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Review of arrangements for Green members of Cabinet

Statement by David Bartlett
11 November 2010


Review of arrangements in relation to the two members of the Tasmanian Greens party who are members of the Cabinet

Mr Speaker, I wish to inform the House about the review of arrangements in relation to the two members of the Tasmanian Greens party who are members of the Cabinet.

In my letters to Mr McKim and Ms O’Connor in April this year concerning the arrangements for their membership of Cabinet I recommended that we conduct a review of the arrangements after they had been in operation for six months.

Mr Speaker, we have completed that review and I am pleased to report to this House on its outcomes.

I think it is clear that the arrangements have worked well. 

The arrangements put in place in April have resulted in stable government in Tasmania.  The sky has not fallen in, but rather we have seen the development of a new way of working – one which supports collaboration and cooperation, while encouraging robust debate, the exchange of ideas and progressive policy developments.

I am sure my Government, and Tasmania as a whole, is richer for this experience.

The arrangements I put in place in April ensure that Mr McKim and Ms O’Connor operate as full members of the Cabinet, bound by the usual conventions of Cabinet confidentiality and solidarity, while recognising their political party affiliation.

Members will be aware from the letters I wrote in April that the means used to deal with any potential problems arising from their concurrent Cabinet and political party roles is a protocol about matters of significant concern.

Apart from issues of personal conscience, matters of significant concern relate to items brought to Cabinet for decision, which, if agreed, would be inconsistent with the policies of the Tasmanian Greens to such a degree or extent that Mr McKim or Ms O’Connor form the opinion that they could not support the decision without potentially compromising their standing within the Tasmanian Greens party.

Ultimately, one or both of the Green members of Cabinet may absent themselves from a Cabinet decision on a matter of significant concern; but this is very much a last resort.  Mr Speaker, there has been only one occasion in the past six months when Mr McKim and Ms O’Connor have exercised their option to absent themselves.

There are a range of other approaches that we have successfully used and they are also listed in the letters that document the arrangements.  They involve us talking to each other, cooperative consultation – discussions to see if, through negotiation about the content of a proposal to be put to Cabinet, we can achieve agreement rather than failure. 

I can certainly report that there have been many occasions when we have successfully reached agreement in Cabinet due to the strong desire of all Cabinet members to work together for the benefit of Tasmania, rather than hold on to fixed ‘take it or leave it’ views.

Mr Speaker I was happy for any aspect of the arrangements to be reviewed, but the fact is that the current arrangements are working so well - there was little to change. 

There was no need or desire for a fundamental or radical overhaul of the arrangements. 

What has been agreed between Mr McKim, Ms O’Connor and me are a small number of variations that in reality merely confirm some of the practical ways that we had already implemented to put the current arrangements into effect.

The specific variations are:

• Agreeing to provide Mr McKim with earlier notice of potential items for the Cabinet agenda, whenever practicable;

• Allowing a Cabinet decision to be agreed but note, if required, any disagreement to a specific part of that decision (as long as Mr McKim or Ms O’Connor are not responsible for implementing that aspect of the decision);

• Agreeing that Cabinet approval to draft a specific piece of legislation does not preclude Mr McKim or Ms O’Connor from raising a matter of significant concern when the final draft of that legislation is returned to Cabinet for consideration of a decision to introduce it into the Parliament; and

• If required, clarification, by specific authorisation, to whom Mr McKim and Ms O’Connor may provide Cabinet documents when they are seeking advice on an issue

I have written to Mr McKim and Ms O’Connor to confirm these changes and, as in April, I will ensure these letters will be available publicly on my web site. Mr McKim and Ms O’Connor have written back to me accepting the revisions.

Mr Speaker, this review has only strengthened the co-operative framework put in place in April this year and added to the continued good governance of the State of Tasmania. 

I am heartened by the good faith shown by the entire Cabinet – both PLP and Green members – in making these arrangements work well. 

I am encouraged that other jurisdictions that may have to function with a hung parliament or minority government are looking to Tasmania for a governance model that is working and successful. 

But mostly, Mr Speaker, I am increasingly optimistic about the future of Tasmania under these arrangements for co-operative government.

Correspondence with Green Cabinet Ministers January 2011

Letter sent to Nick McKim on the 16th April 2010

Letter sent to Nick McKim on the 20th April 2010

Letter sent to Cassy O'Connor on the 20th April 2010

Letter of acceptance - Nick McKim on the 20th April 2010

Letter of acceptance - Cassy O'Connor on the 20th April 2010

Special arrangements for Ministers from the Tasmanian Greens Party