SYDNEY–Australia’s state of Tasmania has returned the conservative Tasmanian Liberals to office with a clear majority in an election fought largely on jobs and poker machines.
The southern state, an island the size of Sri Lanka with a population of 519,000, went to the polls on Saturday with decisive results apparent before midnight.
The Liberal Party secured 50.36 percent of the vote, with Labor coming in second securing 32.58 per cent and the Greens securing 10.11 per cent.
The Liberals had held 15 seats in Tasmania’s 25-seat House of Assembly going into Saturday’s election and secured the 13 seats they needed for majority government. That was despite the opposition Tasmanian Labor party picking up an extra three seats after campaigning strongly against poker machines which it had vowed to remove from pubs and clubs by 2023.
Premier Will Hodgman of the Tasmanian Liberals had set a target to reduce Tasmania’s unemployment rate to the lowest in the country by 2022 if re-elected.
In his victory speech to the tally room late on Saturday night he said Tasmanians had voted for to maintain stability.
“It is a very different state to what it was four years. It is more confident, it is prouder and it is stronger,” Hodgman said in the speech.
“I’m so proud of what we have done to kick-start an economy and to create jobs for 10,000 more Tasmanians, for Tasmania’s unemployment rate to be the second lowest of any state in the country, and for Tasmanian businesses to be the most confident of any state in the country. To have got our budget back from deficits into surpluses,” Hodgman said.
Under Hodgman, Tasmania’s unemployment rate has dropped from 8.5 percent to 5.7 percent, reported to The Examiner.
Opposition leader Rebecca White of Tasmanian Labor said the swing towards Labor had put the Liberal government on notice, saying that the government had to make decisions to benefit the people “and not somebody’s rich mate.”
She criticized the gaming industry’s relationship with the Liberals, saying their election campaign was the “most well-resourced” in Tasmania’s election history.
“It should not be the case that you can buy a seat in the Tasmanian parliament.”
Senior Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz praised Will Hodgman on his “thumping” win in the state election.
“It is exceptional and Will Hodgman now joins the pantheon of Robin Gray as being the only Liberal premier to have been able to deliver a second term majority Liberal government,” Abetz told The Examiner.
He dismissed suggestions that the gaming industry could buy the election.
“The suggestion that the election was bought is an insult to the Tasmanian people. The support one gets varies from election to election depending on the policy platform.
“The Tasmanian people know what the issues are, they know what motivates them when they go to the ballot box.
“I think the Labor Party will have to come to the realisation that their policy did not attract the attention of the Tasmanian people.
“I would invite Labor to go back and ask where did they go wrong? The scorched earth policy that they were going to have for poker machines, under strict analysis, was exposed as being very superficial,” Abetz said.
In his speech, Hodgman promised that be would continue doing what he said was in the state’s best interests.
“No government is perfect,” he said. “But an election campaign is time to look at our reforms.”
Additional reporting by Melanie Sun