Tasmanian Premier Paul Lennon has a big problem. He said on Wednesday that his decision to grant the $700 million internet gambling license to the PBL backed Betfair was not influenced by a free upgrade to a suite at Crown Towers hotel the previous night.
He said the decision was made by Cabinet on October 24. It has now been revealed that Lennon told the Tasmanian Parliament on October 25 that a decision was still to be reached. He twice told Parliament he had not received any free hospitality from the Packer’s Crown Casino.
Our own Charles Richardson and Lindsay Tuffin from the Tasmanian Times both believe that an early election in the Apple Isle is now less likely. Maybe. And maybe not. Lennon has a problem – a problem that needs to be contained.
The Tasmanian Parliament is due to start sittings on 7 March.
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If Lennon delays a poll, the story will keep running strong – and then rehashed under privilege when Parliament resumes. The opposition and the Greens will no doubt refer it to the Auditor-General, the privileges committee, the finance committee and use every other procedural device at their disposal to maximise Lennon’s embarrassment.
There is nothing but pain in delaying an election. Brave a poll now and the Betfair issue is suddenly diluted by broader issues – broader issues where Labor shines.
Professor Richard Herr from the University of Tasmania’s School of Government backed this approach in yesterday’s Mercury.
And if you want an idea of Tassie Labor’s agenda, look at yesterday’s statement that Bass MP and backbencher Kathryn Hay will not contest the next poll.
It has been rumoured almost since her election that Hay would be a one-term member. She is a former Miss Australia who was run in 2002 mainly to give Labor a name candidate. Indeed, there was some surprise when Hay’s name appeared on the candidate list in early December.
Labor has another candidate with a profile in Bass this time round, the former federal MP for the electorate, Michelle O’Byrne.
And if the party still plans to go to the polls early, now’s the time for Hay to make her announcement – just enough time to get a replacement candidate bedded down.