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Motion - response to Joint Select Inquiry on Conduct of 2021 State & Legislative Council Elections

Tuesday 29 June 2021, in response to motion moved by the Honourable Member for Nelson, Meg Webb MLC

[3.05 p.m.] Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - Madam Deputy President. First, I have no question about the legitimacy of the outcome of the election. I certainly have no issue about when governments call an election. When they consider it necessary it is up to the government of the day, so certainly I do not have a problem there. I, too, have been looking into what other states do and have done.

I notice currently that New South Wales and Victoria - as a matter of course - both have an inquiry into the administration of state elections with the last ones being at their last state elections. Obviously, the federal government do also, but is a little bit of a different matter to us. I was also reading in The Examiner newspaper, 24 June, that political analyst, Richard Herr, said there should be inquiries held after each state election as a matter of course as they were at a Commonwealth level. As we have seen almost every election has been controversial in one way or another, he said.

Professor Herr said he hoped the inquiry, if held, would discourage any repeat of concurrent elections. He said it would be in the Premier’s interests to have an inquiry to legitimise his decision to call an early election. Whether that is the case or not, I will certainly leave that up to the Premier. The main issue I had, and I know many other independent members in this House had when we all penned the letter to the Premier, was the calling of the election on the same day as the upper House election.

I take note of the Leader’s comments that it does happen in many other states. In many other states they do not have the privilege we do of having mainly an independent House and that is no reflection on any of the party members. Party members are all wonderful people and I do not have a problem there. I do see this House as a house of review. I have difficulty seeing this House as a house of review if we have purely party members, because obviously party members will support, Opposition members will likely oppose. It is just the nature of the beast.

Hence the reason this House has been held up in many quarters as such a great place is because of the fact we are mainly, or had been, independent and able to review legislation independently and without any favour whatsoever. That is my main issue when I am looking at whether we hold this up or whether we do not. I understand what the Government did was not illegal. It certainly was probably a political strategy and some would say a very good political strategy.

Was it appropriate? Well, I do not believe it was, but politically you can understand any incumbent government is going to act in their own interest to secure another term in government. That is a natural thing that would happen. Should we assume the average voter did not understand the difference between the two Houses? I think most voters do understand, but when they are placed almost like at a federal election with two sheets of people, it is very easy just to fill them both out without having in your mind that the upper House or Legislative Council is a different beast. It is something that is not totally understood in our community, the Legislative Council.

It is only every six years it comes up in someone’s electorate, so it is not something they are dealing with on a regular basis. I know when I go out and around, having been on Launceston City Council, many people think I am still on Launceston City Council, because Legislative Council for Launceston, Launceston Council, it is a confusing matter. People are smart and they do understand, but sometimes when you are in there just looking, and you go from one sheet to another - it is very easy to go: 'Labor, Labor, Liberal, Liberal' without thinking, 'Okay, this is the House of review, maybe we need to look at it a little differently'. I do not want to reflect on our candidates who have just been elected because they are great people.

I am purely looking at it as an independent House of review. It is difficult saying that because I like the members who are all here. On the other hand, it is questionable whether a state as small as Tasmania should be expending resources into an inquiry. I consider we all put up inquiries for the very best reasons and I do not believe the member for Nelson is doing it for political reasons. I understand, Leader, that sometimes the comments in speeches may or may not be written by ourselves; but I do not believe that people put them up for political reasons. In this House, people do them for the right reasons.

Independent members are not party-driven and perhaps comments like that are unfortunate and can have an adverse effect. Would having an inquiry now clear the air and probably lead to legislative change? Maybe it would; that would be a good outcome, especially for independent members. I agree with the member for Hobart, that the Legislative Council must have caps on funding. I believe it is very important.

I would like to see much lower caps on the other place as well. Kristie Johnston has been elected as an Independent in the other House. That must be very difficult when you see the money that can be spent in the lower House. I agree with caps on the upper House to give everyone a chance to get elected, not only parties. I agree with the member for Hobart that when you are part of a party you are going to have flow-on from the party, particularly when it is an election at the same time.

I can understand why the motion has been brought. I do not see it as a reflection on the election at all. I believe the election was legitimate. I believe the Liberal Government was elected in its own right and it has done very well, so I am not looking to question the legitimacy of the election outcome. I do not see any issues there at all or about when it was called. That is purely up to the Premier and the Governor of the time to make those decisions. I will certainly listen to any further comments that are made.

Madam DEPUTY PRESIDENT - The question is that the motion be agreed to.

The Council divided -


Ms Armitage Mr Duigan (Teller)

Mr Gaffney Mrs Hiscutt

Ms Rattray (Teller) Ms Palmer

Ms Siejka

Mr Valentine

Ms Webb

Mr Willie


Ms Lovell Ms Howlett

Motion agreed to.


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