March 29th 2014

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Articles from this issue:

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Clive Palmer, the would-be powerbroker

SOUTH AUSTRALIAN STATE ELECTION: Independent MP puts Labor back in power

TASMANIAN STATE ELECTION: Massive swing to Liberals, major shock for Labor

EDITORIAL: SA, Tasmanian elections confirm Labor's decline

ECONOMIC AGENDA: Fixing the distorted high Australian dollar

HUMAN RIGHTS: Restoring human rights protection to children

AUSTRALIAN HISTORY: New perspectives on the 1955 Labor split

NEW ZEALAND: Export boom sees NZ's economy forge ahead

UKRAINE CRISIS: Ukrainian church leaders urge Putin to back down

UNITED STATES: Justice Dept drags its feet over sex-trafficking website

OPINION: Repeal, don't amend, laws that threaten free speech


TELEVISION: Rival depictions of a modern-day Sherlock Holmes

BOOK REVIEW The generals who started the war on the family

BOOK REVIEW Australia's first major victory in the Great War

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Massive swing to Liberals, major shock for Labor

by Wayne Williams

News Weekly, March 29, 2014

As an observer at the tally room on election night, I could have been excused for thinking that Labor and the Greens had won the 2014 state election — such was the victorious note in their speeches, bordering on arrogance.

Lara Giddings as Labor Premier and Nick McKim as Greens leader, in what were excessively long speeches by both leaders, could at least have acknowledged that the electoral massacre was their own responsibility.

Will Hodgman,

Tasmanian Liberal Premier

In contrast, Liberal leader Will Hodgman, as premier-elect, was refined and conducted himself with decorum and humility.

In a massive swing to the Liberals, Will Hodgman, 44, will be the first Liberal premier in 16 years, forming a majority government with 14 seats in Tasmania’s 25-member House of Assembly.

He is the son of the late Michael Hodgman, the former minister in the Fraser government and a sometime state MP affectionately known as “the mouth from the south”.

The Liberals polled 51.3 per cent — an increase of 12.3 per cent on its 2010 state election result, giving it an extra four seats. Labor recorded an overall vote of 26.4 per cent, and lost four seats.

At the time of writing, counting is still continuing. Under Tasmania’s Hare-Clark proportional-representation system of voting, six seats have gone to Labor, two to the Greens, and three remain undecided.

The Palmer United Party, a new player on the block, failed to secure a seat.

The Greens fell heavily out of favour and suffered an 8 per cent swing against them, with the possible loss of three seats. The highest swings against the Greens were 11 per cent in Franklin, against the Greens’ leader, Nick McKim, and 10 per cent in Lyons.

Lara Giddings, the former Labor premier, will retain her seat in Franklin; but Labor’s heir-apparent, David O’Byrne, looks likely to lose his seat in Franklin.

The election of former Liberal senator Guy Barnett in Lyons, Michael Ferguson in Bass, Marinus “Rene” Hidding in Lyons, Jacqueline Petrusma in Franklin and Elise Archer in Denison will favour the chances of the recent Labor-Greens laws allowing late-term abortions being repealed once the numbers in the Upper House favour the new government.

On becoming premier-elect, Will Hodgman reiterated his promise to tear up the Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreement (TFIA) — a message not lost on the timber workers in the regional areas of Tasmania where Labor and the Greens suffered a substantial backlash.

Overseas markets for the island-state’s timber and associated products have recently declined, but may well pick up again. The current state of the market is no reason to lock up more of Tasmanian forests into national parks.

Timber workers thought they were being left out in the cold, and that a Labor-Greens government was prepared to sacrifice their jobs, so Labor lost heavily in its heartland.

Mr Hodgman’s plan to tear up the TFIA will test his political mettle as it will inevitably provoke confrontations with the Greens and assorted protest movements.

In recent years, the Tasmanian economy has been brought to its knees. That, combined with Labor’s radical social agenda, alienated the party’s traditional voters and battlers who could not stomach Labor’s alliance with the Greens.

With high unemployment, a steady population exodus and 30 per cent of Tasmanians on income support, no amount of advertising and political spin could save Labor.

The promise that a re-elected Labor government would create “thousands of brand new full-time jobs”, and attract “major international investors to fund new resource projects for Tasmania”, was not swallowed by the electorate. Labor has had three terms in government and failed to deliver.

The incoming Liberal government faces a tough uphill battle to bring the state budget from a massive deficit into surplus and to attract industry and investment to the state.

As the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce has pointed out, administrative red and green tape is costing business about $610 million a year. One small mixed business and petrol outlet reportedly required 39 different licences to operate — from federal, state and local government.

Tasmania’s cornerstone industries, such as forestry, mining, agriculture, fisheries and tourism, are of vital importance; but the state also has to attract investment and look to establishing new industries.

Given the fact that petrol prices are rising, production of fuel ethanol from sugar beet could be commercially feasible in northern Tasmania, especially in the regional areas of Smithton, Burnie, Devonport, Deloraine and Scottsdale.

Sugar beet can be grown successfully on non-prime agricultural land, possibly on a small regional scale at first. Sugar beet tops left over on the farm after harvesting have an additional value as animal feed and fertiliser. The processing technology with the most potential is the solid fermentation process.

By-products from the timber industry can also be used in ethanol production.

Furthermore, ethanol, unlike fossil fuels, does not produce particulate emissions.

The high cost of importing from overseas oil makes it imperative that Australia develops fuel alternatives.

Shipbuilding has been part of Tasmania’s history from its earliest days. The highly successful firm Incat — a global pioneer of high-speed craft (HSC) technology for commercial and defence applications — has secured valuable contacts with the American and Australian navies.

There is no good reason why defence contacts in shipbuilding, particularly of smaller vessels, could not be given to Tasmanian shipbuilders. The establishment of dry-dock facilities for the maintenance and repair of ships, including vessels visiting the Antarctic, should be considered.

The abundance of cheap electric power, along with a stable workforce, was always an added incentive for industry to invest and establish firms in Tasmania.

“Electric Eric” Reece, Labor Premier from 1958 to 1969, along with Alan (later Sir Alan) Knight, the long-serving head of Tasmania’s Hydro Electric Commission, embarked on an extensive program of dam construction. (Knight was an especially talented engineer, who also designed Tasmania’s unique floating concrete bridge which spanned the River Derwent after the Tasman Bridge disaster in 1975).

The last big dam proposal, the Gordon-below-Franklin project, was strenuously opposed by the federal Hawke Labor government when it came to power in March 1983.

In April, the then Attorney-General, Gareth “Biggles” Evans, authorised an RAAF F-111 jet to perform a reconnaissance mission, or spy flight, over the dam site. This was in order to secure evidence for the High Court in the event that the then Tasmania’s Liberal government under premier Robin Gray was failing to comply with federal legislation to halt work.

On July 1, 1983, the High Court, in a landmark but highly controversial decision, ruled in the Commonwealth government’s favour by a vote of 4 to 3.

The stop-the-Franklin-dam protest movement, led by Dr Norm Sanders of the Australian Democrats and Dr Bob Brown, later to become leader of the Greens, became the nucleus for Australia’s powerful conservation movement.

While conservationists and lovers of the Franklin were delighted with the High Court’s decision, the economic advantage to Tasmania, in the availability and abundance of cheap power as an incentive to establish industry in the island-state, was lost.

Attracting industry is absolutely vital. It is small businesses, manufacturing industries and producers of goods which will provide jobs and generate the tax revenue to enable the government to discharge its responsibilities to the community.

Wayne Williams was the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) candidate for the Tasmanian seat of Denison in the September 2013 federal election. 

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