Opposition Leader Rebecca White writes to Premier Will Hodgman offering negotiating space for Legislative Council agenda

Rebecca White
Rebecca White

A more conciliatory tone has been struck by both sides of state politics following the Pembroke by-election last week.

Opposition Leader Rebecca White released a letter she sent to Premier Will Hodgman last week, in which she offered to negotiate on legislation expected to go through the Legislative Council this week.

“We should all be able to work together to progress matters that are in the interest of the public of Tasmania,” she said.

“We realise with four members in the Upper House that does give us an advantage and we do need to take that responsibly.”

Leader of Government Business Michael Ferguson said the state government was amenable to working with Labor on key legislation, but wouldn’t abandon “core principles”.

The change in tone from the state government follows repeated warnings from Mr Ferguson that he would be seriously concerned about the future of the Liberal government’s legislative agenda should Labor win the Pembroke by-election.

Ms White said she wrote to the Premier on Monday requesting an urgent meeting to discuss legislation, following the by-election that saw Labor’s Jo Siejka defeat Liberal James Walker, but has yet to receive a response.

She said she was “alarmed” by Treasurer Peter Gutwein’s “defeatist” attitude and wanted to find common ground with the state government for the remaining weeks of the sitting term.

Legislation in the Legislative Council this week includes the bill to dismiss Glenorchy City Council, and the state government’s continued push to phase out suspended sentences.

Mr Ferguson said he had his doubts about Ms White’s willingness to work with the state government, and challenged her to prove her letter was a genuine offer by not standing in the way of the suspended sentences legislation.

Ms White described the phasing out of suspended sentences as “too ruthless” and argued instead for “enhanced” sentencing options for magistrates.

The TasWater takeover legislation, Mr Ferguson said, is “unlikely” to be voted on this week as the state government awaits the report into their planned takeover.

“If the legislative council have sensible suggestions to improve the outcomes we seek we want to make it clear that the Government is also open to discussion about this bill,” he said.

Ms White said Labor had asked the state government for financial modelling and a business case on the proposed TasWater takeover to determine if Labor could or would support the bill.

“I’d encourage the Premier to present that information to us so we can consider it and see whether or not there is merit to the arguments the government is making,” she said.