Question Time suspended on last sitting day for two weeks in the House of Assembly

On its last sitting day for two weeks, the House of Assembly devolved into a series of shouting matches, each more intense than the last.

The tone was set when Opposition Leader Bryan Green probed Human Services Minister Jacquie Petrusma over an advertisement that came to the House’s attention on Wednesday.

A staff member from Life Without Barriers placed an ad on a Facebook buy-and-sell page, seeking foster carers to look after four separate children, all based in the state’s North-West.

Ms Petrusma told Mr Green the ad did not, in actual fact, relate to any real children.

Indeed, Life Without Barriers revealed that the children who were listed on the site were just examples of children who may require care.

Mr Green continued to press Ms Petrusma, inquiring as to why the Department of Health and Human Services website had not updated its list of at-risk children who still required a child protection case worker.

Ms Petrusma noted that 57 children were unallocated as of December, 2016, which was a reduction.

She said the list would be updated in April.

Greens leader Cassy O’Connor also launched an offensive at Ms Petrusma, demanding to know whether or not the government was investigating foster care provider Safe Pathways.

Ms O’Connor was concerned that Safe Pathways was still operating in Tasmania, after an email came to light on Thursday that appeared to indicate it had not ceased doing so.

In 2016, it became evident that Safe Pathways was not properly ensuring the welfare of children under its care.

The Minister said responsibility for children had been taken on by another foster care provider Oak Possibility.

Ms Petrusma said there was no longer a contract between the state government and Safe Pathways, and that an investigation into the expenditure of public money was ongoing.

Ms Petrusma had a brief reprieve when Energy Minister Matthew Groom began informing the House of his upcoming meeting with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Mr Groom will lead a delegation to meet Mr Turnbull, which he will use as an opportunity to promote Tasmania’s capacity to bolster the National Electricity Market.

He said he would use the meeting as an opportunity to advocate for a second Basslink interconnector, which he thinks should be a federally-funded initiative.

Resources Minister Guy Barnett also squared off with Ms O’Connor for the third day in a row over his forest legislation.

Mr Barnett said Labor's forest policy was "job-destroying", devised in accordance with the wants and needs of the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania.

He warned the Opposition against following Victorian Labor's lead by working with the "radical" Greens to lock up the state’s forests.

Ms Petrusma was forced to the podium once more when Labor asked her whether or not 100 children in the north-west had not received a child protection case worker, despite being deemed high-risk.

She replied that she would need to consult the figures before providing an adequate response.

The atmosphere in the House soured further when Ms Petrusma chose not to answer the Opposition’s question regarding 15-20 children in the north-west.

Labor believed these children had been classified as Priority 1, but had not been provided with a child protection case worker.

It is strongly recommended that any child with Priority 1 classification be provided with a case worker in the space of 24 hours.

When Labor protested that Ms Petrusma was not answering its question, the Speaker of the House Elise Archer suspended Question Time.

When Question Time resumed 40 minutes later, Mr Green moved for a suspension of standing orders so he could later move a no confidence motion against Ms Petrusma.


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