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Early election still possible for Tasmania after Liberal defector John Tucker rejects premier’s ultimatum

Pulse Tasmania
Premier Jeremy Rockliff. Image / Pulse

An early election remains a possibility after Liberal-turned-independent MP John Tucker rejected Premier Jeremy Rockliff’s ultimatum.

Speaking in Launceston on Thursday, Tucker said he could “only conclude” that the Premier had already decided to call for an election and was “looking for someone to blame”.

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“The Premier’s confrontational approach is unnecessary. His demand that we sit quietly in the corner until we are told what we can and cannot do by the Boys Club is a reminder of why we left the Liberal Party in the first place,” Tucker said.

“I am extremely happy to sit down to negotiations, but it would need to be on the basis of the deal agreed in May last year, together with the matters outlined in my letter of January 12.”

Former Liberal-turned-Independent MP John Tucker. Image / Pulse

Tucker said he would “not provide continued confidence and supply” to a government that “seeks to impose minority rule over the majority”.

“As long as I am an MP, I will continue to pursue the interests of my constituents without fear or favour. I will never, ever sign up to be handcuffed, muzzled and sidelined from any meaningful contribution to the Parliament,” he said.

Liberal-turned-Independent MPs Lara Alexander and John Tucker. Image / Pulse

Fellow defector Lara Alexander described Premier Rockliff’s ultimatum as “outrageous” and confirmed she too would not support a Liberal state government.

“I will never serve as Jeremy Rockliff’s parliamentary lapdog and – given the string of policy failures his Government has delivered – I will certainly not be a rubber stamp for further policy failure,” she said.

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Both will meet with the Premier on Friday afternoon.

FULL STATEMENT FROM JOHN TUCKER:

The terms of the Premier’s letter last week were so extreme that I can only conclude he has already decided to go to an election and is looking for someone to blame.

However, if the Premier and his deputy are fair dinkum about wanting the government to run full term, there is no reason it can’t happen. However, that is a very big IF.

I am extremely happy to sit down to negotiations, but it would need to be on the basis of the deal agreed in May last year, together with the matters outlined in my letter of January 12.

There are two separate issues at stake here. The first is the commitment to confidence and supply to enable the Government to continue. The second is whether the minority Rockliff Government is prepared to respect majority decisions of the Parliament.

The Premier is now seeking to add a third matter, demanding that Lara Alexander and myself, agree to turning ourselves into nothing more than a rubber stamp for Government decisions.

To agree to this would be to become a willing accomplice in the trashing of fundamental democratic principles.

The Premier’s confrontational approach is unnecessary.

His demand that we sit quietly in the corner until we are told what we can and cannot do by the Boys Club is a reminder of why we left the Liberal Party in the first place.

The agreement we struck in May did not write a blank cheque for government by minority.

It established two key principles in exchange for confidence and supply:

  • Greater transparency and accountability to break the government’s obsession with secrecy; and
  • Using the stadium proposal as the initial case study, confirmation of parliament’s role as the superior court of political jurisdiction.

 

The fact is that the Independent Member for Bass and myself have religiously complied with the agreement we reached in May last year.

In the interests of transparency and accountability, we have supported greater scrutiny and debate, but we have not supported no confidence motions or bills put forward by Opposition parties.

We have voted at all relevant times to keep the Government in power.

It is the Premier who has breached the spirit of our agreement, with his confirmation that he intends to pursue his AFL project regardless of the outcome of Parliamentary consideration of the stadium.

But if a deal is to hold it needs compliance by both parties, and the Government has not kept its end of the bargain.

It is thumbing its nose at majority decisions of the Parliament – first on action to prevent animal cruelty in abattoirs, and on the AFL deal, where the Premier has announced he intends to proceed with work in advance of Parliament’s consideration of the stadium.

Neither the Member for Bass nor myself has moved the goal posts one millimetre. We are simply insisting that the Government comply with the deal that is in place and has been working well,

The Premier has until March 5 to confirm he will comply. I will not provide continued confidence and supply to a government which seeks to impose minority rule over the majority.

As long as I am an MP, I will continue to pursue the interests of my constituents without fear or favour. I will never, ever sign up to be handcuffed, muzzled and sidelined from any meaningful contribution to the Parliament.

The Premier knows that, and I can only conclude that his real intent is to call an election but is trying to find someone to blame.

The real question is why, when the Government is such a shambles, is he so keen to face the guillotine?

There is only one credible answer. He is terrified of facing parliamentary scrutiny unless he can first rig the result.

One of the long list of his Government’s failures has been the race rigging and animal cruelty scandal in the racing industry.

The fact that his Government turned a blind eye to this issue for so long was bad enough, but it is an outrage on a completely different scale that he now wants to bring that race fixing philosophy into Parliament.

His letter explicitly says that he is not prepared to face the Parliament unless the fix is in. That is unprecedented and Tasmanians should be appalled and disgusted.

What is it that he is trying to hide?

FULL STATEMENT FROM LARA ALEXANDER:

I welcome the response today of my colleague, the Independent Member for Lyons John Tucker, to Premier Rockliff’s outrageous ultimatum delivered last week.

I am pleased that John has joined me in rejecting utterly the Premier’s demand that we abandon our electorates and pledge only to serve the interests of the Liberal Party.

One of the reasons I made the decision to leave the Liberal Party and move to the cross bench, was because the Premier and his senior ministers insisted that I should always put the party’s interests above those of the people I serve.

That demand was not acceptable then, and it remains unacceptable now.

I serve the people of Bass. Not Jeremy Rockliff.

I will never serve as Jeremy Rockliff’s parliamentary lapdog and – given the string of policy failures his Government has delivered – I will certainly not be a rubber stamp for further policy failure.

I have made it clear that I want the Premier to govern to the end of his term.

There is much work to be done, most importantly in the response to the Commission of Inquiry (COI) into child abuse at the hands of Government employees.

The Premier’s response so far to the COI findings has been to close ranks and do everything in his power to protect senior bureaucrats under whom a culture of abuse was allowed to continue.

This must change. Accountability and justice must be delivered, and they must be seen to be delivered.

Victim survivors deserve nothing less.

Because of this, I have made it clear to the Premier that I am open to negotiating with him.

Unfortunately, I doubt very much the Premier’s claims that he does not want an election.

He claims he wishes to meet with us on Friday to negotiate. However, his office scheduled just 30 minutes for this meeting and set it up as a Webex meeting because the Premier is in Hobart.

Further, in a departure from our normal late afternoon meeting times, the Premier’s office has scheduled this meeting for 1.30pm: convenient timing for him to dominate the evening news cycle.

Despite our fear that the Premier has already decided to abandon his responsibilities and run to an election, using us as the flimsiest of pretexts, both John and I will attend the meeting in person, with the expectation that the Premier may yet prove to be a man of his word.

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