It was all smiles at Government House this morning as the new ministry was sworn in, but there’s always one negative Nelly around to spoil the party. After Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced his new ministry yesterday, Senator Eric Abetz, self-appointed leader of the conservative wing of the Liberal party, bemoaned the lack of Tasmanians in the ministry or cabinet in a press release:

“The Ministry is appointed at the sole discretion of the Prime Minister.

“While it is disappointing that there will be no Tasmanian Minister, the Tasmanian Liberal Senate Team will continue to be vocal representatives within the government to deliver for our state.

“We as a team have a strong track record of delivery in advancing Tasmania’s interests and we will continue to build on that.

“All members of the team have strong relationships within the Government which we will use to leverage the best possible outcomes for Tasmania.

“Our primary focus will be working with new Ministers to ensure the timely delivery of our election commitments.”

It’s almost as if Abetz realises there is value in having people from diverse backgrounds in senior positions in government, and that that kind of representation makes a difference for the people who share those backgrounds, like women, or LGBTI people. If Abetz really wanted to do something about the number of Tasmanians in the Ministry, we have a few hints. Up until yesterday, Tasmania did have a representative in the ministry, Richard Colbeck, who was Tourism and International Education Minister. But after he was demoted to the unwinnable fifth position on the Liberals’ Senate order his career hangs in the balance, despite a campaign for people to vote for him below the line. Colbeck won 7365 first preference votes below the line, compared to top of the ticket Abetz, who gained 4847 votes.

Peter Fray

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