Image for The faceless men of the Tasmanian Liberals’ Senate team

An unspoken rule of political campaign posters is to portray candidates as warmly as possible with humanising high-quality portrait photos, especially where candidates are relatively unknown. However, the 2016 election posters for the Tasmanian Liberal Party’s Senate candidates are faceless.

Had they chosen to picture their candidates, voters would have seen the visages of six men – Eric Abetz, Stephen Parry, Jonathan Duniam, David Bushby, Richard Colbeck and Break O’Day Councillor John Tucker. (Colbeck, a sitting Senator, has been demoted to the hard-to-win fifth spot on the ticket while Will Hodgman’s deputy chief-of-staff Jonathon Duniam has been given the safe number three spot.)

Instead of portraying its team of six men the Tasmanian Liberals have gone for the faceless option, presumably to avoid reminding voters of the controversy over the party’s failure to pre-select any women in winnable Senate spots.

The Tasmanian Liberals approach with its posters stands in stark contrast to their political rivals.

While the Tasmanian Labor Party is not producing posters promoting their Senate team, sitting Labor Senator Lisa Singh, who has been demoted by the party to the unwinnable sixth spot, has her own posters sporting a portrait photo.

The Tasmanian Greens poster also features its three lead Senate candidates of Nick McKim, Peter Whish-Wilson and Anna Reynolds.

The Jacquie Lambie Team’s posters also feature a portrait of the party’s founder and former Clive Palmer Team member, Jacqui Lambie.

Of the parties or candidates for the Senate with posters, only the Tasmanian Liberals have gone for the faceless option. Even the Tasmanian Liberals House of Representative candidates all have corflute posters featuring a portrait photo.

For decades the Australian Labor Party was ridiculed by their opponents and parts of the media as being run by ‘faceless men’. The term was coined in an article by Alan Reid in the conservative Sydney Daily Telegraph after then Opposition Leader Arthur Calwell and Deputy Opposition leader Gough Whitlam were photographed cooling their heels outside the 1963 ALP National Conference while the 36 delegates met to determine the party’s policy.

After the “faceless men” tag was further popularised in a Liberal Party pamphlet by Robert Menzies, the term became a part of Australia’s political lexicon which was revived during the bitter recriminations during the Gillard/Rudd era.

After the July 2016 election results are finalised, the four – or possibly even five – men elected as Liberal Senators may well become known as the Tasmanian Liberals’ faceless men.

Bob Burton is a Hobart-based Contributing Editor of Tasmanian Times. His earlier articles on Tasmanian Times are here.

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• Michelle Hoult in Comments: Thank you Bob for this article! I am working on a similar piece outlining the lack of women the Liberal Party have chosen for candidates, 1 out of 11. In 2016. What kind of a message is that sending to women? To women like myself who are aspiring politicians? Or to my daughter?

• Greg James in Comments: Without doubt, the local Liberal leadership is stupid. They expect Abetz as No 1. to do what? Be a vote catcher, when in fact he has an atrocious record, losing 25,000 votes over the previous Colbeck, lead ticket. Yet, did you expect an intelligent result, given their local leadership of the party of free enterprise promotes a monopoly. Arriving completely unprepared for government, the Hodgman Liberals declared it was their turn ... that was all they had to offer, ‘it was their turn’. So it goes with these faceless candidates and as it is with the ALP faceless women ...

• Keith Antonysen in Comments: … Morally it is quite reprehensible what has been happeninig in Detention Centres. Prior to the last election for a long time I was considering not casting a valid vote on the basis of how asylum seekers were being treated, information then was quite tame compared to what is being disclosed now. What is happening now is even more shameful. That is, unless you believe it is fine for young people to try committing suicide, or to be sexually assaulted. That is what you are supporting if you choose to ignore the situation.

• Dr Kevin Bonham in Comments: … A 1-6 above the line vote may be equivalent to a below the line vote for 12 candidates, or it may be equivalent to a below the line vote for a few more.  It doesn’t matter because the voter, whether above or below the line, has the freedom to vote for more parties/candidates if they want to do so.  Nobody is required to stop at 6 (above) or 12 (below).  So the answer to the questions in #36 is no - at least not for the reason stated.  Indeed the High Court has already looked at a lot of the theoretical arguments against the new system and gave them all very short shrift indeed. I don’t usually post here so I’ll just take the opportunity to plug my article on how to best use your vote in the new Senate system while I’m here: HERE. This article explains whether given voters should vote above or below the line and some handy tips for those who want to get the maximum value out of their vote. …

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