So after a week of speculation and rumour, Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings acted today to move Tasmania towards the next state election.
Giddings met with the Governor this morning, and then proceeded to sack the two Greens ministers from her cabinet and announce an election date of March 15.
Parliament will be recalled to consider legislation in regard to the Tamar Valley pulp mill in late January, which has caused Greens MP Kim Booth to announce plans to move a motion of no confidence.
While Giddings now leads a government without necessarily commanding the support of a majority of the House of Assembly, the impending election makes that status largely irrelevant.
If a motion of no confidence was to pass before the planned date for the issuing of writs on February 19, then Giddings would have the choice of either advising the Governor to ask another member of Parliament to attempt to form a government, or to call an election. Since an election is already planned for March, it would not be unreasonable for the Governor to stick with the planned date of March 15.
March 15 is the closest date to the four-year anniversary of the 2010 election, but many election observers had hoped that Tasmania would vote on a different date, to avoid a clash with the South Australian state election. This will be the third successive election to be held on the same date as the South Australian election.
South Australian elections are fixed to be held on the third Saturday of March. While plans for fixed terms in Tasmania were floated prior to the last election, nothing has come about on this regard. The choice of March 15 keeps open the possibility that Tasmania will eventually fix its election date to the same date as South Australia.
Giddings’ decision to drop the Greens from the ministry is unexpected, but rings hollow so close to the election. After governing with minimal discord in an effective coalition since 2010, she has decided to make a change at a point when her government has run out of time. Giddings has claimed that she would not form a government in the future which would include Greens ministers, but such promises have been made before and could well be forgotten if the numbers require Greens’ support.
The most likely outcome remains the Liberal Party gaining the three seats they need to form a majority, with their best chances being in Bass, Braddon and Lyons. Having said that, there remains the possibility of the Liberal Party failing to win a majority, at which point one of the two major parties will need Greens’ support to form government.
The Tally Room guide covers all five electorates, and conversations have started about the campaigns in each electorate.
Read the Tally Room guide to the Tasmanian election.