'I think we are in a much better position for the next four years when we face the polls again.' ABC AM Radio Interview, Sunday 4 March 2018



SUBJECTS: 2018Tasmanian State Election

SABRA LANE: So what are the federal implications and lessons? With us now in the Hobart studio is Liberal Senator Eric Abetz and Labor Senator Lisa Singh. Good morning to you both and welcome to the program.

ERIC ABETZ, LIBERAL SENATOR FOR TASMANIA: Good morning. Good to be with you.

SINGH: Good morning, Sabra.

LANE: First to you Eric Abetz, what are the lessons for the Coalition in this result?

ABETZ: Well I think for the coalition the lesson is that individual state divisions sometimes know how to best to run their campaigns within their context, within their State, with their people and if I reflect 18 months ago where in Tasmania we were wiped out federally, and the recovery now, we ran a State campaign up until last night on the State issues. Will Hodgman front and centre with all the wonderful things that have been happening in Tasmania and we scored 50.5%, not of the two party preferred, but primary vote. A huge vote in any body's language. And the Labor party reduced, all be it they increased their support, but 32.5% - less than one third of the vote. And that of course indicates why the Federal member for Braddon, Justine Keay, is so unwilling to face a by-election because I think she is scared that if the Tasmanians were able to run their own campaign in Braddon that we would well win that on a by-election.

LANE: Lisa Singh, your response?

LISA SINGH, LABOR SENATOR FOR TASMANIA: Well, it was always going to be difficult to knock off a first-term government, but what we did learn is that having a leader who has the courage to stand up to vested interests, to take our policies right out there to the people by having over 200,000 conversations as opposed to having all of the millions of dollars that the Liberal party had for its glossy brochures and lots of paid advertising, was the right method and way to go, and Labor has had a boost in its very poor result from 2014 by now having extra seats in the parliament. But of course it was always going to be a very, very hard feat to actually win majority government. I think we are in a much better position for the next four years when we face the polls again.

LANE: What about Senator Abetz's point about Justine Keay? Is that the reason why Justine Keay is being reluctant to put her name forward to be tested before the High Court on citizenship?

SINGH: Oh look, we've gone through all of this as far as Justine Keay's position. She has made all of those reasonable steps. She's put those forward, and we've been relying on that Sykes v Cleary case from the past that that is the reasonable steps argument that you do put forward and she has done the right thing in that regard.

LANE: The big result here in regards to the minor parties. The Greens didn't do well and Jacqui Lambie didn't do well. How does that bode for her chances to get back to the Senate, because she's talked about that being an ambition? Senator Abetz?

ABETZ: Jacqui Lambie made her name on the back of Clive Palmer's millions of dollars in bankrolling her campaign to get into the Senate originally, so it was somewhat bizarre to hear her talk about big money. Similarly with the Greens who were the beneficiaries of the biggest donation in Australian electoral history of $1.6 million dollars from the founder of Wotif. So the smaller parties have been beneficiaries of big donations but last night the Greens suffered another big turn around. So their vote has halved in Tasmania over the past eight years. More than halved in fact - and the Jacqui Lambie Network ended up with 3.3%. Never enough to win a Senate seat at a half-Senate election.

LANE: Lisa?

SINGH: I think the big thing missing out of the Jacqui Lambie Network campaign was Jacqui. If she really wanted to make a difference at the state level, I think she should have ran herself. Winning in the Senate next-time round, if its a normal Senate election, will be double the quota of the last double-dissolution. So that will make it harder for Jacqui. But the big fall-out for her I think at the state level is - because it's always difficult for minor parties in a Hare-Clark election to get up – that she wasn't a candidate herself.

LANE: What about the split between the Labor and the Greens vote here? Do see that as having further implications at the next Senate election?

SINGH: Potentially yes. I think that the Greens have certainly plummeted in a sense last night-

LANE: Is Eric Abetz nodding furiously in a agreement?

ABETZ: You can't see that on radio can you?

SINGH: I think that should be a cause for alarm for the Greens. They ran a really lacklustre campaign and I think the results showed that. They certainly weren't out there in the full force of environmental issues like they have been in Tasmania in the past. Of course, in Denison Cassy O'Connor is still returned - there's definitely a core green vote there. But as for the rest of the state, she could end up being the only Green in the Tasmanian parliament after last night. So, I think there's some lessons to be learnt for the Greens, and they may transpire at the Federal level as well.

LANE: Gun laws - did they have any effect in the end?

ABETZ: I don't think the gun laws had any impact at all and those stakeholder groups that were consulted - might I add, not only by the Liberal Party but Rebecca White, the Labor leader, wrote to the Tasmanian Farmers and Firearm Owners Associations on the 27th of February, acknowledging, and I quote, 'They had legitimate concerns,' and that Labor in government would look at seeing what they could do about the regulations. So all the Liberals were talking about was tweaking - within the terms of the National Firearms Agreement, so no change to that - but tweaking around the edges to help farmers go about their business of farming and that is why I think it did resonate. 

LANE: Lisa?

SINGH:  There a number of deceitful parts of Will Hodgman's campaign, but this was the most deceitful. To come out

LANE: Given what Senator Abetz just said, that there was a letter written by-

ABETZ: Look-

SINGH: No, I think Labor's approach was to consult-

LANE: Why did Rebecca White hide that letter?

SINGH: Labor's approach was to consult, not to hide and not release on your website what your policy would be and then only finding it out through the media the day before, when already a number of people had already voted. But only to deliver that to the shooting community and farmers and say, 'This is now Liberals' policy.' The fact that we have in Australia - thanks to John Howard, I must say - some of the best gun laws in the world, and here was Will Hodgman wanting to weaken them.

LANE: And we're now out of time so I'm sorry. Thank-you both for joining us this morning to give us your insights. Much appreciated. Eric Abetz and Lisa Singh.

ABETZ: Thank-you.

SINGH: Thank-you.