You are here

2017 State of the State Address in Reply

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Tags: Tasmanian Walking Company, Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, Parks, National Parks, Big Business

Ms O'CONNOR (Denison - Leader of the Greens) - I note that, on this International Women's Day, the Minister for Health and the Treasurer have risen to leave the Chamber as the only female leader in the House gets to her feet to respond to the Premier's Address.

Mr Hidding interjecting. 

Ms O'CONNOR - Actually, Mr Hidding, last year it was worse.

Madam Speaker, on the weekend in Melbourne, internationally renowned author Neil Gaiman, who has written numerous books, is widely loved and, by the way, has about 2.5 million followers on Twitter, was speaking at the launch of his documentary Sixteen Legs, which is, strangely enough, about Tasmanian cave spiders. At the launch Mr Gaiman said this, and I think every person in this Chamber needs to think about these words:

“There is only one Tasmania in the entire universe and if we break it we won't get another one.”

We are now living through a time when the environmental challenges we are facing as an island and as a community are very, very significant. They require a government that takes environmental protection seriously, a government that understands that the health of the economy and our communities is wholly underpinned by a healthy environment. 

This beautiful Tasmania, the only Tasmania in the whole universe, is under assault by a Government that has ramped up the anti-environment rhetoric and has made a core feature of its Government a war on the environment, whether it be forests and logging the 356 000 hectares of high-conservation-value carbon-rich forests, or fish farm expansion into the near pristine waters of Okehampton Bay after the same incredibly poorly self-regulated industry created dead zones in Macquarie Harbour has contaminated the World Heritage Area, has spoiled within a single generation the waters of the D'Entrecasteaux Channel for recreational purposes and for fisheries and for the spirit of people who live in that area. Fish farm expansions on to the east coast will be unsustainable and they are not supported by the community.

This Government is furthering this war on the environment through the implementation of a statewide planning scheme that will shut people out of planning processes, lead to urban sprawl, increased land clearing, increased development inside protected areas, and places ultimate authority for the look, feel, environment and community that is Tasmania in the hands of one Minister.

This assault on the environment goes to our magnificent world-class reserves and protected areas. We have a government that has unleashed the white shoe brigade on some of the most spectacular places on Earth. This Government that has opened up an expressions of interest process like a feeding frenzy of favouritism in our national parks, where we have proposals such as a four-day guided hut and lodge-based bushwalk within the Walls of Jerusalem National Park. This Government would let a private operator build a lodge inside the Walls of Jerusalem. The same company, Tasmanian Walking Company, proposes a second hut-based guided walk along the Overland Track with six extra huts being built in that wilderness. 

The same company also proposes a new overnight guided lodge-based bushwalk within the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. The same company wants to install a four-day guided permanent camp-based bushwalk within the Franklin Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, the Frenchman's Cap Walk. 

All this private infrastructure is being enabled by this Government in public protected areas by a statutory void for development within national parks. It is a disgrace. No wonder Lonely Planet told its global audience to get to Tasmania and see this beautiful place before compromises are made. This Government is compromising our environment.

We also have a government that is prepared to compulsorily acquire land on the summit of kunanyi/Mount Wellington in order to enable a cable car that is being promoted by a personal friend of the conflicted Minister for State Growth who is also responsible for Crown Lands. Of course this contempt for the environment, this disregard for a meaningful sustainable future for Tasmania, is nowhere more obvious than in the fact that three years into this Government's term we do not have a climate plan from this Government. Indeed, just to be sure, I went back through the Premier's Address from yesterday and can confirm climate change was not mentioned once. The Premier talked in his Address yesterday about a long-term plan. 

No government in the twenty-first century can deliver a long-term plan for Tasmania that does not have the lens of accelerating climate change applied to every aspect of government policy. 

There is no long-term plan from the Liberals in government because they do not believe in climate change. In his Address, talking about the tragic and devastating floods that our community experienced last June that were part of an unprecedented weather event along the east coast of Australia that followed-on from extreme drought in the hottest month, hottest year, hottest decade in human history, the Premier described that severe flooding as a national natural disaster. There is nothing natural about accelerating climate change. There is nothing natural about the number of dry lightning strikes that are now hitting the west coast and other arts of Tasmania in the hot months. The Parks and Wildlife Service records tell us the number of dry lightning strikes is increasing. Those dry lightning strikes are what caused the fires that devastated the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area last January and February and destroyed Gondwanan wilderness that will never be replaced.

Mr Hidding - You're going to ban the dry lightning strikes.

Ms O'CONNOR - It is unfortunate that we get that sort of childish commentary from the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport when the point being made is that this Government needs to deliver a climate plan.

Ms Woodruff, Ms Dawkins and I have spent a bit of time on the east coast recently. We went up there and talked to community members, business leaders, local government leaders, people who enjoy throwing a line in, oyster growers. We listened to what they were saying about what it is that they value about the east coast of Tasmania and living there. The east coast of Tasmania, of which there is only one in the universe, is one of the most beautiful parts of this most beautiful island. People who live on the east coast of Tasmania recognise that they are living in a place that is unique and rare, and is drawing an increasing number of visitors to the area. Those people are drawn there because of the east coast's extraordinary beauty.

People we spoke to on the east coast say that the community is still hurting from the close of the Triabunna woodchip mill. Of course they are still hurting. A whole generation of people who worked in the Triabunna mill have been displaced. What have we had from this Government in order to support the transition of those skilled people on the east coast who were displaced by the closure of that mill? We have had nothing. We have had no plan from this Government that gives the people who used to work at the Triabunna mill and their children the dignity of work and hope for the future. The best that this Government can do is to approve a salmon farm that would have a minimal number of jobs there and has enormous potential to destroy the very thing that makes the east coast special.

Over the past summer, as I understand it, eight cruise ships parked in Wineglass Bay. Eight cruise ships full of people who come to see the beautiful east coast of Tasmania. Why is this Government not positioning the port of Triabunna to accept those cruise ships? Just imagine if half that number of cruise ships parked in the port of Triabunna. Just imagine the enormous economic benefits it would bring to that beautiful corner of Tasmania and the wider south-east economy. You could have people coming off those cruise shops, going into the local small businesses, organising a day trip to Maria Island or the Douglas Apsley National Park. The economic benefit of that single shift in policy for that corner of Tasmania and the community of Orford, Triabunna and up the east coast, of delivering those cruise ships into that beautiful deep water port of Triabunna would be extraordinary. Within a single shift in policy you would see economic and social transformation of Triabunna and Orford and you would not have to bring 800 000 tonnes of fish that need to be fed - and poo in the water - into Okehampton Bay. That is simple and sound economic policy.

What we heard on the east coast is that people there want jobs but they do not want them at any cost. The other thing we heard from people on the east coast, both during the visit a couple of weeks ago and at the public meeting on Sunday, is that they believe this Liberal Government is too close to big business and to Tassal. They understand what crony capitalism is. Crony capitalism is an economy in which success in business depends upon close relationships between business people and government officials. It may be exhibited by favouritism in the distribution of legal permits, government grants, special tax breaks, or other forms of state intervention. 

We know the central command of crony capitalism is the Premier's office, that the heart of it in policy terms is the Office of the Coordinator-General. The Office of the Coordinator-General is the wheel-oiler for developers in this state. It is because of the Office of the Coordinator-General that the Mount Wellington Cable Car Company has been able to persuade the Liberals in government to compulsorily acquire the southern area of Mount Wellington in order to enable a cable car, which is being proposed by a personal friend of Mr Groom. It is the Office of the Coordinator-General which is enabling and facilitating the exploitation of Tasmania's national parks and World Heritage Area. It is the Office of the Coordinator-General, which rang Crown Lands one day a couple of years ago and said, 'Give us the list. We want to see what's available'. They did not say this but what it meant was, 'We want to see what we can flog. 

We want to see what we can negotiate away, behind closed doors'. We are talking about public assets here. We are talking about crown land in Tasmania and the summit of Mount Wellington. We are talking about public forests and coastal reserves. The Office of the Coordinator-General in many different ways is the definition of crony capitalism. 

We know, and people on the east coast who want to save their marine environment know, the relationship between this Government and Tassal is unhealthy and cosy. We have seen that before in this state. The relationship between Gunns Limited and the Labor Party for decades poisoned this state, damaged our landscape, damaged waterways, divided this community and held Tasmania back from having a truly and really sustainable timber industry we could all be proud of. The people of Tasmania and the taxpayers of Australia paid through the nose for that. 

Close to $1 billion in subsidies in just over a decade were poured into the native forest logging industry of Tasmania, and a huge portion of that went to Gunns Limited. Who can forget the story of Paul Lennon hopping in the car and racing up to see John Gay? There is an unhealthy relationship in this state between the old parties and big business. We are also seeing it with Federal Hotels and poker machines. 

If this Government is serious about lifting the economy of the south-east of Tasmania, serious about giving the economy around Orford and Triabunna a real boost, it needs to start investing in the infrastructure that is necessary to allow cruise ships to park in the port of Triabunna so that those visitors can go into Triabunna and Orford, experience that community and be part of an experience of that part of the east coast of Tasmania, which includes the extraordinary, beautiful and under-utilised Maria Island.

We call on the Government to do that, because apart from anything else, we should not have cruise ships being parked in national park waters. That is what is happening right now in the Bay of Fires, eight this past summer. Let us get them out of the Bay of Fires and into Triabunna so we can give real economic stimulus to that region of Tasmania.

Ms Woodruff - By the way, build a new jetty.

Madam SPEAKER - Order. The member for Franklin can make her own contribution. 

Ms O'CONNOR - Madam Speaker, this Liberal Government has launched a full-frontal assault on Tasmania's environment. We have before the community now, but not before the House yet, a draft bill which seeks to open up to logging 356 000 hectares of extraordinary forest.

Mr Green - Have you seen the draft bill? Which one?

Ms O'CONNOR - I have seen the draft bill. By way of interjection Mr Green asks, 'which draft?'. It was the draft that was made available last Friday that came through the Parliamentary Library email. Who knows what we will end up seeing, but the result will be the same. The result will be that 356 000 hectares of high-conservation-value forest will be opened up to logging from 1 July 2018. The further result of that legislation is that there will be an escalation in rainforest logging. Large chunks of public native forest will effectively be privatised because they will be leased over to the private sector to raise and trash for 10 years. 

In declaring war on the environment and in opening up those beautiful forests for logging, this Government is creating conflict. That is the plan. That is what they want. They want there to be community division over forests in the lead-up to an election. There is no other explanation for it, because Forestry Tasmania's board has written to the shareholder Ministers and did not ask for access to the high-conservation-value forests that should be in reserves by now.

There is no serious industry player who is prepared to stand by the Resources Minister and backing your Government's plan - not one. That is because it is a deranged, divisive, cynical plan that would cause landscape devastation, damage biodiversity and release emissions into the atmosphere out of those incredible carbon-rich forests. Why are we in 2017 as a state talking about legislation that would release more carbon into the atmosphere? 

If any member of this House is interested in Tasmania's emissions profile it is up on the Australian Greenhouse Inventory. It shows us that when Gunns collapsed because its logging practices were unsustainable and was part of a completely corrupt policy process and the markets had rejected our timber, our emissions profile changed substantially. Tasmania's forest estate is now a net carbon sink. That is a gift to the planet. It is a gift to our children. It is precious beyond measure. The carbon that is sequestered in those forests is life. It is part of what we must  build as a defence to accelerating climate change - and it is accelerating.

I talk to young people a lot - including my own, when they see me - and their fear of the future is tangible. They are dealing with challenges that in our time we could not even imagine. They are dealing with the daily news about what is happening to the planet. They know what is happening to the Arctic. They know it is melting. They know about the crack in the Larsen B ice shelf in Antarctica and they know that Antarctica is falling apart. They know that somehow Donald Trump became the President of America and kids in Tasmania are scared about that because he is in there and he is going to ramp up fossil fuels. He wants to walk away from the Paris Agreement and build pipelines that are opposed by the native people. There is no question that the climate will be damaged by Donald Trump's presidency and young people are worried about that, and rightly so. 

They are also worried, though, because successive governments have not paid enough attention to their needs for housing, jobs, and mental health support when they are in strife. We, as a society, have somehow allowed our political leaders to pay lip service to young people who cannot get a rental property, who apply for 30 or more jobs and do not even get to an interview. These are young people who have just had their penalty rates cut, young people who are being told that if they do not work they are leaners. We are shafting young people and we should be ashamed as a society at what we are doing to young Tasmanians, young Australians.

We believe that Tasmania needs to be better prepared for the future. It needs a government that takes these enormous and completely interconnected environmental, social and economic challenges and opportunities seriously. Young people are desperate for hope, and we can give it to them if they look at this place and see the way we conduct ourselves and see us actually thinking about them in everything we do instead of paying them lip service, which society and often governments regularly do. 

In the housing portfolio in Tasmania there has been some fantastic gains made, particularly in the previous term of both state and federal governments in providing supported accommodation for young people. There are more than 3600 people waiting for housing, on the Housing list in Tasmania. That is a massive leap from the previous Labor-Green Government, which had the public housing waiting list at 2300; its lowest level in a decade. We paid particular attention to the plight of young people who needed housing. We bought the land for Trinity Hill. We built Trinity Hill. We made sure there were 46 houses there, homes for young Tasmanians, wrapping the support around them and making sure that we are bringing to them the skills and training opportunities that will equip them for the diminishing number of jobs of the future. 

One thing young people are very, very worried about is the robots. They are terrified of the robots. They are not terrified of what the robots will do to them personally but what the robots will take from them. What the robots are taking from young people, displaced workers and people who need re-skilling out of older resource extraction and manufacturing industries, are their jobs. If you are serious about an economic plan for Tasmania you need to acknowledge that the future is changing as fast as the climte is. Future jobs will be nothing like the jobs at this point in time. The mechanisation of employment is accelerating. There are supermarkets now that basically do not have a human being in them. They are not in Tasmania yet. Amazon has set up a distribution centre that has no human beings there. What are we telling our young people about the jobs of the future? 

I want to acknowledge that there is some fantastic work happening in our schools where kids are writing code. We need that. We need Code Club Australia expanded and it needs to be in every school in Tasmania. We need to teach our beautiful, bright kids how to write the code, how to design the robots, how to control the robots. We need to take this very seriously. Any government, any Minister, that tells you that we can look through the job lens as we always have and that there will be jobs there - without explaining what those jobs will be and how we are training our young people and our displaced manufacturing workers to have those jobs - is showing dishonesty and disrespect for those people who are looking for work.

We call on this Government to follow the Greens example and establish a Minister for employment.  A Minister whose sole focus is not stitching up cosy deals to exploit natural assets, but whose sole focus in this time of immense technological change is to deliver a meaningful, long-term job strategy for Tasmania.


Time expired.