Treasurer Peter Gutwein is set to replace Will Hodgman as Tasmania’s premier after leadership rival Michael Ferguson pulled out of the race before a Liberal vote.
- Mr Gutwein, 55, is seen as a moderate Liberal, who was Tasmania’s treasurer until today’s events
- His rival, Michael Ferguson, pulled out of the contest shortly before a vote was to take place
- Mr Gutwein hails from Tasmania’s north, is a qualified black belt instructor in Tae Kwon Do, a former footballer and, according to his MP biography, enjoys reading and movies
In a statement released minutes before the party meeting was set to take place, Mr Ferguson said: “I have been speaking with my colleagues over the weekend about the leadership of the Liberal Party and have decided not to stand as a candidate.”
Deputy Premier Jeremy Rockliff will remain in the role, with Attorney-General Elise Archer also electing not to stand in the ballot for that position.
Mr Ferguson said Ms Archer “joins me in wanting our new leadership to be elected unopposed”.
“As I said last Thursday, my position, as always, is to do what is best for our party, the Government and most importantly the Tasmanian people.
“Peter Gutwein and Jeremy Rockliff have made significant contributions to Tasmania in their parliamentary careers and they will be a strong and dependable leadership team. We respect them. They will have our full support.”
At an afternoon press conference, Mr Gutwein said he felt “honoured and privileged that the Liberal party room had put its trust in me to take on the role of premier”.
Mr Gutwein said Mr Ferguson “came and saw me this morning”, ahead of the planned midday vote.
“Michael is a man of integrity and a man who has worked enormously hard for this state. He took the view that there would be no need for a vote this morning and I thank him for that.”
He said there was no need to alter the Hodgman government’s direction, which he said had “delivered record levels of confidence”.
“Our plan has worked and I’ve seen no need for radical divergence from that plan, we will stay the course. Tasmanians voted for us on that basis, we will not betray them.”
Mr Gutwein said his would be a government of “conviction, compassion and opportunity for all” — but admitted it “must do more in the areas of health, housing and climate change”.
“With me, what you see is what you get. I will continue to conduct myself in the same manner that I have in the past.”
Mr Gutwein said on the day Mr Hodgman announced he was quitting, he said he discussed with his wife Amanda whether he should nominate for the role — making reference to a mishap in August last year, when he broke his foot while skateboarding.
“When Will resigned, my children were in Hobart with my wife at a skatepark … I wasn’t skating,” Mr Gutwein said with a grin.
“We had a conversation that night in terms of what it may mean. It will have some impact and changes … I cannot thank my wife Amanda more for her sacrifices. I don’t expect to be home any more as premier.”
“I spend probably 200 days a year in the south, I think Mr Rockliff would be of a similar number as well,” he said, adding, “the seat of government is in the south and it will remain, but I’ll have an eye to ensure some process like cabinet meetings happen in the north.”
Mr Gutwein said he came from “humble circumstances”.
“I’m the son of immigrants. Through hard work, my parents built a life, worked night and day for their kids to have a better life”.
He said, “no matter where you live, no matter your background, circumstances, opportunities will be there.”
“It is clear to me that our state’s best days are still in front of us.”
Today’s no contest came after long-term Liberal leader Will Hodgman’s shock announcement last week that he was resigning as premier.
Mr Gutwein, a moderate Liberal, and Mr Ferguson, a conservative, have both been in politics for more than 15 years and are from the north of Tasmania.
The leadership contest was considered a showdown between the moderate and conservative factions of the Liberal party.
A press conference is expected to formally announce Mr Gutwein as premier, this afternoon.
On Sunday, political analyst Kevin Bonham said Mr Gutwein would likely “continue Will Hodgman’s legacy”.
“There might be some kind of shakeup, but not anything too massive by way in a change of direction,” he said.
Federal Liberal senator Jonathon Duniam issued a statement that “having worked closely with Peter in opposition and in government, I know how committed he is to seeing our state thrive and Tasmanians can rest assured the state will be in safe hands under his leadership”.
“Congratulations also to Deputy Premier Jeremy Rockliff, who has done an outstanding job over many years and will continue to do so.”
In a statement, government whip John Tucker said: “Today I confirm the Tasmanian Parliamentary Liberal Party has unanimously endorsed Peter Gutwein MP as the new leader of the Parliamentary Liberal Party, and Jeremy Rockliff as Deputy Leader.”
“This follows the resignation of Tasmania’s 45th premier and leader of the Parliamentary Liberal Party, Will Hodgman MP.”
Mr Tucker said Mr Gutwein “will be sworn in as the 46th Premier of Tasmania at Government House later today by Her Excellency Kate Warner AC”.