Michael Field (politician)

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Michael Field

38th Premier of Tasmania
In office
29 June 1989 – 17 February 1992
Governor Sir Phillip Bennett
Deputy Peter Patmore
Preceded by Robin Gray
Succeeded by Ray Groom
Constituency Braddon
Chancellor of the University of Tasmania
Assumed office
1 January 2013
Preceded by Damian Bugg
Personal details
Born (1948-05-28) 28 May 1948 (age 70)
Latrobe, Tasmania, Australia
Nationality Australian
Political party Labor Party
Spouse(s) Jan Field
Alma mater University of Tasmania
Occupation Politician
Profession Politics

Michael Walter Field AC (born 28 May 1948 in Latrobe, Tasmania), a former Australian politician, was the Premier of Tasmania between 1989 and 1992. Field is the current Chancellor of the University of Tasmania since January 2013. He was the leader of the Tasmanian Labor Party from 1988 until his retirement in 1996. Field is best known for operating in minority government with the support of the Independents, Tasmania's nascent Green party, with an agreement known as the Labor–Green Accord.


Field grew up on the North-West Coast of Tasmania, he attended Devonport High School and graduated from the University of Tasmania with a Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science in 1971, where he resided at St. John Fisher College. He was elected to the Tasmanian House of Assembly for Braddon in 1976. He was at various times a cabinet minister, premier and leader of the opposition over twenty years.

At the 1989 state election, Labor suffered a one-seat swing. However, the incumbent Liberal government under Robin Gray lost two seats, and in the process lost its majority. The balance of power rested with the Greens, who won five seats. Field then reached an agreement with Independent leader Bob Brown, giving him enough support to form government by one seat.

Gray had initially intended to form a minority government. When the accord was signed on 29 May, Gray asked the Governor, Sir Phillip Bennett, for new elections. However, Bennett refused, concluding that Gray no longer had enough support to govern and had therefore lost the right to seek a dissolution. The Greens had also privately assured him that they would support a Labor minority government. This was tested on the floor of the house and a motion was passed that expressed no confidence in Gray and confidence in Field. Bennett then duly commissioned Field as premier.

Field's government presided over painful fiscal reforms that, while unpopular at the time, helped rehabilitate the state's finances in the long run. The Greens terminated the accord in 1990, but Field was able to survive a confidence vote in 1991. However, at the 1992 state election, Labor was severely punished not only for its fiscal belt-tightening, but for dealing with the Greens. Its popular vote plummeted to 28.9 percent, while the Liberals won a solid majority. Despite this severe defeat, Field was not blamed for the debacle and stayed on as leader.

Field stayed on through a federal intervention in the state Labor Party, and led Labor into the 1996 state election. Field promised that he would only govern in majority. He also promised that if the Liberals were reduced to a minority government, he would not bring it down in its first year. At the election, Labor took three seats. While this cost the Liberals their majority, it was short of what it needed to make Field premier once again. Although Labor and the Greens had enough seats between them to form government, Field kept his word and did not attempt to topple the Liberals. Groom had also promised only to govern in majority, and resigned as premier in favour of Tony Rundle, who reached a deal with the Greens.

Since retiring from politics in 1997, Field began working as a management and leadership consultant. In 2003, Field was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia for his service to the Parliament of Tasmania. He received a Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) from the University of Tasmania in 2000 for his service to the state and the university.[1]

Field was chairman of the Tasmanian Innovations Advisory Board from its inception in 1999.[2]

On 3 July 2012, Field was announced as the Chancellor of the University of Tasmania, with effect from January 2013.[3]

Field and his wife, Jan, reside on the Tasman Peninsula and they have three children: Emma Field, Claire Field and Tom Field.

Field's last election as ALP leader in 1996 saw the entrance to Parliament of popular union leader Jim Bacon who was touted as a potential ALP leader. When Field retired in 1997, Bacon did not hesitate in succeeding him as leader and Bacon became Premier when he led the party back to power a year later in 1998.


  1. ^ "Honorary Graduates of the University of Tasmania" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2005-05-07.
  2. ^ "Tasmanian Innovations Advisory Board Members".
  3. ^ "Former premier to be the next UTAS Chancellor" (Press release). University of Tasmania. 3 July 2012. Archived from the original on 9 May 2013.

External links

  • Parliamentary Library profile
Political offices
Preceded by
Neil Batt
Leader of the Opposition in Tasmania
Succeeded by
Robin Gray
Preceded by
Robin Gray
Premier of Tasmania
Succeeded by
Ray Groom
Preceded by
Ray Groom
Leader of the Opposition in Tasmania
Succeeded by
Jim Bacon
Party political offices
Preceded by
Neil Batt
Leader of the Labor Party in Tasmania
Succeeded by
Jim Bacon
Academic offices
Preceded by
Damian Bugg
Chancellor of the University of Tasmania
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