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Premier has unique chance to make lasting change…

Independent Bass MHA Lara Alexander has urged Premier Jeremy Rockliff to put the safety of Tasmanian children front and centre in 2024 – and create a legacy of lasting change.

Speaking after the publication of ‘The Rotten Core”, (by The Monthly’s Nick Feik) a damning expose of repeated Tasmanian Government failure to pursue child abusers in the ranks of Tasmanian institutions, Mrs Alexander said that 2024 would dictate how Premier Rockliff would be remembered by the Tasmanian people.

“The Premier clearly hopes he will be remembered as the man who delivered a Tasmanian AFL team, but unless he acts decisively to confront the scourge of child abuse in Tasmania, he runs the risk of being forever remembered as the Premier who turned his back when children cried out for justice,” Mrs Alexander said.

“The Premier constantly repeats his ‘don’t kill the dream’ mantra to try and guilt people into supporting his Mac Point stadium, but a generation of Tasmanian children have been living a nightmare and it is those children he needs to be fighting for, not a privileged few.”

Mrs Alexander said that when he replaced Peter Gutwein, Premier Rockliff pledged to lead a Government with heart, but that was no longer enough.

“A Government with heart is great when times are good, but at a time when confidence in public institutions is at an all-time low, he needs to lead a Government with a backbone,” she said.

“He can do that by demonstrating that there are severe consequences for public servants, whether political appointees or career bureaucrats, of any rank, who have presided over what is clearly a long-cultivated culture of child abuse and cover-ups.”

Mrs Alexander said it was incomprehensible for the Premier to place responsibility for instilling a new culture in the hands of now senior bureaucrats who have been in place while a culture of abuse had festered around them over many years.

“At times, it seems that the Premier and Ministers see their role, not overseeing their departments, but running a protection racket for senior public servants who dictate to Ministers what they can and can’t do and say,” she said.

“The Premier repeatedly calls out anybody who dares to criticise a senior bureaucrat and that needs to stop: providing people with a cloak of anonymity and refusing to hold them to public account is what has led us to this awful situation we now find ourselves in.

Mrs Alexander said it had become increasingly clear that the Commission of Inquiry (COI) had been deliberately designed to provide legal escape hatches for public servants who had either engaged in misconduct, refused to investigate it, or covered up valid allegations of abuse.

She said it was grotesque that while the COI had found credible allegations against public employees across virtually every sector of Tasmanian life, not one single offender had been publicly named and bought to book.

“Police officers, health workers, teachers, sports coaches, care workers, youth justice officers, the list goes on, yet neither the Premier nor his ministers are willing to name a single Government employee who has been suspended, dismissed or charged.”

Mrs Alexander said she had no plans at this stage to withdraw supply and confidence in the Liberal Government over the issue.

She said while she did not doubt Labor Leader Rebecca White’s commitment to implementing change, any new Government – especially a minority Government – would take months to get to grips with the issues facing it.

“The Premier is the man in position to take action right now: he knows the issues and he is in a unique position to open the cupboard doors and clean out the skeletons,” she said.

“He has said he plans to govern until an election is due in 2025; if that is the case, I urge him to devote the next 12 months, not to spruiking football stadiums, but to making decisive changes needed to ensure that Tasmanian institutions are safe havens for our children.

“Jeremy Rockliff has the chance to be remembered for generations as the Premier who led Tasmania out of this terrible darkness, I sincerely hope he finds the courage to take it.”

Sunday 28th of January, 2024

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