Tasmania is to have an interim three-person cabinet for the next week as deliberations continue within the Parliamentary Labor Party (PLP) over the inclusion of one or two Greens, or perhaps other non-Labor MPs, to join the permanent line-up.

Should a Green MP join the Labor ministry it would be the first such alliance between the two parties in Australian political history. No Labor government, state or federal, has included a Green minister.

Premier David Bartlett this morning issued an intriguing statement in which he said that, in order to meet today’s deadline after the March 20 election when all present ministerial appointments expire, Governor Peter Underwood would swear in a “minimalist ministry” before the full ministry was sworn in on April 21.

In that mini-ministry, Bartlett is Premier, Lara Giddings is deputy Premier, Attorney-General and minister for justice, and Michael Aird is Treasurer.

There are three Labor MPs in the Upper House, giving the PLP a pool of only 13 Labor MPs from which to choose a suite of nine ministers, speaker, deputy speaker, chair of committees and leader of the government in the Upper House.

The intriguing component of today’s statement is the apparent willingness of the PLP to wear non-Labor ministers other than Greens, after the 10-10-5 result of the election. Bartlett’s statement reads:

“At a meeting of the Parliamentary Labor Party yesterday, the Premier said he was asked by the PLP to consider and approach Members of Parliament outside of the PLP to join the Ministry.

“In the interests of making this Parliament work, to ensure the best outcomes and deliver on our commitments, the PLP is of the view that we should consider — for the first time in Tasmania — ministers outside the PLP.

“I am pleased with this approach as it will mean we can consider others in the formation of the very best Cabinet for all Tasmanians.

“But there is a lot more to do if this is to eventuate and if we are to make this work.”

Bartlett appears to be talking about Cabinet status. Because of the size of a Tasmanian ministry, the terms “ministry” and “cabinet” tend to be synonymous.

While there would be every expectation that Greens’ leader Nick McKim would be at least one of those non-Labor people in the cabinet, given they have met to discuss the situation, the phraseology does not appear to exclude Upper House independents or even opposition Liberals being courted. Private citizens cannot be appointed ministers in Tasmania.

The wording of the press statement — “the PLP is of the view that we should consider” — implies that it has made no clear decision to include outsiders or the terms under which they would be brought into the fold of a Labor cabinet or ministry and how that might affect the concepts of cabinet solidarity and confidentiality.