With his family seated in the front row, Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman faced the cameras on Tuesday afternoon to drop a bombshell — but not one that was entirely unexpected.
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After nearly two decades as a member of the state’s Parliament, and after serving as the Liberal Party’s leader for 14 years and premier for almost six, Mr Hodgman announced his intention to resign.
Having grown up in the spotlight, with his father Michael also a member of parliament, Mr Hodgman has a unique insight into the toll that politics can take on family.
His resignation speech made clear that toll was on his mind.
“It’s undeniable that it’s had an impact on my family,” he said.
He made mention that his 17 and a half years in Parliament encompassed his and wife Nicky’s “children’s whole lives”.
“It does have an impact on my family, and I cannot deny that I’m conscious of that — what they read in the paper and what they see on the news can affect them,” he said.
Surprise all in the timing
But even before Tuesday’s hastily announced press conference, there was plenty of speculation that Mr Hodgman would not stay on for his Government’s full second term — not due to end until 2022.
Rhiana Whitson on twitter: I reckon most #politas observers would agree it seemed like his heart hadn’t been in it for a while. His tired lib state council address last year being one example
What was unexpected about Mr Hodgman’s announcement was the timing.
His resignation puts to rest speculation that Mr Hodgman would stay on until surpassing Robin Gray’s seven years in the top job to become the state’s longest-serving Liberal Premier.
The Premier’s decision would undoubtedly have come as a shock to Cabinet Ministers when they were informed earlier in the day.
It also appeared to come as somewhat of a surprise to Mr Hodgman himself, after publicly stating as recently as December that he planned to stay on in the job.
(Though despite the short notice given to reporters ahead of the Tuesday afternoon press conference, Mr Hodgman had prepared a speech for the occasion.)
He went as far as to stress to the media and everyone listening at home that he “honestly didn’t finally arrive at [the decision to resign] until the last day or so”.
“I’ve always said I’d give this job 100 per cent every single day I do it, and I believed that I would continue to do so in this role, but I’ve taken time to reflect with my family over the Christmas period,” he said.
“It’s unlikely and indeed would not be the case that I would contest the next election, so this gives new leadership an opportunity at this point in time.”
Leaving Tasmania ‘in a better place than when we started’
Mr Hodgman said it was unclear what his next move would be once he was replaced by the Liberal partyroom — expected to occur next week — and officially resigns.
Political analysts say the move will be a significant blow for the Liberal Party in the southern Tasmanian seat of Franklin at the next election, where Mr Hodgman is their most popular vote-getter.
Mr Hodgman received more than 27,000 first-preference votes at the last election, out of a total 71,173 formal votes cast.
But despite the sombre mood on Tuesday, the outgoing Premier did not miss the opportunity for humour.
“I’ve got no job to go to,” he said, following up with a nod to Prince Harry and his wife Meghan’s exit from the senior Royal ranks by adding:
“But I’m looking forward to becoming financially independent.”
In his speech he took what may have been his final opportunity to outline what he believed were the Hodgman Government’s most significant achievements.
The Premier pointed to changes in the education sector, Tasmania’s economic improvement and tourism gains.
“I leave this job with Tasmania in a better place than when we started. We have turned Tasmania around,” he said.
“For the first time ever our economy is the strongest performing in the country. Tasmanian businesses are the most confident in the country.”
Mr Hodgman will also leave behind lengthy waiting lists for elective surgery and housing, with the Government having struggled to manage population growth.
In stepping aside, Mr Hodgman makes way for the next Tasmanian premier — whomever that may be — to take the reins of the “turnaround state”.