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Estimates Reply - Minister Barnett

13 June 2019
Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr WOODRUFF - Mr Deputy Chairman, I attended part of the Estimates Committee B for the portfolios of Mr Barnett. I will comment in relation to his responsibilities under Primary Industries and Water. Ms O'Connor sat in for the Energy portfolio.

I would also like to respond to comments made by Mr O'Byrne recently, and in response to the discussions in Estimates about Project Marinus and the Battery of the Nation. Mr O'Byrne gave a long discourse about the failures of the federal Liberal Party as well as at state level, particularly a federal level; comfortably distant. He called them utterly conflicted in their Energy policy and made a very good point that the business case for a Battery of the Nation, Project Marinus-type second interconnector to enable pumped hydro fundamentally relies, as we have seen in the business case developed for that project, on immediately shutting down coal-fired power stations across Australia but especially in Victoria. That means starting that process so that they would be shut down in the next five years. That is what is required in order to even consider the possibility of a viable business case for a second interconnector, such as is proposed for the Project Marinus.

Mr O'Byrne is quite right in pointing out that the federal Liberals are totally conflicted on this. The Prime Minister has made no indication that he has the guts or is prepared to show the leadership this country desperately needs on the climate emergency. We still do not know if he can control the rogue elements in his party who are still determined to push for coal over renewable energy. Will he continue to hold up the policies our country desperately needs to immediately cut down our massive emissions, heading toward what the United Nations has told us we need to do by 2030 - a huge reduction of business as usual emissions in Australia? Scott Morrison has shown no indication of taking that step. Quite the opposite; he is open for business as usual in all measures of the area of coal investment. But so is the Labor Party. The Labor Party is utterly conflicted, as much as the Liberal Party. The head of Adani Australia on 16 April, around the federal election, said, 'I am confident a Shorten government would not be a risk to the Adani mine going ahead.'.

Why would we say that? He knows that the Labor Party sat on the fence the whole way through the campaign and continues to sit on the fence because they are addicted to the easy short-term jobs provided by simply approving another coal mine. They are not prepared to do the work. They are not prepared to stand up to coal for coal workers and give them a just transition out of coal. Whether we like it, the rest of the world will not continue to carve a special little niche in coal exports. Just today, the Adani coal mine looks as though it has technically advanced itself to the level of being able to start and have ticked off the corrupted processes for approvals. Those approvals, at every step of the way, put the local environmental issues to the side; the issues for Queensland in water supply, and issues for the planet in the emissions from that mine. All those issues have been put to the side in the corrupted processes surrounding the approval of the Adani mine and it is technically set to go ahead.

The people of Australia will rise up against this mine, thanks to Bob Brown and the Stop Adani Convoy that left Tasmania and gathered thousands of people. Thousands of people protested against this toxic mine in the week before the election and these people will be back. We will be back: the Greens, environmentalists and people who understand that we have to close that mine and never open that mine again.

Labor needs to get on board and, instead of doing what the Queensland Premier did in April, which was to approve the Olive Downs mine in the Bowen Basin that will emit from 4.5 million tonnes of carbon, as soon as it gets up and running, to 15 million tonnes. The Labor Party is in lock step on this; a pox on both your houses. You both have to get your federal colleagues in order if we are ever to have the prospect of making the most of renewable energy on this island. We need a genuine business case that is not going to suck billions of dollars out of Tasmania and is going to come from the federal government. It has to be based on coal mines shutting down, so the business can flow to Tasmania. That is what we need.

I wanted to say, Mr Chairman, how incredibly disappointing it was to hear the minister's woeful abjectly inadequate response to the serious concerns of Centrostephanus on the east coast of Tasmania. It was pathetic to hear all the responses to this terrible decimation of east coast rocky reefs where within the next two years 32 per cent of the entire east coast reef will be lost from the predictions of the IMAS scientists. Fifty per cent, they say, has gone already, including around your neck of the woods up near St. Helens. This is devastating on an ecosystem level, for our rock lobster industry, abalone industry and everything. It supports the life of the east coast. The response of this Government is nothing. That is the thing. It is a rock lobster translocation program. I repeatedly asked the minister where was the evidence that this is going to have any effect on reducing sea urchin barons on the east coast. He could not point me to it. Instead, I finally received a response in a roundabout way from Ms O'Byrne from the department and she said - (tbc)

We've asked IMAS to do some additional work to conduct an evaluation and provide us with some information as to the efficacy of the current translocation program towards its current aim. The translocation program is not aimed at a centrostephanus control, it is aimed at increasing the stocks on the east coast.

Fortunately, Mr Deputy Chairman, the officer provided factual information about the truth. It will do nothing to manage the Centrostephanus problem. It is shameful such a major ecological issue is getting zero effective response from this Government.

I also wanted to point out it is fascinating and instructive the abalone industry gets taxed fees six times the amount exacted upon the salmon farming industry in Tasmania. What a joke. The damage the fish farm industry, the enormous profits it reaps relative to the profits of the abalone industry, yet the abalone industry pays six times the amount in licence fees than the salmon farm industry does. That just tells you a whole lot about the way marine farming approvals are conducted in Tasmania, and the power of the salmon farming industry to get what they want, when they want it out of both the Liberal and Labor parties in Tasmania.