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And Now the Parliament Takes Shape

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After having run the eye over the Liberal team just two days ago, already the lie of the land is quite different. Adam Brooks’ bombshell resignation has technically put Peter Gutwein into minority, at least until the recount takes place. Presumably Felix Ellis will both contest the recount and win. Just two days ago I […]

After having run the eye over the Liberal team just two days ago, already the lie of the land is quite different.

Adam Brooks’ bombshell resignation has technically put Peter Gutwein into minority, at least until the recount takes place. Presumably Felix Ellis will both contest the recount and win.

Just two days ago I said:

Surely Gutwein will not be tempted to put Brooks in cabinet? A lightning rod for scandal and ridicule, his presence might be a boon for the party coffers and indeed votes but he is a liability in the House of Assembly. Indeed, his various misadventures could conceivably lead to a resignation at some stage; Ellis might as well not toss out his business cards just yet.

Well lightning has struck again and all of that will eventually come to pass. The one saving grace for the Liberals is that it has happened sooner rather than later: better a one-act circus than a five-act one if political damage control is your game.

Is this the stable majority government thing they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to demand?

Well, I’m guessing at the spend as our non-existent donation laws mean we have no idea.

The downside for the Liberals is that they ran such a Gutwein-centred campaign. He made every announcement, puffed out his chest in every choreographed puffer-jacket moment, and was plastered across every flyer, billboard and TV spot they issued.

The tone was as presidential as a former motel owner can dare to connote in the political culture of a place like Tasmania, and indeed tempered with calculated drops like the ‘panther vaccination’ video on TikTok.

‘The buck stops with me’ implied Papi G. Fine, but now he owns his conduct in backing Brooks every step of the way. First there were the guns and ammunitions charges back as far as April 8, “which MR Brooks intends to defend.” Then the accusations of catfishing aided by the use of a fake ID, exposed by the ABC’s dogged Emily Baker. Peter Gutwein initially responded by suggesting the journalist might have faked the driver licence image herself.

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I grew up in the days when the sale of fireworks was still legal in the lead up to Guy Fawkes Day. There was a local kid who had bought a wad of penny bungers and had them in his back pocket. He was walking down the street one night, casually pulling out one at a time, lighting the shortish fuse and tossing it over his shoulder. One of them caught a tree branch, dropped straight down, ignited the wad in his pocket and blew half his arse off.

I’m reminded of this by Brooks’ conduct, the difference being that his hand was being held by the Premier as his thinly-protected derriere has ended up in meaty chunks for the neighbourhood dogs to feast on.

Undeniably, it is the Premier’s decision-making that is going to come under scrutiny in the coming period. It is difficult to remember a newly re-elected Premier commencing their term with such a spectacular own goal.

The Opposition

Rebecca White has not spoken out on the Brooks issue, perhaps not surprising given the dizzying pace of developments, and was not present at the declaration of the poll for Lyons where she was comfortably re-elected in first place.

Leadership speculation has a place elsewhere, but the Labor team have a few tiny silver linings after falling way short of their goal of ‘majority government’.

Despite their vote falling, they managed to hold all of their seats save the loss of 1 in Clark. Even that was something of a non-loss due to Scott Bacon’s replacement on recount, Madeleine Ogilvie, defecting to the cross-benches and then the Liberals.

Two sitting MPs lost out, with Jennifer Houston in Bass being replaced by Janie Finlay and Alison Standen knocked off by Dean Winter in Franklin. These things are a bit messy, but after the Labor Party has said their farewells to the fallen they will be pleased with the calibre of the new blood. Both Finlay and Winter have experience in local government and a seeming knack for local campaigning that will stand them in good stead. Winter’s selfish desire – detonating a brutal bout of infighting whose fallout cloud obscured the first third of the Labor campaign – will soon be forgiven and forgotten.

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With fiver Upper House MPs, including newly re-elected Member for Derwent Craig Farrell, there is plenty of nous and talent to support the nine House of Assembly members. Bastian Seidel, despite being the newest of the LegCo brigade, was so effective on health that the Liberal campaign lowered themselves to personal caricatures of him to try to score points.

The signs suggest that there is enough depth of personnel in Labor to form the viable and sharp opposition Tasmania needs. They desperately need, however, to find a strategy that is distinctive in its own right and not the Liberal-lite-but-not-Greens-oh-no brand that they have coughed up twice now for successive losses at the ballot box.

Cross Benches

Once again we will have a cross-bench of 3, although this time the two Greens might have a more fiery ally in newcomer Kristie Johnston.

Cassy O’Connor and Rosalie Woodruff are both accomplished parliamentarians now, and will be charged with energy after both being comfortably re-elected and having overseen a rising Green vote statewide.

For them the path, more or less, of political martyr Sheikh Badrudin of Simawna:

“The faithful one is he who, when he encounters a wrong, tries to set it right by his hand. If he cannot, he wishes for it to be changed. The one who does not care and does not even wish for the wrong to be remedied, lacks faith even as much as a grain of mustard seed.”

Many a year the Greens have brought their mustard seed approach to the political table of Tasmania. Their successes are rarely acknowledged outside of the party itself, and yet the Greens are universally blamed for just about every Tasmanian ill. Senator Jacqui Lambie, who once for called for a royal commission into the Greens and what they have done to Tasmania, has in fact voted more often with the Greens than any other party during her time in the Senate.

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Independent Kristie Johnston will face the transition task from big-fish-small-pond Glenorchy politics to the state arena. With a liking for control and order, she will have to work out how to be effective with the single question she will likely be allocated daily in Question Time.

It remains to be seen how much success she will have on prodding the Liberals to advance her pet projects, such as the light rail. The Liberals only just scraped two streets in the capital so although the wisdom goes that ‘elections are won or lost in the north’, the governing party may well wish to shore up Elise Archer and Madeleine Ogilvie with some pork for Clark.

Either way, Johnston deserves credit for being the first independent elected for a Very Long Time, and may well provide a beach-head for others to get across the fatal shores in coming battles, whether state or federal.

We look forward to seeing how the 2021-2025 Tasmanian Parliament unfolds, and wish the best to all elected members. May you represent us, the people, without fear nor favour.

Alan Whykes is Chief Editor of Tasmanian Times.

Source: Tasmanian Times

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