Malcolm Turnbull in Launceston ahead of Liberal Party conference

Premier Will Hodgman has deflected questions he will use the weekend’s Liberal Party conference to call the next state election, as the Prime Minister also defended the government’s standing in Tasmania.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull joined Mr Hodgman and a delegation of Liberal politicians at Neville-Smith Forest Products in Mowbray to announce the re-signing of the Regional Forestry Agreement.

Mr Turnbull will spend Friday night in Launceston ahead of his keynote address at the Tasmanian Liberal State Conference on Saturday. 

As the state government ramps up its election rhetoric, speculation is increasing the government will soon announce when Tasmanians will head to the polls.

Mr Hodgman played down any notion of an early election when pressed on the matter.

“The next election will be in March next year,” he said. “I’ve already announced that – many times.”

After touring the factory and briefly speaking with workers, Mr Turnbull was also faced with questions about the Liberal Party’s reputation among Tasmanian voters.

He was also asked whether the government would divert from its jobs and growth message in 2016, which saw the Liberals’ ‘three amigos’ lose their seats. 

“I can assure you that we’re seeing actually in Tasmania, strong economic growth,” Mr Turnbull said. 

“We are very very aware of the need always to ensure that Tasmanians understand that we are working tirelessly to keep them safe – but also to ensure that they have great jobs and great opportunities and great economic opportunities. 

“Right across the board, we’re committed to growth in this great state.” 

Mr Turnbull cited the federal government’s free trade agreements with China, Japan and South Korea as benefiting this state.

“Most of your exports are going to countries where we negotiated free trade agreements,” he said.

“As a historical footnote, the Labor Party was in federal government for six years, didn’t do any free trade agreements.

“You’re seeing strong growth from exports,  you’re seeing strong economic growth here, Tasmania has had a very, very tough economic time for a long time.”

Mr Turnbull said; “every business is benefiting from our reform”.