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COVID-19 - Major Projects Legislation

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 7 May 2020

Tags: Major Projects, Planning, COVID-19, Economy

Major Projects: Cassy O'Connor, 7 May, 2020



We have all been working together to apply one key principle to Tasmania's pandemic response: people first, no one left behind. The Greens believe the same should be applied to this island's social and economic recovery. Regrettably, your Government is trying to make divisive and flawed major projects legislation the centrepiece of Tasmania's recovery. Surely, you recognise this is not going to do the trick. Your decision, announced today, not to flog the Treasury building is now a sign that major private investment is some way off.

There is an alternative. The construction industry is worried about their work drying up within six months. Tasmania desperately needs more affordable housing. Your Government could ramp up the construction of this critical social infrastructure and, at the same time, help to drive this island's recovery. Do you agree that a successful rebuild will be one that prioritises people and planet over corporate profiteering? Will you commit to strong investment in social housing to help guarantee more Tasmanians can access a secure and affordable home?



Madam Speaker, I thank the Leader of the Greens, Ms O'Connor, member for Clark, for that question, and her enduring interest in the matter of the Major Projects legislation, which will be an enduring disagreement between herself and myself in terms of the need for that framework legislation.

We have extended the period for public consultation on this legislation, taking into account that we have a pandemic under way. The need for legislation to deal with complex projects remains, either outside the scope of a local government's capacity or may require complex decisions to be made, and it is best to have a panel put in place -

Ms O'Connor - That is what the Planning Commission is for. They set up assessment panels. They already do that.

Madam SPEAKER - Order, Ms O'Connor.

Mr GUTWEIN - It is best to put an assessment panel in place for these projects. In terms of the ultimate decision for our Major Projects legislation, that is not a matter for government. That would be made by an independent panel at arm's length from the Government.

Setting that aside, one thing I strongly believe is this: we need to ensure that, as we step our way through this, we never lose sight of the need for kindness, gratitude and respect. That will be really important as we move into the next phase of the recovery from the challenges we have had in recent times. For Tasmanians who, in some cases, will be feeling frustrated that their business has been taken away from them, or they cannot enjoy some of the activities they had in the past, we will always - for the period that the pandemic and before there is a vaccine, which hopefully will arrive - have to endure some form of social distancing. That will be frustrating for many Tasmanians. I can understand that. I say to people, please act with kindness, please act with gratitude and please show respect. As a community, it will be important that we continue to do that. That goes to the heart of what is Tasmania.

You asked about other infrastructure that may be considered as we work through this. I have established the Premier's Economic and Social Recovery Advisory Council. Matters such as infrastructure, whether it be housing, working on our schools or looking at key transport routes, will be looked at. We have a budget with a wealth of projects across it. We will be looking to ensure we can deliver where there is the greatest need and where we can get people back to work.

One of the key things that is exercising my mind as we move our way through this is to ensure that those people who were connected with the jobs market in some way, only a short handful of weeks ago, are those that we can, if necessary, help to retrain and reskill, help to get into those industries that are going to endure and continue through this pandemic. For some industries it will be a slow step back. For others, such as in the construction trades, and I am glad you are supporting the construction sector -

Ms O'Connor - I always have.

Mr GUTWEIN - and I am not making a point that you have not. We disagree sometimes about what we might build. Having people swinging hammers and using power saws, we can both agree would be a good outcome if we could have more Tasmanians employed.

Construction will play a key part in how we step through this and how we rebuild a stronger Tasmania as a result. We will be looking at all the opportunities we have across our Tasmanian community in looking at the projects that we might bring forward.