Ms O'CONNOR question to PREMIER, Mr HODGMAN
Welcome back from your extended trip to China. Can you explain to Tasmanians why the trade mission, which gave you an excuse to avoid parliament for a week, was indeed not scheduled in the six-week winter break or even in the most recent two-week gap between sittings? We have seen happy snaps of you on the Great Wall last week instead of in here, representing the people of Tasmania. Why did you prioritise cosying up to a totalitarian regime, which has no respect for human rights or freedoms and, according to the United Nations and Human Rights watch, is imprisoning and systematically destroying the culture of more than a million Uyghur and Kazakh Muslims in northern China?
Madam Speaker, I am delighted to be back. Whilst I was away I was able to keep an eye on what was happening in this place. Certainly, insofar as their behaviour and conduct and performance of members opposite was concerned, I did not miss much. In fact, it was obvious to me to that some of you could not stay in here and do your job properly because your behaviour was so disorderly and inappropriate you were ejected from this place.
I strongly defend this Government being very active and proactive in supporting our trade sectors, supporting the growth in our economy and supporting Tasmanian businesses, which were part of this delegation.
Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker, under standing order 45. I asked the Premier to explain his position on the Uyghur and Kazakh Muslims being incarcerated in the north of China.
Madam SPEAKER - As you would appreciate, I do not believe that is a point of order. I ask the Premier to put his mind towards the question.
Mr HODGMAN - Indeed I am, Madam Speaker. I am justifying the importance of this Government, and any good government, supporting the growth in our economy for Tasmanian exports, with the delegates who were there as part of the trade mission we were supporting to open up new market opportunities, to capitalise on our great strategic advantages and keep Tasmania's economy in its largest trading region the strongest in the country. Our international export growth has been much higher than other states and the national average.
Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, again under standing order 45. The Premier needs to explain to the people of Tasmania why he did not go to China in the winter break or in the two-week break between sittings.
Madam SPEAKER - That is just a repeat of the question. I ask the Premier to draw his attention to the question.
Mr HODGMAN - Madam Speaker, it was a multifaceted question and I am responding to each element of it.
It is true to say this is a matter of priority for the Tasmanian Government and as the Premier and Minister for Trade and Minister for Tourism, supported by the Minister for Primary Industries and Water, we were part of a trade mission that was announced at the start of this year and planned over the course of this year and has coincided with other opportunities to gain greater access to markets that are important to meet with key stakeholders and key distribution partners in our tourism sector and make sure that Tasmania is competing with every other state as effectively as we can.
Ms O'Connor - You are such a weak leader.
Madam SPEAKER - Ms O'Connor, you are on warning.
Mr HODGMAN - I urge members opposite when they fire up their advisory committee to talk to some of the delegates who were part of this to understand how valuable it was to them. I encourage also the increasingly hysterical Leader of the Greens - who is making Pauline Hanson look balanced, I have to say, with some of her comments about our major trading partner in China - to talk to some of the stakeholders and delegates who went on this trip.
You talk about cowardice. Is it true that you were invited by the Tasmanian Polar Network, who were part of the trade mission, to meet with them last week and understand our perspective but you were too gutless to do so, so you put it off?
Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker. The Premier has wholly misled the parliament. I am meeting with the Tasmanian Polar Network today. I did not put them off. I said we would organise a meeting. Do you have to come in here and tell complete untruths? Take it back.
Madam SPEAKER - That point is accepted. Please proceed, Premier.
Mr HODGMAN - I have the guts to put Tasmania first and make sure that our time, effort and investment is -
Madam SPEAKER - Premier, it would be wise if you retracted that statement.
Ms O'Connor - Could the Premier please withdraw that false and misleading statement?
Ms Archer - No - denied.
Madam SPEAKER - Ms Archer, I do not need feedback from you either, thank you. Ms O'Connor, please tell me what you were saying.
Ms O'CONNOR - The Premier has said that I refused to meet with the Tasmanian Polar Network, a lie that was stated by the Deputy Premier last week. I am meeting them today at lunchtime. He needs to withdraw that false and misleading statement.
Madam SPEAKER - I think it is more an error in commentary, but you might like to fix that, Premier.
Mr HODGMAN - The member has confirmed the fact that she was not willing to meet with them last week while she took the opportunity in this place, and indeed today, to make claims which are unfounded in substance. I make the point - talk to some of the people who were part of the trade mission who have benefited greatly from it and who are part of an economy that is one of the strongest performing in the nation and part of an export sector and a tourism visitor economy that is the best performing in the country.
This is why our trade mission was critical to supporting this growth. If nothing else, you see how positively everyone else views Tasmania from a trade mission like this; our products, the state as a destination and as a place that is open for good, sustainable, sensible development. The only criticism and complaints we hear are from members opposite. They are the only people who are complaining about Tasmania's strong economic growth; our strong rate of growth in exports, our strong trade with Asian countries, including China -
Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker, this is becoming tedious. The Premier has answered no part of the question we asked. Why did he not schedule the trade mission for another time when parliament was not sitting?
Madam SPEAKER - As you would be aware, Ms O'Connor, I am not able to put words in the mouth of the Premier. I draw the Premier's attention to the fact that we are now over five minutes, 40 seconds. I am trying to keep a stricter time line today, thank you.
Mr HODGMAN - I explained how these trade missions are assembled. They cannot happen over a matter of weeks. They take a lot of planning, a lot of stakeholders, a lot of government officials, a lot of delegates and a lot of interaction with those destinations we are visiting to make sure it is scheduled in such a way that it delivers the best possible benefit for Tasmania. I will always put Tasmania's interests first. My attendance on this trade mission was an example of doing that.