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Community Consultation Processes

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 4 June 2020

Tags: Community, Transparency

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Speaker, today, I want to talk about a disturbing trend that this Government has displayed over the past six years about their disdain for community consultation processes, which has ramped up to a whole new level in the COVID-19 period. We are seeing now a complete, total distain by the Government for the views of the community, for proper democratic processes in terms of the type of consultation methods that are used and respect for people in the opportunities to engage in different ways. Fundamentally, it is instructive about the way this Government approaches doing business which is 'it is our way or the highway'.

There is an assumption that the Government's way is the right way and they really do not want the community's views on any matters, especially on anything controversial. Essentially, they would provide a consultation process happily as long as it presents the final draft bill, or the final plan for a subdivision, or the final plan for a master plan, or management for a world heritage area, simply to have people tick the box, and say, we would prefer the font to be a bit larger. We would like it to be pink on the cover instead of purple. That is essentially all they are interested in hearing.

All the work that people put into long and serious and passionate submissions on draft legislation may as well be wasted. It is wasted because it has no effect on the outcome. We are seeing this time and again.

The most outrageous example is the major projects legislation. The Government, the minister, pushed through that consultation process, about a bill 206 pages long that had no clause notes, no accompanying fact sheets, no accompanying information at all, during the coronavirus pandemic, at the height of the period where people were adjusting to the restrictions. They extended it but was a pathetically short time period in the first place. They extended it from one month to two months. That is nonsense. This is the most controversial piece of planning legislation to come into this House. It seeks to unstitch everything that holds us together as a community, to be able to have conversations about the changes proposed with a development - changes to landscape, changes to liveability, amenity, changes to property prices, changes to ownership of land. Many people and many groups criticise what we have at the moment but the major projects legislation will unstitch all the normal approval processes. It will stick in place a hand-picked panel that decides on the criteria for assessing the project and constrain other state acts to fit within that criteria. Their final decision cannot be appealed.

For that consultation process to be pushed through in the coronavirus period shows the level of disdain the Government has. It added insult to injury by adding misleading and inaccurate information that the Government called facts on its planning website. They were not facts; they were lies. The information put on the website was a lie. It was designed to confuse people about the truth of what the major projects legislation will do. The community is not stupid. The community knows the way this Government operates.

The minister gave a guarantee during the debate on the Huntingfield supply order that the Huntingfield master plan was where residents could flag their suggestions and concerns about the development. He committed to holding community workshops as part of the consultation process. What has he done? He has put up an interactive web-based tool and a fact sheet. That is no way to consult with residents about this huge subdivision with important issues regarding traffic management, storm water, business districts, liveability and density.

I wrote to him on behalf of the Greens last week asking for a simple two-week increase and a commitment to providing the workshops. There is no reason not to do that now. There is no reason under the social restrictions that will be in place on 13 June for the minister not to do that. I have not had a response. He is just not interested. They do not want to hear people's views. The community will keep giving its views to the Government. This causes a more a divisive way for the community to take up issues.

Regarding the Bruny Island SeaLink ferry, not only did the Government give this contract to an international company, which is fine, they did not see fit to put anything in the contract that requires SeaLink to consult with the island's residents when they make dramatic changes to the ferry timetable. Residents need to know when things are happening. It has to be consistent. SeaLink decided it was not going to get enough profit during the coronavirus period and without consultation introduced another ferry schedule which was nothing like the winter timetable people expected. Minister, not interested. This stuff should be written into the contract.