Premier Peter Gutwein has clashed with a journalist in a fiery radio interview regarding the controversy around a small business grants program.
His political opponents have labelled his appearance on ABC Radio this morning as "aggressive" and "arrogant".
In an interview with ABC Mornings host Leon Compton, Mr Gutwein defended his government's decision not to release the names of the hardship grant recipients.
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Kim Evans, the secretary of the State Growth Department, which administered the $26 million grant program, advised the government to keep private the identities of the successful applicants so as not to affect their mental health.
"I am going to hold firm because I am not going to allow a risk of harming Tasmanians to occur as a result of this," Mr Gutwein told Compton. "And I would simply say to you: please, take a cold shower and think about what you're engaged in at the moment."
"And to be frank ... what you're trying to do is to put pressure on me to release information that I've been told if I do so runs the risk of harming Tasmanians."
Please, take a cold shower and think about what you're engaged in at the moment.Peter Gutwein, Premier
"I got the sense the other day in terms of the questioning I was getting from the ABC that ... for some reason, the ABC wants to run a fatwa on this."
The 11-minute conversation grew increasingly heated, to the point where Mr Gutwein said he found media coverage of the grants program "reprehensible".
"To be frank, your headlong rush into this just demonstrates a callous disregard for the health and wellbeing of Tasmanians," he said to the interviewer. "To be frank, you should be ashamed of yourself and so should the ABC."
Shadow Treasurer David O'Byrne said the Premier had "declared war" on the Tasmanian media for enquiring about the probity of the grants program.
"Disclosure of the outcome of publicly funded grant programs should be a routine matter," he said.
"Peter Gutwein has turned this into a public controversy by digging his heels in, in the face of mounting calls for the government to make public the outcomes of the scheme."
Greens leader Cassy O'Connor said Mr Gutwein had been "breathtakingly arrogant and aggressive" during the radio interview, which she said would only serve to "fuel public suspicion".
"Peter Gutwein would do well to remember he is a servant of the Tasmanian people," Ms O'Connor said. "He should respect them by being transparent and immediately release the details of exactly where this public money has gone."
However, Launceston Chamber of Commerce boss David Peach backed in the government's decision, saying disclosing the identities of the grant recipients could expose them to "predatory" behaviour from competitors, supply chain issues and mental health impacts.
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