Defectors hand confidence and supply to Tas premier

·3-min read
Sonja Ambrose/AAP PHOTOS

Two Tasmanian former Liberal MPs who defected to the crossbench over the controversial proposed Hobart stadium say a deal they struck with Premier Jeremy Rockliff is a win for transparency.

Citing concerns over the controversial $715 million Hobart stadium, Bass MP Lara Alexander and Lyons MP John Tucker quit the Liberal Party just over one week ago.

The planned Macquarie Point stadium has attracted fierce opposition since being announced last month, with critics arguing the funds would be better spent addressing the city's escalating housing crisis.

The premier agreed to elevate the project's status to one allowing greater scrutiny.

"John and Lara (and) myself sat down and we recognise that the project of state significance pathway … allows the parliament to have more engagement, more say, more consultation, on the way forward," the premier said on Saturday.

Mr Rockliff said the stadium would generate more than $2.2 billion in economic activity, thousands of new jobs and "countless opportunities which will give young people a reason to stay in Tasmania".

Transparency had prevailed throughout a difficult week, Ms Alexander said, adding she would approve the state budget with full funding for the proposed Hobart stadium.

"Transparency in a document that is being released, but transparency in totality in how we're going to approach projects of this magnitude in the future," she told reporters.

Striking the deal meant the upper and lower houses of parliament would be able to scrutinise the project, Mr Tucker said.

"I will be giving my full support and I will pass all appropriations and revenue deals for the … budget process," he said adding he would not support a no-confidence motion against the government.

Construction of the stadium, which is critical for Tasmania to enter the AFL, will be co-funded by the state and federal government, however the opposition has argued the cost could blow out to more than $1 billion.

With the state government set to hand down the budget on Thursday, Tasmania's net debt rose from $1.5b in 2021/22 to $3b in 2022/23. It is expected to reach more than $5.2b in 2025/26.

Ms Alexander's and Mr Tucker's defections to the crossbench pushed the Liberal Party into minority, leaving the government with 11 out of 25 seats in the House of Assembly.

Labor called the deal a "dud", saying it offered little to ordinary people, while giving the parliament greater powers.

"We're pleased to see more transparency, but what they've actually negotiated is more transparency for politicians but no extra transparency for Tasmanians," the party's leader of opposition business Dean Winter told reporters on Saturday.

"We wanted to see the (AFL agreement) fully exposed, so that Tasmanians could make their own decisions about what this deal entails."

Greens leader Cassy O'Connor said if Mr Tucker and Ms Alexander were truly committed to transparency, they should immediately release the agreement they signed with the premier.

"Rather than work across the parliament to provide transparent, collaborative government in the public interest, the premier has instead enticed his former colleagues into what is essentially a parliamentary straitjacket," she said.

"Securing the premier's agreement to make the stadium a Project of State Significance is all well and good, but in doing so they have traded away much of the parliament's potential power to push for better outcomes for the Tasmanian people."

Ms C'Connor said the Project of State Significance process may be "the best opportunity parliament has to sink the Macquarie Point Stadium in the public interest" and called on Labor leader Rebecca White to commit to not vote in support of the project in parliament.