TASMANIA: by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
Greens lose out in Tasmanian poll
, April 1, 2006
Labor has won office again while the Liberals have increased their vote, writes Peter Westmore.The Tasmanian ALP won a third straight election victory on March 18, despite a small drop in its primary vote. The ALP held on to at least 14 seats, a clear majority in the 25-seat Legislative Assembly, despite its primary vote falling two per cent. The Liberal Party recorded a 4.6 per cent swing towards it in the state election.
The losers were the Tasmanian Greens, who have exercised clout in Tasmanian politics due to their influence on both economic and social policy, and the Australian Democrats who now seem likely to disappear as a force in Australian politics.
Although having only four members in the State Parliament, the Greens have used their influence to restrict the development of the timber industry in the state.
Before the election, the chairman of Gunns Limited, John Guy, said his company's planned $1.5 billion pulp mill would be built overseas if the Greens had the balance of power.
Mr Guy said a decision on the pulp mill was unlikely to be made by a minority government. "If there is any major delay and we don't get the opportunity to build it here, Gunns is going to have to build it somewhere else," he said.
Glenn Britton, owner of a timber mill in Smithton, said before the election that his business, which employs 150 people, would be forced to close unless it could continue to harvest high quality blackwood timber from north-west Tasmania.
He says worldwide demand for the timber would mean it would have to be sourced from overseas.
"If it can't come from sustainably-managed forests that we have here at the moment, there's only one place it's going to come from, and that's overseas," he told the ABC.
"And that's most likely going to be places like Indonesia, South America - places where there is no sustainable forest management."
With opinion polls suggesting a swing against the Labor Government, there was widespread concern that the Greens would end up with the balance of power. The prospect of this outcome led to both major parties, as well as business interests and others, calling for people to vote for the major parties, to deliver majority government.
The Greens had hoped to win six seats and gain the balance of power over a minority government.
Instead, they lost one member in the State Parliament, and with just three members will lose their status as a major party.
Although the Tasmanian Greens have denied they are left-wing, their stance on a range of social and environmental issues shows they are a party of the radical left.
They want to end logging of native forests and declare new national parks to protect the Tarkine and areas of the Weld, Styx and Great Western Tiers forests. The Greens have also opposed the proposed $1.5 billion pulp mill in the north of the state, and support euthanasia, gay rights legislation and decriminalisation of illicit drug use.Sigh of relief
While Labor Premier Paul Lennon breathed a sigh of relief at the election result, the Tasmanian Liberals were also relatively happy with the outcome.
The Liberal vote went up for the first time since 1992, reversing a 14-year trend, and the election saw the return of several promising new members.
According to Liberal officials, Labor's vote in traditional Labor seats was inflated by some Liberal voters, who switched to Labor to prevent a minority government being elected in the state.
The vote is also a reflection of the voters' concern about bread-and-butter issues such as the future of manufacturing industry and jobs, rather than green utopianism.