So, the Tasmanian ALP has pre-selected the Electrical Trade Union’s Kevin Harkins for the federal seat of Franklin. If events go in the direction retiring Labor back-bencher Harry Quick has threatened to take them, I think the Liberals might snatch this seat.

Get ready for the fireworks: Quick has the touch-paper in one had and a big bunch of skyrockets in the other. The problem for Labor is that the maverick MP wants to retire – but he also wants a say in who takes his place.

A mega case of hubris and arrogance on Harry Quick’s part? Maybe, but that doesn’t change the fact that he has the power to inflict major hurt on his party. Quick has variously described Harkins as a “drop kick” and a “waste of space”.

If Harkins was pre-selected, Quick has threatened that he would immediately resign from the Labor Party, sit on the cross benches and contest the election as an independent. Or he could resign from parliament altogether and force a by-election now. Either is a horror outcome for Labor.

Quick’s large personal following would still not be sufficient for him to win as an independent – enough of his supporter base would be turned off by his shenanigans. But he would split the Labor vote, allowing the Liberal candidate to top the poll on primaries then win on preferences in the cut-up. Even if Quick doesn’t stand, he could still torpedo Harkins’s tilt just by publicly campaigning against him.

Quick has built up an enormous personal vote in Franklin in winning the last four elections. This demographic has warmed to Quick’s tell-it-as-it-is personality and his hands-on style. Remember, this is the same electorate that repeatedly returned Liberal iconoclast and chicken suit wearer, Bruce Goodluck, through the 80s and 90s. Franklin voters seem to like their members quirky.

The Liberals need an 8% swing, which history tells us is nearly always too much in a “normal” election. But this one is going to be anything but normal. Of the known Liberal possibilities, Vanessa Goodwin just missed out on a state seat in March and is expected to be interested. Likewise, Clarence City Councillor, Brendan Blomeley, is believed to have political ambitions beyond local government.

This is a game of chicken and the Labor machine is staring Harry Quick down, but will he blink? He never has in the past.

Peter Fray

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