You are here

Premier - House of Assembly Restoration

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Monday, 6 September 2021

Tags: House of Assembly Restoration, Parliament, State Budget

Ms O'CONNOR - I am surprised that you think you have to spend money to sell it.

Premier, we are pleased to see you back at work and in quite good health. We made a statement yesterday welcoming you back to work and saying we look forward to seeing you today across the Estimates table. We also made the observation that the impact of your workload on you was clearly unsustainable. Now what's going to happen is that two portfolios you held will be piled onto other ministers who already have four and five portfolios each. That affects the good governance of those portfolios and it affects the health and wellbeing of Cabinet, as it has affected your health and wellbeing.

In the last term of the parliament, all parties agreed that the House of Assembly is far too small. It is not fit for purpose for our increasingly complex-to-govern island state. Even the Mercury newspaper is now editorialising in favour of restoration of the numbers in the House of Assembly. You have said to me previously, that should the state's finances be looking okay, you would be open to considering it.

Do you accept that the parliament is way too small, it limits your choices and it impacts very much on Cabinet ministers?

Mr GUTWEIN - Firstly, I make the point that I have a fine Cabinet. They are highly talented and they work very hard. But it is fair to say that as a small jurisdiction, we are expected to provide the same level of service, same level of advice, same level of regulation that larger jurisdictions are. Like my predecessor, I agree that when the time is appropriate, when our finances are in good shape, then yes, the parliament should be returned to its original 35. I've always been of that view.

It's not a priority right now. We have an election in four years, or thereabouts. But a discussion over coming years in terms of the size of the parliament is something we should engage in.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you, Chair. Back to where we were before the break, Premier. You have very reasonably and wisely agreed that the numbers need to be restored in the House of Assembly for good governance in Tasmania. You have said it is not a priority at this stage. We heard that from a previous Liberal Premier. We heard it previously to that from a Labor Premier. At some point, parliament is going to have to make the change. We will be bringing the bill on sometime within the next year. This bill has been agreed to effectively by all parties in the parliamentary committee.

Will you retain an open mind about that legislation when it comes before the House in line with your agreement that 25 seats are far too small a parliament for a growing state and that the pressure on ministers and premiers is unreasonable?

Mr GUTWEIN - I have a fine and talented Cabinet who do their jobs very well. My position hasn't changed from when this was first discussed by the three leaders five years ago.

Ms O'CONNOR - No, 2010. You mean Will Hodgman, Nick McKim and David Bartlett?

Mr GUTWEIN - That's it. When the circumstances are right. It is not a priority now and you have correctly interpreted my view there. Once we get to the two-year mark, in the middle of the term, then we can give it some consideration. By then we will know where our position is as we come out of COVID-19 and what our financial circumstances are. It is something that should be considered mid-term.

Ms O'CONNOR - The problem, as you know Premier, is that once we get to the two year mark, the politics infects everything that we do and the chances of the legislation receiving the consideration and support that it deserves diminishes by the day, the closer you get to an election.

Mr GUTWEIN - My mind is quite firm on that. Mid-term is when it should be looked at.

Ms O'CONNOR - We will give you a chance a bit earlier than mid-term.

Mr GUTWEIN - I am sure you probably will. If that chance is provided before the mid term, I don't think you'll be happy with the outcome. A larger parliament that can more broadly represent people would be a good outcome

Ms O'CONNOR - For Tasmania and its people.

Mr GUTWEIN - That is exactly the context I was placing that statement in. It is not a priority at the moment. We need to see progression with our budget and financial position. At the moment, I am confident, unless there were to be further shocks, and even Treasury is broadly confident, that as we start to open up we will see our growing economy continue to grow. That is very positive for Tasmania and its people.