Tasmanian Premier Jeremy Rockliff
Tasmanian Premier Jeremy Rockliff has launched the Liberal Party's election campaign. Image by Ethan James/AAP PHOTOS
  • politics

Tas Liberals claim ‘strong’ position despite polls

Ethan James March 3, 2024

Tasmania’s Liberal premier believes his party is in a strong position to be re-elected despite polls showing voters will deliver a hung parliament.

Jeremy Rockliff officially launched the party’s state election campaign on Sunday at his family farm in Sassafras ahead of the March 23 vote.

A recent survey of 1000 people had the Liberals attracting 39 per cent support, and 36 per cent of Tasmanians set to vote for minor parties or independents. 

Labor, which has been in opposition for a decade, had 26 per cent support. 

“The truth is – and the polls confirm this – only the Liberals can credibly claim to be seeking majority government at this election,” he told party faithful.

Tasmanian Premier Jeremy Rockliff
 Jeremy Rockliff says only the Liberal Party is in a position to form a majority government. Image by Ethan James/AAP PHOTOS 

“We are in a strong position, but we are not over the line.”

If voting at the ballot box follows opinion polls, neither major party will have the numbers to form majority government.

The Liberals governed in minority for eight months after two members quit to sit as independents before Mr Rockliff called an early election in February.

The premier has said he will not make deals with the Greens to form a new government, but indicated he would be prepared to talk with minor parties and independents.

A ute at the launch of the Tasmanian Liberal Party’s election campaign
 The launch took place on the premier’s family farm. Image by Ethan James/AAP PHOTOS 

A record 167 candidates are in the running for seats in Tasmania’s lower house, which is being restored from 25 to 35 members.

The Liberals used the launch to announce a suite of health pledges and hospital upgrades, described by Labor as largely “recycled” promises from the 2021 campaign.

He also promised to “ban” hospital ramping by introducing a mandated maximum 30-minute window for patients to be transferred from an ambulance to an emergency department. 

According to January health data, 46 per cent of hospital emergency department presentations were not seen within the clinically recommended time.

The chief executive of Ambulance Tasmania in February told an inquiry one quarter of emergency cases did not receive an ambulance within the desired time.

Health Minister Guy Barnett said the policy would be progressively implemented over two years.

Any transfers of patients from ambulances to emergency departments would be done in accordance with safety protocols, he said. 

Labor incumbent MP Anita Dow described it as a totally “unserious” policy. 

Tasmanian Leader of the Opposition Rebecca White
 An MP for Rebecca White’s Labor has cast doubt on a Liberals promise to ban hospital ramping. Image by Rob Blakers/AAP PHOTOS 

“Who is going to care for the ambulance patients he’s planning to dump in overcrowded (emergency departments)?” she said.

The Liberals said they would recruit 44 doctors and 25 nurses at the Royal Hobart Hospital emergency department and undertake $187 million in capital upgrades.

A host of hospital upgrades, including a new stroke ward and rapid assessment medical unit, were mirrors of pledges in the 2021 election campaign.

Mr Rockliff also promised to double the size of the emergency department of Launceston General Hospital, with construction to begin in 2025.

He also pledged a range of new buildings, wards and specialist service units at the North West Regional and Mersey Community hospitals at a cost of $175 million.