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Section 19 of the Public Account Act 1986 - June Quarter 2018
Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, we note that
in a relatively short period of time since the election, there have been
very significant shifts of public fundings across and between agencies,
out to private enterprises.
There is a significant budget impact here. On page 3 of the section 19
return in column 3, subsection 11(22), we have a total sum of a bit over $
21 million. It says on the explanatory notes the budget impact of these
additional costs has been offset on a whole-of-government level by
increased Australian Government revenue or by asset sales. I understand
that this is an explanatory note but given the substantial quantity of
public funding we are talking about here, I think the Treasurer -
Mr Gutwein - Whereabouts are you?
Ms O'CONNOR - We are on page 3, the columns, and it is column 3, which is
the second footnote that talks about offset by increased Australian
Government revenue. Could you please detail if that is simply the GST
distribution funds or by asset sales? It would be appropriate for you to
detail to the House what those asset sales are because, as we know, even
though the Premier came to government saying that his would not be a
government that privatised assets, it has gone about doing just that at a
It is about to flog the Treasury building, it has given away title to at
least 500 Housing Tasmania properties, it has flogged about 29 000
hectares of public plantations. There is a big question mark hanging over
the privatisation of public lands. We know that there is privatisation of
public marine waterways, shared waterways, through the rapid expansion of
fish farms. There is privatisation of public protected areas through
exclusive use arrangements with private developers.
I would put it to you and the House, Madam Speaker, that this is the most
privatising, corporatist government in Tasmania's history, so could the
Treasurer please tell the House what asset sales have contributed towards
that bottom line and whether any of it involved public Crown land through
a process which is, as we know, opaque?
Moving on to table 2 and some of the funding transfers that have been
detailed here, I see that the rubber continues to meet the road in having
to provide extra resourcing to prison services in Tasmania because the
Liberals' tough-on-crime policies are filling our prisons with people.
You can harrumph away there, Minister for Corrections, but it says here in
Savings of $500 000 resulting from salary and other administrative savings
generated during 2017-18 have been transferred from WorkSafe Tasmania to
meet the cost of sustained increase in prisoner numbers during 2017-18.
Ms Archer - All across the nation.
Ms O'CONNOR - Ms Archer says this is happening all across the nation. She
needs to table the evidence of that. We know from Tasmania Police's
annual report of last year that under Liberal policy, crime rates in
Tasmania went up by 10 per cent in the space of a single year, so there is
obviously something wrong with the policy framework here if we are
creating an environment where more and more people are going to prison.
Ms Archer - It'd be so good under the Greens.
Ms O'CONNOR - Would you like to say that out aloud, Ms Archer?
Madam SPEAKER - Yes, Ms Archer, could I ask you -
Ms Archer - I said it would be so good under the Greens - we'd have people
let out of prison.
Madam SPEAKER - Ms Archer, could I ask you to abide by the same rules we
apply to every other member of the parliament? Thank you.
Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you, Madam Speaker. In fact a Greens minister for
corrections took up the 'breaking the cycle' work that had begun by former
Labor minister, Lisa Singh, who is now a senator. He introduced a change
management process at the prison, brought in Brian Edwards, who made a
huge difference to the culture and the operations of the prison. In fact,
not only were the numbers of prisoners within the system going down but
recidivism rates were improving, so the evidence speaks for itself in
terms of management of the correctional system in Tasmania.
I note here also that there has been savings of $340 000 resulting from
salary and other administrative savings transferred from Victim Support
Services and the Safe at Home program to meet increases in demand
experienced by the Guardianship and Administration Board, the Mental
Health Tribunal and the Office of the Public Guardian. Invariably when
there are section 19 returns brought into this House, one of the integrity
or probity bodies will have had to come to government with a request for
additional operational funding. This is a very good example of systemic
and sustained underfunding of these important bodies so that each year
they have to come back to government just so they can continue to operate
effectively in the interests of the people of Tasmania.
It has happened to the Office of the Ombudsman and to the Integrity
Commission. They have been to the office of the Equal Opportunities
Commissioner, as I recall - and I am happy for the Attorney-General to
correct me on that - but our integrity bodies should be properly funded.
We should not have an Ombudsman's office where you can send off a right to
information review in 2014, as now Senator Nick McKim did in relation to
the expressions of interest process for development in protected areas,
and there is still not an answer because there is a huge backlog in the
Ombudsman's office for examining agency and ministerial decisions on RTI
applications. As we know, ministers understand that obtaining a review of
a right to information decision is going to take years and in all
likelihood they will not be the minister when the decision comes down, so
we are dealing with a system that has been undermined by a government that
has no commitment to its transparency and accountability unless it suits
them. They are underfunding the integrity body, the Office of the
Ombudsman, and delegating decisions so that they cannot be internally
reviewed. I can hear you sighing heavily, Ms Archer, but these are the
I note that the Tasmanian Planning Commission has a cumulative cut to it
of $210 000 and that is salary savings in the first instance in table 2,
and that money has gone into the Planning Policy Unit. Let us be really
clear about what has happened here: the independent statutory planning
body, the Tasmanian Planning Commission, has had money taken away from it
and that money has been put into the department and the advisory capacity
for the Minister for Planning. This is undermining and eroding
independent planning system in Tasmania. It is diminishing the capacity
of the Tasmanian Planning Commission to do its work effectively and it is
a continuation of the erosion of independence in our planning system that
has been happening over the past five years, where we have gone from
having one of the most robust, fair and independent planning systems in
the country to having a planning framework that is being written by and
for developers with explicit intent to shut out public appeal rights and
concerned constituencies in relation to planning decisions.
We also see here a savings from the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner to
again go back in to a political and government agenda. It says here $40
000 is saved from the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner transferred to
assist with meeting the costs of increased resources required to implement
the Government's legislative reforms. Why should the Anti-Discrimination
Commissioner pay for that? That is a very reasonable question, so perhaps
the Treasurer could address his mind to that. What are these legislative
reforms that require taking money away from the Equal Opportunities
Commissioner? Why is an independent statutory office having its funding
cut to support the Liberals' legislative agenda, flawed as it is?
Also, could the Treasurer please explain why $100 000 has been taken out
of the Monetary Penalties Enforcement Service to assist with meeting the
cost of increased use of priority postage due to changes in Australia Post
delivery time frames following the same-sex marriage reforms? Why is the
state paying for that? Why is the state compensating Births, Deaths and
Marriages for a federal policy that was too gutless to just let the
federal parliament do its work and institute marriage equality? A
political decision at the federal level was made to send it out to a
plebiscite, which caused division and psychological damage in our
community and now the state is being made to pay Births, Deaths and
Marriage $100 000 for a federal plebiscite. It is very hard to understand
and perhaps the Treasurer could explain that.
We see here in a continuation of column 2, after $110 000 had been taken
out of the Planning Commission and put into the Planning Policy Unit,
there is also $100 000 taken out of the taken out of the Tasmanian
Planning Commission to put into the Magistrates Court. Why is the
Magistrates Court not being given sufficient, ongoing, recurrent base
funding so money is not having to be taken from the Planning Commission
and put into the Magistrates Court? This section 19 return has a whole
lot of robbing Peter to pay Paul imbedded in it.
In the Health and Human Services output, Housing Tasmania has requested $
1.7 million as reimbursement for the payment of stamp duty relief to a
community housing provider for properties transferred under the community
housing stock leverage program? The notes here say there is a zero dollar
impact on the budget. Was that for the transfer of title? Can the
Treasurer please give the House more detail on whether that relates to
title transfer or management transfer? If it is stamp duty relief, logic
would tell us it is related to title transfer. Can the Treasurer give us
some details on what community housing provider and how many properties
were subject to this stamp duty relief, which means it is in your
portfolio and do not fob it off to your colleague?
Mr Gutwein - If we have the information I will provide it.
Ms O'CONNOR - I also have questions about the $30 000 assistance to remove
damaged trees at the Tasmania Golf Club. Who owns the Tasmania Golf Club?
Mr Gutwein - It is a community organisation that made a request after a
bad storm, as I understand it.
Mr Hidding - All the trees had died through lack of water and they were
about to start falling on people's heads. It was very dangerous; a
massive stand of dead trees.
Ms O'CONNOR - Okay. In table 4, Parks and Wildlife Management, there is
the sum of just under $2 million allocated to the Parks and Wildlife
Service for fire suppression activities. This is déjà vu. Why are we
dealing with another request from Parks and Wildlife simply to be able to
perform its basic statutory land management duties in the lands it manages
? We are in a period in which the intergovernmental panel on climate
change dropped the most bombshell-depressing report last week, which tells
the people of the world they have 12 years to save the planet, yet the
Parks and Wildlife Service is still having to come, cap in hand to
government for fire management resourcing. I hope the Treasurer agrees we
can do better than that and there should be substantially increased
resourcing to the Parks and Wildlife Service, to Forestry Tasmania for its
fire fighting capacity, and to the State Emergency Service. We need
resources put into fire prevention, community protection and landscape and
natural resource protection as a priority.
As to energy policy and advice, I note in the paperwork it says, 'This
request for additional funds of $885 000 reflects consulting expenses to
provide independent legal advice to the Energy Security Cabinet Committee
relating to BassLink'.[TBC] In the old days, we used to have that sort of
expertise in-house. In the old days, in the former department of
infrastructure, energy and resources, in saying the old days it is only
five years ago, there was policy advice capacity of a highest standard.
Many of the good policy people went out of what was then known as DIER,
now it is State Growth, so we lost a breadth and depth of advice and
experience. It is hard to escape the conclusion that spending nearly $1
million on consultants in seeking advice on energy issues points back to
the 400 people who lost their jobs in the Department of State Growth and
the economic development, infrastructure, energy and resources restructure
. State Growth lost a huge number of quality staff and policy expertise
and the taxpayers of Tasmania are paying for that through increased
Could the Treasurer please tell the parliament why Government went out for
independent legal advice, purchased advice, presumably legal advice, when
we have here the office of the Crown Solicitor, the Solicitor-General? We
have in-house counsel in a number of government agencies. Why are we
paying for legal advice when we have impartial advice of the highest
quality available to government? Why is the Government outsourcing legal
advice and policy advice?
Finally, the House should know details of the compensation payment to a
landowner under section 41 of the Nature Conservation Act 2002 due to the
presence of threatened species or threatened native vegetation on their
property. It raises a whole lot of questions. First, while I recognise
there are provisions within the Nature Conservation Act for compensating
landowners for decisions that are made by government that might impact on
their capacity to profit from their land or manage their land, if a
landowner is informed there are threatened species on their property,
whether it be threatened flora or fauna, why should the taxpayers pay $
2.5 million or really, any amount of compensation to a private landowner
for that? If a private landowner did not already know they had threatened
or vulnerable species on their property, they were operating in ignorance
or had chosen not to understand the nature of their property. To then
come to government and demand or request an extra $2.5 million, it is a
huge sum of money. Maximum transparency on that compensation payment is
in the best interests of transparency, accountability and the taxpayers of