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Matter of Public Importance - Sale of Public Assets

22 November 2018

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, I move - 

That the House take note of the following matter: sale of public assets.

In April 2014, the Premier, newly elected, said to the people of Tasmania - 

Let me be clear: we will not be selling any government or public owned 
assets.

We won't be selling any government or public owned assets, other than the 
Aurora retail book which the former government put up for sale, and which 
we've supported.

The Premier said, 'Other than that we will not be selling anything, and 
that is part of the commitment we took to the last election'. Five years 
later, it has been confirmed that this was a lie to the Tasmanian people. 
Pure and simple. The premier of the day says we will not be selling 
anything and, five years later, the for-sale list is long and it is 
growing. In the last term of parliament, we witnessed the then resources 
minister oversee the sale of 29 000 hectares of public plantation forest 
for substantially less than it cost taxpayers to establish them. Of 
course, given this Government's absolute commitment to secrecy and lack of 
transparency, the details of that sale, the rationale for the 99-year 
lease, which is as good as a sale, was not made to the people of Tasmania. 
The sale of this asset for substantially less than it cost taxpayers to 
establish them was not justified by the minister of the day.

We also had in the last term of parliament special enabling legislation 
come through this House that would privatise the pinnacle of kunanyi/Mt 
Wellington should the planning authority approve the construction of a 
cable car up the mountain which, as we know, would break people's hearts 
and desecrate the mountain. Again, it is government using its levers, its 
agencies, to introduce legislation that favours a single private operator 
at the expense of the public good. There was no justification - again - 
for handing over the pinnacle of kunanyi/Mt Wellington, the people's 
mountain, to the Mount Wellington Cableway Company, but the resources of 
the Government and the time of the parliament was put into doing just that.

We also had just after the state election an announcement by the Treasurer 
that the Treasury building would be put on the market, again with no 
mandate or conversation with the people of Tasmania. It was interesting 
that at the open day a couple of weekends ago on Remembrance Day people 
were streaming into the Treasury building to have a look at their property 
that this Government has announced, without a mandate, that it wants to 
sell.

The letters page of the Mercury in the days afterwards confirms that this 
Government has no mandate to sell the Treasury building and the owners of 
the Treasury building have not given permission to the Government of the 
day to sell it. Even the Mercury editorial condemned the decision to put 
the Treasury building on the market. Who would buy the Treasury building? 
What is the justification for selling the Treasury building when the 
Treasurer of the day tells us we are in a golden age? There is no 
shortage of funds, apparently. There is no justification for selling a 
symbol of our history, of governance and democracy in Tasmania, to the 
private sector. 

We know where that began. That began in the last term of parliament when 
some private individual, company, or foreign government came forward with 
an unsolicited bid to buy the Treasury building. That is where the idea 
came from - the private sector approaching a government, the Premier of 
which had said he would not be selling public assets. At the time it was 
not convenient, but straight after the state election it was announced the 
Treasury building would go on the market. No mandate, no justification, 
no social licence from the people who own the Treasury building, the 
people of Tasmania.

Just recently it has been revealed that the Liberal Government and, indeed, 
the Premier and Parks minister, Mr Hodgman, had entered into a secret, 
long-term lease to privatise Halls Island at Lake Malbena in the Walls of 
Jerusalem National Park in the World Heritage Area. It was not revealed 
at the time by the Government that not only was there going to be a lease 
extended on Reg Hall's hut, but a second lease would be entered into with 
a private operator over the whole island. This is unprecedented in 
Tasmania's history, where part of a public protected area is being given 
over to a private operator for exclusive use. 

No wonder fly fishermen and walkers are ropeable and threatening a 
blockade. There will be a blockade at Halls Island in Lake Malbena, I 
have no doubt about that whatsoever, and the people who participate in 
that blockade will come from all walks of life and all parts of the 
political spectrum in Tasmania. You do not have to be a 'greenie' to love 
the wilderness, you do not have to be a 'greenie' to recognise that this 
Government is stealing from the people of Tasmania for private developers 
and commercial interests.

Handing over Hall's Island is an act of theft. Again, it was a secret 
process, behind closed doors, a corrupted process where the people of 
Tasmania were not given a say, where a World Heritage Area management plan 
was changed after public consultation to excise Lake Malbena from the 
wilderness zone and put it into the self-reliant recreation zone. No 
consultation: it just appeared in the final World Heritage Area 
management plan, and the stitch-up went on from there. For three years 
that private developer was negotiating through the Office of the 
Coordinator-General to get their hands on a public island inside the World 
Heritage Area that is a wilderness place, whatever dodgy zoning this 
Government puts on it in order to facilitate a private development.

Here is our prediction. That development will not go ahead. The reason 
it will not go ahead is because there are hundreds of Tasmanians right now 
who are gearing up for a blockade. They are gearing up to stand by the 
wilderness, Hall's Island and Lake Malbena, a place that is beloved by 
anglers and bushwalkers alike and owned by and on behalf of the people of 
Tasmania, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Tasmanians. It is a privatisation 
of a public island wilderness inside the World Heritage Area. No punter 
under the Liberal's plan will be allowed onto Hall's Island. 

There has also been the plan to privatise public waterways for fish farm 
expansion and the Elizabeth Street Pier, with no mandate, no justification 
and no social licence.