Crikey editor Misha Ketchell writes:


There are some
unique local factors that make the brouhaha over Tasmanian Premier Paul
Lennon’s hotel room upgrade at Crown Casino such a hot-button issue.
Lennon might have been dumb to accept the special treatment straight
after Cabinet’s decision to support the Betfair deal, but Tasmanian
politics watchers say the story wouldn’t have generated quite the same
level of heat in any other state.

Politicians and VIPs get
upgrades all the time, says Hobart political commentator Greg Barns.
Although Lennon might have been stupid to accept this time, the idea
that his treatment at Crown would influence his political decision
making is rubbish. The real issue, says Barns, is the resentment about anyone getting special treatment or largesse in Tasmania – unless they’re Princess Mary.

Barns
says he first encountered this aspect of Tasmanian political culture
ten years ago when he worked for former Premier Ray Groom, who decided to
award local MPs a 40% pay rise to bring their pay into line with
interstate counterparts. Barns was dumbfounded by the “seething
resentment” with which the Tassie public reacted to the news.

Lindsay Tuffin, editor of the Tasmanian Times,
says the state has a culture of resentment that comes from its
relatively high levels of poverty and negative social indicators.
Lennon has become a lightning rod for this, he says, because of his close
links with Gunns, Federal Hotels, and now Betfair and PBL have fuelled
a perception that the government is more for the top end of town than
the punters.

“He’s seen as the least Labor Premier the state has
ever had and as someone working for the big end of town,” Tuffin says.
“I do think he does have a significant political problem now. He’ll now
have to delay the election as long as he can because of the odium
associated with this.”

But because Lennon has the hide of an
elephant he’ll try and take it on the chin and crash through or crash,
says Tuffin. And this issue is likely to get a big kick along if he
delays the election because he’ll be put under pressure again when
parliament resumes, especially after today’s revelations in The Mercury that he misled parliament about the timing of the Betfair decision.

According
to Tuffin, Lennon’s attempt to label the story a News Limited
conspiracy is a typical tactic for the Premier, but it’s not going to
wash. “I don’t think it’s fair to call it a conspiracy. Perceptions
matter. I thought it was a top piece by Ellen Whinnett.”