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Adjournment - Answers to Questions on Notice

13 June 2019
Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I just received, a week late, the responses to Estimates Committee B from the Minister for Primary Industries, Water, Energy and Veterans' Affairs Minister, Mr Barnett. It has long been the practice of governments to provide the answers that are asked during Estimates scrutiny during that week or by the end of that week. This Government just does not care. It absolutely does not care for the practice or for accountability or transparency in any form whatsoever.

I must say I was surprised that Mr Barnett comfortably agreed to provide answers on notice to some questions that I asked specifically in relation to marine resources. I asked questions in relation to marine farming leases, in relation to seal control in particular and Mr Barnett agreed to provide information that ought to be on the public record anyway.

All I am seeking in these questions is to have access to information that should be there by right. This is not like Cabinet-in-confidence documents. This is bog standard information that is the bread and butter of the work of the department and is basic information. I asked in relation to marine farming leases what the number of marine farming leases in Tasmanian waters is. The answer provided was that there is a total of 200 marine farming leases with an existing lease agreement for which a lease area rental is charged.

The question that was most important that I was seeking the answer for is: what are the names of the companies or persons that own each lease by individual lease site? The answer to that was an outrage. The answer is that 'the names of lessees are not publicly available'. I know that which is why I asked the question in the first place. I would not waste my time or the department's time asking for information that is already publicly available. The minister goes on to say, 'However the location of marine farming leases is publicly available via the list map'. Well, no it is not. That is a complete falsehood. That is a false statement. It is wrong to suggest that information about the ownership of marine farming leases on publicly owned waterways around the coastline of Tasmania is available and that it can be available on the list map. The Greens have tried to find out who owns those zombie leases because the community wants to know.

Just to put this in context if you own a block of land in Tasmania, that block of land will appear on a digital database called The List. That list contains the names of every single landowner in Tasmania - the names, the block, the title, the name of the person, the name of the company - available for free for members of parliament, for a fee for anybody in the Tasmanian community.

When it comes to who owns publicly owned waterways, which companies have bought it up and are sitting there waiting to expand, or to change the purpose of that lease, or to do something with that without the community having any recourse to accessing that, that information is not available, will not be available. The minister told a complete mistruth when he said he was going to provide that information, because he has not.

The second question I asked was in relation to seal controls. I sought to have followup information on information that became available through the Right to Information Act only because the department has refused to release that information about the amount of seal control units and crackers that have been used in the last financial year. With sneering disregard, the minister responds with information from the previous financial year, which is already available because it was sought by a journalist, a Mr Schwartz, through the Right to Information Act. It is a disgrace that he dares to recirculate information that came through a Right to Information Act request. I specifically asked for this financial year, current financial year, and he has given me last financial year and he knows it, and it is disgusting abuse of this Government's treatment of Estimates.

It ought to be the matter of an investigation the way this Government continues to abuse the processes of parliament, abuse the processes of the Estimates scrutiny mechanism. If you go back and read the Hansard of previous years, it is like night and day. People ask questions, interrogation happens, they are treated respectfully, they are not constantly shut down and there is not this ridiculous joke of adding up questions. It is all about spin.

During the whole Estimates process Ms O'Connor and I were shunted from minister to minister, from Crown Lands to Planning to Local Government if we wanted to talk about Lake Malbena. Or from Environment to DPIPWE to Resources if we wanted to talk about threatened species in our forestry area. It is disgusting.

What does it take to have the confidence of your convictions? If you are doing stuff because you think it is the right thing to do, why don't you tell Tasmanians what you are doing? Suffer it. Suffer people's criticism. Be honest. It is really hard to believe that Mr Barnett, the Minister for Energy and the department of Primary Industries can be so deceptive to have said that he would provide information and he has withheld it.