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Brand Tasmania Bill 2018 - Second Reading

Parliamentary Activity - Thursday, 22 November 2018, Cassy O'Connor MP


Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure on behalf of the Greens tonight to support the Brand Tasmania Bill 2018.

When we talk about Tasmania's brand it has so many elements to it. The foundational and geographical story of Tasmania's brand is the fact we are a chip off the old Gondwanan block. We have extraordinary flora here, King Billy pine, Huon, Nothofagus gunnii, our native species and you will not find them anywhere else in the world. You can travel around the island in a week or two and see half a dozen completely different landscapes, so stunningly beautiful.

The human history of our brand goes back tens of thousands of years - 40 000 years or more to the first people, the palawa pakana, who shaped this island. This beautiful island, the mosaic burns, the way they managed and cared for Tasmania, the island lutruwita, has been part of why Tasmania, lutruwita, captures the imagination of people from all over the world. From the Greens' point of view, the story of those foundational elements of our brand goes back to Lake Pedder, to the battle to save that beautiful quartz beach, that incredible place like nowhere else in the world. The civil society movement lost that battle, but we saved the mighty Franklin River which runs free and it runs free because hundreds of people, who over a long period of time got in there, defended that place, held off the bulldozers until the federal government stepped in and said we will save the Franklin River. That is part of wild Tasmania that is the foundation of our brand.

Then you go to the battle to save Wesley Vale from the pulp mill way back in 1988-89, which gave birth politically to Christine Milne, a former Tasmanian Greens leader, a former Australian Greens leader and the first person as far as I know to coin the term 'clean, green and clever'. These are the foundational elements of the brand that we are discussing tonight, the brand that we celebrate, the brand that the Greens will always defend in this place.

After Wesley Vale, a successful campaign, there was another threat to Tasmania's brand, to our forest, to our natural environment, to our reputation for clean air, and that was the proposed Gunns pulp mill in the Tamar Valley. Again, civil society stood up and defended this island and thus defended its brand. If the Tamar Valley pulp mill had gone ahead our brand would have been damaged. Our reputation as a clean and green island would have been damaged. Deforestation would have accelerated and visitors coming to this place would have seen far more clear-felled, burned and scarified landscapes than they see today.

I am in this place because there was a Sydney-based company that wanted to put 500 homes and a marina inside the Ralphs Bay conservation area. Again, civil society, an incredible group of people, stood up to defend their place, to protect the Ralphs Bay conservation area, to protect the beautiful pied oystercatchers, a tiny little red-necked stint which flies all the way to Siberia and back each year to the sand flats of Ralphs Bay. Civil society defended the Ralphs Bay conservation area. There are not Gold Coast style canal estates right there in the River Derwent and that is part of what has defined and defended our brands.

All through these decades you had people who understood and respected the intrinsic value of all life, who looked at a forest and saw it for what it really was - a complete natural miracle. Over decades, Tasmanian civil society, conservationists, Greens members of parliament, our extraordinary author, Richard Flanagan, have stood up for Tasmania's forests over the decades and in many cases put their bodies in front of the bulldozers. Who can forget those iconic images of Bob Brown being carted away, putting his whole being in between Tasmania's forests and those who would destroy it.

Even in the term of the Labor-Greens government, action was taken by the government of the day, working with the environment movement and the timber industry to protect Tasmania's forests. Those forests are integral to what people identify with Tasmania and they are part of the reason that people come to this beautiful island. Still now, as a result of the actions of that government, 356 000 hectares of beautiful, high conservation value forests, Styx, Florentine, Picton, Weld, the Bruny forests over to the Tasman Peninsula, Wielangta, the Blue Tiers, into the Great Western Tiers and the Tarkine, are those extraordinary forests which are a foundational element of the Tasmanian brand and which are still not safe.

Madam Speaker, that brings me to what is a potential risk every day in this place to Tasmania's brand. A brand is a fragile and precious thing. It only takes one bad policy, one careless act on the part of an industry or government, and your brand is tainted. A brand must have integrity. Without integrity the brand is meaningless. To protect this remarkable brand which is like no other brand on earth, brand Tasmania, we must be committed to upholding the integrity of that brand and that means we have to nurture the foundational assets, for want of a better word, of that brand.

When you talk to visitors to Tasmania, whether they come from mainland Australia or overseas, and you ask them why they have come to this place, it is because Tasmania captures in people's imagination something of a lost world, a place where there is still wilderness. People talk about wilderness as a major drawcard for coming to Tasmania. Visitor surveys have been done and visitors have been asked, 'What brought you here?' and the number one consideration that drives visitation to Tasmania is the wilderness. It is a perception of purity and pristineness, which is in part true. For visitors who come here because Tasmania captures this place in their imagination, they do not necessarily need to go in to see the wilderness, they just need to know it is there. People all over the world just need to know that there is a place like Tasmania. It gives people hope.

I remember before I was elected, I was tramping around the flats of Ralphs Bay. I was on the phone to my late father-in-law, and he said, 'What are you up to, Cassy?' and I said, 'Oh, you know, working', and I told him a little story of Ralphs Bay and he goes, 'You fight hard, girl'. He was living in Sydney. 'You fight hard, girl, we up here need to know there is a place like Tasmania on Earth'. We need to remember that we are, in the parliament right now, the custodians of something extraordinary. A little green heart shaped island at the bottom of the world that has wilderness, that has extraordinary forests, incredible coast lines; that has the most extraordinary European and Aboriginal cultural heritage, that draws artists from all over the world, partly because of the light here. We are at the same latitude in the southern hemisphere as Tuscany in the northern hemisphere and that is why we get that incredible golden light here. It draws artists and story tellers to this island. That light, that quality, that something magic about this island that you will not find in other parts of the world. They are those intrinsic underlying assets of our brand. People from all over the world look at this island and they regard it as a jewel.

I recognise that, in establishing an authority, we are actually strengthening the protective capacity, if you like, of government, parliament, businesses, trading entities, our primary producers and civil society to nurture our brand. I was stoked to hear the Premier use the word 'nurture'. Our role here in establishing this authority is to set up something which has a protective role, a nurturing role in making sure that our brand stays in good shape.

I also echo the comments of the Leader of the Opposition in acknowledging the work of Robert Hazelwood, after all these years. I was just talking to Robert in the foyer and he told me 17 years ago, when he got the job with Brand Tasmania, he was told that he had to work in a home office, buy his own car, run his own show. Robert, we have not always agreed on some of these brand issues but I acknowledge that you have stayed on, you have worked hard, you have done your best to be part of building up Brand Tasmania and we owe you a debt of gratitude. Thank you.

Members - Hear, hear.

Ms O'CONNOR - We need to acknowledge that the Brand Tasmania Authority will, as a result of this legislation, have the capacity to identify risks to the brand and also opportunities to strengthen the brand. The risks to brand, right now, and I have only thought about it for a few days, are the loss of wilderness. That is happening under this Government through the expressions of interest process.

I urge the Premier to again have a look at the definition of 'wilderness'. Wilderness is not wilderness when you are putting luxury lodges inside wilderness, allowing helicopter flights to ferry wealthy tourists in and out of places that have been enjoyed by fly fishermen and walkers freely for decades with the lightest touch. The lightest human touch on the wilderness - building luxury lodges, helicopters, that is not a light touch. By UN definition that degrades wilderness. If we degrade our wilderness, if we turn our wild places into a theme park like Canada has and is now frantically back pedalling from, we will put the brand at risk. Just as if we allow the loggers into the 356 000 hectares of incredible, miraculous high conservation value forest around this state we will put the brand at risk.

Another threat to our brand - and I believe that in a reflective moment outside this Chamber it is entirely possible that the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition would agree with me - is the potential damage to the marine environment caused by rampant fish farm expansion. People who come here from interstate and overseas have an idea of purity and pristineness when they think about Tasmania. If they get here and they go for a swim off Bruny, down in Frederick Henry Bay and they can see that the water is full of something slimy and grimy and fishy, which is fish poo, that places our brand at risk and it creates a perception in the visitors' mind that our brand is not as pristine as it should be.

Did you want to, by way of interjection, contribute to the debate, Mr Hidding?

Mr Hidding - No, no. I do not want to speak while you are interrupting.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you, Mr Barnett.

Mr Hidding - Mr Barnett often says he worries about your croaky voice.

Ms O'CONNOR - Another threat to our brand is inappropriate, ill thought out development. Whether it be pulp mills or canal estates or skyscrapers in our beautiful medium-rise city of Hobart. We need to be very careful about the development decisions we make, about the land use planning decisions we make and about making sure we talk to Tasmanians about what they want from their built fabric and are part of the decision making about the future of our fantastic city.

Another risk to the brand is a risk that comes about potentially as a result of our own success. The fact that people want to come here from every corner of the globe to see one the of the last truly wild and civilised places on the planet. I know they sound like a contradiction but this is a wild island and it is a civilised and safe democracy. We need to be careful to not race too far ahead in the visitor economy and think that we can constantly blow up that balloon and constantly go for quantity of numbers over quality of experience. People who travel to this island should know that it is a privilege to be here. That is why we have argued for a visitor levy. We should be making some money out of visitors and reinvesting that money into our national parks, World Heritage areas and visitor infrastructure. We need a plan to deal with the growth in tourism numbers. We need to make sure that in our regions, in particular - I know the Premier agrees with this - we are distributing the visitors and we are also sharing the wealth.

The week before last we were up in Deloraine and I was talking to a local bed and breakfast operator. We started talking about all the visitors who are coming to the south and this lady said, 'Well, we don't see much of that up here. We have no problem with numbers up here'. In the south of the state in and around Hobart people are becoming increasingly aware of the rapid growth in numbers, yet up in beautiful Deloraine it has barely even begun to make an impact on their perception of visitor numbers.

Ms White mentioned biosecurity as threat to the brand. We have a reputation nationally and internationally for our clean and green produce, and for the quality of our produce. We need to invest in biosecurity so we can protect our reputation for cleanliness and purity. I call on the Premier to make sure there is increased investment in Biosecurity Tasmania in future budgets, because it is a critical part of protecting our brand.

Another threat to the brand is not so much about the environment or our cultural landscape, but governance and democracy. If you have good governance you have a much better capacity to protect the brand. If your governance framework is such that rapacious developers can come in and persuade the government of the day to allow them to build something, or log something or mine something in a manner that threatens the brand that is not good governance. It does put the brand at threat when you have too close a relationship between private business and the government of the day coupled with the lack of a settlement strategy for Tasmania, the lack of a long-term vision for what we want for this remarkable, beautiful island.

At a social level we have a reputation among not-for-profit organisations, advocates, for example, for humanitarian entrants, we have a reputation for the most remarkable culture of community. We give more per capita than any other Australian state or territory and we are the poorest. Tasmanians have big hearts. Our culture of community, our friendliness is integral to our brand and it is integral to people's perceptions when they come here.

I remember 30 years ago coming down from Queensland, where people get hot and they get a bit uncomfortable and they get grumpy and everyone is sour so often, and coming here and walking into a shop and the lady behind the counter going, 'Hello lovey, how are you today, are you having a good day?'I remember ringing my mum up one night after that saying, 'Mum, everyone down here is so friendly'. That has not changed. We have a culture of generosity of spirit, of acceptance, inclusion and kindness, and we need to protect that. Associated with that is social inequality. We must do more as a state and as a parliament to tackle the causes of social inequality to make sure that those positive economic benefits that come from the strength of our brand are shared.

At the moment, there are people who are suffering, people who are living below the poverty line, people who are wholly dependent on income support, who have no chance of getting meaningful employment, people who are missing out on a quality education, on access to transport and services. As we embark on this journey of nurturing and strengthening the brand that will strengthen our economic future, we must make sure that we are looking after people as well. The brand relies on us being regarded not only as a place that looks after its natural treasures but as a place that looks after its people.

I pay tribute to some other champions of Tasmania's brand. I pay tribute to the photographer Olegas Truchanas. Olegas Truchanas was one of the first great photographers who went into Tasmania's wilderness and captured the essence of something you will not find anywhere else on Earth and shared it with the world. For many Tasmanians who had not had the opportunity to experience the wilderness, Olegas Truchanas gave them the first window into this remarkable place on our doorstep.

Bob Brown, the Franklin River campaign; Christine Milne, the Wesley Vale campaign; Peg Putt, defending always Tasmania's forests; Geoff Law, one of the earliest founders of the Wilderness Society and a relentless champion for wild Tasmania.

Richard Flanagan, who was reviled and derided for his passion, is an incredibly articulate advocate for Tasmania's forests and for its wilderness, who we can all embrace as a Man Booker Prize winner. He is one of the great authors of the world and has contributed so much to the brand but also to that reputation that we have for creativity and innovation for remarkable artists, story tellers, theatre. The arts and culture environment in Tasmania again contributes to our brand.

I pay tribute to Tasmania's Aboriginal people who not only looked after this place for tens of thousands of years, but have stood alongside the conservation movement to protect the Tasmanian forests and the wilderness.

To Vica Bayley, to the Environmental Defenders Office, the Tasmanian Conservation Trust. So many people over such a long time who have recognised the need for Tasmanians to stand up when it is necessary to defend what sets this island apart from every other place on the planet.

The evolution of the bill has been pretty special. We got hold of the bill -

Mr Hodgman - 17 October.

Ms O'CONNOR - Tabled on 17 October. We went through it and identified areas in which it could be strengthened. We recognised that it was fundamentally good legislation but it could be strengthened. Staff from the Department of Premier and Cabinet have done so much work in delivering the building Tasmania's brand audit, which was delivered on 27 January and working up this legislation, which will take Tasmania's brand forward.

I thank everyone from your agency, Premier, who contributed to making this bill the best that it can be. It is really important that there is tripartisan support for the law that establishes the Brand Tasmania Authority. It is really important that the Greens in this place stand by the Brand Tasmania legislation. It has been great to have the Department of Premier and Cabinet work with us on some amendments that we believe will improve the bill.

I will not go through all the amendments because they have been foreshadowed. The first important amendment for which we hope to have the support of both parties relates to the functions of the authority, to make sure the authority advocates for the protection of the attributes on which the Tasmanian brand relies.

We were annoyed and disappointed when we read clause 10 of the Brand Tasmania Act to see that, under the Board of Brand Tasmania, the qualifications and experience of those who would sit on the board did not include people who were part of the movement that had defended the attributes that underpin Tasmania's brand. That is, the environment movement, heritage specialists and people who understand natural resource management. We have a proposed amendment that would ensure, at least in part, those skills are on the board authority and it will make the authority do better work.

There are a number of other amendments we can go through in the Committee stage. We have had the assistance of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel to prepare these amendments and it has been excellent. The last amendment is very important and goes to the content of the annual report issued by the Brand Authority. We have an amendment we believe the Premier and the Government agree with, that the board must include the following information and documents in the annual report, including a statement on any developments the board considers may pose a significant risk to the reputation of the Tasmanian brand or may strengthen the appeal of the Tasmanian brand.

Mr Hidding - Let us go to Committee and do that.

Ms O'CONNOR - I know you are tired, you want to go nigh-nighs.

Mr Hidding - No, I don't. You are running all your Committee arguments now.

Ms O'CONNOR - I thought we could run the Committee arguments quickly. Surely, you did not think a Greens MP was going speak on a brand bill and it be over in five minutes. Everyone here needed a little history lesson on some of the attributes that underpin the strength of our brand.