By Brad Stansfield
Tasmania’s longest-serving Liberal Premier Robin Gray (a title he’s likely to keep for many years yet following Will Hodgman’s unexpected resignation) has released his political memoirs “Proud to be Tasmanian”, and it makes for great reading.
Written in collaboration with his former Head of Office, the over 400-page tome is an easy-reading historical narrative of Gray’s time in office, which is largely uncoloured by over-the-top revisionism or attempts to even decades-old political scores. Rather, it provides a clear account of Tasmania in the 1980s, whose political era at least has been largely airbrushed from history by the subsequent Labor-Green Government of 1989-92.
As such, the book’s got everything you’d expect. This includes Gray’s perspective of the Franklin Dam and Wesley Vale disputes, some free assessment of Labor, the Greens and their motives and his greatest regret – would you believe failing to hold the line against the media mob opposing the proposed new international hotel on the Hobart waterfront, and championing instead the architectural masterpiece (sic) that is the now Grand Chancellor Hotel on that site?
Along with the accounts of the Franklin Dam dispute and proposed Wesley Vale pulp mill, it’s a reminder that the more things change in Tasmanian politics, the more they stay the same.
The most interesting section of the book is a detailed account of the 1989 election and aftermath, when despite promising not to prior to the election, Labor did a deal with the Greens to form Government – a by now very familiar story.
Gray’s revelation that the then Governor, General Sir Phillip Bennett, rang him the morning of the no confidence motion to say that he wouldn’t accept formal advice recommending a fresh election should it be proffered is an intriguing constitutional revelation.
History-telling aside, the book does also offer some wise advice to those willing to take it on board.
That advice might best be summed up by saying: keep you promises; when in charge, take charge; and that Treasury is not the font of all knowledge.
A highly successful grass-roots politician, Gray also has sound advice for today’s budding politicians, particularly in the sprawling electorate of Lyons: work hard, talk to people, and knock, knock, knock on those doors.
As essential addition to the bookshelf for all those interested in Tasmanian history and Tasmanian politics, “Proud to be Tasmanian” by Robin Gray and Andrew Tilt is available from all good bookstores, or can be ordered online at proudtobetasmanian.com.au.
Brad Stansfield is the former Chief of Staff to former Premier Will Hodgman and is a director of Font PR.