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Estimates Reply – Attorney-General

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 16 September 2021

Tags: Tenant Rights, Housing Crisis, State Budget

Ms O'CONNOR - It is very good to be back. I remind the House it will take a lot more than that to shut down the Greens.

Mr Chair, I want to talk about the consumer protection aspects of the minister's portfolio and focus on her contribution toward the Tasmanian Residential Property Owners Association, which we call 'TROPOA' for short, and lay out some of the time line and reiterate the Greens' concerns about what has taken place.

On 7 May, Ms Louise Elliot established an 'Elliot for Council' page. On 13 May this year, TRPPOA applied for funding; that is, six days after Ms Elliot established her Louise Elliot for Council page. The next day, after applying for state government funding for this organisation, Ms Elliot announced on Twitter that she was running for council. As we understand it, this application was approved in June.

This organisation which, as far as we can tell, from its incorporation documents at Service Tasmania, has only has one public officer and one known individual in its administrative structure has been given $100 000 of taxpayers' money for a person who has made it clear, prior to seeking public funding, that she is running for Hobart City Council.

This is a matter of very significant public interest. I remember, as a member of Save Ralphs Bay Incorporated, that we would sell raffle tickets and tea towels and scarves in order to raise the funds that we needed to protect the Ralphs Bay Conservation Area from a 500 home canal estate. This is the story of community organisations all over Tasmania that are not given a cent by government, let alone $100 000, that are doing vital community work in the public interest often in order to protect the natural environment or the marine environment.

It is a very different standard that is applied to an advocate for the propertied class by this Government - an advocate who has made clear, before seeking $100 000 of public money, that she will be running for council on a pro development at any cost agenda. This is the same Ms Elliot who, throughout the state election campaign, was relentlessly attacking the Greens and the independent candidate for Clark, Kristie Johnston, over our advocacy for tenants.

Ms Archer - She criticised me too.

Ms O'CONNOR - Then I wonder why she has been given $100 000 of public funding through your department in order to promote her campaign for council.

Ms Archer - We explained that in question time. She made a budget submission and the Premier approved it.

Ms O'CONNOR - It is breathtaking. When you have a look at Ms Elliot's social media she is in lockstep with Mr Simon Behrakis, an alderman on Hobart City Council. He happens to be employed by the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport as a housing adviser and, as we established in Estimates last week, spends at least some of his time on the public purse posting against other councillors.

We have a person who has declared their candidacy for public office being given $100 000 on a pro development ticket allegedly to advocate for landlords through an organisation which, as far as we can establish, has a very flimsy incorporated structure. There are questions that must be answered in some detail here about the merits of the application for $100 000 in funding. We are not talking about $1000 or $5000 to help a newly established landlords' lobby group get the message out to other landlords. We are talking about $100 000 - $50 000 a year over two years which, coincidentally, and serendipitously for Ms Elliot, runs out not long after council elections at the end of next year.

This situation absolutely reeks. It has a very bad smell about it, where public funds are being given out with no apparent merit behind the application. I note that when Ms Elliot posted on her Facebook page, 'I want to be your friend. Please add me, you will soon see why', just before she announced her run for council, Ms Ogilvie, the Liberal member for Clark was among the first to 'like' that post. Then we have -

Mr Ellis - It is a vast conspiracy. Throw her out.

Ms O'CONNOR - No, it is not a conspiracy at all. It just tells us about the alliances here and this alliance that has $100 000 of public funds at the heart of it. During the campaign, Ms Elliot said:

Please screenshot my posts on Kristie and send them private to all your rental owner mates and Clark voters who believe in rental owner and private property rights and who thinks Kristie's hypocrisy is f*cked. She's threatening me so I will take down until I can get legal advice on who I can spread widely the message she didn't want released.

I have had a breakdown on the interaction between Ms Elliot and Ms Johnston during the campaign and I will take Ms Johnston's version of events over any other.

I note here on Saturday 11 September this year a large colour photograph of Ms Elliot, candidate for Hobart City Council, promoting herself and her anti-green cause because the article is about targeting councillors who make decisions about developments that are not appropriate, applying the planning laws. We have a very glamourised photo of Ms Elliot. It is clearly about promotion for a council campaign. Government members might think it is just public money and you can spray it around any way you like.

Well, this stinks, and we are not going to let it go because we think that that $100 000 of public money will be used, and is being used, in order to get another pro development voice on Hobart City Council. It stinks. If the minister or any Government member thinks we are going to let it go, they are sadly mistaken just as any Government member who thinks that by turfing the Greens out of this place and shutting down our debates on a Supreme Court case they lost yesterday will keep us quiet, they are sadly mistaken. It just makes us stronger.