Will Hodgman’s surprise resignation has brought Tasmania’s long running political dynasty to an end, and represents that rarest of things in modern Australian politics: an exit on his own terms.
This is particularly true of state premiers, who in recent years have had a tendency to burn through their early popularity, or, at best, hang around on the backbenches for a few months after leading their party to defeat.
On the numbers alone, Hodgman’s achievements are remarkable. Firstly, he was the Liberal party leader for 14 years, a phrase that in itself feels old- fashioned and incongruous, like riding a penny farthing to work or cocaine in a soft drink.
Tasmania has traditionally been an unhappy hunting ground for the Liberals, but Hodgman took over during a particularly low ebb, after the party’s miserable haul of seven seats in the 2006 election. He hauled the party back to parity in 2010, and in 2014 led them to a comprehensive victory, becoming only the fifth non-Labor premier in the state in the past 80 years.
In 2018, focusing on Tasmania’s strong economic performance under his watch, he achieved another big win — only the second time in the state’s history that the Liberals had achieved successive parliamentary majorities.
The victory was not without controversy. Having received nearly half their donations in the lead up to the election from gaming and hospitality interests, the Liberals promptly turned around and more than tripled the Tasmanian Hospitality Association’s funding. A secret policy to change gun laws in the state was ditched after the election.
On economic matters, Hodgman’s record is impressive — Tasmania surged to the second-most economically healthy state in the country under his watch.
So what next? Hodgman, a personal injuries lawyer before politics, has said he “has no job to go to”. But other examples show the sky’s the limit for former state premiers with time on their hands.
Bob Carr (NSW), within days of retiring as NSW premier, registered a lobbying business, before going back into politics as Julia Gillard’s foreign minster. He is now Industry Professor of Climate and Business at the University of Technology Sydney.
Denis Napthine (VIC) last year chaired the Regional Education Expert Advisory Group, which delivered the National Regional, Rural and Remote Tertiary Education Strategy.
Anna Bligh (QLD) has been CEO of the Australian Banking Association since 2017, following a brief stint as CEO of the NSW YWCA.
Steve Bracks (VIC), after a series of roles on advisory boards and a brief period as Australian consul-general in New York, will take over as chancellor of Victoria University in January next year.
Adam Giles (NT chief minister) became a pundit on Sky News. As you may remember, it hasn’t always gone great.