Loss of general election (1989): Beginning of Field's period in office: At the general election for the House of Assembly held on 13 May 1989, no party gained a majority of seats; the Liberal Party won 17 of the 35 seats, and the Australian Labor Party 15. The remaining seats were won by five Independents, the so called Green Independents, referred to in this database as Tasmanian Greens (Independents), who were concerned with environmental issues and increasing parliamentary scrutiny of the activities of government; see the notes to the 1989 House of Assembly elections.
'Premier Gray refused to resign his commission and also refused to recall Parliament early. The [Green] Independents reached an "Accord" with the Labor party amidst calls from Liberal party supporters for a fresh election. The third Gray ministry was sworn in following the declaration of the polls although both Opposition Leader Field and Dr Brown [the spokesman for the Greens] cautioned the government about making any major decisions until Parliament sat', Marcus Haward, 'Tasmania', p. 461 (see 'References, below).
'What became known as the Labor-Green Accord provided a formal agreement between the ALP and the Independents [see 'References', below, for details]. The Greens promised support for the minority Labor government and agreed to conditions under which potential no confidence motions were avoided. None of the Independents took cabinet positions. ... Once Parliament was recalled the Accord resulted in the election of a new Speaker, ... and then, after a fourteen-hour debate the Gray government was defeated in a vote of no confidence.... Following the passing for the no confidence motion, the Speaker and Premier Gray made separate appointments with the Governor. A political and constitutional crisis was averted when Premier Gray did not advise the Governor to call a new election but instead advised His Excellency to consult with [Australian Labor Party leader] Field. After the Governor had met with Field and had separate meetings with each of the Independents, Gray returned to Government House. Gray resigned his commission, leaving Michael Field to return to Government House to be commissioned as Premier....', Marcus Haward, 'Tasmania', p. 461 (see 'References, below). Field became Premier of an Australian Labor Party minority government, supported by the Tasmanian Greens.
Loss of general election (1992): Early in 1992, Premier Field decided to call a general election for the House of Assembly for 1 February 1992. 'In making his announcement, Field was cognizant of the fact that upon the resumption of Parliament, the Green Independents would in all probability move a no-confidence motion in his government which would be supported by the Liberal Opposition. Field claimed that Parliament was unworkable and that the government had lost effective control of the House of Assembly in November 1991 when the Opposition, under former leader Robin Gray, succeeded in altering the timetable for the resumption of Parliament from the March date nominated by the government to early February', P D, 'Tasmania', Australian Journal of Politics and History, Australian Political Chronicle, January-June 1992, 38 (3) December 1992: 453-460 at 453-454. The Australian Labor Party lost the election, gaining less than 29 percent of the first preference vote, the lowest vote share for the party since 1906.
References: For a detailed study of Field's period in office, see Haward and Larmour (below) and note that the Australian Journal of Politics and History has provided brief surveys of Tasmanian politics since 1956 in the 'Political Chronicle' section of the journal in issues of each annual volume. This publication can be viewed online through Wiley-Blackwell Journals at subscribing libraries.
For a survey of the events surrounding the beginning of Field's period in office, see Marcus Haward, 'Tasmania', Australian Journal of Politics and History, Australian Political Chronicle, January-June 1989, 35 (3) December 1989: 459-465; for an official statement submitted by the Governor, Sir Philip Bennett, to the Tasmanian Parliament, setting out the sequence of events together with copies of relevant correspondence, see Summary of Constitutional Events Involving His Excellency the Governor of Tasmania Concerning the Dissolution of the House of Assembly on 18 April 1989 and the Subsequent General Election on 13 May 1989, (Hobart: Parliament of Tasmania, 1990). Note the comment on the role of the Governor; 'Sir Philip Bennett rejected the advice of his Liberal Premier, Robin Gray that he be re-commissioned to form a government when it became clear that the leader of the Labor Party, Michael Field, could form a government with the support of the Greens, an arrangement formalised in a signed "Accord". The novelty of the political circumstances and Bennett's choice of independent advisers generated considerable interest among academic and legal commentators', Peter Boyce, The Queen's Other Realms: The Crown and Its Legacy in Australia, Canada and New Zealand, p. 162 (Sydney: Federation Press, 2008, ISBN 9781862877009).
For details of the Accord between the Australian Labor Party and the Tasmanian Greens, see Marcus Haward and Peter Larmour (editors), The Tasmanian Parliamentary Accord and Public Policy 1989-92: Accommodating the New Politics?, Appendix, 'Tasmanian Parliamentary Accord', pp 214-220, (Canberra: Federalism Research Centre, Australian National University, 1993).
For a brief survey of Field's career, see Wendy Rimon, 'Field, Walter Michael (b 1948)', in Alison Alexander (editor), The Companion to Tasmanian History, p. 221, (Hobart: Centre for Tasmanian Historical Studies, University of Tasmania, 2005, ISBN 186295223X), online at: http://www.utas.edu.au/library/companion_to_tasmanian_history/
'Ministries: Names of the Members of Successive Ministries which have held Office in Tasmania since the inauguration of Responsible Government, together with the Dates of Appointment and Retirement', Journal of House of Assembly, Second Session of the Forty-Fifth Parliament of Tasmania, Anno LIII and LV Eliz II; Session 2 of the 45th Parliament, Volume 251, 2004-2006, (Hobart: Government Printer, Tasmania); Colin A Hughes, A Handbook of Australian Government and Politcs 1985-1999, (Sydney: Federation Press, 2002, ISBN 1862874344), and the website of the Parliament of Tasmania, http://www.parliament.tas.gov.au/