The last time the Liberals were in power in Tasmania, Google had not been invented. Bill Clinton was in trouble over his relations with a certain intern, the Spice Girls were on the radio, and Pete Sampras triumphed at Wimbledon.
That was 1998 and the start of a 16-year era of Labor government in Tasmania. That ended on Saturday when the Liberals thumped Labor at the state election to win a clear majority. The Liberals will hold 14 or 15 seats in the 25-member lower house -- a win so emphatic they may get two terms.
So where to next for Tasmania? Premier-elect Will Hodgman has every reason to celebrate, but he faces serious challenges in governing a state that has long tended to fall behind economically. The Australian
has been running a campaign that the Greens, who shared power with Labor since 2010, have ruined the Tasmanian economy -- "a shameful legacy
" -- and the Liberals will "set about reopening
Tasmania for business". But it's not that simple.
To the results first. The Labor/Green administration has long been troubled as resentment built over the minority government, unemployment, economic stagnation and the bitter dispute over forestry
. The Liberals were at short odds to garner the 13 seats needed to form majority in Tasmania's quirky Hare-Clark system; they did this and then some.
With about 80% of the vote counted the Liberals have won 51.4% of the primary vote
, a 12.4% swing. They have taken 14 seats and may win another (Braddon).
Labor suffered a painful 9.5% swing the other way, holding just 27.4% of the primary vote and six seats (Labor might win one more). The party is probably two terms away from decent representation. MPs like prospective party leader David O'Byrne, Brian Wightman and Brenton Best are probably out.
The Greens fared the worst. They bled more than a third of their votes and lost crucial seats. They started on five and could end with two (although they will probably win Bass as well, and are a long shot in Lyons, where Lazarus-like candidate Tim Morris could fight back). This tends to happen to Tasmania's minority governments. The voters punish everyone involved.
Clive Palmer's hopes of a Palmer United premier in Tasmania have been dashed. PUP polled 5% and probably won't win a seat. They're a chance in Braddon but won't be in balance of power. Perhaps Palmer should have tried South Australia instead?
With the result unequivocal, here are the four major challenges the Liberals face in governing in Tasmania over the next four years. It's worth noting that their No. 1 promise is to reduce unemployment, which is at 7.4%, by about a quarter.
1. Keep their promises while balancing the budget
One of Hodgman's key pledges
is to "get budget spending under control". Apparently he will do this by: spending more on health and education, hiring 105 teachers, 108 cops, 85 nurses and 26 literary specialists, spending $30 million on irrigation schemes, $33 million on shipping, $28.5 million on forest burns, $76 million on elective surgery, etc.
But the state budget is in a hole, and spending money won't get it into surplus. The Liberals' approach
is a little Clive Palmer-esque.
From the 2013-14 Tasmanian budget, negative figures are in brackets