No honeymoon period for incoming government

Premier-elect Will Hodgman is getting used to his new title. Picture: GEORGIE BURGESS
Premier-elect Will Hodgman is getting used to his new title. Picture: GEORGIE BURGESS

MEETING with business leaders in Hobart yesterday morning, Liberal leader Will Hodgman admitted he's still not used to being in government.

"They kept talking about government, government this, government that, then it dawned on me they're actually talking about us," Mr Hodman said.

"They were in the mindset before me. Takes a bit of getting used to," he said.

The walls and desk in the office he's occupied for eight years on the ground floor of State Parliament are now bare as he prepares to move across the road into the top floor of the executive building.

The 45th Tasmanian Premier's time has been spent locked in intensive briefings from heads of agencies for much of the first few days, while the Liberals' hard line forestry stance has ensured there's been no honeymoon period for the incoming government.

"It was always going to be an important issue because we've fought for the industry from opposition," he said.

"We believe in it. It's going to be an important challenge for us to rebuild the industry."

A storm erupted over his decision to exclude environment groups from a meeting today to flesh out the plan to unwind the forestry peace deal and reopen newly protected areas to logging.

Details such as legislation required and the amount of wood supply to be guaranteed have not yet been finalised.

Mr Hodgman revealed yesterday, though, that he will travel to Japan to meet with Tasmanian wood products customers face- to-face.

The new government has an ambitious plan to find more than $500 million in savings and deliver $400 million worth of promises.

Initial briefings from Treasury have given the party no reason to change those plans.

However, the new government won't hand down its first budget until the second half of the year, instead of the usual May date.

"We'd rather establish a sound footing from which we can implement our policies with a Liberal budget, not something we've inherited from the last government," Mr Hodgman said.

In the meantime, two government departments will be merged to form a "super department" in a major restructure of the public service.

Following a briefing from the Department of Economic Development and the Department of Infrastructure, Energy and Resources, Mr Hodgman was confident the two could start operating as a single agency from mid- year.

"In a state this size we should be able to provide a more effective line of communication for people in terms of economic development," Mr Hodgman said.

Recruitment for a new Office of the Coordinator- General, to be based in Launceston, will also begin soon and an exact location found.

Services will not be hampered as a result, but improved, Mr Hodgman declared.

He ruled out a whole-of- government audit in a bid to find more efficiencies, as a "very expensive, lengthy process" in itself.

"All ministers will review the operations of their departments."

At least 500 public service positions will be scrapped over the next two years through natural attrition, but it remains unclear what the final number of jobs to go will be as the Liberals plan to create more than 300 front- line jobs.

While still technically in caretaker mode until the polls are declared next week and without his ministry in place, more direct changes will have to wait.


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