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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

goodbye Paul Lennon « Previous | |Next »
May 26, 2008

So Paul Lennon is no longer the Premier of Tasmania. He has resigned. He had little choice as political paralysis gripped his government and it was doing badly in the polls. Although Lennon did introduce groundbreaking social legislation including protection for victims of domestic violence and compensation for abused wards of the state and the Stolen Generations (an Australian first), he will be remembered for his damaging pursuit of the pulp mill in Tasmania, which caused him to allegedly lean on a former judge, bypass established planning bodies and alienate at least half the population.

Will the tradition of corrupt corporatist governance that he inherited from Jim Bacon continue under David Bartlett and Lara Giddings? Or will the new Labor Government begin to make the transition to open and accountable government to remove the stench of corruption and political death?

Lindsay Tuffin, editor of the Tasmanian Times, writes:

It will suit many to claim all this [corruption] was the creation of Paul Lennon. But that would be untrue to political history. Paul Lennon’s greatest failing was that he had neither the political courage nor vision to break from the political culture and practice of his predecessor Jim Bacon....But the question for the Labor Party and for Tasmania is: Can it purge itself not just of Paul Lennon but the communal cancer of cowardice, thuggery and lies that benefited them all for a decade.To share power is after all to share guilt for the crimes of power.

It--the poisioned chalice --- goes back beyond to the Liberals---to John Gray's Government. Of course for the conservative side of Tasmanian politics the desperate state of Labor is due to the Greens, not the politicians working for corporate interests.

What then of the Gunn's pulp mill? Will it go ahead? The ANZ Bank has pulled ou from financing the mill. Gunns is searching for a replacement to lead the syndicate of bankers that ANZ had been putting together for the project. However, Gunn's is heavily subsidised and may be in financial difficulty, given the credit crisis. Does this open a space for the state to have a future that moves away from dependence on logging old-growth forests or a government-subsidised pulp mill?

Bartlett will not seek to stop the mill, planned for the Tamar Valley north of Launceston. However, unlike Lennon he is not close to Gay, the timber union or the logging industry. He will come under intense pressure to toe the line on forestry and the mill. Bartlett says he wants to ease divisions in Tasmania, including over Matthew Denholm, The Australian's Tasmania correspondent, says that

Bartlett will not seek to stop the mill, planned for the Tamar Valley north of Launceston. However, unlike Lennon he is not close to Gay, the timber union or the logging industry. He will come under intense pressure to toe the line on forestry and the mill. Bartlett says he wants to ease divisions in Tasmania, including over the logging of old-growth forests. However, at his first press conference as Premier yesterday, he refused to rule out ending old-growth logging or at least protecting further forests from logging. Asked about whether he would back Lennon's idea of subsidising pipelines for the mill, he said whether the project succeeded depended solely on Gunns and its financiers. It remains to be seen if Lennon's would-be legacy is as dead as the political career from which it was born and on which it inflicted so much strife.

The state government under Bartlett is saying that the pulp mill is on track. Their position is one of trying to talk up the pulp mill in the face of increased public opposition which they steadfastly refused to recognize.

So more cultural jamming will be required. Gunns, in the meantime, will be looking for a way to refinance their pulp mill. How will they do this in a world where credit is tight and they need extensive state subsidies?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:34 AM | | Comments (7)


Gary, darn, you beat me to it. Lennon's resignation is significant in all sorts of ways - politically, environmentally, generationally, corruptionally (hey, look at me, I invented a word).

In all likelihood Bartlett will turn out to be as corrupt as Lennon if only to maintain the distribution of power. I wondered how much this could have to do with federal Labor. But maybe Lennon has a health problem or something. Time will tell. It was rather sudden.

The majority of comments at the ABC news site figured he'd had a lucrative offer from Gunns, but as you say, ANZ seems to have pulled out. A new premier could be astonished to find that the mill is not on track, or health is a higher priority, or the preservation of the Tasmanian devil. It does look rather as though he's leaving before the floor beneath him gives way. Here's hoping.

Bartlett seems to be already distancing himself from the mill, saying "the future of the pulp mill project is now very much in the hands of the proponents and their financiers".

If the ANZ bank is out, presumably the financiers in question, who are the proponents apart from Gunns?

public support for the Labor Party has slumped 6 per cent in just two months and is now at a record low primary vote of 25 per cent, eight percentage points below the Liberals' 33 per cent. Sue Neales in The Mercury says:

once a leader has been rolled by his own team on an issue as important as who he wants as his deputy, there will always be suspicions that he is not in control of his wayward colleagues.Today, that description of the Premier is probably too generous.In the wake of the latest voter opinion poll that gave Liberal Opposition Leader Will Hodgman such heart and Labor strategists such heartburn, Paul Lennon is no longer a lame duck premier. Instead, he is a dead duck. Or, at best, a sitting duck, waiting to be knocked off by Mr Bartlett at a time and place of his choosing.

She adds that when a sitting premier records a vote of such no-confidence from his constituents about who of the three political leaders is their preferred premier, there is never going to be any comeback. A Paul Lennon-led right wing Government had passed the point of no return.

the writing was on the wall for redneck Lennon. Last Thursday's opinion poll, published by Essential Marketing and Research, was humiliating. Not only was Liberal Opposition Leader Will Hodgman more than twice as popular as preferred premier but, in the state's south, even Putt was ahead of Lennon.

A few days latter Lennon is gone. So much for politicians only worrying about one poll--the election --and ignoring all the rest.

the point at which Big Red's headkicking take no prisoners style went too far was over the pulp mill. I quote from Matthew Denholm, The Australian's Tasmania correspondent, article in The Australian.

Lennon ran into more trouble when Gunns pulled its $2 billion pulp mill out of the state's planning system, citing the lack of a "commercially viable" time frame for approval. Lennon immediately fast-tracked the highly controversial project via parliament, sidelining the planning umpire. Later it was revealed Gunns was tipped off by Lennon's chief bureaucrat, Linda Hornsey, that the mill was "critically non-compliant" with the planning body's requirements. The revelation, thanks to a freedom of information request by the Greens, turned public concern and scepticism to outrage. Lennon came under pressure to resign in March 2007 when the planning chief who had been assessing the mill, former Supreme Court judge Christopher Wright, went public with claims the premier leaned on him to curtail the mill assessment. Wright refused; Hornsey stepped in and the fast-track was put in place. Prominent QC and now Supreme Court judge David Porter provided the Greens.

In a in a state with no anti-corruption commission and an attorney-general - at that time Steve Kons - who refused to refer the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions, nothing happened.

Lennon never really recovered, as he had ensured tha the pulp mill had poisoned politics in Tasmania.

In casting about for someone to create a new ALP brand the party need look no further than Richard Butler. He's a member of the 'A' list and enjoys overseas travel.

It was nice to read something of what the man achieved, as well as what he hasn't.
Why on earth did he back gunns so assiduously?