Image for LegCo - why an informal vote should be legal

Don Wing was always going to be a tough act to follow.  An astute, hard-working and popular representative, Don commands respect across the political spectrum.

He’s been untouchable in Launceston/Paterson since 1982, with only former Mayor Jimmy Tsinoglou providing any real opposition in 1994.  In that election, Liberal David Fry scored just 17.7% of the vote with Wing claiming just short of an outright majority.

Although he wouldn’t admit it, Don must be horrified at the choice Launceston voters must face this time around.

If the information published by all four candidates is any guide, the seat up for grabs is reserved for some kind of `Launceston Lobbyist’, who doesn’t need to worry too much about the rest of Tasmania.  Indeed, trivial issues such as the State’s rancid financial position and the need to slash the cost of our bloated public service have been largely ignored.  Silt in the Tamar, bogans in the mall, and getting gas connected to the Liberal hopeful’s house are all more pressing matters.

Launceston may be the parochial capital of Tassie, but some of the views expressed by the four are bordering on the inane.  Steve Bishop likes clean air and water, but he’s a good Labor boy, so he also loves pulp mills.  Lou Clark says times are tough, so we need a pulp mill.  Big Sam says he will keep Launceston strong - no doubt he will soon announce his plan for Mixed Martial Arts demonstrations in the mall.  We’re still not sure where Rosemary stands, although she is a confirmed fence-sitter on at least one issue.

Underwhelming might be an understatement.  Not one candidate has articulated a vision of what they really stand for, why they are really standing, and what they have to offer.  So I’m expecting voters to respond by heading away for the weekend in droves, just to avoid being near a polling booth.  I’m tipping an informal/fail to vote rate of way over the 20 per cent average.  If I were eligible to lodge a ballot paper in Launceston (which I’m not), I’d probably fly to Melbourne for the weekend, just to eliminate the outside chance of bumping into McQuestin outside a polling booth.  Or if forced, I’d just write `No Dams’ on the voting slip.

But 75 per cent or so of eligible voters will make an effort, and here’s how the first preferences are likely to look:

Lou Clark.  She’s not as young as she claims, nor are her credentials really that impressive.  Although reasonably well known to Launceston retailers due to a stint at the Chamber of Commerce, she hasn’t always appeared to have a complete grasp of complex economic issues.  More troubling is her role as a Festivale committee member - some voters will never forget atrocities like the Neil Diamond cover band, fetid portable toilets and the gradual transition from a gourmet food and wine event to a beer and sausage festival.  Prediction - 12%

Sam McQuestin.  Sam’s rugged good looks and forthright manner often overshadow his kinder, gentler side.  He must also be incredibly persuasive - how else could he convince the Liberal pre-selection committee (five octogenarian women) that he was the man for the job?  It’s possible nobody else was interested, but more likely he’s been given one final chance to self-destruct at the ballot box before he’s ruled out of any future tilt at public office.  Certainly many Liberal supporters would like to see him out of the picture before the next State election - winning seats in Bass is already a big enough challenge for the LIbs, let alone having Sam on the ticket scaring voters away.  Prediction - 21%

Steve Bishop.  The Launceston lawyer has a slim chance of becoming the newest invisible Labor politician from the north, even though he wouldn’t be sharing the same backbench as the Federal Bass member whatshisname, and local Bass MP whoishe.  Bishop is well-respected in some circles, although others have questioned why he’d be interested in joining team Lara during what will be another horrific couple of years for Labor in Tasmania.  I’ve mentioned elsewhere on TT (Jarvis Cocker, HERE) that we’re heading for a billion dollar deficit in 2011/12, and stacking the Legislative Council with nodding seat-warmers isn’t a great way of keeping an economically retarded Government in check.  That aside, a certain proportion of the population are incapable of independent thought and always vote Labor.  Prediction - 26%

Rosemary Armitage. Having nearly snared the job of Launceston Mayor, Armitage has spurned advances from the major political parties and is running as an independent.  And she’s a shoe-in.  Not only is she the sole candidate with broad appeal, she is clearly the most visible public figure in this field and she hasn’t really upset anybody in her time on Council.  She’s been the only target in this campaign (the Liberals reckon she’s a bit Green, the Green’s think she’s a closet Liberal), but that’s unlikely to change voting patterns.  If not sure whether her ambivalent public statements about a pulp mill were politically astute, but as she said on ABC radio, this election isn’t about a pulp mill.  The complete unknown is whether Armitage is actually capable of standing up to a feral Government and its toxic GBE’s.  Prediction - 41%.

First published: 2011-05-06 06:12 AM