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COVID-19 Update

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Friday, 1 May 2020

Tags: COVID-19, Legislation, Political Leadership, Dorothy Dixer

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Premier, we are working with you. We are working very hard to be a constructive and cooperative part of the emergency response. I felt that you chided us this morning like naughty children after the scrutiny we applied to yesterday's bill.

That piece of legislation handed government enormous powers. It had to be scrutinised. It should have been amended. It clearly needed amending because the Government accepted our first amendment and made it their own.

We are professional legislators. Our job is to make sure that legislation that passes through the Tasmanian Parliament is as robust as it can possibly be because of the impact that it has on the lives of Tasmanians.

To coin one of the Premier's phrases, we make no apologies for applying a scrutiny lens to yesterday's bill. I am sorry that the Legislative Council had to sit so late last night. It is clear that in an emergency there are no right and wrong answers. As it is with so much in life, we are making it up as we go along. There is no textbook for the times we are in.

We are very pleased that parliament is coming back next Wednesday. That is the way it should have been from the start. We should be sitting Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. That is a conversation for another day.

I am disappointed that the decision made by the Government to have us sit only on Thursdays is being put back on us, that we are naughty children. We will just set that aside.

We stand with you, Premier, in this emergency, and you know that: we have been every step of the way and will continue to do so. That does not mean we will be a rubberstamp for legislative over-reach - not ever. We look forward to seeing a draft of the commercial tenancy legislation. I flag with the Premier that you have received a letter from the Tenants' Union of Tasmania, Tasmanian Council of Social Services, Anglicare and Shelter relating to residential tenancies with a request that you apply the same level of protective concern to residential tenants

I acknowledge that you led the country on a freeze on evictions and that there is now a freeze in place on rent increases. One of the concerns stakeholders in the residential tenancies space have is that when landlords and tenants enter into arrangements about rental payments, tenants will be lumbered with very large unpayable debts at the end of the emergency period. We need to have another look at residential tenancies. They deserve the same level of protective legislative and policy response we will pass next week through the commercial tenancies legislation that is to come before this place.

Finally, a quick word on our move to rid question time of Dorothy Dixers during the emergency period. I am surprised you surprised we did that. It still does not pass the sniff test that during an emergency when so much of the parliament's business has been truncated, when we have reluctantly but without resistance given away our rights on the matters of public importance debates and private members' time, that there is no argument for having Dorothy Dixers in question time because the Government has so many tools at its disposal to engage with the people of Tasmania on issues that it needs or wishes to.

We stand by our move to rid question time of Dorothy Dix questions. It was a disappointing vote in the end because some members in this place denied themselves through their vote the opportunity to ask another question. Very unusual behaviour for a legislator. We will be here next Wednesday gladly working with the Government and the Opposition to get the important legislation through on behalf of the people of Tasmania as they would expect us to do. We continue to stand with you, Premier, as we move through this emergency. It will not always be exactly the way you would like it, but we are sticking by your side on those issues that we need to. We will continue to do so.