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Attack on Peaceful Protests

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 4 May 2022

Tags: Anti-Protest Laws, Protest


Some of us who want to see greener, kinder Tasmania allowed ourselves to be optimistic when you took on the top job. Yesterday, that cautious optimism was badly shaken with the first order of legislative business a forestry bill, while a bill to criminilse peaceful protest was also tabled by your divisive, destructive Resources minister.

Premier, like a dog returning to its vomit, your Government seems no different in its assaults on the environment or on peaceful protesters from that of your two predecessors since 2014. Why did you allow Mr Barnett to control the legislative agenda this week and set the tone for your Government as being hostile to the environment and those fighting to protect it?

As a new Premier, passionate about the mental health of our young people, how can you justify this continued attack on their future with this antiquated agenda?



Mr Speaker, I thank the member for her question. Yesterday, the matters of terms of the validation bill, as minister Barnett well outlined, were well discussed and well debated, and supported by the Opposition for very good reasons: to provide certainty for our forest industry, which employs thousands of Tasmanians. We will not let workers in that industry down, Ms O'Connor. I will never trade away jobs in rural and regional areas. I can give that absolute commitment as Premier because I have seen the consequences of trading away jobs to stay in power. That was clearly evident between 2010 and 2014 under the Labor-Greens government When we saw regional communities devastated -

Ms O'Connor interjecting.

Mr SPEAKER - Order.

Mr ROCKLIFF - People came out in huge numbers. I remember attending a rally in Burnie with thousands of Tasmanians, in Circular Head, in one of the more vulnerable communities to shutting down our forest industry.

Ms O'Connor interjecting.

Mr SPEAKER - Order.

Mr ROCKLIFF - I am a believer in our resource sector: our tourism, our mining, our aquaculture industries. I will always back them 100 per cent, because that is where the wealth is generated. Throughout Tasmania that wealth generation allows investment in the key services that Tasmanians value: health, education, and housing. We will always support industries such as our resource sector.

Balancing those natural resources is very important. I have always done it in my professional life. Growing up on a farm, and valuing our precious water resource, our soils, protecting our water resources, and protecting our soils in a true, balanced natural resource management way.

Ms O'Connor interjecting.

Mr SPEAKER - Order.

Mr ROCKLIFF - That is what Tasmania has, in my view, above any other state. Indeed, we are leading the world.

Ms O'Connor interjecting.

Mr SPEAKER - Order.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER - Ms O'Connor, you asked a serious question of the Premier. I will not put up with you badgering him right through the answer. You have been constantly interjecting over the last couple of minutes. It would have been eight or 10 times. When you ask a question in question time you are meant to listen to the answer. Please stop badgering the Premier and allow him to answer the question.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you Mr Speaker. On the point of order, I simply note that Labor interjected through all the answers and were not pulled up.

Mr SPEAKER - Ms O'Connor, that is not a point of order. It is almost questioning the Chair. If you choose to go down that path, I am happy to take you on.

Mr ROCKLIFF - I believe we have the balance right. I also believe we are committed to continuous improvement in ensuring that we sustainably manage our valuable resources for the benefit of all Tasmanians.

I come to the second part of your question about the workplace protection bill. We have been elected three times with policies to further protect the right of workers and to deter unlawful interference with workplaces. As shadow minister for resources I remember advocating for that policy. All we want, very clearly, is to ensure that the laws of Tasmania support and protect every person's fundamental right to attend their workplace in a safe way, to ensure that people can protest and advocate for change if that is what people want to do.

I have always believed very strongly in ensuring the right to free speech and for people to have their say. However, people also have a right to go to work without interference, without other people potentially endangering their lives, or their own lives, through workplace interference.

This legislation tabled by a minister yesterday reflects what we have said and taken to an election time after time. We will be interested in what the state Opposition and the Labor Party have to say when it comes to standing up and ensuring workers across Tasmania can attend their place of work, so they can put food on the table for their families, in a safe way in a way that does not interfere with their rights to attend a workplace to earn a living and be safe at the same time.