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The Environment and Parks Portfolios

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 12 November 2020

Tags: Parks, Environment, State Budget

The Environment and Parks Portfolios, Cassy O'Connor MP, 12 November 2020


Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Deputy Speaker, we are used to being gaslit in this place and being told untruths, but to have the minister stand there and say he loves scrutiny is beyond the pale. This is a minister who has been allowed to get away with just two hours of scrutiny in the Environment and Parks portfolios, and we know that Labor was prepared to cut that number to one-and-a-half hours. This is a minister who allegedly loves scrutiny but ran away from Dr Woodruff's question at the end of question time about the impact of industrial fish farming on public waterways.

The minister can stand there and say it is due to seasonal factors. I encourage the minister to go down to beautiful White Beach on the Tasman Peninsula. That is not a seasonal algae contamination event; that is now a permanent coating of green algae all over beautiful White Beach. White Beach is no longer white.

I encourage the minister, who thinks this is a seasonal issue to go around the corner to Long Bay where again, there is slime mass, a slime coating, all through Long Bay. I encourage the minister to go to Bruny Island where again you see the contamination of public waterways from industrial fish farming.

As Dr Woodruff has pointed out, a huge part of the problem here is the fact that we do not have an independent Environment Protection Authority. The EPA has been given its marching orders by government and that is to prioritise industry. This is not a government that prioritises environmental protection and we know that, as a result of the Estimates schedule.

In this place, through that schedule, this House is letting down young people. Members of both major parties are letting down young people. They are letting down their own children. They are letting down every Tasmanian community group who is concerned about this Government's neglect of nature and in fact, degradation of nature and the public common wealth of our public lands and our public marine waterways.

It is telling that Ms Standen gets up in this place, she did not talk about the natural environment, could not bring herself to do that. I racked my brain to think if Labor in the last six years, has ever asked a question that goes simply to environmental matters. Or asked a question about the protection of parks, or asked a question about real climate action. I cannot find one in my memory bank and I do not believe there has been one.

For this year's Estimates, we have 30-minutes dedicated to the Climate portfolio. That is shameful. Two hours dedicated to Environment and Parks from five hours last year. Again, that is shameful and it lets down a vast array of community groups: the Hobart Walking Club, the Pandani Walking Club, the Australian Heritage Council, the North West Fisheries Association, the Circular Head Walking Club, the Southern Tasmania Licensed Anglers Association, the Tasmanian National Parks Association, the Anglers Alliance, the North West Walking Club, Bushwalking Tasmania, Bird Life Tasmania, the Tasmanian Wilderness Society, the Tasmanian Aboriginal Heritage Council, the Tasmanian Fly Tyers' Club, the Environmental Defender's Office, the Friends of the Great Western Tiers, the Tasmanian Land Conservancy, the Tasmanian Conservation Trust.

All these are community groups that put in a public submission on the Lake Malbena original comment process to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, not assessment at the federal level.

We also have both major parties wilfully letting down organisations like the East Coast Alliance. We only have one hour, for example, to quiz the Minister on Planning when there are significant planning questions outstanding as a result of the passage of the major projects legislation, the almost certainty that the Mt Wellington Cableway Company will lodge a major projects application for the cable car up kunanyi, the very live prospect that the developer of Cambria Green will do the same thing, again giving a massive middle finger to the East Coast Alliance and the Planning Matters Alliance.

In the Parks portfolio, we have large scale privatisation. We have a government bending over backwards for private developers. We have a director of Parks who is basically a free real estate salesman. All those excellent people who work in Parks to protect our parks are being undermined by this Government's 'development at any cost' approach to public protected areas. Everyone who works in a visitor centre, everyone who works to try to protect threatened species and to properly manage our parks, their work is being undermined daily by this Government and the senior management in the Parks Service. I am quite comfortable saying that because it is true.

Under this Government we have the senior management in Parks determine that the Lake Malbena assessment originally to go to the federal government would be at a level 3 reserve activity assessment instead of where it should have been at level 4, which would have required public consultation.

This Government's record on Environment and Parks absolutely speaks for itself and right across Tasmania there are community groups that understand that deeply, like the fishers and walkers who gathered at the Liberal Party state conference on Saturday morning and rightly blasted helicopter noise at the Government members who would trash wilderness values at Halls Island in Lake Malbena in the Walls of Jerusalem National Park.

This Government's record on the environment and parks speaks for itself.