. McKim said the Greens would be ready to favour whichever party negotiated “honestly and in good faith”, and did not accept David Bartlett’s notion that whichever party won the most seats (or failing that, votes) should be allowed to govern. McKim also rejects the stated desire of both Labor and Liberal to govern in minority without a specific deal or agreement as “inherently unstable”. Peter Tucker at Tasmanian Politics weighs in on the possibility of a Green being given the Speaker’s job, as has happened in the Australian Capital Territory.

• The Greens’ decision might be made easier by David Bartlett’s apparent declaration he would not seek to stay in government if Labor won fewer seats than the Liberals. His particular formulation was that “the party that won the most seats or the most votes (would) be able to form a government first on the floor of the House of Assembly”, and that being so, he would “not be moving no-confidence motions and those things that have the potential to send the electorate back for another election”. However, there seems to be a few holes in this: the capacity of either Labor or Liberal to form a government in minority on the floor of the House would be entirely down to the actions of the other parties, and a no-confidence motion need not cause a new election if an alternative government could be formed. For his part, Will Hodgman claims he was misquoted when reported in The Australian as saying he would consider all options, insisting there would be no coalition with the Greens.

• The not-quite-dead canal estate development at Ralphs Bay was back in the news last week when the Tasmanian Planning Commission granted developers Walker Corporation a second extention on its response to the October draft report which declared the project “inherently unsustainable”. Both David Bartlett and the Greens have complained that a final decision before the election would have been preferable.

• The issue of water toxins in the east coast town of St Helens has continued to develop a life of its own since being the subject of an episode of the ABC’s Australian Story a fortnight ago. Local doctor Alison Bleaney claims, with support from independently conducted tests, that the George River is contaminated by toxins from upstream plantations, which Bleaney believes may be responsible for health problems in the town. Last week, Sue Neales of The Mercury wrote that the government believed the issue to be a “bomb deliberately timed to go off during the election campaign, lobbed with the full knowledge and agreement of the Tasmanian Greens”. Today, The Australian reports David Bartlett complaining Bleaney had also emerged in the lead-up to the 2006 election with “a whole range of concerns proven to be completely false”, describing her return as a “a happy coincidence for the Greens”.

• Labor, Liberal and the Greens will all hold their campaign launches next week: Labor at the Baha’i temple in inner Hobart on Monday, the Greens at the Mercure Hotel on Wednesday and the Liberals at Launceston’s Boathouse function centre next Sunday.

• A nifty new website called iElect seeks to pool collective wisdom by inviting participants to pick who they expect to win in each division, as well as offering useful details on the candidates.

Finally, there have been a number of incidents in which Labor candidates have attracted the wrong kind of headlines, two of which illustrate the friction that can develop in a party when declining electoral fortunes leave fewer pieces of pie to go round.

• Two Labor candidates for Denison, incumbent Graeme Sturges and newcomer Madeleine Ogilvie, were at each other’s throats last week with the latter accusing the former of telling voters she was “not really Labor”, reportedly promting a sharp telephone call from Ogilvie to Sturges. Sturges did not help matters when he explained he had “just been telling them to vote for a Labor bloke”. According to Sue Neales of The Mercury, “much more likely to be the intended target of his lovely message to voters that only the ‘blokes’ count is Sturgo’s fellow Labor minister in Denison, Lisa Singh”.

Michael Stedman of the Sunday Tasmanian reports an ad by Labor Lyons candidate Rebecca White, “poking fun at the elder statesmen of her own party”, went “viral” on YouTube. The ad prompted two long-serving Labor incumbents in Lyons, David Llewellyn and Michael Polley, to complain to David Bartlett – and it now appears to have been discreetly dropped from White’s You Tube page.

The Mercury this week carried reports of unpleasant behaviour by Labor Braddon MP Brenton Best after his daughter was dropped from an amateur theatre production for failing to attend dress rehearsals due to illness. Best reportedly threatened to sue the Hobart Music Theatre Summer School, and told the director of the program he would “sort him out”. David Bartlett said after discussion with Best he was satisfied he had not acted inappropriately, but The Mercury later reported the director’s account had been confirmed by a teacher who was present.

• Labor Denison MP was red-faced last week after reporters overheard her complaining of media reaction to the party’s asbestos policy announcement: “This is a f**king good policy, why do they always have to f**king pick negatives”. While this has prompted much tut-tutting, and was followed by an apology from Singh, I would expect voters to be more struck a politician being so so passionately convinced of the merits of their policy than by the fact that they chose to swear in private.

As before, this thread can be used for general discussion of the Tasmanian election campaign.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

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