Hodgman has one eye on premier's office

WILL Hodgman has his gaze firmly locked on the last weekend in March.

That's when Liberal Party staff think the state election will fall. When, if a solid lead in the polls and an increasingly frustrated electorate hold true, Mr Hodgman will finally get to move to the Premier's office after eight years as Opposition Leader.

And he's determined not to put a foot wrong.

The election campaign proper began last week for Mr Hodgman, two weeks after the end of the parliamentary year.

This interview, traditionally a reflection of the past 12 months, became an appraisal of the next three.

Asked for his highlight of the parliamentary year, Mr Hodgman nominated "developing our plan" and "strengthening and building on our team".

Not to be derailed by speculation of discussions between his party and the Greens following the 2010 election ("a distraction") or consideration of his own performance in the past year ("that's for others to judge"), Mr Hodgman remained firmly on- message.

He said his focus now was for the Liberal Party's united team (mentioned 10 times in a 20-minute conversation) to talk to Tasmanians about the Liberal plan (11 mentions) which reflects the views of a majority of Tasmanians (five mentions) and to give Tasmanians the choice (five mentions) for a brighter future (two mentions) by providing for majority government (three mentions).

After all, there are less than 100 days until the state election (three mentions).

Mr Hodgman said he was not worried, this time around, of suffering from over-confidence.

"I understand how tough it is to win an election from opposition.

"But we are very confident that we have developed a plan that's resonating, that meets with Tasmanians' expectations, and that we've got the team to deliver it."

Mr Hodgman said the Liberal Party's time in opposition had been well spent.

"It's a tough job, but it's also important to, I suppose, undertake an apprenticeship of sorts to understand not only how a government can be failing, but also the opportunities that presents to give Tasmania a brighter future," he said.

"There can be no doubt that we are certainly ready."

Mr Hodgman said the death of his father, former state and federal parliamentarian Michael Hodgman, in June, did not change his focus.

"It re-energises me to have had such a wonderful father and a role model, but truly Tasmanians all have difficult times and circumstances to deal with," he said.

"My focus is on them, not me."

Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industries chief executive Michael Bailey likened Mr Hodgman to Prime Minister Tony Abbott - a tightly controlled on-air persona offset by a relaxed, friendly and no-nonsense approach off-air.

It's an approach that, paired with pro- development and pro- industry policies, has endeared him to the business community.

Mr Hodgman said his pledge to tear up the forestry deal in government, despite it having the support of peak industry groups and companies like Ta Ann, would restore an "appropriate balance" between conservation areas and economic resource.

"To keep locking stuff up, to continue to go back, as the Greens do, to campaign against the industry, will ensure that the party I lead will back it at every turn because people's livelihoods depend upon it," he said.

•TOMORROW: The Examiner talks to Tasmanian Greens leader Nick McKim

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