Elise Archer
Attorney-General Elise Archer has resigned from Tasmania's parliament and is quitting the Liberals. Image by Rob Blakers/AAP PHOTOS
  • politics

Fresh blow for Tasmanian government as senior MP quits

Ethan James September 29, 2023

Tasmania’s minority Liberal government, the last of its colour in Australia, has been rocked by the sudden resignation of a senior MP amid bullying allegations.

Elise Archer, also the state’s attorney-general since 2018, departed with a stunning attack on the Liberal leadership saying it had failed to support ambitious women.

She quit on Friday, a day after media reports revealed she was the subject of an independent investigation about workplace bullying claims.

Tasmania’s Liberals have been in minority since May, when two MPs quit the party to sit as independents over concerns with the state’s AFL stadium deal.

Ms Archer’s departure leaves the government with just 10 of 25 seats in the lower house.

A recount will be held in Ms Archer’s Hobart-based seat of Clark, with her replacement expected to be a Liberal.

Premier Jeremy Rockliff said he requested and accepted Ms Archer’s resignation from cabinet on Friday morning.

He said he had become aware of comments made by Ms Archer outside of “what had already been reported”.

“Those remarks are unacceptable by any standard and fall short of expectations of a minister of the Crown,” Mr Rockliff told reporters.

The Australian newspaper on Thursday reported Ms Archer had described Mr Rockliff as “too gutless to be leader” in text messages.

Mr Rockliff said the alleged messages had nothing to do with his decision to ask Ms Archer to resign from cabinet.

Two former or current staff members of Ms Archer have reportedly lodged workplace complaints against her with the state anti-discrimination commissioner.

In 2022, Mr Rockliff pledged a “zero tolerance” approach to workplace bullying after a report found there was a problematic underlying culture in parliament and ministerial offices.

Ms Archer, who was elected to parliament in 2010, was Tasmania’s first female Speaker.

“It is clear to me that the leadership of the Liberal Party continues to fail to support ambitious women,” she said in a statement.

“It takes incredible strength and resilience to be a woman in a senior government role and to strive to be treated the same as male colleagues, despite many years of dedicated, hardworking service.”

She said political life had “taken a personal toll at times” but hoped reform under her watch would leave an enduring legacy.

Several experienced Liberal MPs have quit politics since the party’s re-election in 2021, including former premier Peter Gutwein.

“This is no longer a functioning government – it is (the) last-gasp attempt to maintain the facade of any kind of government,” Labor opposition MP Dean Winter said.

State parliament is scheduled to resume on October 17, potentially with the government having only 10 sitting members.

Mr Rockliff said he would seek advice about whether to delay the return to parliament, pending the timeline around the election of a new member.

Mr Archer’s resignation comes as Tasmania grapples with Tuesday’s public release of a report into child sexual abuse that found grave failures across decades in state institutions.

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