Outgoing Tasmanian Labor Senator Lisa Singh wants her party to reflect on its preselection process and the perceived intimidation that goes with it, as she prepares to pack up her Canberra office.
The victim of factional deals at preselection, Senator Singh lost her seat at the May election after being dumped to fourth on the party Senate ticket.
“I’m sad to say goodbye, but I cherish the time I’ve had as being the Tasmanian people’s senator over the past eight years,” she said in an interview with the ABC.
It’s not the first time Senator Singh has been done over by Tasmanian Labor factions.
At the double-dissolution election in 2016, she pulled off the almost impossible\ by picking up more than 20,000 first preference votes to be re-elected from the sixth spot on Labor’s ticket.
This year, she received almost 19,984 first preference votes in the half-Senate election, or 5.7 per cent, which was more than any other Tasmanian Senate candidate.
But being fourth on the ticket in a half-Senate election meant that was not enough.
‘I really was up against it’
On election night, her Tasmanian Labor Senate colleague Catryna Bilyk told the ABC that Senator Singh “could have run a harder campaign if she wanted to” but “she didn’t choose to”.
Senator Singh said people were tired of slanging matches in politics.
“I think those comments were very misguided, and I think that’s some of the negative view of politics that people are pretty much sick of, to be honest,” she said.
Senator Singh said she had campaigned hard and thanked the almost 20,000 Tasmanians who voted below the line for her.
“It was always going to be tough, being placed fourth on a Senate ticket,” she said.
“I really was up against it.”
“Of course in 2016, that was the most historic win and Tasmanians came out in droves to re-elect me then, but I knew this time would be different, it would be much more difficult and I think it was just a bridge too far to cross.”
‘There shouldn’t be that sort of intimidation’
Senator Singh said Labor should use its federal election loss to examine its preselection processes and how they could be made more democratic.
She was pushed down the ticket despite receiving a high number of “rank and file” votes at the Labor conference last year, but factional deals and weighting of delegates’ votes went against the factionally-unaligned Senator.
Delegates voting in preselection were required to “show and tell” their completed ballots to factional heavyweights, with only a handful refusing.
“I think it’s time to reflect on some of these decisions and some of the processes, and think about listening to the people, listening to Labor members,” Senator Singh said.
“A number of people have said we need to look at the process, that it should be a “one vote, one value” system, that there shouldn’t be that sort of intimidation in how that process plays out.”
Senator Singh’s seat did not go to another Labor candidate.
Instead, Jacqui Lambie returns to the Senate, and Labor is one seat down.
‘Most rewarding years of your life’
Senator Singh said she was proud of her work advocating to stop the State Government delisting 74,000 hectares of World Heritage Area forest, and helping save Qantas call centre jobs in Hobart.
But she said her day-to-day dealings with constituents and their Centrelink and immigration issues were some of her greatest achievements.
Senator Singh is also proud of her work negotiating on behalf of popular former service station operator Bill Bostock, resulting in BP wiping part of a large unpaid fuel debt that otherwise would have cost Mr Bostock his family home.
Despite the perceived difficulties for women in politics, she said it was a fulfilling career.
“I know there’s a fairly negative view of politics at the moment,” Senator Singh said.
“But I say to people out there, particularly young women, to think about a career in politics because it can be some of the most rewarding years of your life.”
Senator Singh does not know what the future holds but has not completely ruled out a future tilt at politics.
“I’ve just completed eight years in the Senate and I’ve seen I think five prime ministers in that time,” she said.
“I’m thinking of stability at the moment. That might be a good path forward.
“But I’ll weigh that up in time to come.”