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Labor Motion - Want of Confidence in the Premier

29 November 2018

That this House - 

(1) Has no confidence in the Premier, Will Hodgman, for the following 
reasons -

(a) The Premier has failed to demand the highest 
standards of conduct from his members.

(b) The Premier has refused to ask the honourable 
member for Braddon, Adam Brooks, to resign, despite a damming Integrity 
Commission report, which found he repeatedly lied about his involvement in 
his private company while Mining minister and attempted to delete crucial 
evidence.

(c) The Premier authorised a payment of almost $60 000 
to cover Mr Brooks' legal bills, which was only revealed through 
questioning from Labor.

(d) The member for Bass, Sarah Courtney, was rewarded 
with a new ministry, despite findings that she breached a ministerial code 
of conduct by failing to declare a conflict of interest created by her 
relationship with her head of department.

(e) While the Premier deals with chaos and dysfunction 
within his Government, he has taken his eye off the issues that are most 
important to Tasmanians including health and education.

(f) Under the arrogant and incompetent Health minister, 
Michael Ferguson, the health system has gone from bad to worse, with 
health professionals describing conditions in our hospitals as the worst 
they have ever been. 

(g) The Premier has allowed his divisive and aggressive 
Treasurer, Peter Gutwein, to go to war with public sector workers instead 
of negotiating in good faith. This has forced workers to take statewide 
industrial action simply to receive a pay rise that keeps up with the cost 
of living.

 

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, while we were 
in here earlier before the lunch break arguing this want of confidence 
motion in the Premier, something incredible was happening on the lawns of 
parliament. Thousands of young Tasmanians, students from schools across 
the state, walked out of school and came to the front of the building that 
we are standing in here, working in today, to demand action on climate. 
They want to have hope for the future. They want to know that the people 
who are in this building have them at the front of their minds. 
Regrettably, I did not see any Liberal member out there. I believe there 
may have been Labor members out there joining with those students, but -

Mr Hidding - I was watching them from the car park.

Ms O'CONNOR - I have to say, I am just about to drop Mr Hidding right in 
it because before the break, when we could hear this incredible sound of 
young people - the sound of hope, the sound of demanding action, the sound 
and music and dancing also - it was Mr Hidding who said, 'Have you seen 
the young people out there?' He took me over to the window and we talked 
about how gutsy those young Tasmanians are.

I make this point because we do spend a lot of time in this place talking 
about things which are not relevant to young people's lives. We spend a 
lot of time talking about ourselves as a collective and I feel sad for 
those young people, those young Tasmanians, that we are not talking about 
action on climate today.

Madam Speaker, I have here a letter for the Premier from Arthur Wessing (
TBC), Prep at South Hobart Primary School, and he wanted me to give this 
letter to you. He wrote it out on the lawn today, Premier. It says:

Dear Premier, please protect our environment now! From Arthur.

I make the point because everything we do should be through the lens of 
looking out for young people. Everything.

Dr Woodruff and I will be supporting this motion of want of confidence in 
the Premier and we will be supporting it because we cannot have confidence 
in this Premier, given his administration of the ministerial code of 
conduct, the fact that it is apparently not worth the paper that it is 
written on. 

I flagged with the Leader of Opposition Business before lunch that we 
would like to make an amendment to the motion. This highlights under 
point (e) of the notice of motion that this chaotic and dysfunctional 
Liberal Government is not only taking its eyes off issues that are of 
primary importance to the people of Tasmania, such as health and education, 
but they are also taking their eye off the need for affordable housing, a 
healthy environment and action on global warming. 

I move that the primary motion be amended to delete 'and education' at 1(e) 
and insert 'education, affordable housing, a healthy environment and 
action on global warming'.

There is 55 minutes left of this debate and I know that Labor members will 
want to speak to it but what a disastrous two weeks in parliament it has 
been for the Government. Last week, not supporting the transgender and 
intersex communities and so caught up in its internal ideological culture 
wars, the never-ending -

Madam SPEAKER - I am sorry, Ms O'Connor you have an amendment. Would you 
like to table it?

Ms O'CONNOR - Yes, Madam Speaker. So caught up in its internal 
ideological warfare, the never-ending culture wars that are being never 
endingly fought by the likes of Senator Abetz. So caught up in that, 
could not come to some sort of cooperative, collaborative arrangement in 
this place to make sure that we are looking out for transgender and 
intersex Tasmanians. That we are making sure people are not forced to 
undergo invasive surgery before they are allowed to change their gender on 
their birth certificate. Absolutely comprehensively rolled in this House, 
over and over again on the votes.

While it was very bad for the Liberals in Government, that day we pass 
that legislation, which I hope will pass the House today, but I hope it 
was a turning point for this Parliament. You have a government party that 
for four years treated this place like a rubber stamp, disrespected the 
forms of the House. Did not accept amendments from any member of either 
the Labor Party or the Greens, no matter how sound they were, how well 
argued they were, how obvious the need was to make the amendments. They 
were never accepted. There was a level of arrogance that was quite 
breathtaking at the Estimates table and question time. 

We still see it. We had the Treasurer on his feet for nearly seven 
minutes on a Dorothy Dixer again today. This parliament is now quite 
finely balanced. We were elected to do the right thing by the people of 
Tasmania. There will be legislation that comes from the Government. 
There will be legislation that comes from Labor. There will be 
legislation that comes from Greens. 

The people of Tasmania expect us to look at each piece of legislation on 
its merits, to vote with our conscience every time and to vote, to respect 
what is in the best interests of the people of Tasmania. We did see a 
shift in the Government's attitude in the last week of parliament where 
for the first time in five years there were conversations with the Greens 
members in relation to amending legislation, to strengthen and improve it. 
That is the way parliament should work. Every time. 

No-one in here has a monopoly on good policy or good ideas. No-one in 
here has a monopoly on compassion. At the end of the day we are all just 
Tasmanians and we should be working together every day that we can. There 
will be differences, but we are only passing through this place and let us 
make our mark and make sure it is a positive one.

Premier, it is not too late for you to turn this ship around, to stop 
talking about money all the time. Every time you get up to talk about the 
state of Tasmania all we hear about is money. All we hear about is the 
economy, business confidence, retail trade figures. That is an important 
aspect of Tasmanian life, but it is not all there is. Premier, one of the 
reasons your federal colleagues are on the nose and suffering at a state 
level is because you do not put enough time into talking about and to 
people. The world is about much more than money.

Speaking of money - $60 000 to cover Mr Brooks' legal bills and only 
belatedly acknowledged and confirmed by the Premier in response to a 
question from the Labor Opposition. You do wonder, Premier, if it would 
have become a matter of public record had that question not been asked. 
Had that question not been asked, would Mr Brooks have been forced to 
state that he will repay the money?

It is true, Premier, that you have failed to demand of your members the 
highest standards of conduct.

It goes back to the last term of the parliament. We witnessed the most 
emblematic examples during the first budget Estimates. Having been a 
minister in the previous term and sat across the Estimates table believing 
it was my job to tell the truth, to answer questions to the best of my 
capacity, not to shut down questions or deny information, I would never 
have gotten away with the sort of behaviour that ministers in this Hodgman 
Government have over the Estimates table and the four years of the 
previous term of the parliament. Who will forget that short and epic walk 
the former minister for State Growth took between his chair, a ministerial 
chair, and the lectern knowing the answer to the question was, yes, we are 
considering privatising, selling off the TasTAFE building and part of the 
art school, and then saying the answer was 'no'. It is a cultural issue.

If you are elected to this place, have a crack at telling the truth. This 
is particularly so if you are a minister of the Crown because the words on 
the letters patent, signed by and with the seal of the Governor, say, for 
example, 'Jeremy Rockliff MP, Minister for Education and Training, trusty 
and well beloved.'. They are the words; that marvellous term on the 
letters patent. If you are a minister of the Crown and you have those 
letters on a document that assigns you these enormous responsibilities to 
make decisions about people's lives and set in place policy that improves 
the lives of Tasmanians, you should have at the front of your mind an 
understanding that you are trusty and well beloved in order for you to be 
a minister of the Crown.

When Mr Groom was the minister for State Growth, he was not trusty and 
well and beloved in this place. He was dishonest and there was no 
sanction for that, none whatsoever. There was not even a dressing down. 
Instead, when those issues were raised in Question Time and that Mr Groom 
had lied to the parliament, there was a semantic debate about whether we 
could use the words lied, liar or lie. If members want to understand how 
commonly-used the word lie is and how it is simply a statement of fact of 
someone not telling the truth, it is a legal term and people should look 
at the Manafort indictments from Special Counsel Robert Muellers's office 
in the United States. I was reading those documents a couple of nights 
ago and they are laced with the terms lied and lying. It relates to 
Donald Trump's former campaign manager who, having struck a plea deal with 
and then lied to the Special Counsel, lied to the FBI and was feeding 
information to the current President of the United States. The word lie 
is a legal term and it should be said when it needs to be.

Point (b) in the motion expressing want of confidence is a point I have 
spoken about with the Leader of Opposition Business. We are uncertain 
about that language because, whether Mr Brooks resigns from parliament, it 
is a contract between him and the people of Braddon. That is why he is in 
this place. There is also a contract between Mr Brooks and the Liberal 
Party because he is a Liberal Party member. In reality, although the 
Premier can say, you can resign, it is time you left, Adam, I am not sure 
what weight that would carry. 

If the Liberal Party had any integrity, it would have rescinded Adam 
Brooks' Liberal Party membership. That is too much to expect from a party 
that took millions of dollars from the gambling lobby in the lead-up to 
the state election and which pocketed money from a group of companies 
owned by a Huang Xiangmo, who ASIO specifically and explicitly warned the 
Labor and Liberal Parties not to accept money from because of the close, 
demonstrable connections to Xi Jinping's totalitarian regime. However, 
the Tasmanian Liberal Party took that money from the Yuhu Group of 
companies and Jade Fisheries, both of which are owned by Huang Xiangmo. 
Huang Xiangmo was also the Australian president to the Council for the 
Promotion of Peaceful Unification of China, which is a United Front group 
that does not support Taiwan's aspirations to be an independent and 
democratic island nation. I do not expect the Tasmanian Liberal Party to 
rescind Mr Brooks' membership because the state Liberal Party is rotten at 
its core, took filthy money from the gambling industry and accepted in-
kind donations, the nod and wink money, to buy and election. 

I note the presence in the House today of Federal Group CEO, Greg Farrell, 
who was in the dining room having lunch with the President of the upper 
House. Call me old-fashioned, call me squiggly, but -

Ms White - Squiggly.

Ms O'CONNOR - Squiggly in the guts, Ms White. To have a person come 
into -

Mr O'Byrne - Squeamish.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you, Mr O'Byrne. To have a person who has so 
comprehensively corrupted democracy in Tasmania over so many decades 
coming into this place, which is the heart of democracy in Tasmania, for a 
nice little lunch - on behalf of every gambling addict in Tasmania, I feel 
it is shameful.

Mr Jaensch - You will select which citizens are to come into their 
Parliament House. You are in charge of that now. You are the gatekeeper. 

Ms O'CONNOR - Did I say that? I simply said it was shameful. 

Mr Jaensch - Yes, you suggested it. You probably have a list of people 
who should not be allowed into Parliament House.

Madam SPEAKER - Order. Through the Chair, please.

Ms O'CONNOR - The term came to mind, Mr Jaensch, and it is good to hear 
you defending Mr Farrell. It is good to hear you defending the top end of 
town again. As I walked past Mr Farrell in the dining room I thought to 
myself, what a hide to have you here in our House, which is the heart of 
democracy in Tasmania. No, I am not the gatekeeper, Mr Jaensch. This is 
not my House and it is not your House. This House belongs to the people 
of Tasmania. The people of Tasmania were comprehensively shafted at the 
last state election, in part because Greg Farrell gave so much money to 
the Tasmanian Liberal Party.

Mr O'Byrne - I wouldn't quote John Howard and Tampa. Think of your 
historical reference list -

Madam SPEAKER - Order, Mr O'Byrne.

Mr Jaensch - I am applying it to the gatekeeper.

Madam SPEAKER - Order, Mr Jaensch.

Ms O'CONNOR - We also discovered in question time today, it was the 
Premier who authorised a payment of almost $60 000 to cover Mr Brooks' 
legal bills. It begs the question, given that the authorisation only 
happened, if I recall what you are saying correctly, Premier, a short 
number of months ago, more than two years after Mr Brooks demonstrated 
himself to be a serial liar in this place, of why we still have the 
Premier thinking it is appropriate for taxpayers to pay the legal costs of 
someone who lied to the parliament, lied to the Premier, lied to the 
people of Braddon, and lied to the Crown Solicitor. I have still not 
discovered whether Mr Brooks offered his resignation following that 
notorious June 2016 incident across the Estimates table. I am sure it is 
a matter the Privileges Committee will explore. If, as premier, you were 
upholding the highest standards and a member of your parliamentary Liberal 
party room team who had lied to parliament three times offered their 
resignation, you would think you might consider accepting it. It was for 
political expedience, as I understand it, that it was not accepted.

Ms Courtney, she suffered, didn't she? 

Ms Standen - She looked shabby for a few days.

Ms O'CONNOR - She did look shabby for a few days. Thank you for that, 
Ms Standen, that is a good way of putting it.

Madam SPEAKER - We have to be careful we are not a bit sexist here. 

Ms O'CONNOR - Shabby, okay, I do not believe that is what Ms Standen was 
referring to.

Madam SPEAKER - She might have looked a bit sad. 

Ms Standen - Sad is what I meant, Madam Speaker.

Ms O'CONNOR - Sad. I would not go so far as to say she looked ashamed or 
humble, but she definitely looked sad and was quite quiet, which was good. 
Of course there was no sanction for Ms Courtney choosing to withhold very 
pertinent information about a conflict of interest - not a perceived 
conflict of interest - from the Premier for, as I understand it, the best 
part of the month. Oh, here is Ms Courtney. The only sanction for 
breaching the ministerial code of conduct and choosing not to tell the 
truth about a conflict of interest to the head of the Cabinet, the Premier, 
was to be moved sideways into another ministry in which she would have 
regular contact on matters of public policy and legislation with the 
secretary of the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and the 
Environment. A tangled web has been woven as a result of the poor 
standards that are upheld the Premier of the day. 

I hope the Leader of the Opposition will accept our amendment. It is 
critical that we talk about the triple bottom line in this place, and when 
we should all be able to debate matters of economic, social and 
environmental significance in this place. The diversity of this place is 
such that you will often get Liberal members talking about the economy, 
Labor members talking about people and Greens members talking about the 
environment. The environment does get talked about enough in here. There 
is not enough focus from this Premier's point of view in protecting 
Tasmania's environment. One of the reasons we do not have confidence in 
Will Hodgman is because of the incredible damage his policies are doing to 
the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, national parks and other 
public lands in Tasmania. This Premier's legacy will be the degradation 
of wilderness by a globally acknowledged mathematical metric to assess the 
impact on wilderness values of the proposal to build luxury huts and fly 
helicopters in and out of Lake Malbena. 

It is a fact that this Premier's policies will degrade Tasmania's 
wilderness. It is a fact that when this Premier came into government he 
sought to remove the word 'wilderness' from the Tasmanian Wilderness World 
Heritage Area Management Plan. It is a fact that this Premier allowed the 
process that determines whether or not there can be a commercial activity 
in a protected area to be so corrupted that he has alienated anglers, 
bushwalkers and ordinary Tasmanians from all walks of life because he is 
degrading wilderness but also entering into secret deals with developers. 
For example, the Government has given the proponent of the Lake Malbena 
proposal not just a long-term lease over Reg Hall's hut, it has given the 
proponent an island. A second lease was signed in secret just after the 
state election by the director of Parks on 18 March this year, which gives 
the proponent of the Halls Island proposal an entire island in the 
Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. There was no consultation, they 
did not talk to the owners of that island, did not engage with the 
Aboriginal community or talk to people who had been using that island for 
fly-fishing, bushwalking, soul searching or for sanctuary for decades. No, 
they handed over an island to one proponent.

This Premier is responsible for the theft of the commons - massively, 
madly privatising public assets in Tasmania. There are many reasons not 
to have confidence in this Premier. I have only outlined a few. Many of 
them are detailed in the original motion, but we do not have confidence in 
this Premier on the basis of his conduct over the past five years.