It would be fair to say that Peter Gutwein's first 12 months as Premier of Tasmania didn't entirely go to script.
A year ago today, following his predecessor Will Hodgman's shock resignation, Mr Gutwein was elected leader of the Liberal Party, thus becoming the state's 46th Premier.
Before long, Mr Gutwein was faced with the greatest challenge to have confronted any Tasmanian premier in living memory.
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"COVID wasn't in the job description when I took it on," Mr Gutwein said. "I don't think any premier, whether they were a brand new one like me, or a long-standing one, had any understanding at all at the start of 2020 just what it would mean."
He and his government were forced to introduce hugely disruptive public health measures that fundamentally affected people's livelihoods and the Tasmanian way of life. And, for the first time in the state's history, our borders were closed off to the rest of the world.
"Whilst we had a challenging 12 months, and certainly a hard 12 months, I'm buoyed, I must admit, and full of optimism and hope after spending some time around the electorate over the Christmas period and just hearing how positive people are, and how excited they are about the future," Mr Gutwein said.
But the the second year of Mr Gutwein's premiership is likely to throw up numerous challenges of its own, including what promises to be a harrowing public inquiry into child sexual abuse within state government-run institutions, following a spate of disturbing allegations that emerged late last year.
The Premier said the commission of inquiry's commissioner would likely be announced next week. "Then the commission will start as soon as possible," he said. "I'd like to see it up and operating in February."
Meanwhile, at 7.9 per cent, Tasmania's unemployment rate is the worst in the country, and Mr Gutwein said his aim was to see it reduced to a level "closer to where it was before we entered the pandemic", but that he wouldn't set "an arbitrary target".
"My aim is to get the unemployment rate as low as we possibly can, as quickly as we possibly can," he said.
"As we move forward, I think we'll see confidence levels rise and, importantly, I think we'll see our economy strengthened and jobs created as well, whilst at the same time we'll continue our very strong focus on keeping Tasmanians safe."
The government will this year also need to ensure the smooth rollout of the coronavirus vaccine across the state, with a particular focus on vulnerable Tasmanians.
As for the next state election, due by March 2022, the Premier said it was his "intention" for the government to see out its full term and that he hoped all the government's sitting members put their hands up to be re-endorsed as candidates.
"There are always reasons that could ensure that you end up at an election but it is my intention to run full-term," he said. "And I've made that perfectly clear."
A sporting chance
Mr Gutwein said one of his goals for the year ahead was to progress towards Tasmania securing a team not only in the AFL, but also in the nation's premier soccer competition: the A-League.
"I've spoken with interested parties that are keen to bring a team to Tasmania, to establish a team here," he said. "But obviously it's a matter for Football Australia, and we're engaged in a process there with one of the interested parties."
After publicly calling out the AFL and its chief executive Gillon McLachlan last year for not responding to a letter he'd sent them, Mr Gutwein said he had had multiple conversations with the league's boss in the past five weeks about Tasmania's hope of securing a licence for an AFL team of its own.
My aim is to get the unemployment rate as low as we possibly can, as quickly as we possibly can.Peter Gutwein, Premier
"I've made it perfectly clear to Gil that the ... government's position is that our aspiration for our own licence remains [and] that the business case we provided to the AFL early last year is a plan that is robust and provides confirmation that we can support our own team."
"I've left every conversation that I've had with [Mr McLachlan] ... with the view that he understands the Tasmanian position very clearly."
Mr Gutwein has put it to the AFL that the state government won't finalise its long-running deals with Hawthorn and North Melbourne, which are due to expire at the end of the 2021 season, until Tasmania has "clarity from the AFL on our own licence".
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