Tasmanian MP John Tucker threatens to ‘bring down’ minority Liberal government over animal welfare, AFL deal

Tasmanian MP John Tucker threatens to ‘bring down’ minority Liberal government over animal welfare, AFL deal
  • PublishedJanuary 5, 2024

Maverick Tasmanian MP John Tucker has threatened to “bring the government down” if it does not support his demands for mandatory CCTV in abattoirs and a cessation of AFL projects until the Macquarie Point stadium passes parliament. 

In a press conference Thursday morning, the independent member for Lyons set out his grievances over the government’s recent handling of animal cruelty allegations and decision to build a $70 million AFL high-performance training centre.

“If the two issues are not fixed, I will be moving a motion of no confidence in the government to bring the government down,” he said.

“They will not have my support, they will not have my supply and confidence.”

Mr Tucker, a former Liberal, defected to the crossbench last year. His vote is one of two the government relies on in the lower house to stave off an election.

Government doesn’t follow Tucker’s abattoir CCTV motion

Two people drag calves by their limbs along an abattoir floor.
Calves dragged by their limbs at TQM’s Cressy abattoir.(Supplied: Farm Transparency Project)

After declaring that “Tuck’s back and the premier is on notice”, Mr Tucker said his support would be contingent on the implementation of his animal welfare motion, which was passed in parliament last month.

While not legally binding, the motion called for 24/7 video surveillance to be mandatory in Tasmanian abattoirs and independent random auditing of the footage.

The crossbencher’s concerns come after footage taken by animal rights activists at Tasmanian Quality Meats showed calves and sheep appearing to be conscious at the time of their deaths and being handled roughly and stunned incorrectly.

The government voted in favour of Mr Tucker’s motion, but instead of immediately moving to make CCTV mandatory, Primary Industries Minister Jo Palmer set up a taskforce to examine reforms to the industry.

This was met with ire from Mr Tucker.

“If the motion is not followed to the letter … I will be pulling my supply and confidence from this government,” he said.

“I find it amazing that this minister is treating the government, her own party members, with contempt as well.

“If she is going to disregard this motion and treat this issue with the animal cruelty … which needs to be acted on, in my opinion, very, very quickly … we’ve got a terrible situation on our hands here in Tasmania.”

AFL training centre is ‘cart before the horse’

Lara Alexander and John Tucker looking at each other.
John Tucker and fellow Liberal Lara Alexander quit the party together last year and became independents.(ABC News: Monte Bovill)

In May last year, Mr Tucker and fellow Liberal Lara Alexander unexpectedly quit the party over their concerns about the Rockliff government’s support for the controversial $715 million AFL stadium proposed for Hobart’s Macquarie Point.

The pair later signed an agreement with the government to maintain confidence and supply.

Under the agreement, the government announced it would designate the stadium as a project of state significance, which means it requires the approval of parliament before it can be built.

While that process has yet to play out, last month the government announced it intended to start construction at Rosny Parklands on a $70 million high-performance AFL training base.

Concept art showing an AFL oval and players with spectators watching from a nearby pavilion.
The concept design for part of the Tasmanian AFL team’s high-performance training centre at Rosny.(Supplied)

Mr Tucker said the decision was a sign the government was treating parliament with “contempt” and he did not want to see any further action until the Macquarie Point stadium had the support of parliament.

“I will not be tolerating the premier coming out and putting the cart before the horse and saying that we’ve already got a team, we’ve already got a stadium,” he said.

“That is a decision that will be made by state parliamentary colleagues going forward.”

The construction of a high-performance training centre is a condition of the deal signed with the AFL for a Tasmanian team, with timelines tight for the team to enter the league by 2028.

A map of parklands that places two big ovals and numerous other buildings nearby.
The government has already released the plan for the Rosny parklands AFL high-performance centre.(Supplied)

Government ‘will not be distracted’

In response to Mr Tucker’s threat, Premier Jeremy Rockliff said the government “will not be distracted”.

Mr Rockliff said the government had already committed to making CCTV compulsory in abattoirs and to random animal welfare audits.

“While some abattoirs already have CCTV installed, the intent is to have CCTV operating in all abattoirs as soon as practically possible,” he said.

“Mechanisms to enforce compliance are currently being investigated.

“Minister Palmer will report back to parliament regarding the animal welfare motion on March 5.”

He said the taskforce, established in December to strengthen animal welfare in abattoirs, would meet regularly between now and March, and potential reforms would be recommended before parliament resumed on March 5.

In relation to the AFL high-performance centre, Mr Rockliff said it was “included in this year’s state budget which was approved by the parliament”.

Can Tucker bring down the government?

Governing in minority, and being reliant on Mr Tucker and Ms Alexander’s support, has thrown up many challenges for the Rockliff government.

In September last year, the sacking of former attorney-general Elise Archer almost precipitated an early election when she failed to confirm whether she would guarantee the government confidence and supply before ultimately deciding to resign from parliament.

Election analyst Kevin Bonham said that if Mr Tucker went ahead with his threat, then the government would lack the parliament’s support.

John Tucker sitting in a chair, looking throughful.
If John Tucker led a no-confidence motion and every non-government MP supported it, it could bring down the government.(ABC News: Maren Preuss)

“The government currently has 11 members and is being supported on confidence and supply by the two defecting Liberals,” Dr Bonham said.

“If one of those withdraws their expression of support … then the government only has 12 out of 25 [votes].

“The government could in theory be brought down by a no confidence motion supported by everybody else.”

SOURCE: ABCNEWS

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