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State in limbo after wild election result

Pocock & Lambie Presser
Jacqui Lambie has listed her demands in the Tasmanian election wash-up. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

An early election called to deliver stability to Tasmania has instead put the state in political limbo as the Liberal leader begins talks to try and form a minority government.

Jeremy Rockliff fell short of the 18 seats required to reach a majority in Saturday night’s election and will now have to court a crossbench that could include up to three candidates from the Jacqui Lambie Network (JLN) for support.

Jacqui Lambie, who has been less than enthusiastic about the Tasmanian Liberal’s track record throughout the campaign, said her candidates were left no choice but to work with Mr Rockliff since Labor leader Rebecca White had already conceded defeat.

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“We have to form government in some way and if (Labor’s) not going to be in the race, then I guess we have no choice,” Senator Lambie told ABC Radio.

“I’m quite sure Tasmanians do not want to go back to re-election over the next two months, that’s not bringing stability. That’s what we promised Tasmanians.”

The federal JLN leader suggested a “good start” for negotiations would be for Mr Rockliff to hand over the contract for the controversial new AFL stadium in Hobart and an agreement to boost transparency.

Pocock & Lambie Presser
Jacqui Lambie is in the box seat for negotiations. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

“I am hoping there’s a prospect that it can certainly be adjusted because Tasmania just cannot afford that,” Senator Lambie.

“We do not have a resource sector like Western Australia does, we don’t have gold-plated roads and we don’t have the money to have a gold-plated stadium like they do.”

Senator Lambie also said the state’s integrity watchdog should be given new powers, suggesting it had “basically never heard a case”.

Mr Rockliff and Ms White have both ruled out negotiating with the Greens. The minor party is on track to clinch four or five seats but leader Rosalie Woodruff said she’d yet to receive a call from either the Liberals or Labor.

Dr Woodruff said it was disappointing Labor had ruled out joining forces to form a minority given there was overlap in both parties’ campaign platforms.

“I don’t know why Labor has taken that position at the moment. We are still hoping they will be open to (negotiations),” she told Sky News on Monday.

Labor won just 10 seats in the House of Assembly. On Sunday, Ms White conceded it was “very unlikely” her party could form a path to government.

Mr Rockliff sent Tasmanians to the polls more than a year early after the Liberals failed to resolve a minority government stand-off with two MPs who quit the party to sit on the crossbench.

He campaigned for a return to a majority government and cautioned anything but would deliver a “coalition of chaos”.

The gamble in the newly expanded Tasmanian parliament, which returned the lower house to 35 seats up from 25, didn’t pan out for the Liberal leader.

Premier presser
Mr Rockliff is now trying to woo over independents to help him govern from minority. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Nikki Davis-Jones

While the Liberals are projected to win the greatest number of seats after Saturday’s election at 13, the party suffered a 12 per cent swing against it, and failed to secure a majority.

Speaking on Sunday, Mr Rockliff hailed the result as a “victory”, telling reporters in Hobart that voters had sent a clear message in the swing towards minor parties and independents.

“Tasmanian people have spoken and I respect the message we heard last night,” Mr Rockliff said.

“What we have heard is that Tasmanians clearly want a focus on issues that when it comes to cost-of-living, health and housing. What I do believe is the people also voted for certainty and stability.”

A silver lining for the now-caretaker Premier is the independents who caused him the political headaches to begin with, John Tucker and Lara Alexander, were defeated in their seats.

LAUNCESTON, AUSTRALIA - NCA NewsWire Photos - 11 MARCH, 2024: Tasmanian Labor leader Rebecca White (Pictured) attends the Tasmanian Labor Campaign Launch ahead of the State Election. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Rob Burnett
Ms White’s future as Labor leader is in doubt. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Rob Burnett

Mr Rockliff has reached out to the JLN and independents Kristie Johnston and David O’Byrne.

Meanwhile, Ms White’s future as Labor leader after a third consecutive election loss is in doubt. Under party rules, the position will be vacated.

The Labor leader said it would take a “couple of days” to consider her options.

“I am currently the leader and I’m doing the job that I’m elected to do,” she said on Sunday.

Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers praised Ms White’s campaign.

“The biggest conclusion from the outcome in Tasmania is that double-digit swing against the Tasmanian Liberals,” he told ABC TV.

“We would have liked to have done better but the Liberals certainly don’t have anything to crow about,”

A final election result likely won’t be finalised until a couple of weeks because of the Easter public holidays.