October 11, 2016 - BLAIR RICHARDS, State Political Reporter, Mercury
THERE are calls for an independent process for dealing with conflict between MPs, with a potential legal stoush overshadowing the return of State Parliament today.
A bullying allegation by independent MLC Ruth Forrest against Police Minister Rene Hidding has resulted in Mr Hidding accusing Ms Forrest of defamation. The Minister is considering taking legal action against Ms Forrest, arguing she made a link between her bullying allegation against him and violence against women.
Ms Forrest said she would pursue a code-of-conduct complaint against Mr Hidding after she said he bullied her at a parliamentary dinner.
She is also considering reporting the matter to police, and has written to White Ribbon, the national body that seeks to address violence against women.
Premier Will Hodgman’s public response has been limited to the fact that he received advice from the SolicitorGeneral and the secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet.
He then formed the view Mr Hidding had not breached the ministerial code of conduct.
Yesterday Deputy Premier Jeremy Rockliff also declined to comment, citing the potential legal action.
University of Tasmania political scientist Richard Eccleston said the affair risked undermining the reputation of political representatives and Parliament itself. “It suggests there needs to be independent process to mediate such disputes in an attempt to resolve them outside the courts,” Prof Eccleston said.
“Given the seriousness of the accusations such a process would have to be robust and impartial.”