Hobart streets paved with gold for election

LOOK closely at the streets and pavements in greater Hobart and you can spot faint seams of gold.

Hobart is Rome in the coming federal and state elections.

Despite 60 per cent of Tasmanians living outside the capital, Hobart has become Labor's battleground for one last stand.

The party has mobilised semi- trailers of treasures.

The new Romans of the regions will dismiss this as a parochial whinge, when really it's not.

It's a narrative on desperate politics and the dynamics of winning back electoral support.

Despite a modern, sophisticated electorate, weary of pork barrelling and idle promises, the Romans of Hobart will still be enveloped in largesse and love.

Labor has poured more than $1.4-billion worth of glittering projects into Southern Tasmania.

Can you buy an election in the modern era of politics?

We'll see.

A modern government is certainly trying.

The trailer-loads of cash and treasures started heading south in the 2010 election, with a $245-million promise to build the massive Kingston and Brighton bypasses and a $325-million promise to rebuild the Royal Hobart Hospital.

Since then the pace of pampering has been a breathless whirlwind of money.

Why? Because a rogue independent, former army colonel and defence intelligence analyst has established himself as the new cantankerous and fiercely independent Bruce Goodluck of Denison; an urban electorate that Labor once owned for 23 years.

Andrew Wilkie and his peculiar style is to Denison what zany Mayor Darryl Gerrity is to the West.

Next door in Franklin, Labor's jewel in the crown, Julie Collins, is a Labor federal minister in a partially Green and forestry electorate. She has a handy margin, but no one is safe this year, with Labor the down- and-out underdog.

In the state sphere, Franklin is home to Lara Giddings and her likely crown pretender-successor David O'Byrne.

To lose either in the likely Will Hodgman landslide next March would be a cruel blow to Labor.

The North and North-West are already dubbed casualties of Labor's longevity, in both the state and federal arena, and the near cult unpopularity of both Premier Giddings and Prime Minister Julia Gillard. The rest of the state can but watch bemused at the battle down South.

The provinces simply have to wait their turn in future years. Bass once enjoyed paved-with-gold status, but not any more.

Just check out the cash-laden semis heading south over the past three years: $25 million for the Tasman three capes walking track, $90 million for a medical science project; $45 million for a Centre for Antarctic and Marine studies at Salamanca Place; $50 million to salvage the old railway precinct at Macquarie Point; $30 million for Bellerive to play cricket and footy; $77 million for university apartments; $10 million to modernise the KGV footy oval at Glenorchy; $5 million for Vodafone to employ 750 more at its Hobart call centre; $21 million for a health facility at Glenorchy; $77 million for a new Academy of Creative and Performing Arts; $19 million for the Arthur Highway; $4 million for Southern Tasmanian Salmon; $8million for a Bridgewater child and family centre and, of course, the $120 million spent on a new prison at Risdon. The full list is longer.

You can add to that an extra $1billion in wage movements, used to drastically increase the Hobart- based public sector in order to soak up Southern unemployment.

This blatant pork barrelling probably won't alter the outcome. The point is, it shows how important the South has become to the survival of both Labor governments.

If you're in deep trouble in your own backyard, it's time for panic, and gold-plated providence.

Barry Prismall is deputy editor of The Examiner.


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