You are here

Estimates Reply – Barnett

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 21 June 2023

Tags: Housing Crisis, State Budget

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Oh, Chair. All I have to say in relation to the $2 billion that suddenly appeared on the table this week in Canberra to my Labor colleagues here is you are welcome. You are welcome.

Opposition members interjecting.

Ms O'CONNOR - The fact of the matter is, that $2 billion was not in the federal budget. That $2 billion was never mentioned or raised by the Prime Minister or Julie Collins until a few days ago.

Ms O'CONNOR - That extra $2 billion, which will mean an extra $50 million into the delivery of social housing -

Ms Haddad - It was raised on 28 April 2023.

Mr SPEAKER - Ms Haddad, first warning.

Ms O'CONNOR - and affordable housing in Tasmania came about as a direct result of the Greens holding the line. Minister Collins, who went on the 7.30 Report a couple of weeks ago and talked about creating an asset class out of social housing, has confirmed that delaying that bill will not stop a single home from being built because the money would not flow until 2024 25. The Greens will hold out because we want a better deal for renters. It is a historical political fact that the extra $2 billion came about as a result of the Greens -

CHAIR - Order, Mr Winter.

Ms O'CONNOR - placing pressure on the Albanese Government that is so dunderheaded about the changing demographics. They insulted Max Chandler-Mather, our new MP there and called him 'a student politician'.

?Mr Winter - That's right. He is.

Ms O'CONNOR - Whoa! No wonder young people have stopped voting for people like you. They sneered at Max but he got his message out there on TikTok. They derided the next generation of young people who are overwhelmingly rejecting the old parties.

Mr Winter - He's embarrassing.

CHAIR - Order.

Ms O'CONNOR - Honestly, he is an extremely intelligent -

Mr Winter - I've never seen anyone more embarrassing than that.

CHAIR - Order, Mr Winter.

Ms O'CONNOR - effective and decent politician. You know that he has got under Jim Chalmers', the Treasurer's skin when Jim Chalmers starts sneering about TikTok. I mean, really, wake up.

Opposition members interjecting.

CHAIR - Order.

Ms O'CONNOR - Just wake up. Not a single new home will be delivered, but there will be an extra $50 million.

Mr Winter - Because you are voting against it.

CHAIR - Order, Mr Winter.

Ms O'CONNOR - There will be an extra $50 million coming into Tasmania because the Australian Greens held out for a better deal.

Mr Winter - It's not true.

Ms O'CONNOR - It is absolutely a fact, $50 million - our share of the $2 billion, it is a fact.

Mr Winter - It is not.

Ms O'CONNOR - Well, you get up here and present the facts.

CHAIR - Order. Through the Chair, please.

Ms O'CONNOR - It is the truth. They can pretend that suddenly the Prime Minister had an epiphany on the weekend and cooked up $2 billion that was not in the federal budget and announced it on the week before they wanted to get that bill through the Senate. Honestly.

There were interesting discussions across the Estimates table with Mr Barnett, some of them more productive than others. In the housing space, we have a lot in common. We want to see people in secure and affordable homes. The Greens' track record in government is of delivering far more homes than this Government has in nine years. We are pleased that Mr Barnett appears to be very passionate about his Housing portfolio. We would encourage him to reflect on the Government's poor performance so far. Setting up a new entity like Homes Tasmania is not going to fix the problem overnight; it is no more likely to fix the problem than Homes[Housing?] Tasmania but the record is clear: that it took the Government eight years to build 1753 homes and within four years we built more than 2000 new, affordable homes. Good on Mr Barnett for his passion there and it remains to be seen whether Homes Tasmania can deliver.

I am interested in the comments that the minister made where he disagrees that he was misleading at the table in relation to departmental advice on the stadium. We have here three questions I asked him. I said, 'Can you confirm that you received written advice from your department on the stadium that is not captured by Cabinet-in-confidence because it never went to Cabinet? It is a minute that you signed as minister.' An issues briefing is surely a minute but, anyway, to be clear, the minister said, 'The answer is no.' I said, 'We know some advice exists', and he obfuscated for a while. 'Minister, did you receive no written advice on the stadium from your department?' Mr Barnett: 'Yes.' He considers, going on what Mr Barnett said just before, that written advice does not cover an issues briefing from the department. That is an interesting take on it. He said, 'Yes, didn't receive any advice', and then again, 'no written advice to me directly as minister', and then the Premier came in here yesterday and tabled some written advice to the minister.

There are also our ongoing concerns about the exploitation of public protected areas through the expressions of interest process, which is overseen by the Office of the Coordinator General and, therefore, comes within Mr Barnett's portfolio. This is a program that is deeply unpopular across political persuasions and demographics in Tasmania because people see it as an affront to public ownership and Aboriginal cultural heritage connection of public protected areas. We have developer after developer lining up with this Government to get a bite of the last free real estate. We found out at the Estimates table that there are still developments coming in for the expressions of interest process. It is an open process for exploitation of our protected areas. The Coordinator-General, Mr Perry, confirmed that three development proposals came through last year and three again this year. There is a proposal for a development of multiple luxury huts on the South Coast Track, which, Chair, is one of the last great coastal wildernesses unspoiled in the world. Mr Barnett was not sure what track I was talking about and then pointed us to the Minister for Parks, although this is an expressions of interest process that is being overseen by the Coordinator-General. We have this huge, unpopular program split between two ministers, neither of whom, in our view, understand the extraordinary, outstanding, natural and cultural values of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area or public protected areas all over the state. We will continue to fight against the expressions of interest process; we will continue to stand up for places like Halls Island, Lake Malbena, in the Walls of Jerusalem National Park. We note that the federal environment minister is due to hand down a decision on that proposed development. If the minister, Ms Plibersek, goes the way she seems to be as minister and just gives it the tick - because, you know, Labor, Liberal, what is the difference? - then I predict there will be there will be a blockade on Halls Island, there will be a blockade of Lake Malbena because people, whether they are bushwalkers or fly fishers or other people who appreciate the wilderness, will not stand for Halls Island's privatisation and exploitation with helicopter tourism through the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, which will irreparably damage the wilderness values of that area.

Mr Deputy Chair, we also asked questions relating to whether or not there would be more appreciation of Aboriginal heritage through the expressions of interest process. It does seem to us that there is some serious lip service being paid to Aboriginal cultural values and lived experience in this state. We note that, and it comes through another portfolio, but there are huge issues with Aboriginal Heritage Tasmania because Mr Jaensch has deeply offended members of the palawa/pakana community here. There has been at least one resignation from the Tasmanian Heritage Council, which is a very serious matter for a whole range of reasons, but it is certainly a serious matter in terms of making sure there are good Aboriginal heritage assessments conducted before developments take place on this island. It was not the most thrilling Estimates hearing with Mr Barnett, but good on him for turning up.