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Premier Renegs on Restoration of House Numbers to 35

13 September 2016

Tuesday 13 September 2016

Ms O'CONNOR question to PREMIER, Mr HODGMAN

[10.12 a.m.]

The state's peak business body, the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has called for restoration of the lower House to 35 seats -

Mr Llewellyn - Hear, hear.

Ms O'CONNOR - Well, you were part of the plotting.

Members laughing.

Madam SPEAKER - Order.  The House will come to order.

Ms O'CONNOR - with chief executive Michael Bailey citing work overload, diminished power and influence of ministers in a small parliament as well as what must be obvious to any observer of this parliament - a diminished talent pool.  On 14 October 2010, along with then premier Bartlett and Green's Leader, Nick McKim, you signed a tripartisan agreement to restore the House numbers, a commitment you abandoned for cynical political reasons when you had the chance to be part of reform.  At the time you signed that agreement, you said, 'The Parliament is too small.  It is not working well to best serve the people of Tasmania.'  Do you still believe that?  In government, you said you would revisit the issue when the state budget was in surplus.  On budget day, you and your Treasurer came into Parliament singing ACDC and declaring the state back on track and back in the black, a statement the Greens do not buy.  Given your proclamation on budget day, your acknowledgement that the House is too small, why have you so readily dismissed the calls of the state's peak business body for a restoration of numbers?

ANSWER

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Denison for her question and confirm the Government's position that it is not a priority for us to increase the size of Parliament and the number of politicians.  We believe that scarce and valuable state resources are best spent in our schools and hospitals, investing in infrastructure, supporting the most vulnerable in our community.  That is where our priorities lie. 

Clearly a party reduced to just three after the last election will want to do what it takes to increase their stocks at the next.  The same could be said of the Labor Party, reduced to their lowest numbers for many years after their worst election result in 100 years and now wanting to make this issue a priority.  It does not sit within the top order issues that are important to my Government: maintaining strong economic growth; seeing more jobs created for Tasmanians, not more jobs created for politicians; investing in infrastructure; investing in our schools and our hospitals; and supporting the most vulnerable in our community.

At the time when there was broad in-principle support for an increase in Parliament, we had a very dysfunctional Labor-Greens coalition in government.  They were taking our state into recession and they were wrecking our budget.  We said consistently that it would not be until such time as the budget was back on a sustainable footing and could afford it that we would entertain it.  It is not the situation now - although I notice with interest that the member who asked the question, on the one hand, said that the budget was now in a position to afford more politicians, but then she said she does not believe that it is back into surplus.

Greens members interjecting.

Mr HODGMAN - It is clearly a high priority issue for the Greens, who are at their lowest numbers for some time in this place.  It is certainly a priority for the Labor Party, who are now more worried about jobs for politicians than they are about jobs for Tasmanians.

Opposition and Greens members interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order.  The House will come to order immediately.