TASMANIA: by Jerome ApplebyNews Weekly
New premier is an Emily's List radical feminist
, February 5, 2011
Tasmania's new premier Lara Giddings is one of the founders of the Labor Party's radical feminist network, Emily's List, whose stated aim is to raise money to help "progressive" (i.e., pro-abortion) women get elected to parliament.
In her previous role as Attorney-General, Ms Giddings worked closely with Tasmanian Greens MPs to push for the legalisation of euthanasia.
She became the island-state's first female premier on January 24, after her predecessor David Bartlett announced his intention to resign in order to spend more time with his family.
Ms Giddings was elected unopposed by the Labor caucus to succeed him.
Despite what Mr Bartlett said publicly, not everyone is convinced that his decision to depart was entirely voluntary. Some believe that the threat of a leadership challenge may have weighed heavily on his decision.
Nevertheless, whatever may have happened behind the scenes, Tasmania now has a new premier.
So what do we know about this new person in charge, and what sort of political agenda is she likely to pursue?
Ms Giddings has served in a number of government portfolios, including health, justice, economic development and the arts. Most recently, she served as Deputy Premier and Attorney-General.
She is unmarried and has no children.
She comes from Labor's Left faction and, in 1996, when she was only 23, was the youngest woman to be elected to an Australian parliament. She tells how she "combined my early parliamentary career with completing the final stages of my arts and law degrees at the University of Tasmania".
She lost her seat of Lyons in the Tasmanian parliament in 1998. She then headed off to the United Kingdom to work for a year. While there, she did some administrative work in London for a short period, and then worked as a political staffer for Scottish MP, Helen Eadie.
Giddings was re-elected to the Tasmanian House of Assembly in 2002 for the seat of Franklin which she continues to hold today.
She has said of her political philosophy: "What I am keen to do is make sure that we are going back to basics; that we understand what Labor government is about. A Labor government is about giving people the best opportunity in life so they can get the best job in life."
But the degree to which this agenda, instead of a radical social one, is still her priority, remains to be seen.
As Attorney-General, she personally backed Greens' leader Nick McKim's 2009 private member's bill which sought to legalise euthanasia.
Last year she was reported as declaring: "I certainly do believe that the vast majority of Tasmanians do support dying with dignity legislation. Although I also recognise that it is an issue that people feel very strongly about and those who don't support it also oppose it passionately. ...
"I certainly think that we need to look at practising legislation that's been used around the world and see what is working elsewhere, what safeguards have been put in place, and how we could adapt those sorts of safeguards for Tasmania as well." (The World Today
, ABC Radio, June 23, 2010).
She would do well to consider how readily such promised safeguards are watered down, or even ignored, in the Netherlands and the American state of Oregon, where euthanasia is legal. (See "Assisted suicide: safeguards or naivety?", News Weekly
, June 21, 2008).
By contrast, Giddings' predecessor David Bartlett stated in 2009 that he did not believe there were sufficient safeguards to prevent abuses should euthanasia ever be made legal.
Last year, as Attorney-General, Giddings also flagged a "progressive" reform agenda to develop new laws for for the sex industry and surrogacy.
She also indicated that she wished to implement a charter of rights - that is, a legal instrument interpreted by unelected judges (rather than by our elected representatives). Charters or bills of rights, despite their lofty stated aims, have all too often come to restrict freedom of speech and religion, and to impose a secular political agenda on society by stealth.
Perhaps, most disturbingly, Giddings has declared she is "proud to be a founding member of Emily's List", Labor's radical feminist network which raises funds to support "progressive" (i.e., pro-abortion) female Labor candidates. Thus, there could soon be a push for Tasmania to copy the radically permissive abortion laws passed by Victoria's parliament in 2008.
Ms Giddings' biggest challenge will be dealing with the Greens, whose five elected MPs hold the balance of power in Tasmania's House of Assembly.
However, on assuming office, the new premier announced that she was "not interested in assuming the Greens' agenda". (The Australian
, January 25, 2011).
That statement will be well received by many, but cynics may suggest that that is because she has taken on board so much of the Greens' agenda already.