Here’s another old column for historical interest: Covering the Tasmanian state election result in 2018
Well, although sections of the Australian media got a little over-excited at the prospect of having an inexperienced, young, female socialist of their very own to fawn over, the Jacinda Downunder squibbed it, in the Tasmanian state election. Will Hodgman’s Liberals have been returned, easily holding their majority: in fact, becoming only the second Liberal government in Tasmania to win a second term with a majority. Labor seem to have barely budged, and the Greens look lucky to even hold onto one seat (they ended up barely scraping in a second).
Despite the confident predictions of Rebecca White “pulling off an Ardern-like political coup”, Labor singularly failed to ignite much enthusiasm amongst Tasmania voters. Probably their biggest failure was deciding to run on an issue nobody really gave a rat’s arse about: banning poker machines from pubs and clubs. That’s the sort of thing single-issue independents run on. Even at a state level, voters want to hear the major parties talking about jobs, education and health.
The Greens have been humiliated, crashing badly in their birthplace. The Greens are blaming the lack of “a really strong environmental issue”, even though arguments over salmon farming have been festering for over a year. What seems more likely is that Tasmanians are still chary of the minor parties. “Majority government now!” was the big issue in 2014, and the spectre of the Labor-Green minority government will haunt Tasmanian politics for some time.
Tasmanian wariness of minor parties also probably hurt the fledgling Jackie Lambie Network (JLN). Lambie was elected as a Federal senator in 2013, but was forced to resign last year, another casualty of the Dual Citizenship scandal. Lambie has probably embodied the word “maverick” like no other politician since Pauline Hanson. She famously clashed on national tv with sharia-screecher, Yassmin Abdel-Magied, prompting Abdel-Magied’s hilarious claim that, “Islam is the most feminist religion, right?”
Lambie’s party was very much grass-roots. Its candidates were almost all political outsiders, many drawn from healthcare and small business backgrounds. It ran on a platform of health, education and jobs, with an overt attempt to appeal to “ordinary Tasmanians”. But while minor party the Greens are bankrolled by the biggest political donations in Australian history, the JLN’s shoestring budget saw them swamped in the campaign.
The entrails of Australian state elections are often read for their supposed implications for Federal parliament, but what, if any, there might be in this one is hard to say. At best, Turnbull might take some comfort from the fact that, even with a genuinely appealing leader (as opposed to Bill Shorten), Tasmanian Labor were barely able to dent the Liberals. More significant, perhaps, is the crash of the Greens. Their Federal vote peaked in 2010, and has plummeted since. Like Tasmania, the rest of the country got a taste of the Greens in government, and promptly spat them out. The Greens are now poison in their birthplace, and floundering without a big environment issue to scare up votes with.
Indeed, what this election possibly really shows is that the Federal Greens really are an environmental party no more. Their voter base has shrivelled in the “clean, green” Wilderness State, and now their core is strictly within the “hipster-proof fence” of a tiny enclave of wealthy, inner-city Melbourne and Sydney suburbs. The Greens have become the Watermelon Party. Their icon might as well be Russell Brand, posing a’la Che Guevara.