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No Respect From Disinterested Liberal Ministers

3 May 2016

Ms O'CONNOR (Denison - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, I wanted to make a brief contribution having listened to the excellent analysis of the state of the swift parrot by Ms Woodruff.  When the minister got to his feet, I thought he was going to respond but he made no mention of this bird that is in his care.  He did not even acknowledge the points Ms Woodruff had raised.  It is extremely disappointing to have a minister sitting in the Chamber while a member is speaking to matters within his portfolio responsibility, and yet the minister does not acknowledge the contribution, the issue or the very legitimate questions that have been raised.  It has happened a number of times with this minister where we have spoken on the adjournment or in legislation and raised issues, and they have been ignored. 

Last year, I recall I was talking about that beautiful Granton foreshore and how it would be excellent if there was a focus on how you could bring that Granton foreshore to life and provide recreational opportunities for the people who live in that growing area.  I thought it would be a matter for the Minister for State Growth to work with the Minister for Infrastructure, but there was dead silence.  The minister has now fled the Chamber, having sat here through a contribution that related specifically to a bird that has been pushed to extinction on his watch, and it was almost like it had never happened. 

Earlier today in debate on a piece of legislation, the alleged red tape reduction bill, I raised the issue of the expressions-of-interest process for Parks and the Office of Coordinator-General.  I put some questions about this minister's mismanagement of Parks and the process he has initiated, which is opaque at best and certainly has enormous potential to compromise natural and cultural values in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area and in our other reserved lands - but nothing from the minister. 

In times past, if a member stood on the adjournment and made a contribution on an area of policy within a particular minister's portfolio, there was a very good chance the minister would come into the Chamber either that evening on the adjournment or at another time not too distant from when the matter had been raised in the adjournment and deal with the question raised.  I recall doing this as minister, listening to the adjournment to see if there were any matters relevant to my portfolio responsibilities that I should respond to.  Yet, within the space of a breath, this minister in this term of government can ignore a long‑standing convention when a matter is raised that you in good faith respond to it in some way.  It is quite a staggering level of disrespect for this place and for members in this place who put the hard yards in and do the work.

Ms Woodruff quite rightly raises the plight of the swift parrot and there is one person in this place who is responsible for the future of the swift parrot, and that is Minister Groom, the minister for Environment.  The other person who carries significant responsibility is the Minister for Forestry, Mr Gutwein.  It is like the swift parrot does not exist.  If the Greens do not get up in here and talk about threatened species in Tasmania, our parks and the management of water for public benefit, no-one else will. 

The problem is that we have ministers in a government who do not think they have to answer legitimate questions when those questions cause them discomfort or point to inaction in their portfolio.  The minister for Environment should come in and address the issues raised by Ms Woodruff in her contribution.