Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Tasmanian elections

Via the Pollbludger a poll predicting that Labor will lose its absolute majority in the Tasmanian election on March 18. At some stage the implications of this poll result (a Green balance of power) will become the object of media fascination (although the media is currently preoccupied by Paul Lennon’s clumsiness); given Labor’s determination to never rely on the Greens how long would they last in minority government? I expect the press would unite in a Green-bashing exercise with Liberal media owners and Labor-voting journalists as one and encourage a panic about political instability that would encourage a late rally to Labor. As Greg Craven notes the media panics about minority governments are curious. Labor's hostility to the Greens in Tasmania is longstanding, there is much hostile commentary about the links between the party and the timber industry see Lords of the Forest), but this hostility also reflects the party's base in resource industry workers. But for all the rhetorical blue-collar romanticism of Tasmanian Labor we have to remember that Labor's aversion to the Greens is driven by electoral experience. After the Labor-Green alliance government of 1989-91 at the 1992 election Labor's Tasmanian vote plunged to 28.9% (down 5.8%) and the Liberal vote soared to 54.1% (up 7.8%). A detailed study of the minority Labor government would be interesting (there is only the 74pp Greening of Government). I always thought that not having the Greens in the cabinet was a bad idea (power without responsibility) but more fundamentally with the Liberals having outpolled Labor 46.9% to 34.7% in 1989 the democratic legitimacy of the Labor government was questionable. The Greens held the balance of power 1996-98 but Labor had no interest in cooperation with them and was rewarded at the 1998 election when its vote rose from 40.5% to 44.8% and it formed a majority government. If parliament had remained at 35 seats (rather than the 25 it was reduced to in a bipartisan Green bashing exercise after the 1996 election) Labor would not have won an outright majority.


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