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Former Premier Criticises Wilkie

August 27, 2011

Former two-time Labor Premier of Tasmania Michael Field speaks here (see below for details of the Samuel Griffith Society conference I’m attending in Hobart) about hung parliaments – of which Tasmania with its system of proportional representation has had more experience than other Australian parliaments.

On the way through he makes a valid point about Andrew Wilkie and his stand for poker machine reform. He referred to Wilkie’s position that he would withdraw support from the Gillard government if the reform legislation does not pass – as a result of not getting support from the other independents. But Gillard cannot be held responsible for Windsor and Oakshott. The Wilkie position would probably be unique in Australian hung parliaments: even if the government votes for my legislation, says Wilkie, I will still pull out my support if, through no fault of Gillard and her troops, it fails.

This is unfair and illogical, an abuse of the power a hung parliament confers. You cannot say that if your legislation fails – even if the government supports it – you will bring that government down. This is petulant and egotistical to an extreme degree. It is blackmail, says Field.

Rounding back to the unhappy Tasmanian experience one member of the audience asks the tough question: why not do away with the Hare-Clark system that is unique to the state and give it single member constituencies with preferential voting? Michael replies by referring to the diversity of modern society etc.

He doesn’t convince me.

I think Tasmania needs a burst of majority government.

One Comment
  1. Tom Round permalink
    August 27, 2011 8:58 pm

    Actually, in the past decade or two the mainland States have shown that even with single-member electorates, they can still give Tasmania a run for its money in producing shaky minority governments.

    Worse, with single-member electorates the balance of power in a hung parliament is held not by a minor party caucus (5 Greens representing 16-20% of the electorate and the assembly), but by one or two independents with regional or lcoalised wheelbarrows to push (Exhibit A: Mr Wilkie, who won a single-member federal seat but failed to win a State seat under Hare-Clark). Every Tasmanian voter has access to a Greens MHA representing their electorate if they want to complain about the tail wagging the dog. Whereas 145/150th of Australians have no leverage whatsoever over Messrs Wilkie, Oakeshott, Windsor, Katter or Crook.

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