By Tom Flanagan
HOBART — An alliance of 13 powerful business groups has called for a vote for either the Liberal or Labor parties in the February 1 state election. The alliance, which includes the state Chamber of Commerce, Chamber of Retailers and Confederation of Industries, says only Liberal or Labor can provide the stability necessary for investor confidence.
The call is part of a scare campaign with the message that votes cast for independent or Green Independent candidates will jeopardise the state's economy. Ironically, the business organisations seem indifferent as to which of the two traditional parties forms the next government, so long as it's not a minority government requiring independent or Green Independent support.
This makes it increasingly possible that the state could end up with a Labor-Liberal government after the elections. Since this has always been a possibility in any case since the 1989 elections, which resulted in the Labor minority government of Michael Field, accusations that the Greens are responsible for political instability ring very hollow.
Rather, any instability has been due to the refusal of Labor and Liberal to acknowledge the farcical nature of "contests" between them, and the fact that the real parliamentary opposition is the Green Independent group. Not surprisingly, business felt more comfortable with the old two-party system in which both parties put corporate interests before those of the community.
Unfortunately for those who judge community interests by the state of their ledgers, it seems unlikely the two party system can be put back together. The Green Independents appear certain to return at least four of their five existing MPs, and could win as many as seven seats. Green sources say their candidates with the best chance of winning new seats are Peg Putt in Denison and Mike Foley in Franklin.
Lyons independent candidate Ian Jamieson says abstract calls for stable government entirely miss the point: "Stable government won't return to Tasmania until electors have stable jobs, stable community services and an environment protected from the rapaciousness of the business sector".