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Friday, November 18, 2005

Judy set to call it quits

The Mercury: Judy set to call it quits [19nov05]

STATE Attorney-General Judy Jackson is quitting Tasmanian politics after 20 years in the spotlight.

The shock news of Ms Jackson's retirement emerged only after Labor nominations for the seat of Denison in next year's State election closed at 5pm yesterday without the Attorney-General appearing on the list.

Instead, two high-profile and younger female candidates have been keenly headhunted to fill the gap left by long-term fixture Ms Jackson, 58.

Tasmanian Small Business Council president and mother-of-two, Louise Sullivan, was asked by Premier Paul Lennon in a secret meeting last week if she would run for Labor as one of its six candidates in Denison.

And Lisa Singh, Hobart Citizen of the Year for 2005, the convener of the powerful Emily's List women-in-politics group and a former adviser to ex-Tourism minister Ken Bacon, has also thrown her hat in the ring.

he gaffe-prone but popular Ms Jackson would not comment last night on her surprise departure from politics, which will take effect at the State election due in the first half of next year.

Nor would the Premier's office comment, nor the local secretariat of the Australian Labor Party, which looks after preselection nominations.

"I'm not making any comment, either on who is nominating or who is not," said ALP state secretary David Price.

But Ms Sullivan, confirming her own intention of winning a Labor seat in Denison, said there was no doubt Ms Jackson would be departing the political landscape.

"Judy Jackson won't be running; that's definite," Ms Sullivan said.

She said she had spoken this week to Ms Jackson, whom she called something of a mentor.

It is also known that Ms Jackson feels she has achieved many of the political aims and changes she intended when she entered politics in 1986, after a career as a schoolteacher and lawyer.

Proudest among her achievements are the ground-breaking domestic violence and gay rights reform laws passed by Parliament during her three years as Attorney-General and Minister for Justice.

But it is probably the de-institutionalisation of the mental health system, achieved with the closure of the State's only psychiatric institution, the Royal Derwent Hospital and the Willow Court complex at New Norfolk, while Ms Jackson was Health and Human Services Minister in the first term of the Bacon Government, that she ranks as her most significant achievement.

It is not know exactly what has precipitated Ms Jackson's decision to quit

However, she is known to have been frustrated at Cabinet's refusal last month to pass laws legalising the prostitution industry and making life safer for sex workers, instead opting for a ban on brothels and forcing sex workers to operate alone or in pairs from their homes.

There have also been recent divisive debates in Cabinet, with the Attorney-General usually arguing against Premier Lennon and current Health Minister David Llewellyn on issues as diverse as the Ralphs Bay canal home development, the licensing of the Betfair betting agency and the running-down of the public housing and hospital system.

Ms Jackson was also swept back into office at the 2002 State election on the coat-tails of the massive popularity vote for then-premier and Denison stablemate Jim Bacon.

The political landscape for Labor in Denison is not so secure this time around, with Labor's third seat _ held by young gun David Bartlett after the resignation and death of Mr Bacon _ under attack from a strong list of Liberal candidates.

Currently the Liberal elder statesman Michael Hodgman and Greens leader Peg Putt hold the other two positions.

Ms Sullivan, 38, said the Premier had wanted her to stand because of her high profile and her multiple community commitments, rather than as a direct replacement for Ms Jackson.

She sits on the Tasmanian Together Progress Board and is the director of the Pharmacy Guild of Tasmania.

New party rule changes also mean that star candidates like her and Ms Singh can get pre-selected for Labor without having been members of the loyal long-serving ALP apparatus and factional system.

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