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Tasmania: conflict between a Labor Senator and the Premier raises speculation about the Senator's future in the party.\n



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PETER CAVE: A threat by the Tasmanian Labor Senator, Shayne Murphy, to quit the party and sit as an Independent could dramatically alter the numbers in the Senate and rob the Democrats of the balance of power after 1 July.  Senator Murphy is reconsidering his position with the party after a very public slanging match with the State Premier, Jim Bacon.  But the Premier says he is not going to lose any sleep over threats that the Senator might leave the party.

 

Drusilla Patkin reports.

 

DRUSILLA PATKIN:  It started in Federal Parliament last week when Labor Senator, Shayne Murphy, called the head of the Tasmanian Trust Bank a crook and said he should be removed.  The bank is regarded as a financial pillar by many Tasmanians so those comments didn't sit well with Labor Premier, Jim Bacon, and he sided against the Labor Senator.  Then on Sunday, Shayne Murphy's wife, Jacquie, quit the party and her position as President of the ALP in Tasmania, calling the Premier's lack of support for her husband, 'traitorous'.  What's not clear now, however, is Senator Murphy's own position, something one of the chief antagonists in the debate, Premier Bacon, clearly isn't worried about.

 

JIM BACON:  Who knows what he is likely to decide.  I am not losing any sleep over it and I am certainly not spending any time worrying about it because I have much more important things to do.  Oh, look, if he resigns he'll be another one that got on the tram for a while and then got off it.

 

DRUSILLA PATKIN: And Senator Murphy, when asked if he was reconsidering his position as a Labor Senator, wasn't giving anything away.

 

SHAYNE MURPHY: That comment arose out of a comment, I am led to believe, was made by the Premier who said I should consider my future, and on that basis I reply, 'Yes, I am seriously considering my future.'

 

DRUSILLA PATKIN: But are you considering resigning?

 

SHAYNE MURPHY: That is a matter that I don't think I should make any pubic comment on at this point in time.

 

DRUSILLA PATKIN: But has it crossed your mind that you will resign over this issue?

 

SHAYNE MURPHY: Oh, I think from time to time, when you are confronted with circumstances of the nature that I have confronted - not just on this occasion -  that it does make you wonder sometimes what or where your friends really are.

 

DRUSILLA PATKIN: Do you see a level of treachery here then?

 

SHAYNE MURPHY: Well, I feel a great sense of disappointment on the basis that I am a member of the Labor Party;  I am a Federal politician.  And I would have thought that as a common decency that my colleagues at a State level would have at least contacted me to ascertain comments I made, whether it be about the Trust Bank or any other issue, had in fact any basis for them being made and that we would discuss those matters and, of course, then they could make a fully-informed judgment about what they might subsequently say.

 

DRUSILLA PATKIN: So you feel very let down by what the State Government has done?

 

SHAYNE MURPHY: Oh, absolutely.  Absolutely.

 

PETER CAVE: Tasmanian Labor Senator, Shayne Murphy.