The major parties, business groups, and elements of the media have convinced the electorate that majority government is vital. In 2006 Labor won 14 seats by playing the line that only they could win majority government. This year, the Liberal Party has won 13 (possibly 14) seats, by selling the same message.
Of course, the communication of issues and policies has an effect, and the advertising spend has an effect, but the perceived capacity to win a majority has become a major factor. Labor’s chickens came home to roost this year with their 2006 line being used against them, and I have no doubt that it will swing the other way again in future.
This fear of minority government must change if elections are to be fought on issues alone. Otherwise Tasmania will continue to swing between parties “taking their turn” governing rather than as a reflection of support for their policies. We must stop taking complaints about this constitutional feature at face value and consider the motives of those who do. Poor craftspeople blame their tools.
There’s another parallel with 2006. Greens leader Peg Putt was booed on election night when she deplored that, “forces were at work behind the scenes, trying to covertly influence the outcome.” Ms Putt was portrayed as a sore loser, later adding that she didn’t regret her comments because:
[…] it was important that in front of the nation I named what had gone on during this campaign, because it is becoming a feature of elections around Australia that we do have these shadowy groups who are throwing vast resources into trying to influence election campaigns, and that in Tasmania we don’t have the disclosure laws that allow those people and the amounts of money to be identified.
With renewed calls this month for changes to disclosure laws amid accusations of special interests ‘buying the election’, those who have come around to Ms Putt’s thinking owe her an apology.
Peg Putt rails against fear campaign, The World Today, 20/03/2006. Reporter: Tim Jeanes. Viewed 04/03/2018.