This article provides a comprehensive history of political events in Tasmania from the beginning of 2015 to the end of 2017, including important moments in Parliament, key political issues and the impact of community-run campaigns and the traditional media and social media on policies and election outcomes.
Since the beginning of 2015 Institute for the Study of Social Change director Professor Richard Eccleston and colleagues including PhD candidate Dain Bolwell have been chronicling Tasmanian political events for the Australian Journal and Politics and History.
Click on the links below for a detailed summary of events from January 2015 to December 2017 or see below for an overiew of each six month period.
- Tasmania January to June 2015
- Tasmania July to December 2015
- Tasmania January to June 2016
- Tasmania July to December 2016
- Tasmania January to June 2017
- Tasmania July to December 2017 (see full article at the bottom of this post)
Tasmania January to June 2015
Overview: The first six months of 2015 saw Premier Will Hodgman’s Liberal government seek to consolidate its strong position in the aftermath of the 2014 election. Hence, the government sought to fulfil a number of electoral promises, including job cuts and reforms to the public sector and reducing debt. The government also moved quickly to capitalise on trade and tourism opportunities following Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the state in late 2014. These moves accompanied a number of positive economic trends. Growth was forecast at 2.5 per cent for 2015-2016 and the budgetary position of the government improved thanks to an unexpected increase in GST receipts, with expectations of the budget returning to a surplus within two years. In February, unemployment reached a three-year low of 6.5 per cent, the same rate as Queensland (Mercury, 13 March 2015) as industries such as tourism and agriculture continued to thrive. Read the full article.
Tasmania July to December 2015
- Overview: During the latter half of 2015, Premier Will Hodgman’s state Liberal government continued to consolidate its strong electoral position as it maintained implementation of its cautious, centrist policy agenda. Political support for the government was underpinned by an economy thatcontinued to rebound after years of hardship. The modest growth and increased business and consumer confidence was attributed to booming tourism, agriculture and construction sectors, while the government also promoted educational retention rates and the export of higher education, a revitalised health administration and the development of both natural and urban assets. Underlining the improved conditions, the trend unemployment rate at 6.4 per cent for November was lower than both South Australia (7.5 per cent) and Western Australia (6.5 per cent), as well as better than a year earlier (6.8 per cent). However, unemployment still remained above the national average of 6.0 per cent (ABS 6202.0). During the latter half of 2015 no elections were held at any level of government, but one by-election (Franklin) was conducted by count-back under the Hare-Clarke system. Other ballots were held internally by parties.The ballot for the federal Liberal leadership in September altered Tasmania’s representation in the federal ministry due to a reshuffle of portfolios by new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.Senator Eric Abetz, a prominent conservative supporter of former Prime Minister Abbott and dominant figure in the Tasmanian Liberal Party, was relieved of his employment portfolio and leadership of the government in the Senate.
Senator Richard Colbeck became the most senior Tasmanian in the federal government when he was promoted to the outer ministry to the tourism and international education portfolios (ABC News, 20 September 2015). Andrew Nikolic, the federal member for Bass, lost his position as Liberal Party whip, but it remained with a Tasmanian as Brett Whiteley (Braddon) took over the role.
Despite his demotion, in November Abetz retained top spot in the party half-Senate pre-selection. Senate President Stephen Parry was pre-selected second and Jonathan Duniam, deputy chief of staff to Premier Hodgman, was endorsed third (Australian, 21 November 2015).
Issue-related Reachtel opinion polls were conducted for the Examiner in the electorates of Lyons and Bass during July. They both showed that the state Liberal Party continued to enjoy an absolute majority of support and that the three most important issues for voters were the usual suspects: “health”, “the economy” and “jobs”. In Bass, a significant number opposed plans to move the University campus to Inveresk (48 against 29 per cent), while narrower majorities in both electorates supported the establishment of a pulp mill at Bell Bay – about 52-38 per cent in both electorates – which prompted one commentator to observe that the long-running issue was “becoming more reliably polled as it becomes still more imaginary” (Kevin Bonham Blogspot, 12 July 2015). Statewide EMRS polling in August and November showed that the Liberal Party continued to increase its support from voters by up to six percentage points over the same months in 2014. Will Hodgman increased his support as Premier by a similar amount over Labor leader Bryan Green, who was preferred by only 19 per cent in November, prompting speculation about his replacement. Support for the Greens was around 18 per cent in November, up one point on the same month in the previous year. Read the full article.
Tasmania January to June 2016
- Overview: The state government began to lose some of its gloss as it passed two years in office in March 2016 before a decisive swing against the Liberal Party in the July 2016 federal election. While Premier Will Hodgman and his deputy, Jeremy Rockcliff, remained competent and confident, others were not so well-regarded as the state was ravaged by extremes of weather when drought gave way to damaging floods in late autumn.
Following controversies, one minister resigned from parliament altogether while another resigned from cabinet. There was a predictable election result in one of the two Legislative Council seats contested over the period, but a surprise result for Labor in the second, suggesting a potential turn of political tide in the island state.The Tasmanian economy continued to recover from the recession of 2012 and 2013 recording moderate 2.8 per cent economic growth (Gross State Product) over the year to December. This was the third highest growth rate in Australia behind Victoria (4.3 per cent) and New South Wales at 3.0 per cent (CommSec April). Accordingly, the state’s trend unemployment rate declined slightly to 6.6 per cent in April or 0.2 per cent down on the same period in 2015, lower than South Australia (7.0 per cent) but still higher than the national rate of 5.7 per cent. The May trend unemployment rate dropped further to 6.5 per cent, 0.3 per cent down on May the previous year (ABS 6202.0). Within Tasmania, the unemployment rates of the three regions continued to converge, as the labour market in the troubled West and North West region continued to improve, albeit from a low base (ABS 6291.0).
A state-wide poll released in March showed that the Liberal government continued to be popular, although down four points on the previous quarter, with 46 per cent support. Labor secured 27 per cent support, the Greens 18, and Independents 8. Liberal leader, Will Hodgman, was more popular than his party at 52 per cent, whereas Labor’s Bryan Green was less popular than his party at only 21 per cent (EMRS, 4 March 2016).
The federal election campaign began with a May Reachtel poll of more than 3,000 voters finding that Liberal incumbents Andrew Nikolic and Eric Hutchinson were at risk in Bass and Lyons respectively, where they both led by only one percentage point. In Braddon the Liberal incumbent, Brett Whitely, held a narrow lead of three percentage points (SBS, 16 May 2016). Of the other two electorates, both in the South, Denison was predicted to remain with independent Andrew Wilkie and Franklin with Labor’s Julie Collins. In the Senate, high-profile sitting senators Richard Colbeck (Liberal) and Lisa Singh (ALP) were at risk because they had both been demoted on their respective party tickets — Colbeck to fifth and Singh to sixth — paving the way for unprecedented “below the line” Senate campaigns (The Conversation, 16 June 2016). Read the full article.
Tasmania July to December 2016
- Overview: The results of the 2 July federal double dissolution election for Tasmania were a disaster for the Liberals, who were wiped out in the House of Representatives, and lost the state’s only government minister in the Senate. Apparent disunity amongst candidates, including the Senate ticket, contributed to the losses, as well as a perceived failure of the federal government to heed regional Tasmanian concerns. The Liberal state government, though, continued to be well-regarded, drawing on a marked popularity contrast between its leader and Premier Will Hodgman and the opposition leader, Bryan Green. The state’s economy continued to slowly improve over the period. Population growth was close to the fastest annual pace in five years. Both home loans and home prices also rose strongly. As at October, the trend annual economic growth rate was four per cent, based on strong demand for agricultural exports combined with an ongoing tourism boom and associated construction. Although the trend unemployment rate rose slightly to 6.7 per cent as at that month (CommSec, 16 October 2016), the unemployment rate for the last two months of the year then fell to 6.4 per cent (ABS 6202.0). The impact of the influential ABC Four Corners television program was felt twice in the state following two significant investigations — one involving children at risk of harm, the other involving the sustainability of salmon farming. Read the full article.
Tasmania January to June 2017
- Overview: With less than a year before the next state election due in March 2018, the Liberal government’s confidence in maintaining its large majority diminished. Although not without missteps, the government continued to appear competent and the economy continued to improve. Yet the Labor party’s renaissance was evident. Labor made a further gain in the Legislative Council, while importantly changing parliamentary leadership to a young rising star who was much more of a challenge to premier Hodgman than her predecessor. Social media campaigns using the Facebook platform became increasingly significant for several issues during the six-month period. Social media campaigns focusing on several key issues became an increasingly significant feature of Tasmanian politics over the period. Read the full article.
Tasmania July to December 2017
- Overview: While a final date had not been set, Liberal Premier Will Hodgman confirmed in December the government would go a full term with the election due in March 2018, marking an end to the phoney campaign and the start of the election campaign proper. Labor continued to consolidate its gains in the opinion polls while the government suffered further setbacks with State Growth Minister Matthew Groom announcing that he was stepping down from Cabinet and would not recontest his seat in Denison at the next election, the loss of a key upper house by-election and the failure to get several pieces of key legislation through Tasmania’s upper house. Opinion polls throughout this period continued to predict a hung parliament after the next election with the ALP level pegging with the Liberal government for the first time during the parliamentary term. All this came against a background of a strong economy, the budget in surplus, the elimination of net debt, a booming tourism industry and modest jobs growth. The full version of this article will be published in in early 2018. Read an unedited version here:
1 July to 31 December 2017
Michael Lester, Dain Bolwell and Richard Eccleston
Institute for the Study of Social Change
University of Tasmania
Overview: While a final date had not been set, Liberal Premier Will Hodgman confirmed in December the government would go a full term with the election due in March 2018, marking an end to the phoney campaign and the start of the election campaign proper. Labor continued to consolidate its gains in the opinion polls while the government suffered further setbacks with State Growth Minister Matthew Groom announcing that he was stepping down from Cabinet and would not recontest his seat in Denison at the next election, the loss of a key upper house by-election and the failure to get several pieces of key legislation through Tasmania’s upper house. Opinion polls throughout this period continued to predict a hung parliament after the next election with the ALP level pegging with the Liberal government for the first time during the parliamentary term. All this came against a background of a strong economy, the budget in surplus, the elimination of net debt, a booming tourism industry and modest jobs growth. The full version of this article will be published in in early 2018.
Labor increased its representation in the Tasmanian Parliament after winning the seat of Pembroke – one of the 15 electorate’s in Tasmania’s largely independent upper house. The by-election on 2 October was triggered by the illness and subsequent resignation of well-regarded former Attorney-General Vanessa Goodwin. The by-election was won by little-known Labor candidate Jo Siejka, who ended comfortably ahead of the Liberals’ candidate James Walker and highly-favoured independent and Mayor of Clarence, Doug Chipman. Siejka’s election increased Labor’s numbers in the upper house to four and left the Hodgman Government with just onemember in the Legislative Council.
The focus of the election was a bitter negative campaign by the Liberal Party against Chipman, a former Liberal Party state president, over his opposition to a major government policy initiative – the forced takeover of Taswater which is the state’s sole water and sewerage corporation, jointly owned by Tasmania’s 29 councils. The campaign was dominated by the Liberals’ attack on Chipman’s age, suggesting the 71-year-old was too old to serve in the Upper House (Killick 2017).
This, among other missteps in the Liberal campaign, saw Seijka, a first-time candidate and the only woman in a field of seven, attract 32 per cent of first-preference votes, compared to Walker’s 25 per cent and Chipman’s 20 per cent (Tasmanian Electoral Commission, 14 November). After preferences were distributed Ms Siejka was the clear winner crediting her success to a positive grassroots campaign (Mercury, 6 November).
This was a significant result on four fronts. Firstly, the by-election was widely seen as a preview of the popularity of the two major parties in the lead up to the state election. Secondly, it heralded a major setback for the Taswater takeover bid which the government had been hoping would make it more popular in regional areas of the State. Thirdly, it raised questions about the ability of the Liberal Party’s organisational wing, especially Liberal state director Sam McQuestin, to run a successful state election campaign. And, finally, it weakened the government in the Legislative Council while boosting Labor’s numbers. Commentators said the result gave Labor the momentum in the lead up to the State election due in March (Mercury, 6 November). During the campaign Premier Hodgman said a win for the opposition was “the worst-case scenario because the last thing Tasmania needs, in my view, is a larger block in the upper house.” (ABC, 6 November).
Hobart Lord Mayor to replace Groom
High-profile State Growth Minister Matthew Groom announced on 23 September, 2017 that he was stepping down as Minister and would not contest the March 2018 State election to spend more time with his wife Ruth and their three young children. At the time of the announcement Groom was also Minister for Energy, Environment and Parks, and acting Attorney-General, which necessitated another minor Cabinet reshuffle. At the media conference to announce his resignation from Cabinet and decision to not stand again, Groom said politics had taken a toll on family life that he was no longer prepared to endure (Mercury, 24 September).
Groom, who took on the super ministry of State Growth created after the Liberal State Election victory in 2014, became the fourth minister the Hodgman Government had lost in a variety of circumstances in the year. Paul Harriss (former Resources Minister and upper house member for Huon) quit Parliament in 2016 and his replacement, former Minister for Mines, Racing and Building & Construction, Adam Brooks, stepped down in June 2016 amid concerns about the use of a personal email account and accusations of misleading parliament. As mentioned earlier, Attorney-General Vanessa Goodwin withdrew from politics after her diagnosis with a brain tumour earlier in 2017.
Groom said his proudest achievements were the opening up of wilderness areas to eco-tourism, legislation to pave the way for a proposed Mt Wellington cable car and his management of the energy crisis in 2016 – all of which continued to be issues for the state election in March.
Importantly, Groom’s decision may have created problems for the Liberal Party in the Hobart-based seat of Denison where he easily topped the Liberal vote in 2014 with 13,829 first preference votes, or 21.6 per cent of the valid vote, ensuring the party won two of the five seats. The other sitting Liberal member was newly appointed Justice Minister and former Speaker, Elise Archer. The Liberals’ Denison team for the coming election included high profile Hobart Lord Mayor, Sue Hickey. They were to be joined by economist Simon Behrakis, businesswoman Kristy Johnson and newsagent Dean Young.
Under Tasmania’s Hare-Clark proportional representation electoral system, each of the five state electorates – Bass, Braddon, Denison, Franklin and Lyons – return five members to make up the 25-member House of Assembly.
On the same day Groom announced his resignation from Cabinet, Tasmania’s first woman premier Labor’s Lara Giddings who, at the age of 23, was also the youngest woman to be elected to an Australian parliament in 1996, revealed she was pregnant at the age of 44 after undergoing an IVF program. Giddings announced in May 2017 that she was not recontesting her seat in Franklin in March 2018. Veteran Labor MP David Llewellyn also announced at that time that he would not recontest his seat in Lyons.
A survey of 1000 people across the State by Tasmanian pollster EMRS taken in early December confirmed the trend of two earlier polls over the previous six months (ReachTel in July and EMRS in August). It showed that, after excluding undecided voters, support for the Liberal State government decreased by three points since their last poll to 34 per cent. Support for the Labor Party showed no change since August, remaining at 34 per cent while Greens’ support also remained steady, increasing by one point to 17 per cent. Among the remaining decided voters, six per cent said they would vote for an independent candidate, while support for the Jacqui Lambie Network (JLN) was measured for the second time in the December 2017 poll and stood at eight per cent. (EMRS, 6 December).
Were those figures to hold to the March 2018 election, Tasmania would have a hung parliament. Had an election been held in the week of the survey, the major parties would have been forced to consider working with the Greens or the Jacqui Lambie Network. It was the first time a poll had put the ALP and Liberals neck and neck since 2010. Labor leader Rebecca White maintained a commanding 48 per cent to 35 per cent lead over Mr Hodgman as preferred premier since taking over the leadership of the ALP earlier in the year. Another significant feature of the poll is that it threatened to undermine the Liberal Government’s claim that it was the only party who could form a majority government.
Federal Citizenship fallout in Tasmania
Two Tasmanian Federal MPs, former Senate President, Liberal Senator Stephen Parry, and independent Senator Jacqui Lambie were victims of the dual citizenship controversy and another member was waiting to find out whether she would be referred to the High Court. In his role as Senate President, Parry referred a number of senators to the High Court because of the possibility that they were dual citizens. In November, Parry revealed that he was a dual citizen himself and resigned. Similarly, Lambie discovered during research for her upcoming biography that she was also a dual citizen and resigned. Braddon Labor MHR Justine Keay became a focus of Turnbull Government attacks over her now renounced British citizenship. Keay was a dual British and Australian citizen at the time of the election. While she had taken steps to renounce her British citizenship she had not received confirmation of this until after the election (ref).
On 1 December the Premier made a speech to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) where he said Tasmania was in much better shape than when the Liberals came to Government in 2014. “It’s a stronger, prouder, more confident place, and our economy is one of the strongest performing in the country”, he said. (Premier of Tasmania website, 1 December 2014). He noted that credit rating agency Standard and Poors had confirmed Tasmania’s AA+ rating, the budget had returned to surplus four years ahead of schedule, that state debt had been eliminated and “that for the first time ever, total state sector – that’s the general Government sector, including our state-owned companies and GBEs – is net debt free, with negative net debt of $811 million.” Among other statistics, Mr Hodgman said state final demand was 8.2 per cent higher than when the government was elected and there were 10,300 more jobs with the unemployment rate down to six per cent.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics data released in December showed that in general terms all major indicators for Tasmania were stable. Full-time employment in trend terms fell slightly from 245,800 to 245,500 while part-time employment continued its growth trend over the year to 93,100. The trend unemployment rate was 5.5 per cent. The underutilisation rate was stable at 16.4 per cent but still 2.8 per cent above the Australian average. Population growth for the most recent quarter was positive, but slow. Tasmania’s population was 520 877 persons in the June quarter 2017 which was 2.1 per cent of the national population, and its population was growing at 0.64 per cent a year.
Tourism remained one of the strongest consistently performing industries with the State recording more than 1.29 million visitors a year. The value of exports in October (latest figures available) stood at $334 million with China, by far, the state’s leading export market.
During the final sitting days of parliament for the year – and for the current term of parliament – the government failed to get its controversial bill to take over ownership of TasWater from Tasmania’s 29 councils through the parliament. The government instigated a protracted political battle with local government by arguing that the existing ownership model has to be changed in order to speed up improvements to infrastructure to remove boiled water alerts from 25 small regional towns and to ensure the availability of potable water in every town across the State. It also wanted Taswater to borrow more to speed up sewerage upgrades, particularly in Launceston and at Macquarie Point on Hobart’s waterfront, earmarked for major redevelopment. Upper house members were not convinced that the government could do a better job than Taswater, or that it could not find other ways to work with the councils and the corporation to achieve the same end without the necessity of a takeover.
The city of Glenorchy in Hobart’s northernsuburbs was in the process of fresh elections by postal ballot after the Government’s legislation to sack the council passed both houses of parliament. The polling period for the Glenorchy City Council election was between Tuesday 19 December 2017 to 10am Tuesday 16 January 2018. The legislation was introduced by Local Government Minister Peter Gutwein in the wake of repetitive delays to a Board of Inquiry investigation into the council and long-running community concerns over division and in-fighting among the former aldermen. The Council was suspended and an administrator appointed more than a year before but legal action by some former aldermen and the former general manager had prevented the government from formally receiving and acting upon the Board of Inquiry’s recommendations.
The ALP had proposed that an election also be held for Huon Valley Council where an administrator had also been appointed, however the upper house accepted arguments that this be deferred until scheduled local government elections in October 2018. (Mercury, 15 November).
A potential motivation for the government of sending the Glenorchy Council to an election in December- January was that it forced the hand of former Mayor Kristie Johnston, who had been considering a tilt as an independent for a seat in Denison at the State election in March on an anti-poker machine platform. Johnston had been predicted to run in the State election, but confirmed she would instead run for re-election as mayor. Tasmanian polling analyst Kevin Bonham said Johnston’s decision not to run for State parliament dramatically improved the Liberals’ hopes of retaining their two seats in the Hobart-based seat (ABC, 19 October). Coincidentally, the Liberal Party nominated her near namesake Kristy (with a “y”) Johnson as a candidate for Denison.
The State Government was forced to defend a decision to pay out the contract of the former head of TasTAFE Mr Stephen Conway who was dismissed after being found by an Integrity Commission report in May 2018 to have given improper financial and career advantages to his deputy, who was a close friend. As a result of the report, the government ordered an independent audit of TasTAFE’s recruitment and procurement processes. The audit results were not made public during the period.
In November Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff confirmed Conway had been paid out a total of $496,000 which included $251,000 salary, an $188,000 bonus, plus superannuation and other benefits. Labor’s Education spokesperson, Michelle O’Byrne, asked why “given the very serious findings of the Integrity Commission, so serious that Mr Conway had to leave his position, so serious that you [the Minister] just admitted you had to bring in policy, was any payment made at all?” Rockliff said Conway’s contract had been signed by the previous government, but he accepted that many Tasmanians would see the payout as an extraordinary figure. Labor Leader Rebecca White referred the payout to the Integrity Commission, alleging the Premier and Education Minister had improperly authorised the $188,000 payout and should instead have begun proceedings against Conway for a breach of the State Service Code of Conduct. However in a letter to Rockliff, Integrity Commission chief executive Richard Bingham said the commission’s assessment did not indicate misconduct had occurred on the part of any public officer regarding the payout and dismissed the allegation. (Mercury, 21 November).
Tasmanian Health Service
The administration of Tasmania’s hospital system was again the focus of attention following the release in December of an independent report by Deloitte which found communication, trust and accountability in the Tasmanian Health Service (THS) all needed urgent attention. Deloitte interviewed 36 senior health professionals and received another 145 responses to a survey as part of work undertaken on the opening of new beds in the state’s struggling hospitals. The report found that the THS executive was not seen to be operating effectively. It also found that governance structures, processes and management protocols were not always clear, or universally understood, or where they did exist, were perceived to be not adhered to. (Mercury, 17 December).
A summary of the report was released by Health Minister Michael Ferguson after he had previously refused to release the report or its contents on the grounds that it was Cabinet-in-confidence. In November Ferguson also was accused of either misleading the public or misleading the House of Assembly after he told Parliament the report did not exist. “I am happy to tell this House there is no such report by Deloitte into the THS Executive sitting on my desk. There is no such report in my office. There is no report.” (Hansard, 29 November).
Deloitte’s work was completed under the umbrella of the New Beds Implementation Team set up to oversee the opening of 127 beds and recliners across the health service. Ferguson said 79 beds and four treatment recliners had been opened and a further 22 beds and treatment recliners would be opened in January and February, followed by a 22-bed ward at the Hobart Repatriation Hospital due to open by mid-2018.
One of first major shocks of the unofficial election campaign was the Labor Party’s promise to remove all electronic gaming machines from Tasmanian pubs and clubs by 2023 if it were to win government. The move would strip about 2,300 poker machines out of venues across the State over the next five years, but remain in casinos. Under the Labor policy, a $55 million package would be implemented to assist affected venues adjust to the change and a “club sustainability fund” of $5 million would be used to help clubs like RSLs remain viable.
The policy announcement surprised everybody as both Labor and the Liberals in the past had resisted pressure to ban poker machines because of concerns about the impact this would have on employment in hotels and clubs as well as investment in new hotel and tourism developments. Under a monopoly licence all poker machines in Tasmania were operated by one company, the Federal Group, which was wholly owned by the Sydney-based Farrell family. In the past Federal had donated to both Labor and Liberal Party election campaigns. Federal indicated it would in future not donate to Labor. The Liberals stuck to their position to reduce the number of poker machines in Tasmania by five per cent and to consider and end to Federal Hotels’ poker machine monopoly.
In making the announcement Labor Leader Rebecca White said the harmful impacts of poker machine gambling were widespread and affected an individual’s health, their family, relationships and work. “For every person who is harmed by their own gambling, seven other people are affected,” she said. (ABC, 13 December).
Labor was preparing for the backlash from Federal and the Australian Hospitality Association which announced they would campaign against the policy. However Labor gained support from welfare groups, anti-poker campaigners and churches. Political commentators labelled the Labor policy decision a “game-changer” in the election campaign and Labor quoted research that it said showed more than 80 per cent of Tasmanians wanted poker machines out of pubs and clubs. (WIN Television News, 13 December).
Another point of difference between the parties was the issue of political donations. Labor said it wanted tougher laws on the disclosure of political donations and a total ban on foreign donors. However Treasurer Peter Gutwein said there was no need for greater disclosure of political donations as the current system was working well. (Mercury, 30 October and 1 November). Labor’s policy calls for the compulsory disclosure of donations of more than $1500 within 14 days, and limits on donations to individuals and parties. Tasmania currently is the only state without its own disclosure laws for political donations. Federal laws mean the sources of almost 90 per cent of donations to political parties in Tasmania are never revealed because they fall under the $13,200 reporting threshold.
Gutwein said the current disclosure regime was adequate as MPs must declare their interests each year, Ministers declared and disclosed and the AEC had a strong framework in place in regard to the disclosure of political donations.
Hung parliaments are not uncommon in Tasmania, due in large part to the state’s Hare-Clark proportional electoral system. Labor governed in minority with the support of an “Accord” pact with the Greens between 1989 and 1992. The Liberals were in minority government with no arrangement between 1996 and 1998 and between 2010 and 2014 Labor governed with the Greens with two of their MPs holding Cabinet positions. Also, it is not unusual for both major parties, the business community and some commenters to warn against the “instability” and uncertainty that will fall upon the state in the event of a hung parliament. Importantly, both major parties are convinced that the vast majority of voters are opposed to minority government. Consequently, it was no surprise that both major party leaders emphatically ruled out doing a deal with the Greens or any independents if they found themselves unable to form government in their own right. On their part the Greens said their preference was a hung parliament with them holding a balance of power and that they were open to discussions with both parties (Mercury, 24 October).
Despite the adverse public reaction to their perceived negative campaigning in the Pembroke upper house election, in December the Liberals commenced running negative television advertising warning a Labor-Green government after March would be an economic disaster for the State.
The second half of 2017 was dominated by posturing for the looming state election looming due in March 2018. Labor found itself in an unexpectedly competitive position and was level pegging with the Liberal government in opinion polls while opposition leader Rebecca White was preferred Premier. Labor’s momentum saw them unexpectedly win the Pembroke by-election while the Hodgman government suffered a number of parliamentary defeats. Yet as the year drew to a close the result of the forthcoming election was not clear. The Hodgman Government had presided over 4 years of strong economic growth and Tasmanian voters remain apprehensive about minority government. Ultimately the outcome of the 2018 Tasmanian state election will be determined in the campaign and voters’ response to the Labor’s pokies policy and Jacquie Lambie’s new political party.