However, that’s where the similarities end.

The Howard Government was seldom accused of being incompetent.

Howard’s Liberals suffered from …well….. John Howard’s unwillingness to bugger off as well as its very unpopular IR reforms.

The problems of the Bartlett Government are greater and more complex.

Its reputation for being scandal prone has well and truly stuck.  The perception that the Bartlett government is not managing the state’s affairs because of a diminished and scandal-wracked front bench will not be ignored by voters.

Tasmanians don’t want to be governed by a skeleton crew.

The unforgotten Lennon years, Pulp-mill gate (the gate that keeps on keeping on), infrastructure failures, regional health service cuts, the great Ralphs Bay swindle, massive losses on taxpayer funded investments like Spirit III and poor community relations will all come back to haunt Labor.

The Tasmanian Government lost the plot and the 2010 election a long time ago.

Anti-government sentiment has been lurking below the surface for some time and is surely set to explode when Tasmanians go to the ballot box in March 2010.

The Premier’s senior adviser Matthew Rogers’ bewildering attack on writer Bob Burton ( Why there was no doorstop ), reminds us why the government’s neck is on the chopping block.

Mr Rogers’ spray is characteristic of the Labor government’s mode of dealing with alternative advice and criticism. Hot-headed and controlling. Reactionary rather than responsive.

Why on earth the Premier’s senior political adviser would launch an attack on a left wing writer on Tassie’s top left wing blog is beyond me.

What did he hope to gain?

Perhaps Matt missed the outcome of the government’s public assassination of Terry Martin?

In 2007 Paul Lennon and Doug Parkinson’s appalling attacks on Martin engendered widespread hostility in the community. These attacks helped to entrench the Lennon Government’s national reputation as a bully and put the former Premier on course to becoming the most unpopular politician in the state.

Terry Martin arguably became the most admired. The Government’s campaign of bullying and harassment gave Terry Martin cult hero status around Tasmania.

Indeed, nobody could claim that Terry Martin is an extrovert or a popularist who set out to create headlines. Until the Government savaged Martin over his unwillingness to rubber stamp the governments fast track legislation Martin had always maintain a relatively low profile outside Hobart.

Standing ovations for politicians are rare.

I’ll never forget April 2008 standing in a hall packed with 700 people on a cold Launceston night seeing Terry Martin receive a rousing standing ovation ( The Standing Ovation ).

I haven’t seen too many politicians who are genuinely admired across the political spectrum in the way Martin is.

Martin’s courageous stance on the pulp mill ( I will therefore be voting against the Bill  ) still resonates with ordinary Tasmanians. Today whenever Mr Martin travels around Tasmania he continues to receive plaudits for his courage and independence. 

The Government’s attack on Terry Martin was an unnecessary war that backfired badly.

Governments simply cannot sustain wars on so many fronts and survive.

Towns, councils, nurses, doctors, pensioners, writers, business, scientists, environmentalists, the media, the upper house, iconic and beloved Tasmanians, government departments, senior bureaucrats, statutory officials, statutory bodies, the RPDC, the DPP, the TCCI, Julian Green, Warwick Raverty, staffers, Nigel Burch, Alison Ritchie, Paula Wriedt, Ken Wriedt, Honey Bacon… and the list goes on and on.

Is there anyone this government hasn’t upset?

Too often the Tasmanian community has been left behind on planning for major projects, major reforms, and major public infrastructure. Couple this with the Bartlett Government’s unwillingness to provide advocacy on key issues, and the result is a large amount of disenfranchised and resentful voters.

The Government would of course argue that many of its decisions demonstrate leadership qualities and the ability to make the ‘tough’ decisions.

However, in March 2010 when Tasmanians cast their votes, it is likely they will do so with a clear determination to tell the government where they can shove their tough decisions.

Like other folk through the ages and around the globe - Tasmanians simply don’t like taxation without representation.

For Will Hodgman the 2010 election will be a case of nice guys finish first, though Will should be warned not get puffed up when the 2010 election inevitably goes his way. The vote will be against the government, not for the Will’s Liberal Party

As for David Bartlett. He may be coming down with a touch of Keatingitis.

Whilst Tasmanians were optimistic at the change the capable and intelligent young Premier would deliver, Bartlett’s rise to the top job has simply come too late. Optimism has been overtaken by the realisation that the young Bartlett is not bigger than the party and in the end he was just a new head on an old body.

Like Keating, Bartlett has never lacked in self –confidence, however the danger for Mr Bartlett is that he may already be seen by voters as too confident, at times hot-headed and defensive with opposition parties and the media.

The Labor Government has simply run out of excuses and now it is running out of time.

What is almost certain is the awful unravelling of the PLP which will occur after the 2010 election. The disintegration of the former Bartlett Government will make the demise of the Howard Government look like a tea party. This government will disintegrate as it is faced with combined effect of retirements, resignations and the reality of a long stint in the political wilderness.

The History books will reflect the voters view. Where will that leave the Labor Government’s legacy?

I wrote the State Government a recipe for good government16 months ago just before the former Premier resigned.

1. Remove Paul Lennon as Premier.
2. Remove Green and Kons.
3. Stop the planned pulp mill for the Tamar Valley.
4. Institute an anti-corruption body and start cleaning up Tasmania before the next election.
5. Restore the parliament to an appropriate size.

The Bartlett Government has wasted what is likely to be its last opportunity to be reconciled to voters and in the process make history in the face of an unimpressive Liberal opposition.

Labor’s priorities are clearly illustrated in its contrasting approaches to an ethics body and creating legislation for a private logging company.

The Lennon Labor Government was preparing the fast track legislation before Gunns actually withdrew from the RPDC. One day after Gunns withdrew from the RPDC the government recalled parliament and promised to introduce new legislation.

Then Presto! One Week later on March 22 the new legislation was introduced to the parliament.

Cynics have criticised that legislation as being of poor quality due to its haste. However the Tasmanian Government has stood by the PMAA legislation telling the Tasmanian people they will have to wear it.

This example shows us that when the Tasmanian Government is enthusiastic about a cause, it is able to move very quickly.

So why has the creation of legislation for an ethics commission before the next election presented such a problem for the Tasmanian government?

The lack of will? The fact that this Government is paralysed by its fear of influential business, union and factional interests?

Whatever the reason, one thing is certain. In March 2010 The Bartlett Labor Government is a goner.

 

RICK PILKINGTON
There are some similarities between the former Howard Government and the current Tasmanian Government. Both had Scott McLean’s support, suffered from being around too long and established reputations for being deceitful.