Economy the focus of leaders' debate

THERE was no clear winner in the first debate between Premier Lara Giddings and Liberal leader Will Hodgman, with both staying firmly on message.

The state's economy dominated debate between the two at yesterday's Hobart event hosted by the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The debate followed the release of a horror budget update showing more than $450 million has been wiped off the state's bottom line across the forward estimates.

Ms Giddings used the debate to announce a Labor government would create a $5 million jobs and investment fund and match the Liberals' pledge to scrap water and sewerage connection charges for new developments at a cost of $6 million.

She told the 150 business and industry leaders gathered that the state's economy was beginning to turn around and criticised her opponent for making extravagant promises the state couldn't afford.

"Yet again Will Hodgman failed to articulate any of the savings that he says he has," Ms Giddings said after the debate.

"The reality is his savings are a sham."

Mr Hodgman said he would not be lectured to on financial management by a premier that had presided over the state's two biggest deficits.

Both leaders had changed their tune on minority government since they went head-to- head last year.

Unlike last year, Mr Hodgman ruled out attempting to govern if the Liberals won only 12 seats.

"If that's what happens we get another Labor-Green minority government," he said.

Ms Giddings also corrected last year's declaration that she would "absolutely" have Greens in cabinet again, which is featuring in a Liberal Party television ad, saying she had been forced to listen to unhappy Labor voters.

"In politics if you don't start listening to the people who support and vote for you you're dead and buried," she said.

Both questioned each other's commitment on the issue.

"If there's a minority Parliament after the next election Will Hodgman won't be premier but someone like Peter Gutwein or Matthew Groom or somebody else will be because his colleagues will not back him up," Ms Giddings said.

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