OPPOSITION Leader Will Hodgman has called on Premier Lara Giddings to call the election today following reports of growing frustration within Labor ranks about Ms Giddings apparent reluctance to split with The Greens.
The Examiner reported today that tension in the party rose almost to the point of a leadership challenge before Christmas, resulting in Ms Giddings promising to make an announcement about splitting from the Greens and removing Greens ministers from cabinet this month.
Mr Hodgman said this morning that the government was in ``survival mode'' and should call an election today, rather than stretching it out to March.
``It's becoming increasingly obvious, it's now being reported, it's clear that we are going to have some kind of fake, contrived divorce,'' Mr Hodgman said.
``The Premier is making confused statements and we have got a situation now where, in my view, we need to have it dealt with and the Premier should call an election.''
Ms Giddings yesterday wouldn't say whether she intended to split from The Greens, saying Tasmanians would have to ``wait and see''.
The following is an edited transcript of Opposition Leader Will Hodgman's press conference in Hobart this morning:
Will Hodgman: Thanks very much for coming in today. It's obvious now that there is going to be this silly contrived divorce between Labor and The Greens as we have been anticipating. Tasmanians will not be fooled by this. Labor and The Greens have been saying for the last four years how fantastic this arrangement is, how wonderful their coalition and how cosy it's been and how it's delivered for Tasmania. Are they now saying that it's been a disaster? Are they agreeing with us that it's been all about political survival and not governing? This demonstrates how this appalling deal has been bad for Tasmania, it is only added uncertainty, it has only added to Labor and The Greens concerning themselves more with themselves and less with Tasmanians, and Tasmanians will not be fooled by whatever Labor and The Greens now say. However they describe it, they will get back into bed with each other after the next election if given half the chance to form another government. Tasmanians are sick of this, I have travelled the length and breadth of the state over the last two weeks and everywhere I go Tasmanians are saying they want and end to the uncertainty. They want an end to the confusion and they want an end to this minority government. The time is now for the Premier to do the right thing by Tasmanians. Call an election and let them have their say. Any questions?
Samantha Brett (Sky News): So you have obviously said a number of times that you will rule out making any deals. Can you just reiterate on that, please?
WH: Yes. We will do no deals. And we will not do deals with The Greens or any other party to form government. The reason why, and what's happening demonstrates how bad it is for Tasmania. It leads to compromised government, it leads to decisions that have been made about political self interest. That's what's happening with Labor and The Greens now. We will give Tasmanians the option, the choice, for majority government, at the election, whenever that is, and I would say to the Premier it should be called today so that we can end the confusion, end the uncertainty, and give Tasmanians the chance to have their say.
Steph Anderson (WIN): We've heard you talk about this fake divorce for some time now. How is it more of a reality or closer to becoming a reality today than yesterday?
WH: Well it's becoming increasingly obvious, it's now being reported, it's clear that we are going to have some kind of fake, contrived divorce. The Premier is making confused statements and we have got a situation now where, in my view, we need to have it dealt with and the Premier should call an election.
SA: The Premier isn't actually saying anything at this point, she's remaining quite tight-lipped. What's changed?
WH: There's just ongoing uncertainty and confusion, there's no doubt that we are heading to a contrived divorce. There's no doubt that this government has stopped governing and is in fact in survival mode. Tasmanians have had enough. That's what I'm hearing when I talk to Tasmanians, and they want and election and the Premier should call it.
Matthew Denholm (The Australian): Just to clarify your position on minority government. Are you still saying you won't govern in minority?
WH: Yes. We will do no deals, we will not govern in minority, we will give Tasmanians the choice for majority government. And the reason why: we've got an agenda we want to deliver, we want to give Tasmanians certainty, and we do not want a repeat of the sorts of nonsense that we are seeing now with Labor and The Greens.
SA: We've heard from the deputy Premier and also from the Infrastructure Minister that a position regarding future power-sharing deals will be released from Labor prior to the state election, but the Premier's refusing to confirm the same. Does this show that she's been overrun by her caucus?
WH: Well there's clearly a dysfunctional government, a Labor Party at war with itself, whatever is happening within the Labor Party we do know that Labor and the Greens will form another government, no matter what they say now, given half the chance.
Alex Johnston (Southern Cross): If Labor does rule out another deal with The Greens, do you lose then a massive point of difference in the election campaign?
WH: Well Tasmanians know that we're the one party that have been consistent about doing no deals. Tasmanians know that when we say it, we mean it. I saw Labor say at the last election that they'll do no deals but that's exactly what they did and they'll do it again.
Calla Wahlquist (The Examiner): The Premier appears to be under increasing pressure from people both in caucus and in the organisational branches of the Labor party to differentiate herself from The Greens. Do you think that will make a big difference to the election campaign? Will that mean if that happens we can start talking about policies rather than talking about whether or not the Labor and Green parties are going to split?
WH: The greatest pressure facing Lara Giddings is the fact that she leads a government that is dysfunctional and one that's failing Tasmania and that has led to the loss of jobs and to our economy moving in the wrong direction, and it's a government without a plan. The Liberal Party has a plan and we give Tasmanians the choice for majority government, to deliver it, at the next election. But that election should be called as soon as possible, in fact it should be called today.
Zoe Edwards (ABC): But on that question, do you think that a divorce would help, would change the election?
WH: I don't want to make political commentary. I won't indulge in that. What I am concerned about is giving Tasmanians the choice for majority government. The choice for a strong, unified team and a plan to give Tasmania a brighter future. Whatever's happening within the Labor party, it's unsavory, it shows that they are all about themselves and not about Tasmanians and that they have no plan. But in contrast, what we give Tasmanians is confidence that we are a party that can give them majority government and a clear agenda to deliver.
AJ: Do you think voters would think you're talking too much about Labor and The Greens and not enough about what a Hodgman government would do?
WH: Every opportunity I'll talk to Tasmanians about our plan, about the 100 policies that sit behind it to give Tasmania a brighter future. But we cannot escape the fact that we have got a dysfunctional Labor government, propped up by The Greens, the Premier should end the uncertainty and call an election so Tasmanians can have their say about what they think.
SA: You said before that Labor's at war with itself over this issue, can you just expand a little on that? What are you hearing?
WH: Look, I'm not going to speculate as to what exactly is going on behind closed doors, but all Tasmanians can see on their television screens each night and read about it in the newspapers, this is a government that's no longer governing, it's in survival mode, and if they are going to campaign they might as well let Tasmanians have their say and call and election.
MD: Doesn't this undercut one of your key strategies of the election campaign, though, that Labor can say, well, both major parties are now saying they won't do deals with The Greens, let's get on and talk about policy.
WH: I think there's a terrible state of confusion within the Labor Party. They have said many things about what they will do, most of them inconsistent. We're the only party that's been clear and consistent about this and Tasmanians will recognise that.
CW: Did you have any policies set for announcement this week that you've put off because of this taking up air time?
AJ: In reality, though, you'd prefer this to sort of meander along, wouldn't you, and Labor and The Greens to be sort of linked or not linked, you know, the speculation to continue? You'd prefer that, wouldn't you?
WH: No, my preference is very clear: give Tasmanians a chance to have their say about what's going on. Call an election.
MD: Just back on minority government, isn't there, isn't the consequence of your policy on minority government and your refusal to govern in minority, isn't a possible consequence of that a very minority Labor government, the possibility of Labor even governing with eight seats, which by some people's measure would be quite absurd. Isn't that what you might be inflicting upon the state?
WH: What we're doing is telling Tasmanians what we will do in the event of another hung parliament. We're being honest, we're being open, we've got a track record that shows we will do what we say and Tasmanians have their chance to have their say at the next election, and I think that election should be called today.
MD: But wouldn't a minority Liberal government, from your point of view, and your voters point of view, be better than a Labor minority government?
WH: The best thing for Tasmania, in my view, is a majority government. There's one party that can deliver that. Tasmanians have the choice and the chance to have their say when an election is called.
ZE: And what if no party wins 13 seats?
AJ: I was just going to say, further to Matt's question, aren't you creating the possibility that we could have another minority government, as Matt said, led by Labor with even less seats. Aren't you opening the door for that possibility?
WH: What I'm focused on is the remaining days before the next election and giving Tasmanians the choice for a majority government. They can see, it's been demonstrated by this confusion and dysfunction of the Labor-Green government, that these things are bad for this state. Tasmania needs a majority government and that's what we're offering.
(... other topics ...)
AJ: In Matt's story today, on that other business, he suggested that Labor might rule out a deal with The Greens but be willing to govern in minority again, without any formal arrangement. If that's the case and the Premier wants to remain on as Premier, does it show that she's hungrier for power than you, when you'll only govern if the circumstances suit you?
WH: I won't speculate as to exactly what's going on behind the closed doors within the Labor ranks. We see enough of how bad it is each night on our television screens. I won't speculate about what exactly is going on, but I will say it's clear that whatever they say, however they describe it, what Tasmanians can expect is another Labor-Green minority government.
(... other topics... )
CW: Labor has been very critical of your ability to fund all your election promises, and it's also been very critical of your ability to make the savings that you've outlined. How soon before the election will you detail your full costings for all your policies?
WH: We will be announcing policies right through to the lead-up and indeed into the election campaign itself. That's the time Tasmanians will see all our policies. We've already outlined the savings measures we'll make and it's a striking contrast to Labor and The Greens who have announced no savings measures.
AJ: Will you announce more savings measures, though? And I know this is something we've discussed in other press conferences, but if you announce more spending measures you'll have to announce more saving measures too, won't you?
WH: All our policies, how we will pay for them and the savings measures will be fully detailed in advance of the election so that Tasmanians can see what we are promising but also how we'll pay for it, and they can have their say. And we look forward to that.
SA: How much of the $500 million savings are you willing to spend, though, before you start chewing into to how you should be paying off debts?
WH: Again, I'll repeat the answer. All our policies, how we'll pay for them, the savings measures we will make, will be fully outlined. We have already released an unprecedented level of detail about savings measures we will make well in advance of the election. That's a long time earlier than any other opposition has done in the past, including Liberal oppositions, because we take seriously fiscal responsibility and telling Tasmanians what we're going to do.