By Partner Brad Stansfield
Things have certainly become harder for the Hodgman Government following this year’s Legislative Council elections.
Although Government Leader in the Upper House Leonie Hiscutt comfortably retained her seat, the Liberals failed dismally in Pembroke to unseat Labor’s low-profile Jo Siejka following poor candidate selection and also failed in their bid in Nelson following the retirement of Jim Wilkinson.
Indeed, in somewhat of a worst-case scenario for them, the seat has been won by the independent Meg Webb.
To describe Ms Webb as “left leaning” would be an understatement; she campaigned heavily on a progressive agenda including placing a “women’s lens” over policies and continuing the anti-pokies crusade she started ahead of last year’s state election.
This now means the left has a clear nine votes to six advantage in the Upper House, although this may be reduced back to eight to six if one of the left takes the non-voting Presidency (the declared candidates are Kerry Finch, Mike Gaffney, Labor’s Craig Farrell and the right’s Tanya Rattray).
This is not to say that all is lost for the Government, but it does mean the Government would be very unwise to stray from bringing forward potentially controversial legislation, particularly if it wasn’t part of their election manifesto.
Add the maverick Speaker to the mix and it appears a quiet legislative period lies ahead – not that this is necessarily a bad thing.
And finally – supporters of Ms Webb are claiming a mandate for her to oppose the Government’s poker machine policy.
In this case, they may be entitled to make this claim, because there is no doubt that Ms Webb was campaigning on a platform to oppose the Government’s policy. But she is the only Upper House MP entitled to that view; not even the re-elected Siejka can claim that, given Labor abandoned their pokies policy prior to the election.
For the rest, the Upper House would do well to be a house of review not a house of government and respect the mandate the Government achieved for their election manifesto when they secured over 50 per cent of the primary vote only a little over a year ago.