Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett is a busy man. In his first three months after being elected in late May 2008, Bartlett had well over 500 meetings.

The appointments — from his diary obtained under freedom of information — ranged from regular sessions with his closest policy advisers and spin doctors, to appointments with a seemingly unending parade of corporate, industry association and interest group lobbyists wanting to bend his ear about their policy preferences for Tasmania.

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Key patterns start to emerge. Bartlett was not only juggling the big picture management responsibilities of a traditional premier leading Cabinet colleagues, but also the large workload associated with the big-budget education portfolio.

Those seeking meetings with the Premier who managed to make it through the advisers’ sieve largely reflected those with substantial wealth and power in Tasmanian society. Or if they don’t currently have it, they want the government to provide their pathway to it, whether it be via government subsidies, tax breaks or favourable policy settings for development projects.

While Bartlett initially sought to portray himself as representing a break in style and substance from the government of Paul Lennon, there is little evidence from his appointments diary that suggest anything other than business as usual.

There were meetings with advisers to grapple with plans for a new inner-city hospital, schemes to redevelop Hobart’s famous waterfront, education reforms, the political albatross of Gunns proposed pulp mill and the perennial hot potato of forestry policy. There were proposals for major irrigation schemes and roads to be considered. To stay on top of all these issues and more, Bartlett had many briefings by senior departmental officials.

On top of that there were one-on-one meetings with Cabinet colleagues grappling with the latest hot-button issues troubling them and an occasional meeting with a backbencher pressing a case for a developer or community group.

As the leader of the Parliamentary Labor Party,  Bartlett also plays an important role within the ALP. There was the expectation that he would put in an occasional appearance at ALP branch events and deliver speeches to rally the Labor Party faithful at state conferences.

Every now and then he has also had a meeting with John Dowling, the state secretary of the ALP, as well as an odd “networking function” with unspecified invitees. Occasionally there was a meeting with a representative or two from one the unions.

Read the full story at The Tasmanian Times

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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