Can Australia’s last Liberal Govt hold on in the Tasmanian election?

Tasmanians are voting in a state election that's come around 18 months early. Can the Liberals last stronghold in Australia stay in power?
Rebecca White (Labor) and Jeremy Rockliff (Liberal) are going head to head in the Tasmanian election

Tasmanians will vote in a state election this Saturday, as Premier Jeremy Rockliff seeks reelection for the country’s only Liberal Government.

Rockliff, who called an early election last month, is up against Labor leader Rebecca White.

Rockliff has been leading a minority Liberal government since two politicians quit the party last year.

Polls show the Liberals are ahead of the Opposition. However, neither party is expected to win enough seats to form a majority government.

Minority Govt

Governments need to guarantee the confidence of a majority of members of parliament (MPs) to pass laws through the House of Representatives.

This is achieved when one party wins more than half of the seats available.

However, it can also pass laws as a ‘minority government’ through negotiations with members of the crossbench. Crossbenchers don’t have to vote with the government on everything, but they agree to keep the government in power and pass spending bills.

Early election

The Tasmanian Liberals secured 13 of the 25 seats in its House of Assembly (lower house) at the 2021 election.

MPs John Tucker and Lara Alexander quit the party to become independents last year over concerns about a new AFL stadium, leaving Rockliff at the head of a minority government.

Last month, he announced negotiations to secure the crossbenchers’ support had failed, leaving the Liberals unable to govern with any certainty they would be able to pass laws.

Rockliff called an election 18 months earlier than expected.

This weekend’s election will also see an extra ten MPs elected to state parliament, as part of plans to expand representatives in its lower house from 25 to 35.

The early election will only determine seats in the lower house. Elections for some seats in the state’s upper house are scheduled for May.

Election issues

Opposition leader Rebecca White is leading Labor into an election for the third time. White became an MP in 2010 aged 27.

Environmental concerns over the state‘s tree-logging industry are a key election issue. Tasmania logs 40% of all native trees cut down in Australia, to make products like paper.

In a recent social media post, actor Leonardo DiCaprio criticised the state government‘s plans to expand logging, asking them to “save Tasmania’s giant trees“.

The Greens have also campaigned heavily on environmental issues in the lead-up to the election. Part of their focus has been on the scale of salmon farming in the state.

The industry is valued at $1 billion, and supplies over 90% of Australia’s ‘Atlantic’ salmon.

A 2022 documentary produced by an ethical fishing activist group called salmon farms in the state “a cauldron of disease and deformity“.

Stadium stoush

A planned AFL stadium in Hobart has become one of the biggest issues in the run up to the election. The stadium, which would be built by 2029, formed part of a deal to launch Tasmania’s first AFL and AFLW teams.

The project was initially expected to cost $715 million, with half of the cost funded by the state government. Independent analysis suggests costs could reach $1 billion.

Federal Senator for Tasmania Jacqui Lambie says the money would be better spent on the state’s healthcare, education, and housing. Labor said it will re-negotiate the stadium funding deal if it wins the election.

Other issues

Both major parties have made election promises around the cost of living, healthcare, and housing.

Labor has promised free school lunches at all public primary schools by 2030. It has also pledged to improve protections for renters.

The Liberal Party has promised voters a one-off $250 discount on their energy bills. It also pledged to spend $12 million building the “world’s tallest” Cadbury chocolate foundation.

Will things change?

As the number of elected MPs increases from 25 to 35, neither major party is expected to win enough seats to form a majority government.

Most polls show the Liberal party ahead of Labor by some margin. However, the government is still projected to fall short of the 18 seats it now needs to govern in majority.

Whoever wins the most seats will most likely need to negotiate with independents and minor parties like the Jacqui Lambie Network and the Greens to form a coalition government.

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