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Tasmania: strong competition is expected for Senate seat to be vacated by Senator Brian Harradine; ALP plays down magazine article by Peter Garrett criticising logging.

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Tuesday 29 June 2004

Tasmania: strong competition is expected for Senate seat to be vacated by Senator Brian Harradine; ALP plays down magazine article by Peter Garrett cri ticising logging


TONY EASTLEY: The Independent Senator, Brian Harradine's move to retire after nearly 30 years, has opened the way for a fierce contest for his Senate spot. 


Later today, the long-serving independent is set to confirm that he's leaving, al
though wily as ever, he's also saying he's had a lot of people asking him to change his mind and contest for just one more term. 


His Senate spot from Tasmania is already being keenly fought over by the Liberals, Labor and the Greens. 


As Louise Yaxley reports, there's extra pressure on the Tasmanian Labor Party because of what its new recruit, Peter Garrett, has said about Tasmanian forests in a magazine article.  


LOUISE YAXLEY: The Greens leader Bob Brown predicts that without Senator Harradine in the field, it'll be easier for the Greens' Christine Milne to be one of the six senators elected from Tasmania. 


BOB BROWN: I think Christine Milne would be elected if Brian Harradine were standing. Him not standing is going to send a lot of his voters who are looking for a clear strong alternative voice to the big parties, across to vote for Christine as well.  


LOUISE YAXLEY: But the two major parties say they don't see people who've voted for Brian Harradine for nearly 30 years swapping to the Greens. 


Eric Abetz is the Liberals' number one Senate candidate. 


ERIC ABETZ: The Greens represent virtually everything that Senator Harradine stands against in relation to the social issues that he campaigned so very strongly on for the past 30 years. 


LOUISE YAXLEY: Labor's top senate candidate is frontbencher Kerry O'Brien. 


KERRY O'BRIEN: There would be some tradition Labor voters who would have had a personal connection with Brian Harradine, and Labor will be seeking to attract those voters back to the Labor fold.  


There's no doubt that when Brian Harradine stands the conservative vote declines, so no doubt the Liberal Party will be seeking to attract those voters. I suspect both groups are less likely to vote Green than they are Liberal or Labor. 


LOUISE YAXLEY: But as the parties jostle for the six available senate positions in Tasmania, there's new tension between the Greens and Labor. 


Labor's Peter Garrett is quoted in the new edition of the Australian Women's Weekly from his former role as President of the Conservation Foundation, being highly critical of forest practices in Tasmania. 


Greens Senator Bob Brown.  


BOB BROWN: The article is a phenomenal pre-Labor appeal from Peter Garrett and he will be silenced while this chainsaw driven party continues to attack the forest.  


I would love to see Peter stand on the podium when Mark Latham announces his policies to the people of Australia in a couple of weeks, and give that speech that's in that article. But he's going to be silenced. 


LOUISE YAXLEY: Mark Latham's issued a statement pointing out that the article was written two months ago before Mr Garrett joined the Labor Party. Forestry is a major issue for Labor in Tasmania where there's a heated debate over whether protecting more trees would cost jobs. 


Labor's Senator Kerry O'Brien says he's spoken to Peter Garrett about just those issues. 


KERRY O'BRIEN: I have every confidence that he will gather, as he is now, a better understanding of just what the forest debate means in Tasmania. It's easy to make comments from a position of a lack of information. I think Peter's learning every day. 


LOUISE YAXLEY: But might that harm the Labor vote in Tasmania that words like that are coming out in this national magazine? 


KERRY O'BRIEN: Well, I think that a lot of Tasmanians know that the people that they're voting for in Tasmania will be fighting for their jobs, and the benefits of the state, and that's pretty well known to the Tasmanian community at the moment. 


TONY EASTLEY: Tasmanian Labor Senator Kerry O'Brien ending that report from Louise Yaxley.