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Jun 21, 2016


From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Vote for me. Please. Tasmanian Labor Senator Lisa Singh is distributing her own personalised flyers in her home state, asking to “re-elect Lisa Singh to the Senate”. It is highly unusual for a senator to ask to be re-elected in this way, as parties usually campaign for above-the-line votes for the party, with the order of the candidates decided by the party. Singh was relegated to the unwinnable sixth place by the Labor Party in May this year, after being demoted to fourth place last year before a double dissolution election was announced.

Lisa Singh pamphlet

Last year Singh blamed factional deals for her low place on the Senate ballot paper. She is an unaligned member of the Left faction.

The pamphlet details Singh and Labor’s policy positions, including on Medicare, climate change and education. Singh says, “If re-elected to the Senate, I will continue to fight for what makes our Tasmanian community thrive and prosper, where no one is left behind”.

lisa singh pamphlet 2

Earlier in the election campaign, Crikey reported that Singh had been increasingly visible in Tasmania during the campaign, with a tipster saying:

“I’ve received a postal vote application from her, she has corflute signs with her name and picture around the area and there is a big LED billboard on corner of Elizabeth and Federal St, North Hobart with her name and picture.”

“I’ve only seen her signs around, nothing from any other ALP candidates, not even for the lower house candidate for Denison, who has the best chance of beating Wilkie. Nor even general ALP voting signs.”

Australians (would) vote for Clinton. They’re not our fights, but Australians have views on two matters our Anglophone cousins are wrestling with currently. According to today’s Essential Report, 38% of Australian voters think Britons should vote for the UK to remain in the European Union when they go to the polls on Thursday, while 22% support Brexit; 40% profess no opinion. Labor and Coalition voters feel almost exactly the same way (41%/42% remain), while Greens voters are just a little more enthusiastic (46% want the UK to stay). Looking across the Atlantic, Donald Trump is polling about as favourably among Australians as he is in the US: Australians back Hillary Clinton 71% to 15%. The best Trump can do is 19% among Liberal voters and 20% among “other” voters”.

Media diversity: both Blair and Devine. The Daily Telegraph has made an art of its outrageous front covers, with photoshops of politicians a regular occurrence. Editor Chris Dore has explained to Media Week why there’s so much focus on the front cover at the Sydney tabloid:

“‘I brought a different sort of outlook to The Courier and wanted to really turn the dial up,’ Dore explained. ‘That’s what I did in terms of owning the tabloid tradition. The Courier was a little bit stuck between a broadsheet, a compact or tabloid. What I brought to it was a clear approach, which was “We are a tabloid.”

‘This is also exactly what I’ve brought to The Telegraph. The page one strategy is really critical to me.

‘The front pages that really have an impact are the ones that get picked up.’

Speaking about his strategy for producing a compelling front page, Dore revealed: ‘It’s about making timeless front pages.’

He explained: ‘People are getting their news in many different ways during the day. We have a lot of exclusive stories on our front pages where we will be revealing something. The reality of the media landscape now is that we will publish that front page, and then the radio networks and television networks will report on it. The Daily Mail will steal it and publish it.

‘What is important for us is to present those front pages in a way that if you come across our newspaper at midday — and you have already heard about what’s going on — you will see a front page that is so compelling with a clever headline that you are still compelled to pick it up.

‘It’s not a new thing to have a compelling front page, but you have to come up with a way that the front page will last beyond the first news bulletin of the morning.’”

In a defensive interview, that talked up print, attacked Twitter and defended the paper’s political stances, Dore also said that the paper had a broad range of commentators:

“‘We have a wide and varied selection of columnists. We have Miranda Devine and Tim Blair, as well as Mark Latham and Cate McGregor. The breadth of our commentators across the political spectrum is unrivalled — yet no one really sees that.'”

So broad.

Danby’s preferences not shared in Melbourne Ports. Labor MP Michael Danby wears his disdain for the Greens like a badge of honour, but new ReachTEL polling reveals that it could hurt him at the polls. The poll of 818 residents of Melbourne Ports, commissioned by the Greens, shows Danby’s primary vote is as low as 23.7%, with the Liberals at 44.7% of voters, and the Greens at 20.2%.

The poll also reveals that voters aren’t so keen on Danby’s decision to go it alone and preference the Liberals above the Greens. The Labor MP has been handing out separate “how to vote” cards, authorised by him personally, instead of the ones authorised at Labor HQ. From the sample group, 36.4% said they were now less likely to vote for him, while 29.7% declared themselves to be more likely. The decision to vote for Danby was unchanged for 33.9%. For voters that had said they would plan on voting Labor, 47.9% said they would be less likely to vote for Danby, and among undecided voters 31.7% said it made them less likely to vote Labor. Of course, it is a Greens-commissioned survey and has a small sample size.

In the last federal election, Labor’s Greens preference helped Danby to return to Parliament.

Think of the children! With just two weeks to go until the election, fringe groups are now targeting voters at pre-poll venues, with an organisation calling themselves Kids Rights handing out a flyer in a Victorian electorate saying “Same Sex ‘Marriage’ has consequences for all”. It claims that same sex marriage and anti discrimination laws will result in “extreme sex education”, “freedom of speech lost” and “gender ideology imposed”. The flyer directs people to the Australian Family Association’s website and to the “Kids Rights” website, which attacks the Safe Schools program. The flyer carries an authorisation from Patrick Shea of Inverloch in Gippsland, who has not returned Crikey‘s phone call.

Kids Rights flyer

The Australian Christian Lobby has also been targeting Labor over issues relating to same sex marriage and gender issues for children — it’s last four media releases were aimed at the ALP.

*Heard anything that might interest Crikey? Send your tips to or use our guaranteed anonymous form

Tips and rumours

Jun 20, 2016


Tasmanian Labor Senator Lisa Singh is distributing her own personalised flyers in her home state, asking to “re-elect Lisa Singh to the Senate”. It is highly unusual for a senator to ask to be re-elected in this way, as parties usually campaign for above-the-line votes for the party, with the order of the candidates decided by the party. Singh was relegated to the unwinnable sixth place by the Labor Party in May this year, after being demoted to fourth place last year before a double dissolution election was announced.

Lisa Singh pamphlet

Last year Singh blamed factional deals for her low place on the Senate ballot paper. She is an unaligned member of the Left faction.

The pamphlet details Singh and Labor’s policy positions, including on Medicare, climate change and education. Singh says, “If re-elected to the Senate, I will continue to fight for what makes our Tasmanian community thrive and prosper, where no one is left behind”.

lisa singh pamphlet 2

Earlier in the election campaign, Crikey reported that Singh had been increasingly visible in Tasmania during the campaign, with a tipster saying:

“I’ve received a postal vote application from her, she has corflute signs with her name and picture around the area and there is a big LED billboard on corner of Elizabeth and Federal St, North Hobart with her name and picture.”

“I’ve only seen her signs around, nothing from any other ALP candidates, not even for the lower house candidate for Denison, who has the best chance of beating Wilkie. Nor even general ALP voting signs.”


Jun 15, 2016


An embattled former Tasmanian government mining minister who admitted to using an email address associated with a mining company he was supposed to have nothing to do with has claimed email filters protected him from being clued in on the company’s day-to-day activities.

Adam Brooks submitted his resignation to Tasmanian Liberal Premier Will Hodgman over the weekend due to a “perception of a conflict of interest” related to Brooks’ business interests and his ministerial responsibilities.

Brooks founded Maintenance Systems Solutions (MSS), a consultancy firm to mining companies, in 2004, and was elected to Tasmanian Parliament in 2010. He stepped down as the managing director of the company in 2012 while still in opposition but remained the sole shareholder of the company he founded until earlier this year. Brooks was promoted to the mining minister role in February this year and has been forced to slowly divest his interests in the company given his new ministerial role.

On Thursday, during budget estimates hearings, in an extraordinary exchange with Labor’s shadow treasurer Scott Bacon, Brooks first said three times that he was not using any company email, and then backtracked and said he still had an email account with the company but it was only for “personal use” and nothing to do with the business he had owned.

BROOKS: Chair, I wanted to clarify something Mr Bacon said. He alluded to some questions about relationships within MSS.  If I could ask him if he could cover off. I may have misheard the question; that is all.

BACON: It sounds like you misheard the question.

BROOKS: Could you repeat it for me?

BACON: I do not know what you are referring to.

BROOKS: I think it was related to phones or assets or emails or something.

O’CONNOR: Specifically, what it was related to clearly was an email.

BACON: Do not try this, mate.

BROOKS: No, I am not trying anything. I would like to clarify something with you, Chair. There is still a valid or an activated email owned by the company that I do not use for anything other than personal use. I obviously need to make sure that is clear. This is about a completely irrelevant attack on whether I receive emails.

This has raised questions on whether Brooks was still involved in the operation of the company given he was still actively using an email account administrated by the business while also being the minister responsible for the sector the business operates in.

Worse, Brooks claimed in his resignation letter to Hodgman, seen by Crikey, that although he did use the email address, he had set in place filters upon becoming a minister so that only personal emails would go through to his MSS email account.

“The MSS email address has been held by me for about a decade. Upon becoming a minister, a filter system was put in place to ensure any business-related emails were not accessible or able to be seen by me.”

Brooks said that since becoming a minister in March, he had only used it for personal and non-business-related correspondence, including his family and legal affairs.

Hodgman has asked the state’s Crown Solicitor to examine Brooks’ private MSS email server and all emails that were sent and received by the account to see if Brooks’ claims that a filter was set up on the account was strong enough to prevent all incoming emails except those related to his personal and non-business affairs. Hodgman told Parliament on Tuesday this investigation could take two weeks:

“It will also allow the Crown Solicitor to make an assessment independently and objectively – given his skills, qualification and position in government, he is well qualified to do so – as to whether any of the incoming or outgoing emails from the account indicate that Mr Brooks was participating in decisions concerning the operation of MSS or that he was provided information in relation to MSS that was not otherwise in the public domain.”

Brooks has not said what filtering exactly the company is using and whether there is an administrator to ensure that all appropriate emails were reaching him. The Labor opposition is likely to keep up the heat on Brooks and Hodgman while the Crown Solicitor attempts to determine what exactly Brooks had access to via the MSS email account.

Brooks’ case is similar to that of former member for Fairfax Clive Palmer, who was found to be continuing to use a Yahoo email address under the alias Terry Smith to sign off on expenses for Queensland Nickel. Crikey revealed that Palmer had also used this account to negotiate the passage of the carbon tax repeal legislation with Environment Minister Greg Hunt’s office. In his last press conference in Parliament, Palmer told Crikey that he used that email address for everything.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull also uses his own private email server for government business.


Jan 17, 2014


Tasmanians will go to the polls on March 15, Premier Lara Giddings yesterday confirmed, setting up a super Saturday of simultaneous state elections in Tasmania and South Australia. In both cases, the hopes of Labor — the last remaining Labor governments at a state or federal level — look grim.

Labor’s prospects look particularly bleak in Tasmania, where the party has been in power since 1998. That makes the Bacon-Lennon-Bartlett-Giddings government the same age as Kristina Keneally’s in New South Wales and two years older than Anna Bligh’s in Queensland at the time of their respective massacres in 2011 and 2012. In each case, a strong sense prevailed that all concerned would have been better off if the governments had gone down to more honourable defeats a term sooner.

However, Tasmania offers one sharp distinction with NSW and Queensland: the Hare-Clark electoral system, in which each of the state’s five electorates return five lower house members through a brand of proportional representation much beloved by election watchers. This has traditionally made life for the Liberals very difficult indeed, given their position on the Right of a three-party system in which the centre is occupied by Labor.

The 2010 election result had the Liberals clear winners in terms of votes cast, with Labor reduced from 14 seats to 10 and the ALP vote crashing by 12.7%. As then-premier David Bartlett had spent the campaign talking up his party’s determination not to govern with the support of the Greens, the talk on election night was of an imminent change of government. But with the Liberals likewise finishing the count stranded on 10 seats and the Greens standing firm in their refusal to do business with them, Labor remained in office by default.

Four years on, Labor finds the burdens of long-term incumbency weighing more heavily than ever, having spent the last term governing from a position of political weakness through a coalition arrangement with the Greens (which Giddings pointedly brought to an end yesterday).

High as the Hare-Clark hurdle may be, the Liberals — who remain under the leadership of Will Hodgman, as they were in 2010 — will go into the campaign with every confidence of clearing it.

Parallels between the federal and state spheres are misleading more often than not, but the present situation in Tasmania looks very much like an exception. The period of Labor-Greens rule has mostly coincided with Labor being in minority government federally, and both opinion polls and the federal election result have offered a strong impression that the unpopularity of each was feeding into the other.

In particular, the Liberals’ success in poaching Bass, Braddon and Lyons from Labor at the federal election — with respective swings of 10.7%, 10.1% and 13.5% — suggests a path to majority government has opened in the state’s north.

“To crudely simplify the maths of Hare-Clark, the Liberals can expect to gain the three seats they need …”

To crudely simplify the maths of Hare-Clark, the Liberals can expect to gain the three seats they need if their vote improves by 2% in Braddon, 5% in Lyons and 6% in Bass (or by 4% in the Hobart fringe electorate of Franklin, where the federal election swing was only half as big).  That happens to be roughly the difference between the Liberal vote at the 2010 state and 2013 federal elections in the case of Bass and Braddon, and at least 3% less in the case of Lyons.

The Liberals have two reasons to hope they can do quite a bit better than that, the first being the polls. Large-sample polls conducted by ReachTEL over the past six months have consistently found the Liberals to be doing at least 5% better at state than federal level, and Labor doing correspondingly worse.

The second is the rhetorical trump card the Liberals have in being the only party that can credibly claim to be a potential majority government, an asset that greatly boosted Labor as it powered to its landslide wins in 2002 and 2006.

There is, however, a fly in the ointment in the shape of the Palmer United Party, which succeeded in winning a Tasmanian Senate seat and stands poised once again to blitz the airwaves with television advertising. An encouraging development for the new party is the decline in support for the Greens, whose vote in Tasmania fell by half at the federal election. That raises the possibility of PUP candidates emerging as piggies in the middle of 2-2-1 results of the kind that have traditionally delivered seats to the Greens.

A particularly promising prospect is the north-western electorate of Braddon, where a Greens candidate was elected by a razor-thin margin in 2010. The PUP’s lead candidate in the electorate is Kevin Morgan, whom Clive Palmer has proclaimed with characteristic reserve to be “the next premier of Tasmania”.

In one sense, the Palmer insurgency presents the Liberals with a potentially substantial obstacle on their path to majority government. But it also promises to sharpen their message that they and they alone offer an alternative to four years of parliamentary chaos.


May 31, 2013


Most attention focuses on the federal budget in May, but state budgets help complete the fiscal mosaic.

On a state-by-state comparison it’s pretty easy to have a cheap shot at Tasmania for being a basketcase, but adjusted for scale and rural location factors Tasmania is little different from other areas in Australia. Its budgetary problems throw into stark relief the problems facing all states.

The preoccupation with debt and deficits that afflicted the discussion about the federal budget has carried over to the state budget. Despite sound reasons for running deficits, Tasmania has no option but to move to surpluses, as it has little cash remaining and cannot borrow because, as presently structured, it can’t service any more than the current $220 million sum and has by its words and actions undermined its capacity to raise more of its own revenue.

The wholly owned government businesses — specifically the three electricity monopolies covering generation, distribution and retail functions — are loaded with debt and will struggle to support more borrowings.

When declining revenues from GST and state taxes smashed the state’s bottom line, the government upped the percentage taken as dividends from the electricity companies, which fortunately coincided with rosier future profits given the carbon tax bestowed relative cost advantages upon Tasmania’s largely hydro-based generation network. But electricity demand patterns are changing, and the carbon tax is likely to disappear after September 14.

Federally, the doctrine of surpluses being good and deficits bad adopted by both major political parties means that as we are forced from deficits to surpluses as soon as politically possible, each budget will be contradictory relative to its predecessor. And when government surpluses eventuate the iron law of sectoral balances means the private sector will inevitably be in deficit — just another problem for the Tasmanian economy as it attempts to move forward from a situation where gross state product is estimated to have contracted by 0.75% during 2012-13.

The estimated outcomes for 2012-13 brought a further rundown in the state’s cash reserves. Next year, 2013-14, they will disappear altogether. Over the past two years the only cash on hand has been from grants paid in advance by the federal government. This has been used as working capital to fund the ordinary operations of government.

In the current year 2012-13, 98% of operating revenues (excluding tied capital grants) were spent on operating expenses, 5% paying the costs of unfunded superannuation to retired public servants and a further 5% on new plant equipment and infrastructure. Fortunately the costs of servicing borrowings were negligible.

“Removal of the carbon tax will hurt Tasmania because of the dominance of existing renewables, but the Liberals only accounted for the change in the first year of its plan.”

Next year, 95% of operating revenues will be spent on operating expenses, 5% paying pensions and benefits and 6% on new plant infrastructure and injections into government businesses. The cash tin will then be empty.

The following years will be break even or better, but if the pattern of the recent past is repeated the estimates for future revenues are optimistic.

Hence the situation is a little precarious, especially as the federal capital grants received in advance and used for working capital will have to be “repaid” when it’s time to spend as intended. Tasmania has elected to become a cork in the ocean, at the mercy of the elements. Batten down the hatches, reef the sails and pray the GST rate will increase is essentially the government’s plan.

Despite the Liberal’s virulent criticism of the government’s budgets, in releasing its alternative Plan for a Brighter Future it accepted all the government revenue projections, fiddled with a few expenses and proclaimed “our bottom line is better than yours” and “we will reach a surplus a year earlier”.

Removal of the carbon tax will hurt Tasmania because of the dominance of existing renewables, but the Liberals only accounted for the change in the first year of its plan. No need to worry about the other three years, we were told, because any costs will be offset by the dividends from a growing economy. How was not explained. The risks and sensitivity section in the budget offered no basis for the Liberals’ ebullient view. An increase in employment of 1% will only lead to payroll tax rising by $4 million, hardly enough to offset declining returns from the electricity companies.

The Liberals also reaffirmed a commitment to tearing up the recent forest agreement bankrolled by the federal government. Amounts to be spent were removed and treated as savings despite retaining the incoming grants as income.

The government-owned Forestry Tasmania is insolvent and propped up with a letter of comfort from the government, hasn’t produced operating cash surpluses for years even when woodchipping was rife, has pawned its motor vehicle fleet, sold its softwood plantations, has hardwood plantations that are cash flow negative, has spent federal grants money paid in advance on operating expenses, and whatever it earns barely covers overheads. It therefore needs a government lifeline of $25 million each year to pay wages. The Liberals disagree with the views of the newly constituted board and say the injection is not needed because they will grow the industry. Again, how was not explained.

The government appropriates amounts each year into the Treasurer’s reserve to meet unforseen expenditures. It is not included in the bottom line calculation, because it is only a contingency. But that didn’t stop the Liberals removing the contingency and counting it as a bottom line savings.

A recent opinion poll taken before the budget revealed the undecided vote heading towards the March 2014 state election had risen to 30%. While the Premier resorts to Pollyanna imitations rather than adequate explanations of the state’ situation and a way forward, the opposition’s response is little more than a hoax unlikely to restore much needed trust amongst the growing numbers of disaffected and disillusioned.

*John Lawrence was employed as an economist for five years before returning to Tasmania as an accountant in public practice and an observer and researcher on finance and economic matters at the state level


Mar 23, 2013



Aug 6, 2012


Why is the Tasmanian Labor government about to act on gay marriage when, 15 years ago, it was just about the last in the civilised world to decriminalise s-x between consenting male adults?

Why is the Tasmanian Labor government seeking to lead the way nationally on caged hens and ending the use of sow stalls for pregnant pigs?

Why is the Tasmanian Labor government between a rock and a hard place on forestry?

The answer to all of these questions is to be found in a graph of opinion polling of Tasmania’s political parties over the past seven years. The graph shows Tasmanian Labor in the wilderness. But all is not lost.

Pollster EMRS data shows Labor support on a downward trend from a high of 49% support in 2006 to below 20% today. The Liberals’ trend line is climbing, gradually, from 23% in 2005 to 38% today. The Greens’ trend line follows a similar upward path, from 12% seven years ago to 17% today.

Tasmanian Labor has lost its progressive vote to the Greens while the Liberals are holding the ground of the centre-right. Tasmanians no longer know what Labor stands for. The Greens are stealing its heartland.

So we saw the move at the weekend by Labor to seek to re-establish its social progression by moving to allow gay marriage, another Green initiative. Commentators proffer the view that this is Labor seeking to distract the electorate from the ills of the economy, the continuing impasse over forestry, etc., fiddling while Rome burns, if you like. After all, they reason, this law reform is not going to go anywhere because it has to garner a majority of votes in the 15-seat upper house and that looks doubtful.

And, if it were to pass the Tasmanian Parliament, would it withstand a High Court challenge that presumably would be fought on the basis of a conflict of state and federal law and Constitutional Law 101 says that where there is such a conflict, federal law will prevail?

Meanwhile, Hobart talkback runs hot with calls of outrage from the Christian lobby.

Back to the graph. Examine the entrails. Common wisdom is that Labor will get a bath at the 2014 state election. Many go on to conclude that it means Labor will be driven from office.

It ain’t necessarily so. Without going into the intricacies of the Hare-Clark system that is used to elect the 25 members of the Tasmanian House of Assembly, let me explain what may happen.

We have five MPs in each of five electorates, elected by proportional representation, very similar to the Senate. In 2010 Hare Clark delivered what you would expect: 10 Labor, 10 Liberals and five Greens, 2:2:1 in each electorate. Labor and the Greens joined forces to form a 15-10 government.

To win majority government, a party has to win three seats in each of three electorates (and two each in the other two). That means they have to secure 49.8% of the vote in each of those three electorates. The Liberals, under leader Will Hodgman, are not getting anywhere near that level of support, particularly in southern Tasmania. They are below 40%.

What are you left with? Despite Labor’s appalling stocks, the Greens and Labor, in their combined vote, are closer to 50% than the Liberals. Between them they can see 13 seats. The Greens may be growing in support and Labor declining, but the end result is the same.

This whole social reform exercise in Tasmania is about damage minimisation, consolidating Labor’s progressive vote to shore up 13 seats with the Greens and to keep the Liberals from governing.

It is Liberals who have the bigger problem.


Mar 6, 2012


Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings seeks to offer some insights today into the island’s future in her annual State of the State address.

She gets to her feet amid an increasing air of despondency about the state economy. There is low business confidence, the high Australian dollar and low demand threaten an already struggling tourism industry and two major power users, BHP’s Temco and Rio Tinto’s Alcan. As significantly, there is Tasmania’s structural dysfunction — too many public sector jobs, too few sustainable private enterprise jobs and too many of the population on welfare, as much as one-third.

All this confronts Giddings, a committed and competent politician who leads a minority government that includes two Green ministers who march to the beat of their own drum and not the government’s. One of them, Nick McKim, undermines international confidence in Tasmania’s ability to provide sustainably produced forest products at the same time as his Labor colleagues seek to save those markets; his colleague and life partner, Cassy O’Connor, the Tasmanian Aboriginal Affairs Minister, deeply offended local Aborigines by referring to them as “a vulnerable community” after it appeared they might get their hands on some of the forests she and McKim want locked up in national parks.

Veteran activist Michael Mansell bagged O’Connor’s ill-thought commentary as “patronising” and “condescending”, which bodes ill for future relations between that minister and her indigenous constituency.

As a former correspondent for The Australian here, I know how incomprehensible and therefore tiresome Tasmanian forest politics can be for the rest of the nation. We argue incessantly about forest policy and environmental outcomes; one villainous forest company disappears off the hit list to be replaced by another; stunts aimed at the media become more risible yet still the cameras turn up; meanwhile, Tasmania falls further and further behind other states economically.

Those states are again asking why, through GST revenue distribution, they should be made to subsidise a mendicant poor cousin whose major growth industry seems to be left-of-centre pressure groups who want not only to stop the clock but to wind it back to deliver a form of Tasmanian prehistory; this at a time when Western Australians get back 70 cents of each GST dollar they pay to the Australian Taxation Office while Tasmanians get back $1.60.

The challenge of painting a long-term economic vision for Tasmania eludes MPs. Far easier, it seems, to engage in tragic-comic sideshows, such as the doomed intergovernmental forest agreement with the Gillard government. The Upper House, the Legislative Council, will scupper it or an incoming Liberal government will shred it. It has no future.

Then there is the extravaganza spun by Forestry Tasmania, the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania and Michael Mansell’s Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC). The TAC is courting the forest industry to give Aborigines the forests that the environmental groups covet for national parks under the IGA, the attraction being that Forestry Tasmania would manage the forests for the TAC for conservation (and a suggestion of some logging access) while the rest of us can engage in hunting, shooting and fishing the local fauna. It is a deliberate “up yours” to the Greens but it has no future.

There is a flaw in the IGA concept and the land hand-back to the Aboriginal community. The use of Tasmanian public forests is not for environmental groups or the forest industry to determine. That environmental groups have been able to nominate another half a million hectares or so of public forest to investigate for lock-up is fundamentally undemocratic. That the forest industry can barter public forests with the Aboriginal community is delusional.

The industry does not own the forests. Forest use is rightly the preserve of Parliament and, in the end, the Legislative Council is where the action will be.

But the fiddlers at the sideshows play on, as the economy burns.

Richard Farmer’s chunky bits

Dec 15, 2011


Ban those car radios. Back in the 1930’s legislators in Massachusetts seriously considered legislation to ban radios in cars on the grounds that listening would distract drivers.

This week the US National Transportation Safety Board recommended that all states and the District ban cellphone while driving.

“No call, no text, no update, is worth a human life,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman.

“It is time for all of us to stand up for safety by turning off electronic devices when driving.”

Personally I cannot understand why talking to someone on a hands free phone is any more distracting than talking to the passenger alongside or in the seat behind. And certainly the evidence about the extent of accidents caused by mobile phone talking is scant as the graph above suggests.

Family matters. Andrew Bolt is not the only prominent conservative opponent of same sex marriage with a lesbian sister not entirely happy with his views on sexuality. I expect there are some tensions within a good parliamentary Liberal Party family too.

Hardly a deft political touch. Whatever you think about the likelihood of there actually being a challenge to Julia Gillard’s Labor leadership some time down the track, it’s hard not to marvel at the way a Cabinet reshuffle supposedly to strengthen the government’s standing has quickly become a way of weakening it.

Another lot of leadership speculation. Anything Canberra can do Hobart can do too. Including having its own bout of leadership speculation.

As the local ABC in Tasmania reported yesterday, Tasmania’s Infrastructure Minister David O’Byrne has rejected suggestions he is planning to challenge Lara Giddings for the leadership. Mr O’Bryne, who was elected into parliament at last year’s state election, says he is happy just being minister.

Undeterred by that denial the report continued: “But he has not ruled out a leadership move in the future.”

Let’s hope they can do it. Chinese officials have just finished their annual economic talkfest known as the Central Economic Work Conference with a commitment not to allow global uncertainties to disrupt what it called “relatively fast growth.”

In Australia we should be hoping that they can pull it off while adjusting to the likelihood that “relatively fast growth” will be less than our miners have benefited from in recent years.

From this morning’s China Daily:

More notes on reputable forecasts. The Chinese pundits, we should remember, are talking about the future and are thus in the forecasting business. A reminder of just how wrong those forecast things can be was given overnight by Poul Thomsen, Deputy Director, IMF European Department. when talking about developments in Greece.

Back in May last year when the IMF joined in the $US140 billion three year bailout plan, Greece was predicted to be back to a growth economy by 2012. After its most recent review the IMF now predicts that the Greek economy will shrink by about 6 percent this year — more than twice the rate expected when the three-year bailout was approved in May 2010 — and will continue contracting through 2012.

With that result in mind, the following question at a press conference was hardly surprising:

QUESTIONER: I would like to ask Mr. Thomsen if he would be ready and willing to admit that mistakes have been made in the implementation and the design of this program on the side of the IMF?

MR. THOMSEN: I think that there are some lessons to be learned. I just gave you one of them. I think there has been too much of a reliance on taxation. That’s certainly one of them that won’t lead to a refocus of the program.

Also clearly one of the things that is fundamentally different is, as I said, in terms of the implementation of the program—I do think that reforms, structural reforms—as I said in my introductory remarks—have fallen short. They are well behind schedule. They are well away from this critical mass, where people conclude that Greece is doing business in a fundamentally different way.

And I think, above all, this is the main reason why the hope for bottoming out of the recession has not yet happened.

QUESTIONER: I have one specific question on language in the report, if I could. And then sort of a broad one about where we stand. You say that, regarding the PSI, that “low participation in debt exchange, and a significant amount of holdouts that would be amortized with European support.” And you characterize this as “a real risk under a purely voluntary approach” that could leave debt at 145 percent of GDP in 2020. Is that to hint, in any way—I mean, it seems to hint very strongly that the IMF feels an involuntary exchange—i.e., a credit event—may be necessary to make this work. Is that true?

MR. THOMSEN: No, we are hopeful that having participated as an observer to these discussions, that Greece and its creditors will come up with a deal that is with a very high participation—a voluntary deal with a very high participation.

I think given that there is this $30 billion involved, that’s a lot of money. I think that should be possible.

QUESTIONER: And the broad question is this: I assume we’re at a point right now where any change in the financing gap is going to have to either come from increased European support, or increased private-sector support.

And I guess what I’m wondering is, why trust them any longer? This has dragged on for a year-and-a-half. At what point does the IMF say, “You know what? We don’t need to be involved in this anymore. They’re not doing what they say?”

MR. THOMSEN: Well, we recognize that this, as far as policy implementation is concerned, it’s a very complex situation. And process has been made on many fronts. The fact is that there is still quite a long way to go, and this will take longer than originally expected—in part because the external environment is so much less favorable, but also because it has been more difficult to get the broad political support that we also had hoped for when we started out.

So, we are facing much stronger headwinds. It doesn’t mean that we’re not making progress. We are making progress. And it’s certainly not a reason to give up.

As far as debt is concerned, I come back to what I said before, that the combination of the July summit, which provided this “for as long as it takes” commitment on the part of the official sector, to provide financing at triple-A financing rates, and this comprehensive PSI that is now on the table—the outlook for debt surely has improved, compared to the Fourth Review.


May 11, 2011


Former Tasmanian Labor premier David Bartlett today refused to resign from parliament immediately, yet having told Premier Lara Giddings he questioned whether he had the passion and commitment to continue.

Instead, he has resigned as attorney-general and will resign from parliament “in the coming weeks” or “a few months”, depending on whether you take as gospel what he said in this morning’s resignation press release or what he said at his 10.30am press conference (“a few months”).

Senior Labor figures and some, at least, of his own colleagues, are incensed at the manner of his resignation and non-departure. Can there be a clearer case of a rat deserting a sinking ship, but on the terms most favourable to himself?

Bartlett is the third minister to quit in the past six months, following the early resignation from the upper house, the Legislative Council, of former Treasurer Michael Aird and the defeat in Saturday’s Legislative Council elections of Education Minister Lin Thorp.

Bartlett, the third Labor pillar to fall, forces Giddings into a major reshuffle when she least wants it and when the state is facing its gravest fiscal crisis in 20 years.

In a lower house where Labor has only 10 members, one of whom is speaker, she has no talent to draw upon. She already has two of the five Green MPs in her cabinet.

With Thorp’s defeat she was going to reduce the nine-member cabinet to eight and in a meeting with Bartlett yesterday afternoon had opened her mouth to ask him to take on extra responsibilities from his light load when he interrupted her and confessed he could not guarantee he would be in parliament by the end of the year; that he was “a 50/50 chance”; that the question he still had after stepping down as premier on January 23 was whether he still had “the passion and commitment that was required”.

At his press conference this morning, Bartlett continually ducked Crikey‘s questioning about the suggestion that he was accepting an associate professorship with Griffith University and that he was about to be interviewed for a job with one of the world’s best-known brands in computers. He said he was not being interviewed next week or the coming weeks.

Under the Tasmanian Hare-Clark voting system, when Bartlett eventually resigns from parliament the vacancy will be filled by a recount of his primary votes; in other words, if he had not been on the ballot paper whom would people have preferred.

That is decided by scrutinising his second preferences. They will inevitably favour a Labor candidate, probably Lisa Singh, but who is to be a senator from July 1. That leaves the seat to 2010 defeated minister Graeme Sturges or lawyer Madeleine Ogilvie.

Since the Tasmanian system does not require byelections, there is no need for Bartlett to stay on. Giddings will now have to assess the backlash against Bartlett’s decision to leave cabinet, but to stay in parliament until a time that suits him to go, which, he says, will be after he has “tidied up a few projects in the electorate”.

Giddings has shown herself to be a strong leader. A strong leader would tell Bartlett to pack up and go now.