Wednesday, March 31, 2010


The Tasmanian Electoral Commission has just completed the distribution of preferences for the recent State election (they had to wait ten days after polling day for all postal votes to come in, then began the final counting yesterday morning), and the expected result has materialized: each of the five electorates has returned two Labor, two Liberal and a Green, giving a total of 10 Labor, 10 Liberal and 5 Green Members of the House of Assembly.  The glories of our Hare-Clark system of voting!

An interesting aside: the Electoral Commission has posted online the first preferences figures for each polling place, and Trevallyn (where I cast my vote) turns out to be one of the very Greenest suburbs of Launceston: 39% voted for the Greens first, compared to 41% for the Liberals and only 19% for Labor.  The Statewide result was quite different, basically reversing the percentages gained by Labor and Green!

Premier Bartlett, having decisively lost the election, went to see the Governor to-day, and doubtless will again next Wednesday (after the official declaration of the poll); though Labor leader, Bartlett has repeated that the party gaining the most votes ought assume government; as the Liberals outpolled Labor, and their leader, Will Hodgman, has said from the conclusion of the poll onward that he and his Liberals ought take office in Labor's stead, I expect that His Excellency will first receive Bartlett's resignation, then send for Hodgman to offer him Her Majesty's commission to form a government with himself as Premier.

How unwelcome a prospect for the Prime Minister of Australia, to have another Liberal Premier showing up within a few weeks' time, just when Rudd is trying to get all the States to agree to his proposed federal takeover of public hospitals...  I can't quite see Hodgman agreeing to forgo tax revenue and hand over further power to Canberra.  Good!  A do like a poke in the eye for proponents of ever-larger bureaucracies.

Minority Government again... given the incompetence and deplorable goings-on under Labor over its recent rule, the electorate has signalled that it doesn't want Labor – but isn't quite sure what it wants.  The three parties in the House will just have to muddle along, taking each vote as it comes, with the Liberals always under close criticism and scrutiny, having to justify each and every policy they propose, compromising if need be to get legislation passed.  I must say, I think that's a good thing.  The quality of governance has declined of late, and a salutary check on the executive arm will be the inability to command the legislature.

Apparently Premier-elect Hodgman wants the Governor to summon the new Parliament within the month (not waiting for the upcoming Legislative Council elections), so as to test his support on the floor of the House.  It reminds me of 1989, when Premier Gray tried to hold onto power despite losing his Parliamentary majority, but lost the inevitable no-confidence motion.  (That was when a businessman attempted to bribe one of the MHA's to cross the floor, but instead himself went to jail for his wicked crime against democracy.)

A closely related issue: with 25 members, to be split three ways for the foreseeable future, the House is just too small – talk about the Senate of Lilliput!  It was inappropriate enough back in 1989 when Field ran a minority Government with just 13 MHA's (the Greens on the crossbenches supported it, sort of); now we will have the silly spectacle of a minority Government with only 10 members – 9 Ministers, and only one on the backbench.  At the least we need to go back to the old House of 35 members (7 per electorate), and I would wish for 45 (9 per electorate), though that's most unlikely outside my febrile imagination.

[UPDATE: Quite unexpectedly, the Greens signalled on the 8th of April that they would lean toward supporting a minority Labor government, to the understandable ire of Hodgman, who'd only the day before been beaming smiles, thinking he'd be called to Government House to be sworn in as Premier...  instead, the Governor decided that the best constitutional principles required him to keep Labor on, as Labor has the prospect of forming a stable government, whereas the Liberals (refusing to negotiate with the Greens, and unable to rely on Labor) have less chance of doing so.  Hence, Bartlett was retained, had his commission as Premier renewed on the 13th of April, and is presently negotiating with the Greens...]

As we now prepare to mark Good Friday and Easter Sunday, we ought spare a prayer for our elected representatives...  Here is the prayer the Speaker reads at the start of each day's session:

“Almighty God, we humbly beseech Thee to vouchsafe Thy blessing upon this Parliament.  Direct and prosper our deliberations to the advancement of Thy glory and the true welfare of the people of Tasmania. 
“Our Father, which art in Heaven; Hallowed be Thy name.  Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done in earth as it is in Heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them who trespass against us.  And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.  For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.  Amen.”

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