THE State Liberals have acted wisely in settling on a new leadership team so soon after their poor performance in the March 18 election.
New leader Will Hodgman and deputy Jeremy Rockliff will need every day of the next four years to convince Tasmanians they are fit to govern the state.
Mr Hodgman summed up the task himself: with only 32 per cent of the vote, the Liberal Party was "way off the pace from rivalling the Labor Party at every turn." The Liberals have to virtually double their numbers in the House of Assembly to win majority government in 2010. Under the Hare-Clark system, this is an almost impossible task.
Mr Hodgman can thank former leader Rene Hidding for leaving the parliamentary party with solid experience in policy development. Mr Hidding took one of the most impressive sets of policies of any Tasmanian opposition leader to the people. His fault was that he failed to distill them down and eventually sell them.
The new leaders will face a more self-assured government led by a premier who has won a difficult election in his own right.
Some of the Government's problems which the opposition parties fed off during the last term -- the crisis at the Royal Hobart Hospital and the introduction of the Essential Learnings curriculum in schools -- should ease over the next four years.
The times do not suit Mr Hodgman. As the South Australian and Tasmanian elections show, voters are sticking with incumbents in uncertain times. Governments win if they do not rock the fiscal boat and demonstrate a reasonable degree of competence in providing services.
As Labor strategist Bruce Hawker wrote recently: "Families are under too much personal financial pressure to risk change unless it comes with a virtual guarantee that the alternative government will not exacerbate their problems."
State premiers know this.
Mr Hodgman, though, has more appeal than the genuine but uninspiring Mr Hidding. He is young, a moderate and has a political pedigree that will appeal to some voters. He appreciates that the Liberals have to broaden their appeal.
It is unclear whether he has what it takes to direct the hard work on policy while building the Liberals' shattered credibility.
He has a huge task to shape a distinctive opposition, one that can convince Tasmanians to desert the devil they know.