Minority government not an option for Tas

Neil Grose
Neil Grose

Now is not the time for minority government in Tasmania. The Tasmanian economy has recovered strongly from the political malaise foisted on the Tasmanian people, against their will, between 2010 and 2014. 

Tasmania’s political history is littered with examples of failed minority governments: those doomed coalitions of the desperate. None ever extended past a single term, or for that matter a full four-year term in the same way they commenced. The reason minority governments don’t work is simple: the will of the majority is perverted by the interests of a few. 

A small number holding the crucial balance of power undermines what should be a clear direction for either major party to deliver their economic management policy and essential services in an efficient way.

Compromise becomes king with minority government, but a king with a leaden crown. Each party to a minority coalition is compelled to compromise. In the years between 2010-14, the ALP capitulated on their historic support of the forestry industry, slashed health funding, cut police and sought to close schools. The Greens fell silent on their long-championed policy of poker machine reform. Both these parties compromised their core beliefs and they paid the price at the 2014 election.

Other minorities have small, often narrow interests with little practical concept nor capability to deal with the fundamental issues confronting Tasmanians on a day to day basis: fundamentally they sit on the fringe and push single issues.

While minor parties might tout populist policy initiatives, what is their informed policy view on education, health and economic development – are they in favour of government intervention or are they free-marketeers? Do they understand the complexities of government – because if they find themselves in a balance of power situation they will be making some very important decisions with huge consequences for Tasmania’s future.

Does Tasmania need minor parties holding the balance of power who don’t appear to maintain their own party governance structure? Can Tasmania afford to have the policies of minority parties undoing all the hard work of the past four years and throwing us back into economic decline?

I would argue the overwhelming majority of Tasmanians don’t want minorities dictating terms. Governments that hold a majority on the floor of the House of Assembly can implement the mandate the majority of electors have given them at an election.

Let’s face it, even if the minor parties polled 20 per cent of the vote, that’s 80 per cent who want a majority – Labor or Liberal. This is the key point – Tasmanian’s never ‘choose’ a hung parliament – far from it. It defies logic to suggest they do.

Tasmania is in a unique position to capitalise on the work of the past four years: employment numbers are moving in the right direction, the forward estimates are looking solid and there is keen interest from investors, developers and people wanting to live here and create a good future for their families. But to make the most of this, Tasmania needs a government that can implement its agenda without undue compromise. This state desperately needs certainly and confidence to continue moving forward, economically and socially. Only majority government can deliver this – history has told us so many, many times. As the old saying goes, those who ignore the lessons of history are condemned to repeat them.

  • Neil Grose is the Launceston Chamber of Commerce executive officer

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