Launceston Legislative Council election preview

JUDGMENT DAY: On Saturday May 6, voters in Launceston will cast their ballot papers to determine who will represent them in the Legislative Council for the next six years. Incumbent Rosemary Armitage was elected in 2011.

JUDGMENT DAY: On Saturday May 6, voters in Launceston will cast their ballot papers to determine who will represent them in the Legislative Council for the next six years. Incumbent Rosemary Armitage was elected in 2011.

As the Legislative Council elections loom, Launceston is preparing to head to the polls once more.

On May 6, voters in Launceston – as well as Murchison and Rumney - will cast their ballots to determine who will represent them in the state’s upper house for the next six years.

Incumbent Launceston independent MLC Rosemary Armitage was elected in 2011.

Political analyst Kevin Bonham stressed that Legislative Councillors did not measure themselves on achievements, but rather their voting records and community connections.

“It’s often hard for the upper house to achieve things,” Dr Bonham said.

“They can block things, but kicking positive goals is more difficult.

“A lot of it is to do with community ties and how respected the member is in the community and how well they’re seen as listening to community issues and representing the community.”

Ms Armitage said she had spent the last 15 years “working in the community”.

“I love being in touch with the people, and helping them,” Ms Armitage said.

She highlighted the fact that she had recently moved to establish a Select Committee to examine the challenges and benefits of a government takeover of TasWater, which has been touted as a potential solution to the north’s water and sewerage problem.

In addition to advocating for better health services and water and sewerage infrastructure for Launceston, Ms Armitage said she would fight for a greater number of Northern voices on Tasmania’s government business boards.

Independent candidate Neroli Ellis has a background that lends itself well to addressing the health issue.

As the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation state secretary, Ms Ellis has the requisite cachet to make health her primary campaign platform.

“With 30 years experience as a nurse, working at the Launceston General Hospital and lobbying in public and private systems, including aged care, I have wide networks and can assess and identify solutions and then lobby for outcomes, rather than just ask questions to raise issues,” Ms Ellis said.

In terms of her politics, she said she was “quite centrist while being socially progressive”.

Cost of living and jobs were other issues Launceston residents had raised with Ms Ellis.

Labor candidate Brian Roe, a sporting official, said he believed people did not necessarily want independents exclusively representing them on the Legislative Council.

“People who traditionally vote Labor and Green at state and federal elections are indicating they’re more than comfortable about voting for a party candidate in the upper house,” Mr Roe said.

Mr Roe was critical of the government’s proposed changes to the state’s anti-discrimination laws, which are currently being reviewed by the upper house.

“We’ve got something that’s good, it protects people, it gives Tasmania a good feel about itself and we want to go tinkering with it for no real reason at all,” he said.

Another party candidate in the Launceston election is the Greens’ Emma Anglesey.

As an advisor to Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, the 33-year-old Ms Anglesey is aware of the issues facing Launceston.

She said the Legislative Council needed more youthful representation.

“When you have a look at a lot of the political decisions that are being made now, they’re actually really going to be affecting my generation in the future,” Ms Anglesey said.

“I think that those issues need to have a voice, all the way from climate, the environment, jobs, housing, health and education.”

Independent candidate Mark Tapsell said he was “sick to death … of seeing the lack of common sense decisions made” in the state Parliament.

I think it’s ... likely that voters are going to stick with preferring independents - Political analyst Kevin Bonham

“At the moment, we the people aren’t being listened to,” Mr Tapsell said.

“We’re being ignored, whether its [by] council, state government or the federal government.”

Mr Tapsell, who is being backed by the Australian Recreational Fishers Party, said he would stand up for recreational fishers and small business.

He claimed supertrawlers were never allowed in Tasmanian waters, despite the state government recently legislating to ban them. 

But Mr Tapsell is not the only candidate representing fishing enthusiasts.

Shooters and Fishers Party candidate Matthew Allen said he wanted Tasmanians to be allowed into areas of the state that they had previously been “locked out” of.

“People like me that spend a lot of time in the outdoors are continually being locked out and stopped from doing what we love and enjoy,” Mr Allen said.

For more reasons than one, he supports the government’s forest policy, which would see 356,000 hectares of state forest opened up to logging.

“It’s not just for … logging, it’s for the recreational activities that will be allowed in those areas at the same time,” Mr Allen said.

He listed fishing, shooting, camping, trail bike-riding and four wheel driving as some of the activities he wanted people to be able to enjoy freely.

Dr Bonham was careful to note that he did not believe many voters would opt for party candidates in the Launceston election.

“I think it’s more likely that voters are going to stick with preferring independents in the upper house for this seat,” he said.

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