Doubts have been raised about a government minister's performance after she took close to a minute to prepare herself before responding to a question in State Parliament regarding alleged paedophile nurse James Geoffrey Griffin.
Sport Minister Jane Howlett was asked what support she had offered the sporting organisations Mr Griffin was involved in.
Coroner Simon Cooper's report into Mr Griffin's death last year, released publicly on October 23, said a woman had made a complaint to Tasmania Police on May 1, 2019 about alleged historic child sex abuse offences committed by Mr Griffin, a nurse who worked on the children's ward at the Launceston General Hospital, when she was just 11 and he was 59.
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The report noted that Griffin had made an admission that he'd met the child through a sporting group where he acted as a masseuse.
Ms Howlett told a budget estimates hearing last week that Communities Tasmania had been advised that Mr Griffin held volunteer roles with the Northern Tasmanian Netball Association, the Devon Netball Association and two state league clubs.
Opposition Leader Rebecca White asked Ms Howlett what information the minister had obtained through the NTNA in order to offer support to any sporting groups Mr Griffin had been involved with. She also asked Ms Howlett what action she had taken when the coroner's report was provided to her department.
The minister appeared to rifle through documents for close to a minute - amid heckling from the Opposition - before approaching the lectern to answer Ms White's question.
"I am advised that there has been no report from the Northern Tasmanian Netball Association of any complaint or issues in relation to Mr Griffin," she told the House of Assembly.
"When Netball Tasmania became aware of the allegations they contacted the Northern Tasmanian Netball Association and through it their members to inquire whether there had been any complaints or issues and we were advised that to date, there have been none."
Ms White asked similar questions of Ms Howlett on multiple occasions during Question Time and consistently received similar answers.
"What we saw in parliament today was a woeful performance by Minister Howlett ... who's not fit to do her job," Ms White said. "I've never seen a performance like Minister Howlett's as I did today in parliament."
"We asked straightforward questions about responsibilities she has in her portfolio, especially in relation to the protection of children and she couldn't answer them. In fact, she got up and answered different questions that weren't even asked of her.
"Even then, it took her a good minute to come to the podium to be able to provide a response."
In a statement released late this afternoon, Ms Howlett fired back at Ms White, saying the Labor leader had falsely claimed she had delayed notifying Netball Tasmania of the allegations relating to Mr Griffin. The minister demanded Ms White apologise for the "deceitful slur".
Greens leader Cassy O'Connor said she wouldn't "rush to judgment" when it came to Ms Howlett's performance but there hadn't been enough evidence to show that she had taken the Griffin matter "as seriously as it needs to be taken".
It took her a good minute to come to the podium to be able to provide a response.Rebecca White, Opposition Leader
Health Minister Sarah Courtney leaped to Ms Howlett's defence when addressing media today, saying she had confidence in her as a minister.
"Jane is a very passionate politician," Ms Courtney said. "I know that as a minister she's very dedicated to her portfolios."
"I've [got] confidence in Jane Howlett, in her ministerial responsibilities and I know that she takes them incredibly seriously."
Meanwhile, Attorney-General Elise Archer announced today that an online portal had been established for people to make submissions to the commission of inquiry into child sexual abuse in Tasmanian government institutions, which will begin early next year. The portal can be accessed at https://www.justice.tas.gov.au/inquiry.
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