The Tasmanian Greens have admitted they would look to "pick a fight" with Labor before the next state election to differentiate themselves but yesterday said they remained committed to the power-sharing deal in the state's Parliament.
In a stark contrast with comments by federal Labor MPs after the breakdown of the alliance with the Greens this week, Tasmanian Labor Premier Lara Giddings said yesterday arrangements in Tasmania were on track for a full four-year term.
Acting Tasmanian Greens leader Tim Morris said while the state alliance was stable, the Greens party would increasingly be looking to "differentiate" itself from Labor in the lead-up to the election due in May 2014.
"Probably the traditional method would be to pick a fight rather than declare the marriage over," Mr Morris said.
"We are considering our options but we are disinclined to go for instability.''
Ms Giddings said her state had learnt from previous bungled attempts at minority government. A key to success in a Labor-Greens governing alliance was including the junior party in the cabinet, she said.
The Premier, whose cabinet includes two Greens ministers, was wary of drawing parallels with the federal break-up this week between the two parties but said the alliance in Tasmania was working. On issues where the two parties now had irreparable differences – such as mining in the Tarkine Forest – the Greens ministers excused themselves from cabinet and were free to oppose the government in Parliament.
"We're determined to show that minority government can be stable. The business community can have confidence to invest because of that stability and we're determined to go the full four years and we're well on our way to now achieving that," Ms Giddings said at the National Press Club in Canberra.
Ms Giddings said that in the past, Tasmanian minority governments which relied on the Greens had been unstable, lasting just 2½ years under Labor premier Michael Field in the 1990s and a similar period under Liberal Tony Rundle.
The upbeat assessment of the Tasmanian Premier came despite state Labor falling to one of its lowest support levels.
In a recent EMRS poll, Labor dropped 4 percentage points to 23 per cent while support for the Greens rose 3 percentage points to 18 per cent.
Former federal Greens leader Bob Brown said as the party got stronger, the two major parties would try to squeeze the Greens out. He said he had long expected the federal alliance to fall.
"I've seen that happen before in Tasmanian politics where they tried to change the constitution to try and get rid of the Greens," Mr Brown said. " They failed and they'll fail here."
In 1990, the alliance agreement between the Greens and Labor in the Tasmanian Parliament disintegrated over forestry and woodchip quotas. In the 1992 election, Labor went on to record their lowest vote since 1910, amid voter disillusionment with the hung parliament.
Mr Field, the former premier, said the federal breakdown was a predictable repeat of events in 1990. "They have to be seen as a political party, not as a group of idealists," Mr Field said.
"They play their politics hard. They are very hard-headed."
Mr Field said the announcement by federal Greens leader Christine Milne this week was a predictable move to protect the Green's "brand".
"In the 1990s, when a major player in the Greens was Christine Milne, it was tough going [for Labor] and in order to protect their brand the Greens separated from us," Mr Field said. "In politics, there are always reasons you can find and the reason they gave was woodchip quotas. But clearly they were protecting their brand."
Mr Morris insisted the break-up of the Labor-Greens agreement federally would not affect the alliance between the parties in the state. "Labor and the Greens at the state level will continue to differ on a range of policy areas, which has been the nature of the power-sharing arrangement since day one," he said.
"We made a commitment to delivering stable government in Tasmania at the outset, and our commitment remains."
with Lucille Keen