The surprise resignation of Tasmanian government minister Matthew Groom has thrown the Liberals’ election plans into disarray, with the party now facing a cabinet reshuffle and the loss of a major vote-winner in the Hobart-based seat of Denison.
He cited the difficulties of being there for his young family while balancing the workload of his many portfolios — including environment, national parks, energy and state growth.
He has also been the acting Attorney-General and Justice Minister since the withdrawal of the seriously unwell Vanessa Goodwin, who is yet to formally resign.
University of Tasmania governance lecturer Tom Baxter said Mr Groom’s resignation was a massive blow to the Government.
“(Premier) Will Hodgman’s lost one of his best-performing ministers,” he said.
“Governments try to appoint a lawyer as attorney-general for good reason. The only person that springs to mind with those qualifications and experience to be attorney-general is the Speaker (Elise Archer).
“But then who would be Speaker? Speaker itself is a very specialised role, it’s hard to step in cold and control a parliament heading for an election.”
Mr Groom will sit in the parliament as Member for Denison until the next poll, due in March.
Liberals looking at numbers game
On Saturday, Mr Hodgman would not say if he would elevate a backbencher into cabinet.
“We’ve got plenty of options and its a good problem to have,” he said.
He indicated former minister Adam Brooks, who resigned from the ministry after misleading an estimates hearing, was not likely to be considered.
“With respect to outstanding matters which have been hindered by his personal circumstances… those matters need to be addressed before he can be returned to the ministry,” said Mr Hodgman.
The Liberal Party executive reopened nominations for preselection for Denison in the wake of Mr Groom’s announcement.
In a statement the party said it already had a field of five high-quality candidates, but Mr Groom’s decision had created a vacancy.
Political analyst Kevin Bonham said the Liberals would likely seek another high-profile candidate to maximise the chances of retaining two Denison seats at the next election.
Tasmania uses the Hare-Clark electoral system, where parties run multiple candidates in each seat.
“Matthew Groom was the Liberal’s leading vote-getter at the last election, so his absence is a big loss in terms of vote-pulling power,” said Mr Bonham.
“Profile is extremely important in Hare-Clark elections, not just for the primary vote, but also for the ability to get preferences from across the board because of people voting across party tickets,
“The obvious suspect would be (Hobart mayor) Sue Hickey, who has talked about possibly running for Franklin. There might be pressure for her to run in Denison instead.”
The Greens have pushed for a return to a bigger parliament, pointing to the slim options available for cabinet reshuffles in a 25-seat House of Assembly.