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Endangered and Threatened Species, Tarkine

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Tags: Tasmanian Devil, takayna / Tarkine

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, I rise after being challenged by the Premier this morning when he described me, as the self-proclaimed Leader of the Greens, to address the matter of the traps and cameras in takayna that were put in place by the Bob Brown Foundation and the forest defenders. There are a few facts we need to lay on the record.

The carcass was roadkill. It was strung up so that it could not be eaten. It is about the scent and attracting threatened and endangered species there. It is the same process for wildlife monitoring that was used for a long time by the Parks and Wildlife service (DPIPWE), and to some extent is still used by the Tasmanian Land Conservancy. Our understanding from scientists with expertise in Tasmanian devil behaviours is that devils rarely ever travel more than 500 metres at a time.

Dr Broad guffaws over there, this soul-less member for Braddon, who describes 200 hectares in the Tarkine as just like any old place you can stick a toxic dump. You know nothing about Tasmanian devils. I am actually very good friends with a devil scientist, and the fact of the matter is that MMG Australia Pty Ltd only spent two days at the site monitoring wildlife for their assessment, and they confirmed that in their correspondence to the federal environment minister, Sussan Ley.

The Bob Brown Foundation denies absolutely that there has been any breach of the Threatened Species Protection Act or of the Animal Welfare Act. I point out that since the Liberals came to government in 2014, there have been substantial cuts to the Threatened Species Unit in DPIPWE. As I understand it, they are now down to around two people in the Threatened Species Unit, and there has also been a substantial decline in monitoring of threatened and endangered species in Tasmania.

For example, the draft recovery plan for the Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) is 11 years old. This work is not being done by either the proponent, or the state Government, so we commend absolutely the Bob Brown Foundation for undertaking testing to determine what threatened and endangered species are in that gorgeous patch of rainforest that MMG Australia Pty Ltd wants to put a toxic mine dump on.

We are in a biodiversity crisis. It might only be the Greens in this place that listen to the scientists on that issue, but the time for casually dismissing the plight of threatened and endangered species is well and truly over.

As we know, the Parks and Wildlife Service and other research bodies increasingly rely on citizen science to understand our shifts, our changes in species and in habitats. Absolutely we support the Bob Brown Foundation.

I also want to address the issue of the disrespectful manner in which, as the Leader of the Greens, I was addressed in this place this morning. I simply made the point that all the presiding officers in this place now are men. The Premier is a male, the Leader of the Opposition is a male. Thankfully the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is Ms Dow, and I wish her very well in her role. However, it is disrespectful not to give the title to someone who has worked hard, is recognised by her own party members and supporters and voters as the Leader of the Greens, not to address them by their correct title.

I have written to the Speaker of the House of Assembly this afternoon pointing out that there is nothing in statutes or the Standing Orders or by convention that legitimises not calling me by my correct title. I do not do this because I have a massive ego. I do this because the Greens in this place should be respected. We are a registered political party. We are the only party that contested this election that got a swing towards us.

It is completely unacceptable to diminish a woman in leadership in this place. I will read into the Hansard just briefly some of the contents of our letter to you.

The Leader of a party other than the Government or the Opposition consisting of at least four members, that is standing order 115(iv), does not say the Greens are not a party, nor does it say I am not the leader of a party. This standing order simply says we do not qualify for additional speaking time because we do not have four members.

The Standing Orders and the Sessional Orders do, however, explicitly refer to Greens members. We have a Whip, a position that is not denied by yourself as Speaker or the Government, and I also point out that the other argument that has been used in the past is that we do not qualify as a recognised non-government party under the Parliamentary Salaries Superannuation and Allowances Act of 2012. This does not the case that we are not a party in the House of Assembly; this Act has no such purview.

For the sake of the argument, Mr Speaker, we are defined as a political party in the Integrity Commission Act of 2009, the Parliamentary Disclosure of Interest Act of 1996, the Electoral Act of 2004 and the Charter of Budget Responsibility Act of 2007.

I have also asked the Speaker to note explicitly that I am explicitly considered a leader of a party under the Charter of Budget Responsibility Act of 2007, and a parliamentary leader of a party under the Electoral Act of 2004.

I note that the Premier this morning, when he realised he was sounding a bit churlish and a little bit sexist, backtracked on not addressing me as the Leader of the Greens. I simply ask on behalf of all Greens and on behalf of women who are aspire to leadership, that I be addressed by my correct and appropriate title.