Leaders to face off in last debate as polling day nears

Ethan James |

Party leaders Jeremy Rockliff and Rebecca White will go head to head in an election debate.
Party leaders Jeremy Rockliff and Rebecca White will go head to head in an election debate.

Tasmania’s Liberal and Labor leaders will go head-to-head in their final election campaign debate, a day after butting heads over the timing of drought assistance.

The island state will vote on Saturday, with opinion polls pointing to the incumbent Liberals getting more seats than Labor but not enough for majority government.

Premier Jeremy Rockliff and Labor leader Rebecca White, who is having a third crack at leading the state, will attend a peoples’ forum in Hobart on Wednesday afternoon. 

Mr Rockliff on Tuesday announced emergency drought relief would be extended from King and Flinders Islands in Bass Strait to the rest of Tasmania.

“Over the past five weeks, I have travelled extensively across the state, meeting with community members and farmers,” he said. 

“It is clear that many areas of Tasmania are experiencing unseasonably dry conditions.”

Grants of up to $5000 are available for livestock producers and up to $2500 for rural households. 

Mr Rockliff said, despite not being in government, it was permissible to provide such assistance under caretaker conventions. 

Ms White said the Liberals could have helped out before the election was called.

“There is no doubt the Tasmanian farming community has been crying out for support,” she told reporters. 

“Everywhere you look, it is very dry. It’s sensible to be able to provide support (but) … it does seem a little political.” 

Tasmania is heading to the polls more than a year early after the minority Liberal government failed to resolve a stand-off with two cross bench independents. 

Surveys indicate more than a third of voters are set to snub the two major parties and deliver a hung parliament. 

The Greens, Jacqui Lambie Network candidates and a host of independents, including former Labor and Liberal MPs, are in the mix for spots on the cross bench.