The major parties in Tasmania are having a field day whipping up fears
of instability and the spectre of Tasmania gurgling down the plug hole
if there is a minority government after the March 18 state election.

They have been spurred on by Tasmanian Greens Leader Peg Putt’s comment in The Australian yesterday that the Greens would be prepared to block supply without key policy trade-offs.

Greens’ policies include ending old-growth logging, rejecting Gunns ‘
proposed $1.5 billion pulp mill – which every Labor and Liberal
candidate has pledged to support if it meets environmental guidelines
– and slowly removing poker machines from pubs and clubs.

Premier Paul Lennon thunders that it’s blackmail, while Opposition
Leader Rene Hidding brands it banditry. But neither leader has ruled
out blocking supply (with Greens support) if in Opposition. This
morning, Putt put out a
media release, telling them both to grow up. In shared
government, she says “no-one gets everything all their own way” and
consensus can lead to “win win” decisions.

University of Tasmania academic and political analyst Peter Hay says he
thinks it was a tactical blunder on Putt’s part, because it plays
into Labor/Liberal scaremongering over the dangers of minority
government. “I say it with caution, but it could be massively damaging for the Greens,” he told Crikey.

But Hay is highly critical of the Liberals for indulging in these scare
tactics, saying there is no way the Greens could block money bills
without Liberal support, assuming there is a minority Labor Government.

“If the Liberals think stable government is so important, why don’t
they say they would not block Supply,” he told Crikey. “The Greens
can’t do it on their own, but there seems to be different criteria for
judging them, allowing both Liberal and Labor to whip up fears of
instability.”

Tasmaniantimes.com editor Lindsay Tuffin agrees, saying the furore in is the
great tradition of the Howard Government’s fear politics. “There’s
nothing wrong with a political party negotiation in the Budget for its
own policies,” he told Crikey. After all, the Nationals do it in the
Federal Coalition. “But in Tasmania, Labor and Liberal leaders
are using it as a scare tactic in their fear campaign against minority
government, against the Greens.”

Peter Fray

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