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Labor Matter of Public Importance - Conflicts of Interest

20 November 2018

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, I thank the 
member for Franklin, Mr O'Byrne, for bringing this matter of conflicts of 
interest on as a matter of public importance debate today. Public faith 
in the institutions of government, of parliament, of ministerial decisions 
and of departmental officers must be upheld. It is a fair assessment that 
it has been eroded under this Government. 

I remind the member that in November last year the Auditor-General brought 
down a report that examined conflicts of interest in the State Service. 
It examined eight senior public service appointments and found that three 
of them had conflict of interest situations that were neither declared nor 
managed. The Integrity Commission has also raised concerns about the 
Government's capacity to manage conflict of interest. We have two of the 
state's key integrity bodies pointing to a problem with conflict of 
interest management by this Government, yet it continues. The 
appointments the Auditor-General looked at were only in the year 2015 -16; 
on this Government's watch in the last term. We are talking about 
positions that attract massive salaries relative to what people living in 
Berriedale are earning. 

The discussion we are having today is necessary because of an appointment 
to one of the most important independent statutory roles in Tasmania and 
that is the Commissioner for Children and Young People. As a human being, 
Leanne McLean is a fantastic person, a hard worker and a good person. The 
problem we have here is one of optics because we now understand that there 
were a number of recommendations made by the panel to the minister. It 
was the minister who singled out Mr Rockliff's head of office and took 
that appointment to Cabinet. We are going to get a briefing from the 
panel at lunchtime today and I look forward to that. The question I will 
be asking the panel members there is, did you ask all the applicants what 
they will do in the role if they are appointed when it becomes clear that 
a Liberal minister responsible for children - whether it be in the 
children's portfolio, education, any other portfolio of Government - when 
it is necessary to take on the government and the minister of the day over 
their administration of the portfolio? The Commissioner for Children and 
Young People must be independent and a fierce advocate for the wellbeing 
of children and young people in Tasmania. Sometimes that means rubbing 
the government of the day the wrong way. 

There is a litany of concerns with conflict of interest in Tasmania. We 
saw Mr Brooks, the former mining minister, disgraced. He only pointed to 
a perception of a conflict of interest. We do not know whether there is a 
conflict of interest because we have not seen the results of that audit. 
The former minister for state growth, Mr Groom, who had a close friendship 
with Adrian Bold, the proponent of the Mount Wellington cable car that 
would desecrate kunanyi/Mount Wellington. Mr Bold and the Mount 
Wellington Cableway Company got special enabling legislation, an email 
address in the Department of State Growth - special treatment every step 
of the way.

The other conflict of interest that Mr Groom did not manage related to 
Bernacchi Lodge in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Mr 
Groom's brother was one of the proponents of that development which was 
enabled as a result of changes to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage 
Area management plan. The final plan came out in 2016 on Mr Groom's watch 
and - what do you know? - it made a special provision to allow for 
Bernacchi Lodge to be privately operated. If that is not a conflict of 
interest I do not know what is.

In Estimates this year under questioning from Dr Woodruff we also had the 
very clear conflict of interest situation where in 2016 the Director of 
Prisons-designate Mr Ian Thomas sat on a panel that employed two of his 
former colleagues from a private prison in Victoria to the Department of 
Justice. The Director of Prisons declared a conflict of interest and 
stayed on the panel. That is not how you manage a conflict of interest; 
that is how you distort a conflict of interest potentially to undermine 
good governance in Tasmania.

We have a problem with this Government managing conflicts of interest. 
Apart from the appointment of the Commissioner for Children and Young 
People, one of the most stark relates to the current Minister for 
Resources, Ms Courtney, who clearly allowed a situation to continue for a 
month where there was absolutely a conflict of interest, unquestionably. 
A conflict of interest was allowed to perpetuate through government 
because of a secret relationship between the minister and her secretary. 
We know the minister got the approval from the Marine Farming Planning 
Review Panel for the massive expansion in Storm Bay three months before it 
became public.

If you want to talk about a tangled web, Mr Deputy Speaker, we have a 
minister in a relationship with her secretary, there is a confession to 
the Premier of the day so those two step aside briefly during a conflict 
of interest investigation, and the director of the EPA, who has overseen 
the industry's expansion, steps up to temporarily oversee the Department 
of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment in the secretary's 
role, and then there is an announcement. There is a significant and 
enduring problem with managing conflicts of interest by the Liberals in 
government.