Tasmania is traditionally a Labor dominated state: Of 21 elections contested by the Liberal Party, only six have gone their way.
Coming off a 16-year Labor rule, the Liberals were elected in a landslide victory in 2014 gaining 15 of the 25 lower house seats.
A booming economy, a budget returning to surplus and record low unemployment all point to good reasons why voters may give the Liberals a second term. Yet, as we know voters can be fickle. A back to back Liberal Government would only be the second of its kind in Tasmanian history.
The opposition leader, who took over the helm in March last year, quickly jumped to preferred Premier according to the polls. Whether she still holds this position is contested.
The majority of polls point to a high likelihood of a hung parliament. Neither major party says they will form alliances. This has left many wondering what political limbo might result after March 3.
Lead Up Issues:
Health: With the oldest population in Australia it is no wonder that health is right up there in voters’ minds. Both major parties have announced record spending in health over the next 6 years. The rebuild of the Royal Hobart, staff numbers, emergency department and elective surgery waiting times have all dominated the news this term.
Worryingly, Labor and the Greens seem keen to introduce euthanasia and assisted suicide in the State but clear policies are yet to be outlined.
Employment: Tasmania currently has the second lowest unemployment rate of any state – 5.7 per cent. This is down from 7.6 per cent when the Liberals came to power. As far as I can recall this is the first election where unemployment hasn’t been centre stage. Much of this improvement can be attributed to the housing and tourism boom.
Housing affordability/availability: House prices have been rising steadily across the state and rental accommodation has all but dried up in Hobart due to rentals being turned into Air BnB’s. This has put incredible pressure on families seeking accommodation. Generous affordable housing promises will do little to ease these immediate needs.
Two speed economy: Hobart has clearly profited most from the booming economy and record business confidence. The cranes in the sky and traffic congestion say it all. There is a general sense that the major parties are responding to the ‘what about the rest of us’ in their election pledges.
Social Issues: Labor has taken the courageous step of committing to oust pokies from clubs and pubs. This has been met by a deluge of advertising from the gaming lobby and hoteliers supporting the Liberals position of retaining them in the community.
With the closure of Tasmania’s last dedicated abortion clinic, Labor has promised to introduce routine abortions in public hospitals or invest in a stand-alone clinic. Labor also appears set on a new social ‘reform’ agenda including decriminalising prostitution and the small volume use and possession of illicit drugs. In addition, they have committed to financing the controversial Safe Schools program and introducing an equality ministry in government.