Tasmanian Human Services Minister Jacquie Petrusma keeps job after child protection failings

Embattled Human Services Jacquie Petrusma has kept her job after the government used its numbers to defeat a no-confidence motion moved by Labor.

Opposition Leader Bryan Green, in his fifth no-confidence motion against a member of the government, said that Ms Petrusma had demonstrated ongoing appalling judgement and alarming disengagement from issues within her portfolio.

He listed issues from mid-2015 where serious allegations or complaints had either been ignored or not followed up in a timely way.

“The minister has no competence,” Mr Green said.

“The way this minister handles her portfolio goes from damage control to damage control.”

He accused Ms Petrusma as recently as Thursday’s Question Time for not being aware of many child protection cases were unallocated in the state with party health spokeswoman Rebecca White claiming that there were almost 100 in Burnie and Devonport alone

It was later revealed that 37 cases were unallocated statewide.

Twenty-two of these cases, from the North West, are required to be responded to within five days, however.

Greens leader Cassy O’Connor, who held the Human Services portfolio in the previous government, said Ms Petrusma’s approach to child protection was hands-off, and highlighted problems with communication between her office and the department.

“Every indicator points to a minister who is failing in the portfolio and as a consequence letting some of our most vulnerable people down, our children,” she said.

Premier Will Hodgman continued to defend his minister, spruiking more money allocated towards the child protection sector and lower waiting lists for counselling and domestic violence services.

“The state in which her portfolio was left to us was an appalling mess we are seeking to remedy,” he said.

During the debate, Ms Petrusma said that Labor had misled Parliament with false information, accusing them of playing politics with the lives of vulnerable children.

Meanwhile, a leaked Health And Community Services Union document has outlined a 12-month campaign, targeting the child protection services portfolio as the state moves towards an election.

According to the internal union document, the campaign named Have A Heart will be launched in March and will target resources, staffing and manageable workloads for child safety officers.

It will also target unallocated case lists and backfilling of vacant positions.

A state election campaign will start in July and August.

The state’s Opposition has bombarded the government in Question Time over the past two weeks each day with questions probing weaknesses in the child protection system. 

This culminated in Opposition Leader Bryan Green moving a no-confidence motion in Human Services Jacqui Petrusma on Thursday.

Human Services Minister Jacquie Petrusma slammed the document, saying it confirmed that Labor was politicising child protection as part of a deliberate political strategy with the union, constructing questions in Parliament aligned with the campaign’s objectives.

“It’s not just wrong and unethical, it’s absolutely sick,” she said.

Labor child safety spokesman Josh Willie said the Opposition was asking questions because they believed Ms Petrusma had lost control of the portfolio.

“It’s members of the community, including former foster carers, who have encouraged us to pursue these matters on their behalf.”