Gutwein vs Ferguson for next Tasmanian premier
THE race to be Tasmania's next premier hangs on a knife edge as candidates Peter Gutwein and Michael Ferguson scramble to secure the required numbers.
Mr Gutwein, the Treasurer and Mr Ferguson, the State Growth Minister, on Thursday confirmed their desire for the top job, ahead of a Parliamentary Liberal Party meeting scheduled for Monday.
Their declarations came just two days after Will Hodgman's shock announcement that he would step down from the role and leave politics after almost six years as premier and 18 years in Parliament.
Mr Gutwein announced he would run on a ticket with Deputy Premier Jeremy Rockliff, who yesterday ruled himself out of the race for Premier.
Mr Ferguson will meanwhile run alongside Attorney-General Elise Archer who he hopes will be his deputy.
The showdown between Mr Gutwein and Mr Ferguson is a contest between the moderate and conservative factions of the Liberal party.
And insiders suggest the count will be close.
It is understood two party members are yet to declare their support for either candidate and that Liberal heavyweights are encouraging the party to come to a consensus ahead of a secret ballot.
Sources said Health Minister Sarah Courtney and backbencher Jacquie Petrusma are both overseas, with the party eager for them to get home.
Mr Gutwein said Thursday afternoon he and Mr Rockliff put themselves forward "as a strong and experienced leadership team".
Mr Rockliff said he believed Mr Gutwein was the right person to be Tasmania's next premier.
"As a leadership team we have the experience, energy and dedication to continue to deliver the Government's long term plan for Tasmania,'' Mr Rockliff said.
Soon after, Mr Ferguson confirmed his desire for the top job.
"My friend and colleague Elise Archer is offering to serve as Deputy Leader,'' he said.
"In our Liberal Party team, we have people other than us who are also capable.
"Whatever happens next, it's my intention to continue to work hard and serve Tasmanians as a member of our strong Liberal team - as we were elected to do."
Outgoing Premier Will Hodgman confirmed the Parliamentary Liberal Party meeting would happen on Monday at midday.
Former state Liberal Opposition Leader Bob Cheek said he believed Mr Gutwein was the best man for the job.
"Gutwein would be a strong leader and he's what Tasmania needs,'' Mr Cheek said.
"Jeremy [Rockliff] would have been good, but Peter has got a bit more grunt."
Liberal Senator Richard Colbeck said he was a "great friend" of Mr Rockliff but did not say who his preferred premier would be.
"I trust the judgement of my colleagues in the Tasmanian Liberal party room to make the right decision,'' he said.
Senator Colbeck would not be drawn on questions about whether the leadership could be settled prior to a ballot.
Braddon Labor MP Shane Broad accused the Liberals of "fighting amongst themselves and shoring up personal support at the expense of their colleagues".