Snap election call dumps ‘unworkable’ Tas parliament

Ethan James |

Premier Jeremy Rockliff is expected to visit the governor to ask for an early election.
Premier Jeremy Rockliff is expected to visit the governor to ask for an early election.

Tasmanians will vote more than a year ahead of schedule, with the premier calling an early poll after failing to resolve a stand-off with crossbenchers.

Liberal Premier Jeremy Rockliff, who has governed in minority since May, announced a March 23 poll on Wednesday afternoon.

“This election is about who is best able to restore stability and certainty,” he said. 

“Parliament has become unworkable. I’m not going to allow myself or my government to be held to ransom for the next 12 months.

“It’s bad for Tasmania and it’s bad for Tasmanians.

“I have taken the decision to call an election, so that Tasmanians can have their say.”

Australia’s last remaining Liberal government was elected in 2021 for a record third consecutive term, with 13 of 25 lower house seats.

But it was plunged into minority when John Tucker and Lara Alexander quit the party to sit as independents over concerns about government transparency. 

The pair propped up the government with votes of supply and confidence but rejected a recent ultimatum from Mr Rockliff for a new, more restrictive deal.

Mr Tucker took a swipe at Mr Rockliff, describing a Friday meeting between the trio as window dressing when the intent was to always call an election. 

“He is running for cover rather than facing up to scrutiny on the government’s multiple failures,” Mr Tucker said.

Mr Rockliff has been criticised for the terms of a deal for an AFL team and new stadium, the government response to a damning inquiry into child sexual abuse, below average education outcomes, an ailing health system and housing wait lists.

“I’m running forward. I’ve always run forward,” Mr Rockliff said.

“I’ve been keen to tackle … the big issues facing Tasmanians.” 

The premier said work would continue despite the election on implementing 191 recommendations from the abuse inquiry.

Tasmanian Opposition Leader Rebecca White and Labor Party colleagues.
Rebecca White said Labor was ready for an early poll and announced a policy to cap power prices. (Rob Blakers/AAP PHOTOS)

Opinion polls have indicated it will be difficult for either major party to form majority government, with the state’s lower house increasing from 25 to 35 MPs at the election.

The Liberals start the campaign with 11 incumbent MPs, with Labor on eight, the Greens two and four independents. 

Mr Rockliff ruled out doing deals with the Greens to form a minority government, but said he would be “open to conversations” with others and would respect the will of voters.

However, he said he would not compromise Liberal policies or trade ministries.

Labor leader Rebecca White said her party was ready for an early poll, and announced a policy to cap power prices.

“A Labor government will do this in the first 100 days of being elected, saving Tasmanian households $400 on their power bills,” she said.

“After 10 years of the Liberals, it’s time for urgent action on the cost of living.”