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Has Groom Breached the Ministerial Code of Conduct?

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Tags: Environment, Conflict of Interest, Code of Conduct, Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area

Cassy O'Connor MP | Greens Leader and Parks spokesperson

Environment Minister, Matthew Groom, has been given two opportunities in Parliament to confirm that he wrote to the Premier to declare a conflict of interest in relation to his brother's development at Bernacchi Lodge, inside the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, but he has failed to do so.

The Ministerial Code of Conduct is clear that where a Minister identifies a material conflict between his or her personal interests and official responsibilities, the Minister must declare any such conflict of interest in writing to the Premier as soon as possible after becoming aware of the conflict.

The Minister's brother is a partner in a consortium development at Bernacchi Lodge in the Central Highlands, inside the boundary of the TWWHA which is the portfolio responsibility of Minister Groom.

Last year, the Minister signed off on a discredited draft World Heritage Area Management Plan which reclassified the area surrounding Bernacchi Lodge as a 'Visitor Services Zone'.

The draft Plan defines these Visitor Services Zones as a category where 'the majority of visitors experience the TWWHA'.  Does Bernacchi Lodge fit in to that category?

This issue is not about the merits or otherwise of utilising Bernacchi Lodge for a sustainable, low impact tourism venture. We are concerned to ensure good governance in relation to the TWWHA.

In order to avoid any perceived or actual conflict of interest and ensure public faith in the integrity of his office is maintained, Minister Groom should have written to the Premier as soon as he became aware a member of his family was a proponent for development inside the TWWHA.

It appears from his two non-answers in Question Time this week that the Minister has failed to do so.

Has Minister Groom breached the Ministerial Code of Conduct?