Tasmanian Liberals ramp-up re-election rhetoric

Premier Will Hodgman at the Tasmanian Liberal State Council.
Premier Will Hodgman at the Tasmanian Liberal State Council.

If it looks like an election campaign and sounds like an election campaign; it is probably the start of an election campaign.

At an airport hanger on a brisk Launceston morning, Premier Will Hodgman and his state Liberal team were welcomed with rousing applause by the party faithful.

Sunday marked the second and final day for the 2017 Tasmanian Liberal State Council – the last before the next election.

Mr Hodgman used the speech to cite the government’s record and launch its 43-point plan for Tasmania – slightly larger than Tony Abbott’s five-point plan in 2013.

But that’s beside the point. 

Like well-oiled machines, the Premier and every member of his Liberal government know the line when pressed by pesky journalists on the timing of the next election – it will be in March, they say.

Political signs suggest otherwise.

Mr Hodgman is trailing Opposition Leader Rebecca White in the preferred-Premier poll, the government has released its plan for re-election and it has increased rhetoric in the key battleground – health.

Just last week Mr Hodgman urged Tasmanians to vote on party policy rather than popularity. 

If the Premier truly intends to hold the election in March then Tasmanians will be subject to months of unofficial campaigning.

Both parties must ensure their message cuts through to voters, and that can be a difficult thing to achieve when there is so much else going on in the world. 

The government, which has faced some difficulty passing legislation through the upper house, could go to the next election seeking a mandate from the people for its TasWater takeover, gambling position and forestry, again.

To an extent, Mr Hodgman is bound by the actions of his friend Malcolm Turnbull and the federal government.

The Premier might have been preparing for an election in the next month.

But the federal dual-citizenship drama coupled with widespread anger about the same-sex marriage postal plebiscite would have thwarted the best-laid plans.

Running early can cause problems.

It did not work for Theresa May in England or Mr Turnbull last year.

Sources say Mr Hodgman has assured Ms White he will not call the election for her wedding day in November.

But every other weekend between now and March is a real possibility.