Tasmanians return the Hodgman Liberal Government and a historic female majority parliament
Tasmanians voted for continuity in the 3 March State election, returning Will Hodgman for a second term as Premier. In doing so they created history by being the first Australian state to return a female majority parliament. Thirteen women and twelve men have been elected to the House of Assembly.
Mr Hodgman became only the second Liberal Party leader in Tasmanian history (after Robin Gray) to win a second term as Premier.
In his victory speech in the Hobart tally room, he said: "Four years ago [Tasmanians] voted for change; tonight they have voted for no change.
"[They voted] to stick to the direction this State is heading in and take our State to the next level."
The victory came on the same day as the passing of former Attorney-General, Vanessa Goodwin, after her battle with brain cancer.
Ms Goodwin was well-liked across the political spectrum and was a good friend of Mr Hodgman as well as a parliamentary colleague.
In his victory speech, Mr Hodgman acknowledged Ms Goodwin's contribution to making his Government "as good as it could be".
The Liberal team will have a reduced majority in the Lower House with 13 seats (15 previously).
The Australian Labor Party, led by Rebecca White, won 10 seats after achieving a 5.5 per cent swing in primary votes.
The Tasmanian Greens won two seats, in the 25-seat House of Assembly.
Mr Hodgman, 48, is the son of an Australian Government minister, Michael Hodgman, and the grandson of a respected State politician, Bill Hodgman.
He graduated from the University of Tasmania with degrees in Arts and Law in 1993 and was admitted as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Tasmania in 1994.
In 1995, Mr Hodgman worked in Britain prosecuting cases of child abuse and neglect.
He was elected a Liberal member for Franklin in 2002 and was subsequently appointed Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
Mr Hodgman became Leader of the Liberal Party and of the State Opposition in 2006.
He was sworn in as Tasmania's 45th Premier in 2014.
He did well enough in the ensuing four years to be returned as Premier, but his success was not accepted graciously.
Ms White initially forgot to congratulate Mr Hodgman in her concession speech, but accused the Liberals of buying seats with an expensive campaign targeting Labor's anti-poker machine policy.
Similarly, the Tasmanian Greens' leader, Cassy O'Connor, said: "We were significantly outspent by the Labor Party and massively outspent by the Liberals."
The Opposition parties — and the media — had maintained a strong focus on the poker machine issue in the final weeks of the campaign, despite polling that indicated that fewer than a third of Tasmanians considered it relevant to their voting intentions.
The Labor policy certainly drew strong financial backing for the Liberal campaign from the hospitality sector.
Mr Hodgman attracted a massive personal vote in Franklin, reaching more than two quotas.
He will be joined in the new Parliament by a re-elected Jacquie Petrusma, who has done her time in the difficult portfolio of Human Services.
The Liberals lost one of the four seats they had held in Braddon, but they retained three seats in Bass.
Ms White polled strongly enough in the rural seat of Lyons to secure two Labor seats.
In the Hobart seat of Denison, the status quo was maintained with two Liberals, two Labor and one Green elected.
High-profile Hobart Lord Mayor, Sue Hickey, will replace former minister Matthew Groom on the Liberal benches.
Respected economic commentator Saul Eslake said on poll eve: “Given [the Liberals] have presided over a significant improvement in Tasmania’s economic performance, and while there’s an element of luck in that, they’re also entitled to claim some of the credit for it.
“Their campaign appears to have been both better-funded and better-organised ... support appears to reflect a perception among voters of them as better economic managers, which is sort of what you’d expect.
"But, also, that they were better-placed to deal with Health and Education, which is not necessarily what an objective observer might have expected.”
Mr Eslake said the second-term Liberals must find ways of continuing to improve Tasmania’s employment situation.
“Despite this improved economic performance, Tasmania remains the poorest State in the nation by a margin which hasn’t changed much over the past four years and isn’t forecast to change over the next four,” he said.
“The underlying reality is that Tasmania’s economy has to improve significantly to counter the effect of powerful ... demographic forces that have been detracting from the key drivers of per capita economic growth.
“These forces will intensify over the next three decades.
“The single most important thing that the next Tasmanian Government can do to improve long-term economic prospects is to improve the educational participation and attainment of Tasmania’s population. [However], other bold and wide-ranging, reforms will also be required.”
Image courtesy of the ABC
8 March 2018, Edition 192