Image for Healing the Great Wound

It’s hard to believe that for over eleven years we have let the Tasmanian ALP run our island as if it was a sub branch of Norm Gallagher’s BLF.

But we did.

And like the old BLF, their working class rhetoric of being one with the many workers hid secret deals with a few big business mates.

Cronyism, bullying, purging, threats, lies and intimidation were the order of the day.

The perception grew until it became commonplace that the government was corrupt.

When Graeme Sturges told the TT Line security guard he’d have his job, his only mistake was saying publicly what his fellow ministers had for so long been saying and doing privately.

I can’t believe we let people like Graeme Sturges have any power in our society after that.

But we did.

And we did because we were frightened, because any who came between them and their exercise of power had their jobs and businesses threatened, their names smeared, their lives made miserable.

Any who expressed a view that questioned the role of their big business mates was labelled an eco-terrorist or anti-Tasmanian.

They sought to divide us with hate and fill us with fear.

Who were they who did this to us?

In the end it wasn’t a party or a movement, but a small clique of cronies and bully boys and bully girls, the members and their families and their mates and even their mates’ children, the spinners and the standover men with their large salaries in government agencies.

They treated parliament and its perks and positions as their own magic pudding.

They lied, they deceived, they sold our soul for a mess of pottage, all in order that they could keep themselves in privilege.

This has not been a government in the image of Tasmanians, but one in permanent opposition to its people’s dreams and desires, its hopes and needs.

The terrible truth is that under Labor our government has been used to hurt us, to divide us, to hold us back.

Their legacy is terrible: they have left us with a demoralised public service, a brutalised education system, a devastated environment and the possibility of our waters poisoned.

And they shamed us as people.

In the history of the Australian federation no state government has garnered such international opprobrium as the Bacon-Lennon-Bartlett Labor governments for their destruction of Tasmania’s environment.

Worse, they have destroyed the necessary trust a society must have with its government.

For now few trust that any government decision is not free of corruption.

Few trust the government to be impartial in making decisions where there is a conflict between the profits of big business and the interests of Tasmanians.

Yet to have development, to have economic growth, business needs the certainty of rules that bring with them community acceptance.

The ALP became completely removed from the realm of everyday Tasmanian life.

Confronted with the rising anger of Tasmanians over pokies, David Bartlett said gambling was part of Tasmanian life.

Confronted with the possibility of all Tasmanian drinking water being poisoned by plantations, David Bartlett dismissed Alison Bleaney’s concerns as Green campaigning.

Instead of being kind, clever and connected, David Bartlett was revealed as incompetent, surly and insincere.

As he sent his ministers scurrying overseas paid for by our taxes to yet again do Gunns business, David Bartlett didn’t draw one line in the sand, he ploughed up the whole beach.

Perhaps the ALP’s real crime is that they thought we were as mediocre as they.

They never trusted that Tasmanians were better, larger and smarter than their mean, brutish and dumb politics.

And now, in the way of history, great change is upon us in a rush.

Polls predict that come Saturday Labor will suffer a catastrophic electoral loss.

But it will mean little if history recalls the election as one that saw a change of government.

It will mean something only if it comes to be remembered as the moment when we finally found the courage to be as great as our collective dreams.

The question before Tasmania is no longer the election, but with what follows; whether we have the largeness to put this wretched time behind us, and start to build a politics that takes us all, together, into the future.

The new parliament will be seen by some in both the major parties as a chance to humiliate and destroy the Greens in order to resume the status quo that has poisoned Tasmanian life for so many years.

But history grants societies the chance for fundamental change but rarely and we cannot now go back.

The imminent restructuring of Gunns by its investors signals the end of large scale native forest logging, and with it the tool that has been used to divide Tasmanians for too long.

All the good people in the major parties need to work to bring those institutions in to the 21st century, and recognise that being Liberal or Labor does not demand the destruction of others.

The great wound that opened up in Tasmanian life thirty-five years ago with the drowning of Lake Pedder in 1975 can—if we want it—now be healed.

And next week the challenge for whatever government comes into being is to create a different Tasmania, a Tasmania built out of our shared faith in this small island and its infinite possibilities.

If we have the courage, if we can cast aside our fear and our fatalism, if we have faith in ourselves, we can change this place—our island home—fundamentally for the better.

Only now we must come together to do it.


This article was also offered to The Examiner. This morning they replied that they “just didn’t have the space today” to publish it.