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Monday, November 21, 2005

Lennon tipped to call early election

The Mercury: Lennon tipped to call early election [22nov05]

SPECULATION is firming that the Lennon Government will call an early election in late February or early March next year, more than six months ahead of schedule.

Dates looking most likely are the last Saturday of summer, February 25, or the first two weekends of March.

The chance of an early election hardened yesterday with news the State Government intends to push its anti-terror legislation through Parliament during the next fortnight, rather than waiting until next year as previously announced.

The timing of the resignation of Attorney-General Judy Jackson, and the renewed frenzy surrounding new and younger Labor candidates, has also heightened expectations.

The next two weeks of State Parliament are the last before Christmas, with Parliament not scheduled to resume until mid-March.


But Ms Jackson hinted yesterday she did not expect Parliament to sit again before the next state poll is held.

"I'd like to get the legal practitioners laws through [before I retire] but that won't be until next year and I don't know whether there will be time to achieve that," Ms Jackson said.

Premier Paul Lennon said the anti-terror laws were being brought forward after advice from Canberra that it would be desirable to have the legislation through State Parliament this year.

Mr Lennon had previously indicated he would table the legislation and allow it to sit on the books until early next year "unless there was good reason not to".

Another factor encouraging a likely early vote is that both the local and national economies are considered likely to worsen as the year progresses.

A state election must be held before September 23 next year.

Liberal Leader Rene Hidding is convinced the State Government has decided to go to the polls in February or March.

"We think this [parliamentary sitting] is the last six days of the Lennon Labor Government," Mr Hidding said.

"We maintain our position that a summer election is still very much on the cards and the Liberal Party is in a high state of preparedness.

"We are ready for an election tomorrow"

Political wisdom is that a summer election always finds voters in a better mood, but that it's best to wait until after the long school holidays are over (they end on February 16).

In addition, the complication of the Melbourne Commonwealth Games next year -- being held from March 15 to 26 -- makes it likely an election will come before that date.

ABC political analyst Anthony Green said yesterday that while some politicians liked to hold elections either during or immediately after a big sporting event like the Commonwealth Games, it was not a wise decision.

He said the attraction of such a strategy was that voters would be feeling optimistic and euphoric, and that all the sporting news would make it hard for Opposition parties to get their messages heard.

But the downside was that all of the TV advertising slots during the Commonwealth Games would already be booked out, so that no political party would be able to promote itself.

Dr Green said elections in Tasmania were traditionally held in February, with only the last two elections of the past six out of step with this philosophy.

"It is always viewed that in Tasmania you are better off to have the vote during summer when the weather is better," he said.

"I've always factored in late February on my calendar as the date most likely for Tasmania."

However, he nominated Saturday March 4 and March 11 as scarcely less likely dates.

Any of these three election dates would avoid the need for State Parliament to resume as scheduled in mid-March.

Dr Green said March 18 was unlikely as it was already the South Australian poll day, while any of the three weekends afterwards before Easter became entangled in the "noise" of the Commonwealth Games.

All the Premier would say yesterday was to repeat his mantra that there would be "no election this year".

"Those who have nothing better to worry about need to calm down and be patient," Mr Lennon said.

But Greens leader Peg Putt believes all the speculation about an early election and preselection turmoil is merely a Lennon Government tactic to distract attention from its appalling performance.

Ms Putt said that with Parliament resuming today for its last two weeks of the year, it was clear the Government had squandered its Budget windfall on pet projects like the Meander dam, leaving no money in the kitty for policies like the much-needed Affordable Housing Strategy.



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