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State Conference Opening Address

Cassy O’Connor MP | Greens Leader  

Good morning extended Green tribe! It's lovely to see your faces and to personally thank you for travelling from wherever you came to be here in beautiful Deloraine.  

Thank you, particularly to all the Lyons members and their helpers for bringing us all together this weekend.

We meet on the traditional lands of the Pallittorre people, who - as it was for unknown thousands of the first Tasmanians - were removed from their country by trickery, force, at the point of a gun.

On behalf of everyone here today, we remember the warriors who died in defence of their country.  We pay respect to the Pallittorre and all Tasmania's First Peoples whose story on this island goes back at least 40 000 years.

To elders past and present, I pay deepest respect and acknowledge that we stand on country - this island, lutruwita Tasmania - that was never ceded by its original owners. Never.

When you read the histories of Aboriginal Tasmania - on the fate of a free people - it is clear, there was no lawful basis for this theft of country by the British and Governor Arthur's banishment of the Tasmanians to outer islands where too often, a broken heart and death was their fate.  There was no justice, no Treaty.

There will be no true reconciliation with Aboriginal Tasmanians until there is true recognition of the wrongs and a Treaty negotiated among equals at the table then passed through the Tasmanian Parliament.

The Greens will continue to be the only voices in the Tasmanian Parliament advocating for a Treaty with Aboriginal Tasmanians, just as we are the only party currently advocating for the return of lands.

And we can start with the promise made by two former Tasmanian Premiers and then forgotten, the return of wukulina Mt William National Park to the people of the north east, descendants of Mannalargena, survivors of the first order.

In evidence to the recent Tasmanian Parliamentary inquiry into constitutional recognition, Professor Henry Reynolds made it clear wukulina can and should be returned to people whose ancestors once ranged free across it.

There are successful models for the return of protected areas.  Where I grew up, on Stradbroke Island in Queensland, the quandamooka people have been granted title of the Minjerribah/North Stradbroke Island National Park.  They manage it, and they manage it well, earning an income for their care of country and giving their young people training, employment and hope for the future.

These changes can empower and provide economic self sufficiency for Aboriginal Tasmanians.  They can enrich us all as modern Tasmanians coming to terms with our past, determined to make a better future.

The true human history of this island is incredibly powerful, yet so rarely told.  It is almost absent from the local and visitor's daily experience of this place.

Let's give our palawa brothers and sisters - the descendants of a free people - the chance to tell it, on their country, to Tasmanians and visitors alike.

I have no doubt Aboriginal Tasmanians will do a better job of managing culturally important protected areas than the current Liberal government.

One of the biggest fights we all - and the broader conservation movement - has on its hands is Matthew Groom's assault on the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area and other areas of reserved land which the Minister has opened up to a feeding frenzy of commercial interests.

The EOI process for protected areas has thrown up plans for a Lodge and a hut in the Walls of Jerusalem National Park, half a dozen huts along the wild South Coast track, a permanent camp at Frenchman's Cap, huts at Cradle inside the Park, six extra huts along the Overland Track and a plan to open access to the world's oldest living organism, a ten thousand year old Huon Pine at Mt Read.

These are just a few of the 25 EOI proposals that went through to Stage 2 in the opaque Office of the Coordinator General under Minister Groom's process.  Another round opens in October.

The Coordinator General rolls out the red carpet for developers, pulls out the fat file of public assets for sale, rent, giveaway and exclusive use, charts a path for developers through the regulatory and legislative process, keeps it all strictly confidential and Tasmanians are finding out after the deal has been all but sealed.

With the EOIs in protected areas, the ultimate planning authority is the Minister himself.

The movement is fighting this every step of the way.  We are working closely with the key environment groups to prevent this assault on Tasmania's wild and culturally priceless protected places.

So far, we have helped the RACT to make a decision to abandon plans to extend its lodge further into the Freycinet National Park.  That decision was an acknowledgement that the process Matthew Groom has set up is - as my teenagers might say - well dodgy.

The RACT knew it risked being tainted by it.  Good result for the Freycinet National Park, and the RACT's brand.

We've sat down with some of the proponents and will with others to let them know Tasmania's protected areas don't belong to them.  They are priceless public assets that deliver ecosystem services, biodiversity protection, spiritual enrichment, employment and economic returns that fund public services.

On the agenda for tomorrow is a conversation about these very questions.  Our Tourism spokesperson, Andrea, and I look forward to hearing your views on a set of principles we've developed collaboratively to guide sustainable enjoyment of Tasmania's fantastic and vulnerable protected places.

It's also appropriate, here at Deloraine, the home of Ashley Youth Detention Centre that we talk about the vulnerability of young Tasmanians, and how, as a state we're failing so many of them.  

We're talking here, just up the road, about kids who were behind from the start, the products of intergenerational disadvantage, poverty, family violence, stress and dysfunction.  For the broken children of broken and impoverished families inevitably, some end up at Ashley.

Ashley is a failure.  It's failing young offenders, is too often a pathway to adult prison and isn't doing much at all to keep our community safer.  

It also costs about $10million a year to run, and has on average eight detainees in residence at any one time.

The Greens have a costed plan to close Ashley which we're releasing today.  It invests in two new medium security facilities, with smaller high security units attached, one each in the north and south where staff trained in building the capacity, sense of responsibility and future prospects of young offenders are employed.  

It's a therapeutic approach, adapted from the highly successful Missouri Model in the United States, where youth recidivism rates are a low 6.6% and the wider prison population is falling.

We believe young offenders should be given a second chance.  It's also an investment in a safer community.  There will be fewer victims of crime in the future if we invest in creating more productive and responsible young people who have done their time and paid their price through a restorative juvenile justice system.  

It works and we reckon it's well worth the investment.

There's a lot I could tell you about our work in the past year.  Andrea, Rosalie and I and our little but brilliant team really do go hard.

On the front desk here today is a sample of our output in Parliament and the public debate this past year.  I hope you agree that even though it's only a sample, it's a substantial body of work.  

The bundle, which is also up on the members' Greenhouse, covers our work on climate, renewable energy, protected areas, high conservation value forests, threatened species, early years' education, genetically modified organisms, Tasmania's precious brand, Aboriginal heritage and the document we are most proud to have delivered to Parliament - the Greens' Alternative Budget.

If you haven't had a look at it, I hope you take the chance to.

It represents a vision for a sustainable, resilient, kind, self-sufficient and prosperous Tasmania in a rapidly changing world.  It applies the climate lens to every aspect of government policy and funding priorities.

It invests in 21st century infrastructure, sets out the path to 100% renewables, energy self sufficiency, the electrification of our transport system and more people friendly cities.

It ends the plethora of taxpayer funded handouts to private enterprise, abolishes the office of coordinator general and sets higher registration fees for high emission vehicles and instead invests these savings into illness prevention and early childhood development.

Our Alternative Budget funds forest restoration projects on degraded lands, sequestering carbon, creating jobs in rural and regional areas, and deepening a sense of connection to, and responsibility for, the natural environment among those who work on restoration projects.

It funds a workforce participation plan that identifies skills' shortages, the jobs of the future and the impediments to ensuring people too often shut out of the employment frame are given real opportunities for work.

Our Alternative Budget also maps out a plan to save lives and childrens' futures by removing poker machines from pubs and clubs, and to save the lives of thousands of greyhounds by shutting down the irredeemably cruel, taxpayer funded greyhound racing industry.

It funds the development of a population settlement strategy to prepare for the climate refugees who will seek relief on our relatively cooler shores.

We need to acknowledge the truth - on a warmer planet, more people will want to live in Tasmania and who can blame them, so let's have a plan in place to contain settlements, protect natural assets and landscapes and allow for the sustainable management of water and other natural resources.

This is work, quite frankly, that should be being done now. 

Looking forward, for us as a Party, there is so much more work to do.  

In 2018, we need to hold our three seats, and go hard after Lyons and Braddon.

For those who volunteered on the recent election campaign, you will know this will be a hard slog, but it sure is a worthy challenge and entirely achievable goal.

We're going to have a discussion about balance of power after lunch and I am sure it will be robust, but in my view we should always aim for a power sharing Parliament because that is where we have the greatest prospects for Green policy outcomes.

Power sharing Parliaments are more open and transparent, more accountable, there is a genuine contest of values and ideas on the floor of Parliament, the legislative outcomes are better.  

You also don't get secret back room deals which are the hallmark of majority governments in Tasmania.

When the Greens are in balance of power, we make a meaningful difference.  In 1989, with Labor, we secured massive extensions to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. The first Labor Green Accord did more to protect wild and culturally rich Tasmania than any government before or since.

In 1996, with the Liberals, we led on gun law reform, gay law reform, articulation and defence of the clean, green brand and we initiated the apology to the Stolen Generations.  The Greens gave the Rundle minority government a whole lot of heart.

Between 2010 and 2014, with Labor, along with reforms like a major free energy efficiency roll out, human rights based prison reform, the creation of TasTAFE, the State's first elder abuse prevention strategy and the acknowledged best climate mitigation and adaptation plan of any jurisdiction, we secured another great extension to the World Heritage Area, and got the loggers out of 357 000 hectares of the most beautiful high conservation value forests in Tasmania. These forests were, of course, meant to be placed in reserves.  

The Liberals have put a stop to the reserves, for now.  The moratorium they placed on logging those forests in places like Bruny, Wielangta, the Blue Tier and the Tarkine expires in 2020.

Every one of us in this room, and everyone we can marshall to the cause, must stand ready to defend those forests, for they are not yet safe.

And they are just one reason we must increase our vote and our seats in 2018.  The fate of those forests will be decided by the next Parliament.  The toxic Federal monopoly Deed will also be a live issue in the next term, as will our future renewable energy security and capacity to adapt to climate change.

A strong Greens' presence in the Tasmanian Parliament remains essential.  And of course, it should be a 35 seat Parliament - a much deeper talent pool than we have now.  

On behalf of the Greens, I'd like to personally commend the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry for coming out yesterday in support of a restoration of the numbers in Parliament.

This was a real breakthrough - the business community backing in better governance in Parliament and Cabinet - and we'll be following it up when Parliament returns next week.

I believe we need to aim for a power sharing Parliament because majority governments like the one we have now, are arrogant, secretive and they have a tendency to dishonesty, as Andrea, Rosalie and I witness every sitting day of the Parliament.

This Liberal majority government treats people like fools, cutting hard into public services, taking away their rights to peaceful protest and to participate in the planning system.

They cut funding to hospitals and public schools, cut the free energy efficiency program we'd put in place in the last term of government, and have allowed the housing waiting list to jump by 1400 applicants since we had it at its lowest level in a decade.

On any reasonable, non-partisan measure, this so called strong, stable Liberal majority government - which has lost two Ministers and counting - is not as accountable, effective or responsible as any minority government in Tasmania's more recent past.

It's just over 18 months until the next election.  There's a lot riding on this one and we need to perform at our very best, with great policies, candidates and a strong on ground campaign.

We can do it.  We can hold our seats and return effective Green representation to the people of Lyons and Braddon who sure do deserve a strong Green voice in Parliament like they had with Tim and Basil.

We can do it, eyes on the prize - the forests, the TWWHA, climate action, a better deal for disadvantaged Tasmanians, enabling the jobs of the future and strengthening the clean, green brand which our Party first defined and has always defended.

We can do it together, because we are the mighty fighting Greens who are here in defence of Tasmania and her people, always.

The campaign starts now and we are ready to give it everything we've got, as Greens, for lutruwita, Tasmania.

Thank you.


September 2016

PDF icon State Conference Opening Address, Greens Leader Cassy O'Connor MP.pdf