Now taxpayers face a huge bill to deal with the crisis and repair the new prison, the cost of which already blew out from $53 million to about $90m. McKim inherited these problems but apparently feels constrained in publicly blaming his Labor predecessors. Any lambasting of his partners could destabilise the arrangement that keeps Labor in power, despite it having only 10 of 25 seats.
The situation also highlights the difficulty for the Greens as a party half in government and half in opposition. While McKim and O’Connor are in cabinet, the party’s three other MPs are effectively in opposition. The silence from them on the prisons issue has been deafening.
McKim, when Greens justice spokesman in previous times, railed against the cost blow-outs in the prison project, describing them as “a staggering indictment of the government’s financial and project management skills”.
But incumbent Greens corrections spokesman Tim Morris is nowhere to be heard on the issue. Morris argues he has no need to speak out, as he is comfortable that McKim is doing his best to implement Greens policy.
This indicates one of the achievements of the Greens in recent years — being an effective opposition — may become a casualty of the power-sharing.
Nor is this an isolated example of difficulties with the alliance. Another of McKim’s portfolios is Aboriginal affairs. It places him at the centre of the debate over indigenous relics at a site on the Brighton by-pass road project.
The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre and several academics and politicians are opposed to the building of a road bridge over the relics — stone tools and the like — found on the banks of the Jordan River. This week a government report recommended proceeding with the bridge, arguing there were no real alternatives and the relics would be largely protected.
McKim, who by rights should put the positions of indigenous groups to cabinet, will absent himself from discussions.