The Tasmanian premier, Will Hodgman, has announced he will resign from politics to spend more time with his family, in a shock announcement on Tuesday afternoon.
Hodgman, who has been premier since 2014, said he believed now was the “right time to allow for new leadership”.
“I have this morning informed my cabinet colleagues and the prime minister of what is a very difficult decisions,” he told media on Tuesday.
“I have been premier for just on six years and leader of the Liberal party for 14. I have given this job, which is an enormous honour and privilege, absolutely everything, and it is a job I have loved.
“It is undeniable that it had an impact on my family and I want to thank them for their amazing support for the 17 and a half years that I have been a member of parliament – our children’s whole lives.
“As we approach the halfway mark, with two more years of government, I believe that now is the right time for me to allow for new leadership.”
Hodgman had previously told media in December he had no plans to step down, but he revealed on Tuesday he changed his mind after discussing it with family over Christmas. “I didn’t finally arrive to it until the last day or so,” he said.
“I’ve taken time to reflect with my family over the Christmas period [and realised] it was unlikely, indeed would not be the case, that I would want to contest the next election.
“This gives new leadership an opportunity, at this point in time with the foundations well set.”
He said his replacement as premier would be a matter for the state parliamentary Liberal party, which would meet next week to determine the new party leader.
Hodgman was first elected as a state MP for the seat of Franklin, in the state’s south, in 2002, and was elected leader of the Tasmanian Liberal party in 2006.
At the 2018 state election, his government was returned with a majority of 13 seats out of 25 in the lower house, making him the second Liberal premier to win consecutive elections in the state’s history.
“I leave this job with Tasmania in a better place than when we started,” he said on Tuesday.
The outgoing premier listed his achievements in education, renewable energy and the establishment of the state’s first minister for the prevention of family and sexual violence.
“As we face the reality of climate change, we are delivering a Tasmanian climate action plan,” he said. “We are on track to 100% self-sufficient in renewable energy generation by 2022 [and] Tasmania is ready to play its part in Australia’s response to climate change by becoming the renewable energy powerhouse of the nation.”
He said school retention rates had increased by 10% since 2014 and his government had boosted access for disadvantaged communities and students with disabilities.
“I have given this job everything but I do believe it is the right time for someone else to do it,” Hodgman said. “Our children have grown up with me in the public spotlight and it often hasn’t been easy.”
Election analyst Kevin Bonham said Hodgman’s seat will likely to be filled by Nic Street – a fellow Liberal and a former MP for the same seat of Franklin.
Under Tasmania’s Hare-Clark electoral system – in which each lower house state seat is represented by five MPs – casual vacancies are determined by a countback of the previous election, not a byelection.
“This is a system that virtually always elects a person of the same party as the person who resigned,” Bonham said. “In this case, first preferences for Will Hodgman will go the second preference. If that is someone who is not contesting the recount – for example if they were already elected, it moves on the third, and so on.”
At the 2018 election, Hodgman was elected with 27,184 primary votes – more than all Labor candidates received in the seat (24,464).
“I think it is very likely that Hodgman will be replaced by Nic Street – if he contests,” Bonham said. “He was one of the sitting MPs for Franklin and he very narrowly lost his seat in the 2018 election, which makes him eligible for this election.”
Only those who ran in the previous election are eligible to contest the recount.
“The electoral commission notifies them there is vacancy and they say have to yes to be included,” said Bonham. “Some of them won’t. Claire Chandler, for example, will be eligible to recontest, but she won’t because she is now a federal senator.”
On Tuesday, prime minister Scott Morrison praised Hodgman as “a Tasmanian and Liberal legend”.
Tasmania’s Labor leader, Rebecca White, said she respected Hodgman’s decision to spend more time with his family.
“Outside the cut and thrust of parliament, Will and I have always respected each other despite our political differences,” she said. “I recognise Will’s love for Tasmania and his passion for this great state and I know that has driven him. It’s a passion we share.
“I give my best regards to Will and his family and wish him all the best for the next challenge.”
The Tasmanian Greens leader, Cassy O’Connor, said there was “no question Will has left his mark as a popular Liberal premier” even though they had clashed politically at times.
“On behalf of the Tasmanian Greens, I acknowledge Will Hodgman’s many years of service to the people of Franklin, and to Tasmania as premier,” she said. “On a personal note, I’ve always found Will to be very likeable and excellent company outside parliament.
“I note Will Hodgman says he is proud of his government’s emissions profile. In a very significant part, Tasmania’s measure as a net carbon sink since 2013 is due to the protection of forests and transition to plantations that was made possible because of Greens in government.
“My colleague, Rosalie Woodruff, and I wish Will, Nicky and their three children a very happy life together post-Parliament whatever direction it takes them.”
The former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett also paid tribute to Hodgman, tweeting that he had “been a great servant of his state”.
A federal Liberal senator for Tasmania Jonathon Duniam, who was a former staffer for Hodgman, said he was a “tremendous man”.
Bridget Archer, the federal Liberal MP for Bass, said Hodgman’s leadership was “one of the reasons I first stood for election”, while another federal Tasmanian Liberal senator, Claire Chandler, said she was “very thankful for Will’s friendship and support throughout my political career”.