Election 2013 media panel

Southern lights in a gloomy winter

There are many things that Andrew Wilkie has brought to us over the last three years, but “razzle dazzle” is not the thing that immediately springs to mind.

Moreover, yesterday’s description of the Independent Denison MHR in Crikey as the “closest thing to razzle dazzle in Hobart this winter” seems a little unfair on Hobart.

We’ve had some excellent Aurora sightings to the south, and the fairy lights at Salamanca sparkle kind of prettily. MONA is chock full of Melbourne types, who spill over on weekends into Henry Jones Hotel or the Sidecar bar, which boasts an impressively large and bright Italian small goods slicer.

The ice skating rink at Sullivan’s Cove might have been a little disappointing (no ice and a shipping container as ticket booth) but on a clear Sunday afternoon, even its plastic surface glints a little in the sun.

High rates of unemployment, poor health and inadequate services create gloom in Tasmania, and more so than usual this winter. Within this context, it is quite easy for FIFO journalists to mistake Andrew Wilkie and his independent initiatives in health, education and welfare for our shiniest thing. (It is particularly forgivable when you line him up against all that other razzle dazzle emanating from our political leadership in Tasmania and Canberra.)

Only journalists who steadily followed Tasmanian politics and social change over the last three years – most notably Matthew Denholm at the Australian – have shown where the real light is in Hobart this winter.

The success or failure of the state’s attempts to imagine a future beyond high dependency on a single company and unsustainable industry practices are now coming to a head after three years of negotiations.

The process of endless talks with bitter enemies and selling compromise to memberships, within the context of failing governments, political disagreement, high-profile court cases and rising unemployment, has been costly to some individuals, but has not been driven publicly by personalities nor their purchase in the media.

No two people in Hobart seem to agree on the best outcome of ‘the process’ to end the three-decade long forests conflict; even less agree on how the negotiations and public debate should have taken place in order to resolve such deep conflict. But the negotiations nevertheless took place and a compromise emerged.

This kind of process- and community-driven change is always hard for journalists to cover, never more so than when they’re lining up the personalities to see who is shiniest in a somewhat gloomy southern city during a winter election campaign.