The Liberal party was one seat away from an unprecedented third straight election win in Tasmania as voting continued on Saturday night, with Labor’s vote having fallen significantly.
Speaking in the state tally room in Hobart, the opposition leader, Rebecca White, said she had called the premier, Peter Gutwein, to concede defeat. She blamed Labor’s loss on the support for incumbent governments across the country for their management of the pandemic.
“Peter Gutwein did call an early election because he wanted to be about his management of Covid-19,and tonight’s outcome is a strong result for the Liberal Party and Peter Gutwein’s leadership,” White said.
The Liberals remained in a battle with two independent candidates in Hobart’s multi-member electorate of Clark to claim the final seat they needed to win an outright majority in the state’s 25-member parliament.
Boosted by extraordinary personal support for Gutwein, the Liberals had won at least 12 seats, Labor seven and the Greens two. Four seats remained undecided, with an independent – either Sue Hickey, an ex-Liberal speaker who was dumped on the eve of the campaign, or Kristie Johnston, a local mayor – likely to claim one.
Gutwein had declared during the campaign he would resign as Liberal leader if he did not win a majority of seats.
Under Tasmania’s Hare-Clark system, five MPs are elected in five different electorates – Bass, centred on Launceston in the north, Braddon taking in Burnie and Devonport in the state’s central north and west, the largely rural seat of Lyons, and Franklin and Clark in the south.
The premier had the highest personal vote in the state, picking up nearly half of all first preferences in Bass. Across the state, the Liberals had been backed by 48.6% of voters, down slightly from three years ago.
Labor suffered a 4.1% swing against it as its vote fell to just 28.5%, barely above what it recorded when it lost government in a landslide in 2014.
White told the tally room that while Labor had lost the election had seen the elevation of other issues beyond the pandemic, including a health crisis under which the state had the country’s surgery waiting lists and ambulance response times.
She called on the government not to ignore them. “Just because we fell short, it doesn’t mean we will stop fighting to make Tasmania a better and fairer place,” she said.
The opposition endured a chaotic start to the campaign due to internal fights over preselection, and was criticised for abandoning its opposition to poker machines in pubs and clubs – a major issue three years ago, but virtually absent from this campaign.
After a poor performance in 2018, the Greens vote had a 2.7% swing in its favour to reach 13%.
Gutwein’s popularity surged shortly after he became premier in January last year due to what was seen as his clear and decisive leadership through the pandemic.
More to come