‘We must do more’: Tasmania’s new Premier sets bold goals from day one

Peter Gutwein with PM Scott Morrison in Hobart in February 2019.

Peter Gutwein with PM Scott Morrison in Hobart in February 2019. Photo: AAP

Tasmania’s new Premier, Peter Gutwein, has taken over in the top job, immediately signalling that big changes lie ahead.

In his first day as the state’s leader on Tuesday, Mr Gutwein – the former treasurer – was tight-lipped about his future frontbench, promising only minimal adjustments.

“I’m working through all of those matters at the moment and I don’t want to speculate on what the ministry will look like,” Mr Gutwein said.

“I’ll announce that later this week, but I’ve got a very talented team to work with.”

But, have no doubt, changes will be made. Mr Gutwein, who took over from Will Hodgman on Monday, might be a moderate Liberal but he is also a champion of child abuse survivors, a fan of old-growth forest and an ally of the gaming industry.

Nor is he afraid to break the party line, having crossed the floor of Parliament and been suspended from the house 16 times.

Mr Gutwein, 55, was elected unopposed to the state’s top job on Monday. He wasted no time declaring his wet Liberal credentials by calling for more action on climate change.

“A rapidly changing climate is now the new normal and we must learn from the recent lessons of the mainland bushfires and, once again, we must do more,” he said in his first media conference as premier.

“I also understand very clearly not every Tasmanian is reaping the benefits of our stronger economy and not every Tasmanian is able to grasp the opportunities that presents.

“My vision for the state is for a Tasmania that, no matter where you live, no matter what your background is, no matter what your circumstances are, opportunities will be there and if you want to grasp those opportunities, a better life will be within your reach.”

It was a far cry from the talking points the country has come to expect from his federal colleagues. But Mr Gutwein’s remarks highlight the growing split within the Coalition on climate change.

Tasmania’s new Premier has joined a growing chorus of Liberals looking to change tack on the bare-bones policies the party has previously embraced on climate change.

His remarks came just a day after Prime Minister Scott Morrison got personal, taking a swipe at NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean for telling Sky News that senior cabinet ministers want strong action.

“Matt Kean doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He doesn’t know what’s going on in the federal cabinet. Most of the federal cabinet wouldn’t even know who Matt Kean was,” Mr Morrison told ABC radio.

The PM rolled out the well-oiled line that Australia will “meet and beat our emissions reduction targets of Kyoto”.

The severe bushfire season turned public attention towards climate change. Photo: Getty

Under growing pressure from the public, brought on by Australia’s worst bushfire season on record, Mr Morrison has turned his focus on climate change to adaptation while maintaining support for the coal industry.

But Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie said the money the federal government was dishing out for recovery and adaptation would be wasted without a coherent climate policy.

“The government’s focus on continuing Australia’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels means that extreme weather will worsen dramatically over the next decades. We cannot afford it,” Ms McKenzie said.

“For over six years the federal government has had no credible climate policy. Today the economic, personal and environmental costs of failing to tackle climate change are staring us all in the face.

“Despite the warnings, the federal government has been flat-footed in its response to this disaster, partly because they failed to accept the fact that the climate has changed.

“This cannot happen again.”

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