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Labor Matter of Public Importance - Integrity

17 October 2018

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Thanks, Mr Deputy Speaker; 
the Premier was talking at the time.

This is not a particularly edifying debate to be had but it has been the 
subject of debate in this place over the past five years on a consistent 
basis because, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition outlined that litany 
of crimes against integrity, there have been a number of instances and a 
number of ministers, policies and practices where there is not a 
commitment to accountability or transparency and where the code of conduct 
often seems, for ministers, not worth the paper it was written on. 

In the Premier's contribution just then he was trying to persuade the 
House yet again that the way they conduct themselves in relation to right 
to information requests is the same as the previous Labor-Greens 
government. That is completely, 100 per cent untrue. We have talked to 
the Premier at the Estimates table and asked him questions in here about 
continuing to use the loophole in the Right to Information Act that 
ensures decisions made by ministers' delegates are not subject to internal 
review which therefore cannot be reviewed by the Ombudsman. We have 
pointed that out to the Premier a number of times but it continues to be 
used. We saw it at the Estimates table this year when Mr Gutwein had 
delegated a decision to his secretary, Mr Evans, and it was clear that 
that RTI request which related to the expressions of interest process, a 
corrupted process for development in protected areas, was not able to be 
reviewed and therefore the people of Tasmania are no wiser.

We have the question of integrity before us, and as I was listening to the 
contribution before I was thinking about the state election campaign. If 
you ever wanted an example of a government that has a problem with 
integrity, it is the policies they took to the election on gambling, the 
money they accepted from the gambling industry and the money they knew was 
flowing to other backers of the Liberals. That is what points to a 
hollowness inside the Liberals in government. As Ms O'Byrne pointed out, 
we have had Mr Brooks three times tell an untruth at the Estimates table. 
We had the former minister, Mr Groom, in that short space of about four 
metres between his ministerial chair and the dispatch box, decide to tell 
a lie. 

This Government has a problem with integrity. There is an evasiveness 
about them. There is a lack of respect for parliamentary processes. 
There is a degree of contempt for the public's right to know. We have 
seen that at the Estimates table, going right back 2014. We see it in the 
sneakiness around right to information applications. We see it in the 
absolute opacity of the process to allow commercial exploitation of the 
Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area and other protected areas. 

We see it in that quango, the Office of the Coordinator-General, which 
rolls out the red carpet for private developers, hawks public assets on 
behalf of the Liberal Government, refuses to be open with the people of 
Tasmania about its negotiations, the leases and licences that are signed 
through that office. It is absolutely an entity which has huge potential 
for corruption. When you have conversations happening behind closed doors 
between big business, big private developers and government and the result 
of those conversations is hidden behind commercial-in-confidence every 
single time, that is a recipe for corruption. 

We have an expressions-of-interest process which requires proponents do 
not speak about the development they have put forward. They cannot speak 
about it unless they have the approval of the minister. We are talking 
about public protected areas, public Crown lands - we know they are being 
hawked - public resources funding the Office of the Coordinator-General, 
public resources funding the minister's salary and that of his advisers 
and yet, on every count, those decisions and negotiations hide behind 
commercial-in-confidence.

We are here talking about integrity because of the spectacular fall from 
grace of the former minister for Primary Industries. As I said in front 
of the cameras yesterday, we need to acknowledge people make mistakes. We 
do not always think about the consequences of our actions when we are in 
the middle of making a mistake. This goes to every decision that was made 
by the previous minister, whether it was on the basis of independent and 
impartial advice. When you look at the ministerial code of conduct, which 
may or may not be worth the paper it is written on, the section that 
relates to conflicts of interest says: 

Any material conflict between a Member's private interest and his or her 
official duties which arises must be resolved promptly in favour of the 
public interest.

We do not know when this relationship began but it would appear there was 
not a resolution promptly in favour of the public interest. The Code of 
Conduct for Ministers says: 

So as to protect and uphold the public interest, Ministers must take 
reasonable steps to avoid, resolve or disclose any material conflict of 
interest, financial or non-financial … 

Ministers must declare any such conflict of interest in writing to the 
Premier as soon as possible after becoming aware of the conflict.

Ministers are individually responsible for preventing conflicts of 
interest.

Did the former minister for Primary Industries inform the Premier in 
writing? That is an important question for the House to know the answer 
to.