In 1980 he became Tasmanian State Secretary of the union, and from 1982 he was Senior Vice President of the national union. In 1984 Lennon became Secretary of the Tasmanian Trades & Labor Council, and also a member of the Executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
Lennon first ran for parliament at 1989 state election. He was elected to the Tasmanian House of Assembly in 1990 on a recount of votes following the resignation of Ken Wriedt and immediately became Deputy Leader of the Labor Party. He was Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations, Workplace Standards, Workers' Compensation, Public Sector Management, Forests, Mines, Racing and Gaming, and Leader of Opposition Business in the House of Assembly.
Lennon and Bacon were close friends as well as colleagues and Lennon was emotional as he assumed the premiership with Bacon watching on. "It's hard to describe how you feel when someone who has been that close to you also happens to be your boss", Lennon told an interviewer. "It was a very tough time. A very tough time indeed."
Lennon is known as an active proponent of Tasmania's forestry industry, which has made him very unpopular with the Greens, numerous conservation groups and others on the left. He represents a long tradition of conservative, pro-business Labor leadership in Tasmania. Both Lennon's Labor government and the State Opposition have been criticised for their close ties with the logging company Gunns Limited, most recently over the drafting of new legislation.
In January 2006, Lennon faced criticism in the media over allegations of impropriety when it was revealed that he had received an upgrade from a A$200 per night room in the Crown Casino to a six-star suite worth up to A$4000 per night, complete with a private butler. The Crown Casino is owned by the Packer family's Publishing and Broadcasting Limited, which also owns a 50% stake in Betfair, the company to which Lennon's government days later awarded a A$700 million internet gaming licence.
In the 2006 state election Lennon successfully led the Labor party to a majority government, contrary to many pre-election predictions.
Following an opinion poll which showed his personal approval rating at 17 per cent, Lennon announced on 26 May 2008 that he would stand down as Premier of Tasmania and leave politics altogether. He said he had made the decision 'for himself and his family'. On the afternoon of 26 May 2008, Lennon resigned his commission as Premier to the Governor of Tasmania, the Hon. Peter Underwood. The Deputy Premier, David Bartlett, received his commission at Government House as the 43rd Tasmanian Premier shortly thereafter. He officially resigned from his seat of Franklin the following day.
Victims pay, says PM.(Paul Lennon says)(Medicare benefits from their compensation to victims of state care abuse )(Brief Article)
Mar 08, 2005; Mar 08, 2005 (The Mercury - ABIX via COMTEX) The Australian Government has decided that Tasmanian victims of state care abuse...