Health, Arthur-Pieman, same-sex marriage discussed in Question Time

One day after Tuesday’s rambunctious Question Time, Speaker of the House Elise Archer put her foot down, saying she didn’t want a repeat of the previous day’s shenanigans, which saw the ejection of several members.

On Wednesday, the Opposition continued to hammer the government over the supposed crisis in the state’s health system, while the Liberals kept up with their renewed offensive against Labor Leader Rebecca White.

Ms White asked Premier Will Hodgman why he appeared “unaware” that 70-80 Tasmanians died unavoidable deaths each year due to bed block in the health system.

“Doctors, nurses and other clinicians who work in our hospitals deserve better. Tasmanians deserve better,” she told the premier.

But Mr Hodgman said the Opposition Leader’s question was “shallow” and that the government was, in fact, rebuilding services and facilities that were “cut” by the former Labor government.

Meanwhile, Greens leader Cassy O’Connor again raised the issue of the Liberals’ plan to reopen four-wheel-drive tracks in the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area, asking the premier how much related construction works would cost and from which agency’s budget these costs would be drawn from.

The area is one rich with indigenous heritage values.

Mr Hodgman didn’t answer Ms O’Connor’s question, instead choosing to elaborate on the government’s plan to reopen the tracks in an “appropriate, sustainable” manner.

He said that conditions to ensure the protection of the area would be enforced, that very strict rules would need to be adhered to by those utilising the tracks and that they would only be accessible in non-winter months.

In answering a Dorothy Dixer, the premier launched an assault on the Labor Party.

“Tasmanians deserve to know what the Labor Party stands for,” he said, implying that the Opposition had a lack of policies.

Ms O’Connor had another question for the premier, wanting to know whether or not he had recently met with former Labor Premier Paul Lennon and ex-Gunns chief executive John Gay.

Mr Lennon is now a lobbyist for Federal Group, which has a monopoly on the poker machine industry in Tasmania.

Ms O’Connor claimed Mr Gay stood to profit from the government’s forestry policy.

But the premier shot down the allegations, stressing that he had not met with either of the men.

Mr Hodgman said he wasn’t aware of any of his ministers meeting with Mr Lennon or Mr Gay.

Deputy Opposition Leader Michelle O’Byrne enquired about Police Minister Rene Hidding’s supposed new role as “the media police”.

Mr Hidding used an adjournment speech on Tuesday to state his intentions to “scrupulously” monitor media coverage of the same-sex marriage debate in Tasmania, which he said had, so far, produced biased reporting in favour of the ‘yes’ campaign.

Ms O’Byrne wanted to know if the minister would be using taxpayer-funded staff to perform this task.

However, Mr Hidding said he simply wanted to “keep an eye on the balance” of media reporting on the issue.

Finally, Ms O’Connor had one last question for the premier, this time regarding his support for the ‘yes’ campaign.

“Why aren’t you being out and proud on this issue and standing by LGBTI Tasmanians?” she said.

Ms O’Connor suggested Mr Hodgman had been “intimidated” by leading conservative voices in the Tasmanian Liberals’ ranks, such as Mr Hidding, Resources Minister Guy Barnett, Health Minister Michael Ferguson and Senator Eric Abetz.

The premier said Ms O’Connor’s assertion was “absolute rubbish”.

“Everyone will have their say, everyone’s entitled to their views,” he said.

“I would hope it’s done in a way that’s respectful and courteous.”