Cassy O’Connor MP | Greens Leader
Documents obtained under Right to Information by the Bob Brown Foundation clearly show Minister for Resources, Guy Barnett misled the Tasmanian Parliament.
In trying to avoid scrutiny for what was either incompetence or a devious attempt to remove protesters from takayna rainforest, the Minister told Parliament* he’d done nothing wrong. He blamed a “lodging error” in the application process.
These RTI documents prove this was not true.
It was already clear Minister Barnett had breached his own Mineral Resources Development Act 1995 by approving a mining lease to Chinese State-owned MMG when he should not have. Mr Barnett admitted that himself in a letter to BBF.
These documents again raise questions about Minister Barnett’s integrity and competence. This RTI is proof he was misleading - at best.
Guy Barnett has a track record of secrecy and highly questionable decisions across his portfolios. While it’s no shock to see more of the same, it is surprising the Minister has allowed himself to be caught.
The RTI documents show Mineral Resources Tasmania (MRT) discussing the lease purpose with MMG representatives, and visited the site. MRT were shown a quarry which MMG claimed they would mine for construction materials to upgrade Helilog Road**. This is a clear indication they were aware of the requirements of Section 78 of the Mineral Resources Development Act 1995.
The Gutwein government was also told prior to lodgment that a primary purpose of the application was to allow the company unfettered access to Helilog Road – a purpose not provided for in Section 78 of the Act.
This application was made with open eyes from both the company and the government about the conditions that needed to be met under the Act. That some of the conditions required by law were not met, and that a stated purpose of the application was not valid, does not mean there was a ‘lodging error’ – it means Minister Barnett should not have approved the lease.
The Minister failed to take responsibility for the error. Worse, instead of doing so, he chose to mislead Parliament about this matter.
This type of behaviour should be a sackable offense for a Minister. In Peter Gutwein’s Cabinet, however, it’s apparently it’s business as usual.
*Minister for Resources to Parliament, 12 October 2021: “The application was assessed by Mineral Resources Tasmania, which provided a recommendation, advice, to the minister that he should accept that and sign, which he did. A lodging error in the application was then found by the department and immediate action was taken.”
**Page 120, RTI documents obtained by Bob Brown Foundation.