Spoilt for choice, but will the new parties be ready

Rosemary Bolger
Rosemary Bolger

TASMANIANS will have more choice than ever this March with the influx of new minor parties.

There is set to be at least three new parties on the ballot paper in most electorates; Palmer United Party, the Tasmanian Nationals and Australian Christian Party.

After the federal election, Bob Katter had declared there would be Katter's Australia Party candidates at the state election but we've heard nothing since then.

More choice for voters can only be a good thing, especially in a preferential voting system (see Dennis the Election Koala's brilliant explanation of this www.chickennation.com/tag/ dennis-the-election-koala).

But these new entrants to Tasmania's political scene really need to get their act together.

And with seven weeks to go to the state election they need to do it fast.

It seems making the transition from standing a handful of candidates at the federal election to contesting the state election is stretching the inexperienced minor parties.

The Nationals are the only one of these three to have actually got their paperwork sorted, but it hasn't taken long for cracks to appear in the revived branch.

The appointment of former Labor politician Allison Ritchie to run the newly re-formed party here appears to have had a lot to do with an ugly dispute with the federal Nationals.

The federal Nationals have now completely disowned the Tasmanian branch and demanded they stop using the name, although it turns out there's no way they can compel them to stop.

The Tasmanian party's refusal to talk about the public dispute is not helping to quell interest in the saga either.

PUP is the most high-profile of this fledgeling bunch thanks to its wealthy and whacky leader Clive Palmer and straight-talking Tasmanian Senator-elect Jacqui Lambie.

Those two can talk the talk, announcing last week their candidate for "Tasmania's next Premier" and they're apparently confident of claiming at least 13 seats to win government.

That's a little over-ambitious but they are not without a chance of picking up a seat, particularly in the angry North West.

They'd be an even better shot if they did not seem on the verge of imploding every second week.

With former candidate Marty Zucco now on a mission to cause as much trouble for them as possible, it's not even certain the party will be registered in time to appear on the ballot papers.

Perhaps it's understandable a new party might have a few administrative teething problems.

Less forgivable is their choice of first candidates.

The PUP candidate application form may as well have read "Do you have an axe to grind against the government? Sign here."

Kevin Morgan, the party's Tasmanian leader, is a disgruntled former government staffer.

Barbara Etter is actually suing the state government after departing the Integrity Commission shortly into a five-year contract.

I'm sure they have more to offer the Tasmanian public than a shared bitterness over their former employer, but they're not doing much to distract from their past.

Mrs Etter was unable to articulate what PUP stood for this week, saying its policies were still being developed.

A minute or so later she was asked if she supported Jacqui Lambie's call for some of Australia's foreign aid budget to go to Tasmania and had just this to say: "If it's a Palmer United Party policy, yes". Not very convincing.

Why does anyone run for Parliament?

It's horrendous hours, you cop a lot of criticism, rarely get thanked and the pay is not that generous compared to the private sector.

Perhaps I am naive but the politicians I deal with, no matter if you agree with their policies and tactics or not, seem to be there because they genuinely want to make a difference for the better.

With all these new names on the ballot paper, let's hope that remains the case.


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