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Estimates Reply - Minister Jaensch

11 June 2019

Dr WOODRUFF - Chair, that was very instructive comments of the Minister for Planning just then. Speaking of hypocrisy, his one hour in the budget Estimates week, one hour that we get to scrutinise the planning minister about planning issues in Tasmania, the first 10 minutes were taken up by an incredibly long introductory statement from the minister, probably the first 10 minutes of one hour, and numerous Dorothy Dixers from the promotion machine of Mr Tucker who was sitting there on behalf of the Government, doing everything possible to deflect this Planning minister from having to answer any reasonable questions at all about such an important portfolio.

Not only did this Liberal Government decide to squeeze such an important portfolio into one hour, we actually only got about two questions each. As I go back and look through the Hansard record, it is a disgrace.

What was an incredible joke of an Estimates was being knocked around from, as I mentioned before, first of all from the Minister for Local Government, Mr Gutwein, who told me to take my questions about the LUPAA appeal for the Lake Malbena development decision that was knocked back by the Central Highlands Council, has now gone by the developers to the RMPAT for an appeal of that decision.

The Attorney-General of this Government has joined as an interested party to consider the matter of whether this will have an impact on Local Council decisions and whether it indicates that LUPAA and the jurisdiction of LUPAA, that the laws need to be changed. Perhaps councils are getting an opportunity to give their communities a voice about what happens in wilderness areas and to give their communities in reserve land in areas that have a management plan over the top of them, publicly owned lands. The role of councils is to give people a voice, multiple parties and to come to a considered decision as a planning authority about whether a development application fits within the law and fits within the objects of the Resource Management and Planning Scheme. These include ecological biodiversity, social licence, providing the community and the environment with the protection that people living in their communities deserve, to uphold their living conditions and that the environment must have in order to provide us with the very many goods and services and integral beauty it provides us that we all benefit from.

That is the role of council. It is an important role of every single council in Tasmania to undertake the community consultation process and to listen to all of the representations that are made on developments in national parks, world heritage area and reserve lands that have management plans.

The Local Government minister would not answer any questions in relation to the impact on local governments and referred me to the Planning minister. The Planning minister, who has since left, would not answer any questions about this issue either and decided that I really needed to raise the issue with the minister responsible for Crown lands. This is absolutely typical.

No one will answer questions about difficult questions in this Government. Nobody wants to take responsibility for the things that matter. We never got to the bottom of the impacts this could have on previous development applications because things have been approved under LUPA in reserved lands with management plans for decades.

I am not sure of how many but more than three decades, this has been occurring, so what will it say about the approvals that have been granted or not granted in reserved land in management areas if this is found to have been a mistake at law and that councils don't have that jurisdiction.

No one is interested in answering that question but we can be sure that the Government is putting all its resources into doing everything they can to overturn the just process decision made by the Central Highlands Council, to reject that disgraceful application to make profit from the wilderness area.

I spent the first part of the Planning portfolio asking the minister where the State of the Environment Report was. The State of the Environment Report has been overdue, not once but twice under this Government. The last one was handed down in 2009. We were due, according to law, to have another one delivered in 2014 and yet another in 2019. Chair, neither of those State of the Environment reports have been delivered. This Government is obstructing the right of Tasmanians to understand what is happening with the state of the environment. What a surprise that this Government in particular does not want to find out where the environment is in terms of functioning, in terms of biodiversity, in terms of threatened species, in terms of changes that are causing negative impacts on different ecosystems.

What a surprise that we would not like to have a state of the environment report at a time when the whole planet is talking about the extinction crisis that is happening across millions of species worldwide. We may like to think that we are a little island a long way from everywhere else in the world. The fact is we are part of every other country on this planet. Insects, birds, even mammals move across borders and even between islands and other islands. We are affected. The climate is changing our environment, our resource extraction is affecting our environment, our settlement patterns are affecting our environment. Everything we do affects the environment. We need to understand what is happening. This minister is a case of don't ask, don't know, don't care.

Although the Tasmanian Planning Commission confirmed they have a nominal process of looking into the state of the environment report, when I questioned the appropriate person, Mr Fisher, it was clear that nothing is happening of substance. The Tasmanian Planning Commission appears to be on a scoping exercise, gathering data, I do not know why, suggesting that things are changing at the national level and we should wait and look at the methodology for undertaking a state of the environment report.

The fact is, we have a Tasmanian law, we are required to provide a state of the environment report. It has nothing to do with what is happening nationally. There have been state of the environment reports federally. Our state of the environment report in Tasmania is a Tasmanian legal requirement and this Government is doing everything it can to obstruct it, to stall and to make sure that as many roadblocks are in the way as possible.

We will continue to ask for this because we need to know what is happening in the environment and we need to know how to respond so that we can put the money into agricultural practices that are going to build soil health, regenerate farmlands, provide connectivity in the landscape, support new industries, make sure that we do not establish developments in areas that will threaten biodiversity and overly fragment the landscape which we have already fragmented since this place was colonised over 200 years ago.

Chair, I cannot leave without commenting on the intentionally false statements made by the minister in his Housing portfolio when I asked questions about the Residential Tenancy Act. They were just that and designed to smear a tenant who was not able to defend himself. They were misinformation and designed to smear a tenant who was not able to defend himself.

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