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Groom Dodges Question on Breach of Ministerial Code of Conduct

9 March 2016

BERNACCHI LODGE DEVELOPMENT

Ms O'CONNOR question to MINISTER for ENVIRONMENT, PARKS and HERITAGE, Mr GROOM

[10.57 a.m.]

The ministerial code of conduct is clear that when a conflict of interest arises between personal interests and official duties, ministers must declare any such conflict of interest in writing to the Premier as soon as possible after becoming aware of the conflict.  Did you write to the Premier declaring a conflict over the rezoning change in your disgraced draft World Heritage Area Management Plan that favours your brother James's development at Bernacchi Lodge in the Central Highlands?  Can you please table a copy of your letter to the Premier?

ANSWER

Madam Speaker, as I indicated yesterday it is unfortunate there seems to be a determination by the member for Denison to try to bring my family members into this space.  That is a very unfortunate thing.  I have sought at all times to act entirely appropriately.  This is a very positive development for the state and we should be very supportive of it.  My brother's involvement in the company involved in the redevelopment of Bernacchi Lodge is a matter of public record.  The advice I have received is that all decisions relating to that company involved in that development have been at arm's length from me. 

In relation to this suggestion regarding the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Management Plan, the advice I have received is that neither the existing nor the draft Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Management Plan prohibits the proposed development.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker.  I was very careful in the way I asked this question and it was very clear.  The question was:  has the minister written to the Premier and could he please table a copy of that letter to the Premier, which is required under the ministerial code of conduct.

Madam SPEAKER - The minister answered the question as he saw fit and addressed the question.  It may not have been exactly yes or no.

Ms O'Connor - The minister did not answer the question.

Madam SPEAKER - Again, it was a question with an introduction and as soon as a member does that, it gives the minister flexibility to answer as he sees fit. 

Ms O'Connor - To dodge the question.

Madam SPEAKER - No, not dodge the question.  Don't put words into my mouth.

Mr Green - Madam Speaker -

Ms O'CONNOR - No, on the point of order -

Madam SPEAKER - Do I have to stand every time I address the House?

Mr Green - It would be handy.

Madam SPEAKER - Would it?  If the Leader of the Opposition cannot control himself I will be forced to eject him.  While I am speaking I expect the Chair to be respected.

Mr GREEN - Point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER - No, I haven't finished.  I haven't even ruled on the first point of order the member for Denison took.  The minister has answered that question to the best of his ability.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order.  The question was single in its focus - has the minister written to the Premier and will he table a copy of that letter?  He did not answer a singular and specific question.

Madam SPEAKER - Members clearly do not understand the precedent.  It was not a question alone; there was a precursor to the question.  If members want to restrict question time to singular questions, that is fine.  Stop introducing your questions.  We give a lot of latitude in this House.  In fact, every member breaches the Standing Orders every time they ask question when they don't ask it through the Chair, but we overlook that.  There are many forms and precedents of this House that are overlooked because precedents have developed over time and one of those is about introducing a question by making a statement, whatever the content or however short it is.  My recollection of that question is that you referred to the minister's brother and then asked your question.  That then allows the minister latitude in answering the question.

Mr GREEN - Madam Speaker, point of order.  The reason I am happy to go to my question was that I got the jump leading up to the point of order.

Madam SPEAKER - The time for questions has now expired and I have no flexibility with that.  We have exceeded the time now and have gone through the allocation.