Tas Labor refers every govt MP to police

·2-min read

The Labor Party in Tasmania has referred every state government MP - including Premier Peter Gutwein - to the police over complaints related to the use of taxpayer money for promotional leaflets.

Shadow attorney-general Ella Haddad said in a letter to Tasmania Police Commissioner Darren Hine that as much as $150,000 may be involved.

Ms Haddad accused the government of using public money to print the leaflets, which were then distributed for the purpose of campaigning. The Tasmanian state election is scheduled for next Saturday.

Ms Haddad said the flyers were ordered before the election was called but scheduled for delivery from April 12, when Tasmania's early voting began.

The leaflet funding purportedly came from the MPs' expense entitlements.

"The issue is whether they have committed the offence of stealing," she said.

"The premier and his colleagues received the entitlements with a direction that they be applied to a specific purpose and instead they used the money in violation of good faith and contrary to the direction."

But Liberal campaign spokesman Michael Ferguson denied wrongdoing, saying in a statement that the Members' Resource Allocation - from which the leaflet funding derived - was available to MPs of all parties.

He said the spending was consistent with government guidelines as it constituted the printing of material detailing party policy positions.

"The brochure provides details of the government's policy positions, as announced in the premier's State of the State address," Mr Ferguson said.

Mr Ferguson and Mr Gutwein are among those referred to police over the matter, along with their 13 Liberal colleagues in the upper and lower houses.

Tasmania Police has been approached for comment.

It comes as the Liberal Party on Saturday splashed the cash on a range of election initiatives, including a promise of $56 million for mental health care, alcohol and drug services and preventative health.

This includes the establishment of a trial in which mental health workers travel with emergency services on mental health-related triple-zero call-outs.

The Mental Health Council of Tasmania welcomed the pledge, saying in a statement that early intervention for mental health care was critical.

The government also promised to recruit an additional 50 police officers and almost 50 new paramedics, overhaul telecommunications on King Island and underwrite flights between Hobart and Flinders Island.

Labor responded by promising 70 additional police officers, having already committed to rolling out an extra 125 police officers.

The Liberals are on May 1 gunning for a record third successive election win in Tasmania, having won under Will Hodgman in 2014 and 2018.

The popularity of Mr Gutwein - who took over as premier in January 2020 - has soared during the COVID-19 pandemic as he made the island state a fortress.