Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Will Hodgman Resignation And Recount

Retiring MP: Will Hodgman (Liberal, Franklin)
Recount from 2018 election for remainder of 2018-22 term
Nic Street expected to win recount if he contests, otherwise Simon Duffy
Replacement will be a Liberal
Peter Gutwein/Jeremy Rockliff to be elected unopposed as leader/deputy after Michael Ferguson/Elise Archer withdrew

Monday Jan 20 updates

Today's the day, but there has been remarkably little news about the expected ballot and a lot of speculation.  No Liberal MP has publicly endorsed either ticket.  The belief among a few journalists I've spoken to over the weekend is that Gutwein appears to either have the upper hand or at least have enough to tie, but these things can change or can be unreliable.  Some outlets have reported Mark Shelton and (perhaps surprisingly) Joan Rylah as undecided votes.  Gutwein has been firming on the Sportsbet market (1.36 vs 2.90, having at one stage been only just ahead) but this is the same firm that had the Liberals at $15 to win an outright majority six weeks out from the election.

11:45 Ferguson/Archer withdraw: The Ferguson/Archer team has withdrawn, presumably because they did not have the numbers.  Gutwein/Rockliff will be elected unopposed.


It was one of the biggest days in Tasmanian politics yesterday with Premier Will Hodgman announcing his impending resignation from the role and from parliament after nearly six years in the top job.  So far as publicly available evidence suggests, Hodgman leaves office under no political pressure and facing no known personal scandals.  He also says he has no next move lined up, and while he has alluded to the pressures of political life on his family he hasn't explicitly given family life as a core reason for quitting, so his resignation is something of a mystery for the moment.  It's not a huge surprise though, as there had been speculation he would stand down mid-term since he was re-elected in 2018.  These days, Premiers don't always hold the office until they are driven out, reach retirement age or are carried away in a box, and Hodgman joins Labor icons Peter Beattie (Qld) and Steve Bracks (Vic) as rare recent examples of Premiers who quit while still popular and seemingly able to carry on for much longer.

It is hard to overstate Will Hodgman's electoral success as state leader.  He came to parliament in the 2002 election which was a disaster for his party, then took over as leader after one term following the not much better 2006 effort.  After Labor lost their majority in 2010, Hodgman led the Liberals to a massive victory in 2014 and followed it up with what in the end was a comfortable retention in 2018 (despite a lot of poor mid-term polling).   Hodgman's personal vote kept rising at every election and at the 2018 election he polled a massive 2.29 quotas in his own right.  The Labor Opposition will be very pleased indeed to see the back of him.

Hodgman's Premiership will be remembered as one of the bright spots for Tasmania's erratic economy, driven by tourism and construction booms and highlighted by his government's support (unusual for conservative governments of old) of alternative culture such as MONA FOMA.   Critics will allege primarily that too little was done to alleviate crises in the public health system and in affordable housing.

The departure of Hodgman, at least for the time being, ends a dynasty of Hodgmans that started with Bill Hodgman's election to Denison in 1955.  Aside from a brief pause in 1986 while Peter Hodgman was switching houses, there has been at least one Hodgman in one house or other of the Tasmanian parliament continuously since 1966.


A Hare-Clark "recount", the fourth this term already (!), will be held on Feb 5-6 to fill Will Hodgman's vacancy in the division of Franklin.  Unlike the Scott Bacon recount, which was very close and which has had major implications for the balance of power in the parliament, this recount is a straightforward matter.  As Hodgman had way over a quota, the recount is simply of his primary votes.  Three Liberals were unsuccessful at the election - Nic Street, Claire Chandler and Simon Duffy, but Chandler is now a Senator and therefore won't be contesting.  If only one of Street and Duffy contests, that one will win.  Assuming both contest, the fact that Street very narrowly lost his seat at the election is not directly relevant, but the fact that he got a lot more of Will Hodgman's surplus (26.0% to Duffy's 4.8%) is.  Assuming no votes exhausted, Duffy would need 65.3% of the remainder of Hodgman's surplus (mostly 1 Hodgman 2 Petrusma) votes to reach him ahead of Street to win, but in practice some votes will exhaust so he would need slightly more than that.  That is extremely unrealistic given that Street was an incumbent who polled nearly 4000 primaries and Duffy was a low-profile candidate who polled under 1000 primaries.  

Unfortunately Jacquie Petrusma fell just 174 votes short of crossing quota after Hodgman's surplus; had she crossed on that count it would probably be possible to say that Street's win was mathematically certain.  As it is the remainder of the preference distribution provides very little useful information.  (Purely for the purposes of attempting to show off, I can add the completely useless information that not more than one of the 4 or 5 voters who voted 1 Hodgman 2 Hatfield, not more than one of the 10 or 11 voters who voted 1 Hodgman 2 Lincolne, and not more than one of 16 or 17 voters who voted 1 Hodgman 2 Ewin, gave their next preference to Duffy after these three minor Greens were all excluded.)

Leadership Ballot

UPDATE 16 JAN: There are two contesting tickets at this stage - Peter Gutwein/Jeremy Rockliff (Premier/Deputy) and Michael Ferguson/Elise Archer (Premier/Deputy). The ballots are normally held separately so it is possible in theory that the winners could come from different tickets, but it could also be that the deputy candidate of the losing leader withdraws.  The Gutwein/Rockliff ticket scores more highly on popularity and experience while the Ferguson/Archer ticket scores more highly on both regional and gender diversity ahead of an election that might be an exception to the rule of elections being won in the north.   If the ballot occurs, it will be interesting because while the Hodgman government has been dominated by moderates, it can be argued that there will be more conservatives than moderates voting in the PLP meeting.  So if the more conservative members all want to take control, it will be difficult to stop them.  However many may well vote on a basis other than ideology.

To the best of my knowledge though this might be incorrect, the only time the Premiership was decided in effect by a party room ballot was in 1996 when Tony Rundle defeated Roger Groom and Michael Hodgman after Ray Groom resigned.   Doug Lowe in 1981 was brought down by a no-confidence motion in the party room (not quite the same thing).  Three Labor Premiers resigned during Labor's last run in office, but all their replacements were elected unopposed.

With Will Hodgman not voting, there appear to be 14 voting PLP members if all attend - 12 from the lower house and two from the upper house.  That is, assuming Madeleine Ogilvie does not join the party in the meantime (hey, never rule anything out!)

Two members, believed to be Jacquie Petrusma and Sarah Courtney, will not be in the state and are expected to vote remotely.  Remote voting in secret ballots raises issues similar to those with electronic voting - either the vote isn't secret, or it must be relayed through a (hopefully) trusted person or source, or the vote can't be scrutinised.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Parties are often in a rush to resolve leadership ballots before their parliamentary makeup has stabilised (in this case by the conducting of Hodgman's recount.) The Mercury understands that in the case of a 7-7 tie on either ballot, there will be repeated revotes until a winner is established, though I would expect there would be some limit to this somewhere, and also that alternative candidates might be allowed to enter in this scenario.

Leadership and deputy leadership contenders (updated) - note, all of these hold several portfolios


* Treasurer Peter Gutwein (Bass), the party's highest polling MP in Bass last election.  Somewhat of a maverick early in his career, Gutwein has since become a mainstream Liberal MP with something of a headkicking political style and has long been named as a likely successor.  

* Infrastructure Minister and Leader of the House Michael Ferguson (Bass).  Ferguson, a social conservative, was a young federal MP in the last term of the Howard government and has long been viewed as a possible state leader.  However his image is battle-scarred from years in the health portfolio, from which he was in the end removed under pressure from Speaker Sue Hickey.


* Deputy Premier Jeremy Rockliff (Braddon).  Rockliff, a moderate, is popular on social media and with the electorate and rated highly by media.  However he hasn't been the subject of as much leadership speculation as Gutwein and Ferguson in the past and is sometimes seen as too "nice" to be leader.  (It's also not clear if he wants to be).

* Attorney-General Elise Archer (Clark) was first elected in 2010.  Archer was initially Speaker when the Hodgman Government was elected in 2014, then became Attorney-General in 2017.  Archer is generally seen as on the right of the party though less is known about her social issue positions than some MPs because of her time as Speaker.  There have been at least intermittent tensions between Archer and Sue Hickey over several years, including a famous altercation in 2009.

The Mercury reports that Hodgman will resign from parliament after his successor has been chosen at a meeting next week, which if correct means Hodgman could vote on the leadership if he wished.  However he has now confirmed, as expected, that he won't do so.

After being backed in to fourth on Sportsbet's hideously over-raked market, Police and Emergency Services Minister Mark Shelton has said he's not a contender (as of 16 Jan.)

This section will be updated as news comes to hand.


The first implication for the Liberals is the loss of Hodgman's personal vote.  This will make it dreadfully difficult for a team likely to be headed, if both recontest, by Petrusma and Street to win three seats in Franklin in 2022, unless something happens to make the government extremely popular or some new megastar candidate emerges.  The significance of this is that the party might struggle to win two seats in Clark given the Sue Hickey mess, so three in Franklin would be a pathway to retaining majority while winning only one in Clark.  

Somewhat like with Labor after the untimely resignation of Jim Bacon, the Liberals will be handing on the baton to a second-choice Premier who will probably attract negative comparisons with Hodgman in some way.  This isn't an insurmountable obstacle as Paul Lennon showed when he easily won the 2006 election.

The change in leadership may be an opportunity to revisit the party's relationship with Sue Hickey, who was at odds with the Premier over not getting a ministry among other matters.  However the relationship between Hickey and the party generally has broken down to the extent that there may be limits to what can be done.  Although the government does not need Hickey while Madeleine Ogilvie is supporting it, the Hickey problem will be a headache for them at the 2022 election if not resolved.

A Ferguson government would be likely to be different in tone because of Ferguson's social conservatism, and would be likely to see more major roles for other socially conservative MPs.  A Gutwein or Rockliff government would probably seek to be more of the same and to draw on the Hodgman legacy as much as possible.

Nic Street has been willing to go his own way on some social issues, such as dying with dignity.  There is some potential that an alliance of Labor, the Greens, Sue Hickey and Street might some day win a vote on some issue, though dying with dignity seems unlikely to be that issue because some Labor MPs will typically not support it.


  1. Would there be any chance of this precipitating an early election?

    1. Seems unlikely given that the numbers in the House won't change as a result of the recount and given that the new Premier will probably want time to establish themselves as a good successor before the next election. It also looks like the government's hold on confidence is more stable with Ogilvie in parliament than before when Hickey alone held the balance of power. The government would have to do something really silly to annoy both of those enough to bring it down.

    2. The above said, there is a fair amount of speculation now that if Ferguson/Archer win they might go to a snap poll within six months or so to obtain a mandate for whatever change of direction they want to pursue.

  2. Hi Kevin,

    Have you had a recent promotion?


    1. In the last week alone I've been a pollster, a political scientist and now a professor! Given the old stereotype about "absent-minded professors" I've long maintained I was absent-minded enough to be awarded the title for that reason alone, so I'll take it!