Nearly three weeks after the Tasmanian state election was held, there is finally a result. Sort of.
From long before the election, it was always looking like the result would be a hung parliament with the Greens holding the balance of power between Labor and Liberal. What made Tasmania interesting this time is that there is no love lost between the Greens and either of the major parties and they each refused to negotiate with the Greens both before and after the election. Instead, they negotiated between themselves, agreeing that if they each got the same number of seats, then whichever party polled the highest popular vote, would form a minority government. It was a remarkably mature act on both sides, but the Greens did not sign up that deal.
Eventually it became clear that they had indeed come to a tie, with Labor and Liberal each winning ten seats and the Greens taking five, with the Liberals polling higher than Labor in the statewide popular vote (which is technically a moot point). And Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett did try to relinquish power to the Liberal Party. But then, Greens leader Nick McKim announced that the Greens would be supporting Labor, for the rather weak reason that there’s no point in changing government just for the sake of it.
Since it appeared that Labor would have the majority support in parliament, the Tasmanian Governor, Peter Underwood has invited David Bartlett to form a government and test his numbers in the Parliament. Bartlett and Labor have accepted the offer. Liberal leader Will Hodgman is accusing Bartlett of breaking his promise, but it appears that the pre-election deal has been gazumped by the Greens’ announcement that they will support Labor.
However, Bartlett is playing it clever here. On the face of it, it looks like he’s done all he can to honour the pre-election deal, but there’s one other thing he could have done. He could have given the governor his assurance that Labor will support a Liberal minority government on money bills and confidence motions. Such an assurance should lead the governor to invite Will Hodgman to form a government, but Bartlett chose not to do that. The one last thing that Labor can do, would be to vote against themselves in the no-confidence motion that the Liberals will inevitably bring when Parliament first sits.
As someone said last week, in a hung parliament, every party has the balance of power.