So Tasmanian Premier Paul Lennon has his third deputy installed in four years. After the resignation of the talented Steve Kons, who admitted misleading Parliament this week over the appointment of a magistrate, David Bartlett hops into the saddle. The 40-year-old Bartlett is everything Lennon is not. He is urbane, charming, intellectually curious and a student of the latest trends in progressive politics around the world. He was the first Tasmanian MP to really embrace the internet as a means of selling himself and his political message. He has also been smart enough to keep his head well and truly down over Mr Lennon’s favourite project – the proposed Gunns Pulp Mill. In fact, his office has not put out one media release on the pulp mill in 2 years!

And unlike his two predecessors, Mr Kons and Bryan Green, Mr Bartlett wants the top job and what’s more, there are many in his party and in the community who think he’s “Da Man”. He has been groomed by the man who was Tasmania’s most talented premier in recent years – Michael Field. Field was premier from 1989-92 and is universally credited with saving Tasmania from bankruptcy. Field loves Bartlett and the feeling is mutual. Field’s brother Terry, is Bartlett’s chief of staff. And Bartlett has around him a handy wealthy coterie of younger business people who have made their mark in Tasmania’s small but innovative IT industry.

Paul Lennon is now on notice. David Bartlett stands ready to mount a challenge against Lennon if the hapless premier doesn’t improve his and his party’s standing before the end of the year. This would give Bartlett a good 14 months to turn the ALP’s fortunes around, and make 2009 the year of the Liberals’ nightmare. Bartlett runs rings around the Liberals’ leader “Young Will” Hodgman, who has the misfortune to have his father Michael sitting behind him each day in parliament ranting at republicans, greens and other enemies of the state, and would trounce him in an election.

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Paul Lennon should ring his fellow Tasmanian Brendan Nelson this weekend to get some tips on how to deal with a leadership aspirant shadowing your every move, because Bartlett is Lennon’s Malcolm Turnbull.

Disclosure: I was a signatory to an advertisement in the 2002 Tasmanian election campaign that endorsed David Bartlett during the 2002 election campaign – at that stage I had been thrown out by the Liberals.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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