Tasmanian Premier at a meeting without minders! Oh dear, oh dear. What kind of a man have Tasmanians got as their Premier? David Bartlett has actually dared to have a chat with some real live and protesting voters without having a minder present! The minders, needless to say, are in quite a tizz about it especially as the man they normally spin around not only spoke for himself but departed from their prepared script as well.

Members of Tasmanians Against the Pulp Mill were outside Parliament at the Albert Hall in Launceston lobbying anyone whose ear they could get when Premier Bartlett came over for a bit of a yarn. Demonstrator Tony Saddington told The Hobart Mercury he was left with the impression that the Premier believed the mill was on its last legs.

“He seems to think they (Gunns) will be pushing it up hill,” Mr Saddington said.

“There were about four of us there and he didn’t seem too concerned about telling us that he didn’t think it was going to get finance any time soon.”

Shares in Gunns yesterday fell to $1.67, after plummeting 9 per cent on Tuesday, and this morning the company sought a trading halt from the ASX. The company secretary, Wayne Chapman requested the halt in advance of an announcement to be made to the market concerning a proposed capital-raising.

The Mercury report this morning said Mr Bartlett’s media adviser, Vanessa Fabris, was shocked when told that Mr Bartlett had spoken to the protesters when no minders were present. But she said of the protesters’ claim: “It is simply not true.” A thus chastened Premier then issued a statement saying:

I had a general conversation with protesters in which I said nothing that I haven’t already said in public. My position has always and continues to be that the future of this project rests firmly in the hands of the proponent.

Prime Minister at a meeting without fashion advisers. Kevin Rudd, meanwhile, was off in the Pacific island paradise of Niue where he too seemed to have escaped the clutches of his media advisers for surely no self respecting member of that breed would have allowed him to appear on television in that outfit. And surely there was an adviser somewhere who could have pointed out to the Prime Minister that is a bit hypocritical to talk about the wonderful democratic standards of south Pacific nations when Tonga remains a feudal monarchy.

A winning day for Premier Carpenter. The WA Labor Party can notch up yesterday as a winning day on the campaign trail. The journalists all bought the line that Alan Carpenter was speaking the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth when he said he expected the opinion polls were correct in predicting this will be a very close run election. Removing the general expectation that the government will be easily returned is the most important campaign task for Labor.

The gap narrows. As the headlines have turned towards some good old fashioned Russia bashing following the invasion of Georgia, so has the position of Republican presidential candidate John McCain improved. The Real Clear Politics summary of the American opinion polls show that Barack Obama’s lead has narrowed considerably over the last fortnight.

Peter Fray

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