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Address in Reply

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Tags: Short Stay Accommodation, Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, kooparoona niara/Great Western Tiers

Ms O'CONNOR (Denison - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, it is always a pleasure to listen to the inaugural speeches of new members. I congratulate Jennifer Houston and Alison Standen on fantastic inaugural speeches. There a couple of things in there that I might have disagreed with but they were really moving and impressive inaugural speeches so congratulations. The same, too, to Jen Butler and Ella Haddad who gave really interesting and good inaugural speeches, and to Anita Dow who gave a very heartfelt and deeply thoughtful speech about the north-west of Tasmania. One of the things I took away from her speech was the fantastic description of the landscape and the people's connection to place. Well done, Anita.

To every member in this place who has been elected or re-elected, I extend congratulations and on behalf of the Greens to you, Madam Speaker, to you election to the Chair and also to acknowledge that with your election to the Chair I believe this parliament will be one of the best parliaments Tasmania has ever seen. Certainly from the Greens' point of view we are committed to working constructively and being part of a reformist, energised and visionary parliament for the people of Tasmania.

Mr Ferguson - This is your 2010 speech.

Ms O'CONNOR - Gee, you have a good memory. You really listen carefully to what I say.

Mr Ferguson - I remember you saying exactly those words.

Ms O'CONNOR - I did not say exactly those words because Mr Polley was in the Chair in 2010 even though we did have a balance of power parliament.

If elections in Tasmania were a free, fair and genuine contest of ideas, a contest of vision for the future, I would like to think we would have a Greens majority government in this place. Our vision for this beautiful island and its people extends well past the next election, and always has, and deep into the twenty-first century. We stand here for our children and our grandchildren and we have a vision for a climate-resilient and adaptive Tasmania where our human rights are enshrined and protected, where every child in our schools is given the opportunity to shine in a well-funded public school system and if they choose to go to TAFE, in a well-funded public TAFE system. A Tasmania that strongly protects and in fact culturally treasures its children, where every Tasmanian can feel secure that there will be housing there for them, they will have a home and the rent will be affordable.

The policy we took to the election on housing and homelessness I believe is the policy that needs to be implemented by this parliament. We know that Hobart is now becoming the least affordable capital in the country, in fact in rental terms more unaffordable than Sydney. We know there are people sleeping at the Domain, at the showgrounds, or sleeping on couches at friends' places. It is not good enough. In the ACT they have a policy in place that limits rental increases to the consumer price index and that has made sure that rents are fair. Here, particularly in the south of the state, rents are soaring. One of the reasons they are soaring is because of the explosion in the short-stay accommodation market.

This parliament will have to look at regulating the short-stay accommodation market because the evidence tells us it is the fastest and most effective quick fix for making sure there are homes available for people who need them. At this point the new Housing minister does not have a plan for housing. We know that. The new Housing minister, unlike his predecessors in the role including Mrs Petrusma and myself, has not allowed his department to brief either the Greens or the Labor Opposition on what plan he has for dealing with the housing emergency. Mr Jaensch, that is a mistake. In government we never denied a request for an opposition member to be briefed, certainly in my agencies when I was the minister. You have made a mistake and I ask you to have a look at it.

We had a vision for Tasmania that we took to this election where we are planning for population increase and are not making ad hoc decisions as the population continues to grow. We have to look at the Tasmania we want to be 50 years and 100 years from now because there is no question whatsoever that our population will continue to grow. We will see exponential growth in our population as the climate continues to disrupt places all over the planet.

We also took a policy to the election that said if we are going to have a city deal with the Commonwealth, let us not make this political, let us not allow it to become ad hoc and a thunder of bizarre bus tunnels, more roads, more lanes on more roads so more cars can come. Let us make this a genuinely consultative city deal through which we invest in public and pedestrian infrastructure and create a city for people, not for cars.

We had a vision for Tasmania that has always been our vision for Tasmania; a Tasmania that is powered by renewable energy, where our transport systems are electric. We have a vision for Tasmania that is in our DNA and has been part of who we are for the last 40 years: a Tasmania that recognises it is the custodian of some of the most beautiful, unique and ancient wild places on the planet; a Tasmania that is proud of its World Heritage Area, protects wilderness and cultural values in our world heritage area - not a Tasmania that allows them to be exploited for private profit. Our vision is of a Tasmania that looks after its forests, the great reservoir of carbon, the gift we can give future generations; forests that should be protected for their intrinsic value and for their value to a healthy climate.

Our vision for Tasmania is a resilient self-sufficient just and progressive Tasmania, a Tasmania that is in charge of its own destiny, where our sovereignty is not put at risk by foreign influence and foreign donations.

It is now almost three months since election day. The dust has settled but the stink of a democracy corrupted by filthy lucre, by untold millions in dark money, remains. It hangs over this place, heavy in the air. To clear the air, Tasmanians need to know what happened. We need the Integrity Commission to look at this election and the millions of dollars of dirty money that flowed into Liberal coffers. It is the perfect task for the Integrity Commission. If the Integrity Commission cannot do this and will not have public hearings and if the Integrity Commission is not enabled to do this, then we need a royal commission or a commission of inquiry.

We need to deal with, as a matter of priority in this place, the reform of Tasmania's donations framework. We have the weakest, most ordinary and corporate-enabling donations disclosure framework in the country. We saw evidence of that at this election. We need to have real time donations disclosure in place, a ban on donations from corporations and developers, a cap on spending and a ban on donations from foreign governments and foreign companies.

It is a matter of public record that the Liberals took money from an individual representing a company that the federal Liberals were warned about by ASIO. We need to be very careful of attempts to influence our democracy in Tasmania through foreign donations. We made the commitment during the election campaign that we would bring on a debate about foreign influence and ownership in Tasmania and we will do that. It is a matter being talked about in the community. People are muttering, people are worried. People do not know how to talk about the increased influence of the Communist Party of China on public and political life in Tasmania. For any member of this House who has not read Clive Hamilton's book, Silent Invasion: China's Influence in Australia, I recommend you do so. Do so cautiously, objectively, but read this book if you want to understand some of the challenges that Tasmania, Australia and large parts of the world face as a result of the growing aggression of the Communist Party of China. We are seeing it in the South China Sea.

We do not know how much money the gambling industry spent trying to buy government for the Liberals. The estimates are between $5 million and $10 million. This predatory industry falsely painted this issue as one of personal choice, failing to recognise all the evidence about how difficult it is to make informed personal choices when your life is falling apart, when you are experiencing alcohol addiction, drug addiction or family violence or mental health breakdown. The industry wholly misrepresented the number of jobs affected if poker machines were wound back from pubs and clubs. The evidence of that is manifest and most recently in a paper Anglicare sent to me and, no doubt, to the leaders of other parties, which laid out some of the issues around poker machines in pubs and clubs with particular reference to the last election.

While the Leader of the Opposition is not in the House at the moment, I lay this challenge down to the Labor Party. The Labor Party took to this election, after relentless pressure from the community sector and the Greens over an extended period, a principled position on the removal of poker machines from pubs and clubs, a position that would save lives and livelihoods in the future, a position that would prevent the proliferation and continuation of poker machines in some of our poorest communities out to the year 2043. The challenge now to the Labor Party is, will you stick with that position? Will you hold that policy? Will you be able to resist the internal pressure, Mr O'Byrne, to change the party's policy on poker machines in pubs and clubs?

If the Labor Party holds its position on poker machines, should they win government after the next election, the industry will not be able to cry sovereign risk. There would only be a sovereign risk argument, fallacious as it is, if the industry had not idea what was coming. This will be the test of the Labor Party in this term of government, because key decisions and key moves in this place will be made that will affect gambling industry policy in this state. We need Ms White to come into this place, commit to sticking with the policy and commit to revoking the deed, should the Labor Party win majority government in 2022. We need Ms White to resist that internal pressure and deny the industry the opportunity to squeal sovereign risk, should the policy settings change after the next election.

In her Address-in-Reply, the Opposition Leader talked about the Greens as a party looking for a cause. I had to smile inside because, of all the parties in this place, our track record of 40 years of advocacy for this island's environment and its people is unbroken. We have stayed true to this island's wild places. We have stayed true to the forests and the marine environment. Ever since we were born as a party, going back to the days of Lake Pedder, it is in our DNA to stand up for this island and its people. It was because of the Franklin campaign that the Southwest Wilderness was initially declared in 1982. It was because of Greens in government during the Field minority government that significant extensions were made to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area in 1989. It is because the Labor had more numbers than us in that term of government and the forest industry had huge sway over the Labor Party, as it continues to have over both the Labor and Liberal Parties, that significant parts of the contiguous ancient forests that bordered the 1989 boundaries of the TWWHA were left out, and they were left out at the behest of the industry.

Between 2010 and 2014, again, significant extensions were made to the boundary of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area and that scientific wrong was in part corrected because we made sure the most extraordinary tracts of the Styx, the Weld, the Florentine, the Picton and the Great Western Tiers were added, as they should have been in 1989, to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. It is the wilderness, it is natural Tasmania that underpins our economic strength, our agricultural sector and the increased numbers of tourists coming to Tasmania.

Our cause is the same as it has always been, to stand up for this island and its people. We do not back down on policy positions. That is why I lay the challenge down to Ms White on the issue of pokies. We would also like to know what the Labor Party is going to do about increased commercial exploitation of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area and other protected areas and public lands.

We know the Liberal Party is enabling an unprecedented assault on our wild places. Unprecedented access to private developers to exploit wild places. We know what the Liberals stand for: they stand for the making of money. As we released on Sunday, they stand for manipulating management plans in order to enable private development. They stand for allowing the Office of the Coordinator-General, in fact, the Coordinator-General himself, to advise the Minister for Parks on development inside the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

There has been from Labor on this issue, absolute silence. There has not been silence from the Labor Party on the proposed cable car to kunanyi/Mount Wellington. We have heard a lot from them in this place about it. Labor supported Ms Archer's bill in 2013, a private member's bill that removed the veto power of the Wellington Park Management Trust, taking away that one extra layer of protection from the mountain. Then late last year, the Liberals brought in legislation to facilitate the Mount Wellington cableway, to privatise the pinnacle of kunanyi and to smooth the way for a divisive development. That legislation had the support of Labor and it got through the upper House with Rob Valentine being the only upper House member who voted against it.

People need to understand how Labor operates on the ground. They vote for the cable car and then go into the community and code against it. In the media they talk about their concerns with the process, the process they enabled, the process they voted for.

Dr Broad - It is a conspiracy.

Ms O'CONNOR - It is not a conspiracy, Dr Broad, it is a fact. I have been associated with the Labor Party in some way or another longer than you, Dr Broad. I know your party quite well, Dr Broad. I know how you code out there in the community on an issue while you undertake legislative perfidy in this place, I know it very well, Dr Broad.

The test will also come on the issue of the marine environment. The Liberal Party is in lockstep with the Labor Party on the rampant expansion of fish farms in the marine environment against significant community opposition and the weight of scientific evidence. Will the Liberal Party and the Labor Party back unreservedly the expansion of fish farming in Storm Bay? The level of public concern about this industry's impact on the environment will only increase as the industry moves into Storm Bay. We know that over the past weekandahalf the industry, the regulators and the minister have been ill equipped to deal with extreme weather events. We did not get a straight answer out of the minister this morning about the mass fish escape and the potential for seal and shark deaths. That is highly regrettable.

Ms Courtney, unfortunately you have never been in this place in opposition and you do not understand ministers, when they get to the table, should give honest answers.

Mr Barnett - I think that is offensive.

Ms O'CONNOR - Do you think so? It is an observation of what happened in here this morning. You know this industry has problems, you know it is poorly regulated, you know there has been no baseline work done on the marine environment in Storm Bay. My question to both parties is, will you continue to roll over to that industry and allow it to do what it wants and set up a wall - a plastic curtain - across Storm Bay when we know that the industry has already spoilt Macquarie Harbour? We know about the impacts on D'Entrecasteaux Channel. This is a test on both parties, in particular the Labor Party because you have some capacity to do something about this. What will you do to protect Storm Bay?

Peter van Onselen, an academic at ANU and sometimes writer, observed wryly sometime before the election, 'If you want to know what the Labor Party is going to be doing in 10 years time, have a look at what the Greens are doing now'.

Mr O'Byrne - That is just arrogant.

Ms O'CONNOR - Well let us give you some examples. Acceptance of climate change, advocacy of renewable energy, same sex marriage, the banking royal commission, and live exports. Who advocated for the banking royal commission for six years? Senator Peter Whish-Wilson. Now we have the Labor Party over the line on live exports - that is a good thing. What we now need to see is Labor-

Mr O'Byrne interjecting.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER  - Order, Mr O'Byrne.

Ms O'CONNOR - The things people say about you out in the electorate, Mr O'Byrne. A test now of Labor federally will be will you change your refugee policy and be more humane and make sure we are not imprisoning people indefinitely in off-shore prisons with no hope for the future?

Speaking of the future and looking forward, this is a very interesting parliament for a number of reasons. The most significant is that we now have a majority of women in this House. Having listened to the inaugural speeches of the newly elected Labor women, it will improve the quality of the debate. It will increase the level of transparency and accountability to have a majority of women in this place. I hope that it leads to more civil discourse. It is very significant that we now have a majority of women in this House and we have a female Speaker. It is also a very interesting parliament because it is a highly balanced parliament. We have the next best thing to a balanceofpower parliament. In fact, it really is a balanceofpower parliament. Let us be honest and upfront about this. We have a newly elected Speaker who is committed to being independent and has given confidence and supply to the Government, but has made a very clear statement about making decisions that are in the best interests of Tasmania and the Tasmanian people. We can deliver a restoration of the numbers in this place so that we are not quietly acknowledging the decisions to cut the numbers was a mistake, so that we are all agreeing that restoration of this House would improve governance.
It would improve the quality of people that the premier of the day has to choose from to form a Cabinet. It would ensure that signficant policy areas and decisions are not being made by political advisors. Restoring the numbers is an important task for this balanceofpower parliament. We could also move forward on a human rights act for Tasmania so that the rights of citizens are enshrined and upheld in the law, so that the rights of citizens cannot be taken away or impinged on by bad government law or by the conduct of corporations. We need to have a human rights act for Tasmania. It is the Labor Party's policy, it is the Greens' policy. I am hoping that there will be other votes in this place that can assist us to deliver a human rights act for Tasmania.

From a personal level, I want to see this parliament once again, openly and honestly without the contamination of politics, deal with dying with dignity legislation. This is a human rights issue. We know that out in the community the vast majority of people - it does not matter how they vote and often it does not matter what age they are because they understand human autonomy and their rights - the vast majority of people support the right of an individual who is enduring interminable, irrelievable suffering for which palliation provides no relief to make the choice to end their life supported by people they care about and supported by the law. Ms White, the Opposition Leader, is going to co-sponsor this legislation with me. I am very hopeful that a member of the Liberal Party will also agree to co-sponsor this legislation and we can table and debate it earlier in this term rather than later and have a calm and rational debate that delivers dying with dignity legislation in Tasmania.

There is a date approaching that means much to people who are Greens or Greens' supporters or conservationists, and that is 1 July 2020. That is the day that 356 000 hectares of some of our most beautiful forests will be on the chopping block under the Liberals' policy. From the southern forests to Bruny Island, the Tasman Peninsula, Wielangta, the Blue Tier, the Great Western Tiers to the extraordinary Tarkine wilderness, there is a myriad of natural values and carbon sequestration values and they are all threatened. These are the forests that were set aside for protection under the Labor-Greens government with the support of industry and the environment movement, and they should be protected. They are worthy of protection. They are extraordinary places and we will be fighting hard to make sure those forests go into reserves, as they should.

We will continue to campaign for a Tarkine national park because I encourage any member who has any interest in the geological and natural history and the Aboriginal history of Tasmania to do some deep reading on the Tarkine region. It is a place of outstanding universal value that could go on the World Heritage list with no problem whatsoever. It is a wilderness unlike any other place on Earth. It contains significant tracts of ancient rainforest, tall eucalypt forest and Aboriginal history, particularly along that north-western and western coastline that dates back ten of thousands of years - hut depressions, middens, amazing, extraordinary history. In many parts of the world if you had a wilderness like that, a natural and cultural treasure in your backyard, it would have been protected a long time ago. We believe the day will come when the Tarkine is protected and we will continue to fight for that.
The last thing I will say is that Ms Woodruff and I are here to fight for Tasmania, to fight for this beautiful island and its people and to continue the legacy of the Greens in this place of standing up for Tasmania's environment, standing up for our forests and protected areas, and for our brand which underpins our economic and social wellbeing. We may be diminished, and I sure do miss Andrea Dawkins, but we are a mighty little duo and we will be working very hard because we know that in this place the Tasmanian environment's strongest voice is the Greens and in this term of the parliament the environment will be front and centre.