Voters say majority rules

THERE are elections, watershed elections and bloodbaths. Last night's result fell off the scale. 

Back in 1992, in Labor's worst result in almost 90 years, the party recorded a paltry vote of 28.85 per cent while the Greens retained five seats after the tumultuous, hostile Labor-Green accord.

Last night was even worse. After four peaceful years of a Labor-Green coalition, Labor's vote plummeted to 27.3 per cent and the Greens are struggling to retain four seats. So much for Nick McKim's peace and stability.

The Liberals have waited 22 years for this moment. They thought they had just got there four years ago but it slipped from their grasp on the bicycle trails of Mount Wellington. 

In 2002 they suffered their worst result in decades with a mere seven seats and just 27.4 per cent of the vote. 

They've now doubled their number of seats and, with more than half the vote counted last night, they were sitting on 51 per cent of the primary vote statewide. An amazing turnaround.

The Liberals have won majority state government previously only three times, under Robin Gray in 1982 and 1986 and Ray Groom in 1992. 

Last night's result makes it only four times since World War II, and two of those were off the back of Labor-Green coalition experiments.

Labor's vote is so low it will take the party at least two four-year terms to claw back enough support to be in contention. 

Elections are usually closely fought contests. The Liberals would have to perform monumental disasters or fail to rein in unemployment to be a oncer-government.

It may be more than a decade before the Greens enjoy the balance of power in another hung parliament, and may be longer if the Liberals manage to throw out the Greens' greatest friend, the Hare-Clark electoral system.

Tasmania has experienced minority government featuring the Greens in three parliaments now since 1989, and voters don't appear to be warming to the phenomenon.

It may have been a peaceful four years, in terms of stability, but for thousands of young Tasmanians the peace was just too quiet and they voted with their feet and with their plane tickets.

Will Hodgman will have the next 10 days to mull over his ministry. It is understood the word has gone out in the Liberal hierarchy that there be no hubris and champagne corks. 

The media were banned from a private celebratory function for candidates and guests at Wrest Point Casino last night.

Everybody remembers the wild, drunken Labor Party ball at Parliament House, Canberra, in 1993, after Paul Keating won an unwinnable contest against John Hewson and the party let its hair down with the TV and print media allowed to attend.

The federal Liberals actually used the TV footage of that night in its election ads when John Howard beat Paul Keating in 1996.

As for the election campaign, the island has been a mass of blue rinse Liberal posters and billboards for months, and until the actual campaign it was hard to find a Labor or Greens poster. 

The same with television ads. Some Liberal candidates clearly spent a fortune on their campaigns, in an election campaign with no electoral spending limits.

Clive Palmer allegedly spent more than $1 million on the PUP campaign. His sole contribution to the Tasmanian economy.

We may never see his private business jet again.

The Greens vote collapsed, suffering an 8 per cent swing to just 14 per cent of the formal vote. 

Their popularity in four of the five electorates plummeted. The result reflected their poor showing last year federally. 

They should ask themselves why, and for the answer simply go to the ABS labour force statistics.

For the Liberals the hard work now begins. 

They have to decide major issues such as whether they tear up the precarious forestry agreement like they promised, with no wriggle room, and send Tasmanians back to the barricades with forestry wars, and, how deep they cut into the public sector before it starts adversely affecting the fragile state economy. 

Yes, majority government can deliver stability, but the challenge for the Liberals is whether it actually delivers progress and prosperity.

Lara Giddings

Lara Giddings


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