Election 2013 media panel

How to solve a problem like Tasmania?

According to a RN interview this morning, businesses would prefer the Greens to govern alone than in a minority government led by Labor or Liberals. This interesting shift in normal Greens-industry relations slipped past Fran Kelly with little comment or follow up. But then, it was an interview about Tasmania.

Michael Bailey, chief executive of the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was speaking from the side of the road in Ross, a picturesque if chilly village on the crumbling highway between Launceston and Hobart. Early morning birdsong accompanied his comments:

‘We certainly support majority government. We don’t mind whether its Labor, Liberal or Greens. What we want to happen is a majority government so we can know what framework we’re working on [for] the future.’

On earlier questioning about how minority government created ‘confusion’, Mr Bailey responded in equally broad terms. It is hard to get policies through, he said. They ‘tend to get unraveled as they go through the process of minority government’.

Minority government has indeed changed how things ‘go through’ in Tasmania when compared to the old days of one-party-one-company rule and the efficient decision-making that particular configuration produced.

The presumably near-final chapter of this period played out rather quietly in a Launceston court last week, when the former Gunns CEO pleaded guilty to insider trading. Meanwhile, the fast-tracked pulp mill approvals in the Tamar Valley remain on the market.

Over the next few weeks, the northern Tasmanian seats of Bass and Braddon will be visited repeatedly by federal heavyweights – political and media. Over and over, they will be told that minority government has produced uncertain outcomes, high unemployment and crumbling highways.

But they might also notice that local media and communities, even some parts of industry, are a little less emphatic about the evils of minority government and compromise with the Greens than on their last visits three years ago. The painful, wrenching negotiations to end the almost three-decade-long forests wars has helped teach the island much about compromise, even as it still tries to come to terms with what the process means.

There could well be a direct correlation between Tasmania’s 8.1 per cent unemployment figure and minority governments, but media statements emanating from Tasmania on the topic might also be worth further interrogation about the deeper impacts of shared rule.