Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, do you acknowledge the re arrival of cruise ships here - and I'm stunned, and I'm sure a lot of Tasmanians would be stunned to learn there'll be 217 000 potentially COVID-positive passengers arriving here.
Do you agree that the reappearance of cruise ships has significantly increased the number of COVID -19 cases on an island where the population is the oldest and fasting ageing, with the highest level of disability and chronic disease in the country?
Mr FERGUSON - We have more than a million tourists a year coming to Tasmania -
Ms O'CONNOR - They have not been on incubators at sea.
Mr FERGUSON - Earlier this afternoon we discussed with TT-Line the really good success of the return of tourists to Tasmania. Not quite at the 350 000 passenger mark that we had pre COVID-19, but we are a state that is really reliant on a tourism industry. It was not so long ago that the Tasmanian Greens - before they decided to oppose tourism, like every other industry - actually kept talking about the need to grow the tourism industry in our state.
I am not a doctor and not medically qualified to answer about COVID-19 risks, but I assure you, Ms O'Connor -
Ms O'CONNOR - Do you want me to give you the data? Cases tripled in the three weeks after cruise ships appeared. Cases tripled.
Mr FERGUSON - Thank you for that. I can assure you, Ms O'Connor, that we have taken health advice on the best way to achieve these outcomes -
Ms O'CONNOR - And you have ignored it.
Mr FERGUSON - You are being a little rude there, Ms O'Connor. In June this year, Tasmania's chief health officer - who is qualified, unlike yourself - signed off on health protocols relating to the resumption of cruising in the state.
We will look to the TasPorts team to also ensure that they play their role that those protocols are being closely followed, so that we are therefore taking the best, most industry-positive, jobs-positive but also health-conscious protocols, so that we do look after our beautiful state, as I am sure you would want.
Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, I note you said before that Tasmanians have warmly welcomed the return of cruise ships. That is a generalisation that is not based on fact. In fact, there has been a lot of concern expressed by local people about the reappearance of cruise ships. You did not answer the question. The data is clear. Since the reappearance of cruise ships here, cases have tripled. The only person who publicly warmly welcomed the reappearance of cruise ships was the Premier and Tourism minister - who, that day, forgot he is also the Health minister.
Mr FERGUSON - What you are trying to do here, Ms O'Connor, is drag me into your dark den of conspiracy and doomsday statements.
Ms O'CONNOR - Sure. What do you understand about this virus? Nothing.
Mr FERGUSON - If you look over the fence and were not so Hobart-centric and got out a bit more, you would realise that 50 per cent of cruises are actually outside of Hobart, which is a good thing in sharing the economic benefit to Tasmanians who do not reside in the capital city. These cruise ships, while I know you hate them - you hate a lot of things - but they are -
Ms O'CONNOR - You are an unpleasant human.
Mr FERGUSON - good for the economy. If you manage it in a healthy, responsible way with good health advice, then you are able to minimise that risk that you are trying to highlight.
Ms O'CONNOR - But, you have not been able to.
Mr FERGUSON - What you are then able to do is get employment and training options for our young people and for people in those tourism- and hospitality-dependent businesses. I encourage you to be a bit more positive about this industry -
Ms O'CONNOR - I know, because I care about people's health.
Mr FERGUSON - because tourism and hospitality do welcome them. Thank you, Ms O'Connor.
Ms O'CONNOR - Call me old fashioned. I care about the health of our people.