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State's Balance Sheet Under the Microscope

Thursday 30 September 2021, The Examiner

They say a week is a long time in politics and that is never more true than in Budget Estimates week.

Estimates is when members of Parliament have an opportunity to grill or at the very least get answers to a variety of questions relating to the budget.

A topical issue would be the AFL. I am sure many people watched the grand final and it was great to see Melbourne win a premiership after a 57 year drought, none more than former AFL footballer and Melbourne coach the incredible Neale Daniher still battling and raising awareness of Motor Neurone Disease since contracting MND in 2013. That game got me thinking about how much West Australia would have paid for the privilege of hosting the AFL grand final. During Estimates we discovered that Tasmania paid the AFL $1 million for the two finals, ie $500,000 each for Sydney versus the Giants on August 28 and the Bulldogs versus the Bombers on August 29. While I appreciate there is generally a financial benefit to Tasmania for these games, the AFL were struggling to find a Covid safe venue for their finals plus we were hamstrung financially because of the inability to have interstate spectators and limited numbers at the ground. A further benefit of our contracted Hawthorn games is the word “Tasmania” on their jumpers.

Launceston was fortunate to host both games, and it is my understanding this was due to the preference to keep the television production truck on one site for obvious reasons. I note also that the AFL are far from cash strapped, and has extended its broadcast rights deal with pay TV giant Foxtel, Seven and Telstra to the tune of $946 million.

Another issue raised at Estimates was that of medicinal cannabis and how it will be dealt with by Police officers conducting random oral fluid drug tests should the patient decide to drive. Many will be aware that as of 1 July 2021 medicinal cannabis became legal in Tasmania with doctors able to seek permission through the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to prescribe.

While our Police Commissioner Darren Hine answered the question in Estimates that a prescription could be a defence to the charge of “drug driving” under the Act to someone driving with medicinal cannabis in their system if prescribed, he stressed that the additional charge if they were so affected by prescribed medicinal cannabis, that is DUI or driving under the influence of a drug, as in you don’t have proper control of your vehicle, would be an offence. The matter of drug driving is far from straightforward and I believe a summons would be issued, with Forensic Science Tasmania doing further testing to determine levels. There are also other matters to take into account such as insurance.

It is important that people are aware if they are driving with any prescribed drug in their system, they can be charged with the serious offence of “driving under the influence” and Commissioner Hine further pointed out this would be “if it is shown they do not have proper control of their vehicle, and that’s the manner of driving or any witnesses, when the person gets out of the car, and how they are reacting as well.” It is interesting to note that with random alcohol breath tests, the same is true. You can blow less than .05 but still be faced with the serious charge of “driving under the influence” if it is considered you don’t have proper control of your vehicle.

While on Tasmania Police it was good to see that Tasmania is on track to recruit 20 additional officers for the Special Operations Group over four years. Previously this has been a part-time role with seven SOG members on call at all times, and attending incidents in their specialist roles after sometimes working 8 to 10 hour shifts in their normal everyday police roles. These officers will also assist with the response to Covid-19 and are ably supported in this by the Australian Defence Forces.

While I am sure we all feel a little nervous when we see a police car behind us, check our speed etc., our Police do an amazing job and it has been said on many occasions, “they go in when the rest of us are running out”. I believe Tasmania Police are the best in the country, and the unknowns they face every working day cannot be underestimated.

Estimates questioning is an interesting time, it is live streamed, and readily available on Hansard on the Parliamentary website. It is worth remembering our community can pass questions to us at any time to seek answers from Ministers on a variety of issues and I would encourage people to get in touch with us to do so. My door is always open.

Rosemary Armitage


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