REAL AUSTRALIA

From convicts to political prisoners and Jacquie Lambie, Tassie forges on

Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from Australian Community Media, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend. Today's newsletter is written by the Launceston-based Rob Inglis.

Port Arthur: A prominent recurring theme in Tasmania history. And for more than you may think.

Port Arthur: A prominent recurring theme in Tasmania history. And for more than you may think.

Tasmania is a state of rejects, rebels and radicals. Historically speaking, at least.

With its grim legacy of convictism, you may be shocked to hear that a second major prison facility is only just now on the horizon for the state.

Among the convicts sent to Tasmania in the 19th century were political prisoners, most notably William Smith O'Brien, an Irish nationalist exiled to Port Arthur for sedition.

There's a rich bushranger tradition here, too. Our most infamous outlaw was Martin Cash, who thrice escaped Port Arthur and evaded the noose until he died of old age in 1877. His place in Tasmania's colonial history is recognised in a budget motel named after him in the Hobart suburb of Moonah. An honour most of us can only ever dream of.

I like to think the subversive spirit of colonial Tasmania lives on in our politics.

Tasmania's State Parliament isn't without its rogue operators. Liberal MP Sue Hickey, formerly the mayor of Hobart, was elected in 2018, but pulled off a stunning coup to claim the speakership against the will of her own party on the first sitting day last year.

Sue Hickey addresses the House of Assembly after being elected Speaker of the lower house, as Premier Will Hodgman, Opposition Leader Rebecca White and Greens leader Cassy O'Connor look on. Picture: Scott Gelston

Sue Hickey addresses the House of Assembly after being elected Speaker of the lower house, as Premier Will Hodgman, Opposition Leader Rebecca White and Greens leader Cassy O'Connor look on. Picture: Scott Gelston

Hickey has voted against government legislation on several occasions, maintaining that she would always vote on merit rather than simply toeing the party line.

This year, erstwhile Labor MP Madeleine Ogilvie made a political comeback after being ousted at the last state election. Elected on a recount following the resignation of another Labor member, her uneasy relationship with the party has resulted in her now sitting as an independent on the crossbench. What's more, she voted twice last week with the Liberals on key pieces of legislation.

At the federal level, Jacqui Lambie burst back onto the political stage in May with harsh words and a wrathful glare.

"You know what, Scott Morrison?" she warned the prime minister via the ABC on election night. "If I'm lucky and I have that balance of power, I hope to God you and your people treat me a hell of a lot better than what they did that three-and-a-half years I was up here."

Jacquie Lambie 2.0: After a spell a new, reinvented Lambie is back on the political scene.

Jacquie Lambie 2.0: After a spell a new, reinvented Lambie is back on the political scene.

It was vintage Lambie: plain-speaking, fire-breathing and no-holds-barred.

Since returning to the Senate after being felled by the citizenship crisis (a period we'd all very much like to forget, thank you), Lambie has blossomed into a more mature politician, softening some of her abrasive edges.

And she does, indeed, hold the balance of power in the Senate, an enviable position for any independent politician.

Lambie is enjoying the spoils of horse-trading, which the Coalition government is forced to indulge her on in order to secure her crucial vote on legislation.

It's meant she's been able to get Tasmania's historic public housing debt wiped in exchange for her support for company tax cuts.

While Lambie isn't the only influential crossbencher in the Senate, she's fast established herself as a key player, while retaining her maverick credentials.

A perfect example of Lambie's newfound influence was the Medevac machinations in the parliament today.Tasmania has often been perceived as the problem child by other states and territories. While the prime minister has dubbed us the turnaround state more recently, I say we should continue to own our pariah status.

It's bloody entertaining, after all. And sometimes it even gets results.

Rob Inglis, journalist at The Examiner

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