The beatification of Jim Bacon since his death from cancer in June 2004
was halted by Tasmanian Attorney General Judy Jackson over the weekend.
Bacon lifted the profile of Tasmania while Premier, promoted tourism,
supported the arts, established the international, biennial cultural
festival of islands, “Ten Days on the Island” and was a big vote
winner. But behind the good looks and easy smile, he was a bit of a
thug. Sadly, he died … and morphed into St Jim.
Jackson – who is not seeking re-election in the upcoming state election – lifted the lid from the inside in an interview with Launceston’s Examiner
newspaper, saying she had a difficult relationship with Bacon as had
all members of Cabinet with the exception of his successor, Paul Lennon.
In Saturday’s report, the reformist Attorney said Bacon had tried to
strip her of her portfolio in 2003 but had been rolled by a Labor
Caucus which backed her – a warning, she said, for all Labor leaders.
(In one of those ironies in life, Jackson struggled to win her seat in
the last state election, winning with the help of Bacon’s surplus
Jackson said she wasn’t scared of him. Plenty of others were, however,
and were afraid to criticise him for fear of the consequences. While
her comments weren’t exactly a revelation to those in the know, she has now put the fear of him
within Labor ranks on the record as well as his bid to get rid of her.
The Melbourne Scotch College-educated Bacon joined the Builders
Labourers Federation and was once married to BLF boss Norm Gallagher’s
daughter, the mother of his two sons. The family moved to Hobart in
1981 when he became secretary of the Tasmanian Trades and Labour
Council, but the couple separated and he later married Honey Bacon.
Jackson, who is on the Left of the Labor spectrum while Bacon was on
the Right, has always been outspoken and her detractors delight in
saying she is gaffe prone.
Only last week, she was criticised by Tasmania’s Chief Justice Peter Underwood in the Mercury
for appointing temporary judges, because of potential political
implications and for doing so without consulting him. It was valid
criticism, but he certainly let fly, calling her “a loose cannon,” which he later
said was an off the record remark to a journalist. Whatever, it was an
injudicious remark – if not a gaffe – but typical of the flak that
Reaction to her comments on Bacon was predictably muted by her Labor
colleagues, with a Government minder saying it was “no secret” she and
Bacon didn’t get on and dismissing her comments as “purely personal views.” But hey, it’s not been on the record before.
Outspoken Federal Labor MP Harry Quick, who has long been at
logger-heads with the State Labor Government was not short of a
comment. “It sounds to me like Judy’s the fat lady singing now,”
he told The Sunday Tasmanian. “This is the final warble from an Attorney-General people seem to be having a bit of a go at.”
Curiously, the commendably open Jackson doesn’t talk to public servants
except at the most senior level. Either she or her minders see to
it that she only talks to the heads of agencies in her department and so
fails to hear any views contrary to theirs, no matter how important.