Tas Liberals in minority talks as Labor leader resigns

Ethan James and William Ton |

The Liberals, under Jeremy Rockliff, appear on track to win 15 seats after Tasmania’s state election
The Liberals, under Jeremy Rockliff, appear on track to win 15 seats after Tasmania’s state election

As the Liberals continue to court crossbench members elected to Tasmania’s parliament to form minority government, Labor’s leader has stepped down after losing her third election.

Rebecca White resigned as leader of the Labor party on Tuesday after she conceded her team would not be able to form government following Saturday’s poll. 

“I don’t think it should come as a surprise to anybody that after contesting three elections as the leader of the Labor party, that my time is up,” Ms White told reporters on Tuesday.

“I’ve done the best that I could possibly do.

“It’s time for a change and time for renewal of the leadership of the Labor party.”

Jeremy Rockliff
Jeremy Rockliff’s Liberals appear on track to win 15 seats after Tasmania’s state election. (Rob Blakers/AAP PHOTOS)

Ms White will remain in parliament and support the party’s next leader including on the frontbench if she is offered a position.

The Liberals, under leader Jeremy Rockliff, appear on track to win 15 seats, short of the 18 required to govern in their own right.

Mr Rockliff, the nation’s only Liberal premier, has reached out to the Jacqui Lambie Network (JLN), which has secured two seats and possibly a third, as well as two independents.

His deputy Michael Ferguson said the party would dedicate itself to working constructively to form minority government.

The Liberals drew the ire of Senator Lambie during the campaign for creating a mock JLN website pointing to the minor party’s lack of policies. 

Mr Ferguson also put his name to a media release criticising the network for standing “shoulder-to-shoulder” with the Greens on several issues. 

He attacked the Lambie candidates for not supporting salmon farming in Macquarie Harbour or a new Hobart stadium and because they did not “want young criminals sent to jail”. 

“Yes, there is a battle of ideas (during a campaign),” Mr Ferguson told reporters on Monday.

“Now the people of Tasmania have spoken.

“(Our job) is to take what the voters have said and get on and make it work. 

“We will deliver our plan with their support, I hope.”

Senator Jacqui Lambie
Senator Jacqui Lambie says she and her candidates want to see stability in Tasmania’s government. (HANDOUT/Royal Commission Into Defence And Veteran Suicide)

Senator Lambie has indicated her candidates are open to providing stability for a Liberal minority government and meetings would be held in coming days. 

She said her party had a desire to work from a clean slate. 

“The Jacqui Lambie Network new members are saying they want to see stability,” Mr Ferguson said. 

“No doubt they have other things they want to bring to discussions, and we look forward to having those discussions with them.” 

The final make-up of parliament, and which JLN candidates get across the line, won’t be known until after Easter. 

Mr Rockliff has also contacted two independents – left-leaning Kristie Johnston and former Labor leader David O’Byrne. 

As it stands, the Liberals have 13 seats, Labor 10 and the Greens four, with four in doubt. 

The Liberals suffered a 12 per cent swing away from the party in the election which Labor was unable to capitalise on, gaining about one per cent. 

“We didn’t do well enough and whilst we’re a little bit closer, it’s not close enough,” Ms White said.

She reiterated the party’s stance on not doing deals with crossbenchers to form government and said the position would not change under a new leader.

“We remain united as a group in our view,” she said.

Tasmania went to the polls more than 12 months early with Mr Rockliff seeking a return to “stability and certainty” after spending the best part of a year in minority.