Highs and Lows: Tasmania’s Political Leaders Reflect on 2017

With a state election due in March, there’s no doubt 2018 will be a significant year in Tasmanian politics.

ABC reporters Emily Street and Elise Fantin sat down with the Premier Will Hodgman, Opposition Leader Rebecca White and Greens leader Cassy O’Connor to reflect on the highs and lows of 2017.

If you could change one thing about 2017, what would it be?

WH: I’d find a way to get all our commitments through Parliament because I believe in delivering what you promise, and whilst we’ve done just about everything we promised there are some things we weren’t able to get through.

Our moves to strengthen laws to keep communities safe and to penalise those that offend against law-abiding Tasmanians was something that was the right thing to do but we weren’t able to get that [mandatory sentencing] through Parliament.

RW: I can’t think of very much that I would change. We’ve had a really big year — obviously the leadership change in March and a very successful period with the election of both Jo Siejka and Sarah Lovell to the Upper House.

I got married this year, so there’s been personal triumphs and lovely achievements as well as some really important moments for the Labor Party.

CO: If I had the magic power to change one thing, Vanessa Goodwin would still be in the Legislative Council and she’d still be the member for Pembroke. I think that was the saddest and hardest thing about 2017

Who is the Tasmanian you most admired this year?

WH: My dear friend Vanessa Goodwin who, to this day, is still fighting a terrible illness.

She’s inspiring me and my team, she’s still an important part of it and we carry her in our hearts. But also she’s a reminder that there are many people in our community who might be worse off than you and they all deserve our support and best wishes.

The work that he has tirelessly campaigned as an advocate for marriage equality and for the rights of people who are LGBTIQ is second to none.

He’s done an amazing amount of work and it’s wonderful that we’ve now got marriage equality legislated in Australia.

CO: Bob Brown, Roland Browne and Jessica Hoyt because they took the case to the High Court that affirmed nationally our right to protest and to free speech.

It would be that small handful of mighty Tasmanians who challenged the state’s draconian anti-protest laws and won.

It was a great national victory for democracy and it was so fitting that it came from Bob and Roland.

What is the hardest thing about your job?

WH: It’s something that gets me up early each day and to bed late at night, worrying about the challenges that our state faces.

That’s a good thing to worry about because I believe our state’s best days are ahead of us.

People used to say to me the toughest job in politics is being Opposition Leader. Well, that couldn’t be further from the truth because there’s a lot more responsibility that comes with governing.

RW: The hardest thing about my job is the amount of time that I’m away from my family and my friends.

I don’t get to see them very much and it’s been much harder this year with my daughter, who turned one in November.

Leaving her each day, it’s equally my biggest motivation because I know every day I go to work I’ve got to make a difference, not just for the people I represent but also for her.

CO: The emails. Juggling the time. Because I’m at my happiest when I’m out of the office in the community, listening to people and hearing their stories.

Juggling the administrative stuff I find deeply challenging.

The reason I get out of bed in the morning is to be part of the Greens and do right by Tasmania but the emails just come streaming in and I struggle with them.

What will be the single most important piece of legislation to pursue in 2018?

WH: It will be the fifth budget delivered by a majority Liberal Government that is fiscally responsible, that keeps the budget in surplus so that we can invest more into health, into education, into public safety and make sure all Tasmanians are feeling the benefits of a strong economy.

RW: The most important thing we need to do now is to fix the health system, and we need to move two pieces of legislation.

One is to fix the governance structure that exists around the whole system but also a second piece of legislation which is to introduce the Healthy Communities Commission for Tasmania, which has a sole focus on preventative health.

CO: It would be to reintroduce Dying With Dignity legislation. To have cross-party support for the private members’ bill.

It’s a really important reform. At the moment the law doesn’t protect people who are suffering terribly and people for whom palliative care cannot provide relief.

What is your Christmas wish?

WH: For 2018 to be an even better year for our great state.

RW: To see my daughter walk for the first time. She is just so close to toddling at the moment, and I’m sure on Christmas Day, hopefully, fingers crossed, we’ll be able to see her walk.

CO: For a happy day. I hope that all my children and family have a lovely day and that there’s peace and love and warmth all across the island on Christmas Day.

What would you like to see under the tree on Christmas Day?

WH: I want to see, if this is possible, my wife and three kids and beautiful dog smiling back at me, and some time with them will be all I need.

RW: A pair of Blundstones. My pair of “Blunnies” are so old and worn out and I desperately need a new pair.

CO: We need a ladder, so I don’t know if it’ll be under the tree, but having a ladder in the family would be a big step forward.