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Estimates Reply – Ferguson

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 20 June 2023

Tags: Treasury, State Budget, Pork-Barrelling

Dr WOODRUFF - Mr Chair, minister Ferguson's behaviour in the Treasury portfolio this year was one of the more contemptible Estimates performances I have seen in this place. He is a minister who regularly accuses other members in this place of being bullies. Well, minister, anyone watching Estimates or reading the transcript will quickly see how hypocritical you actually are. The member for Braddon, Shane Broad, and I do not see eye to eye to everything but I have to say, the way minister Ferguson repeatedly engaged in direct personal attacks on Dr Broad for the questions he asked was unnecessary, disrespected and unparliamentary.

Dr Broad was using the Treasury hearing the ask a range of sensible and fair questions about the Budget. He was engaging in the Estimates scrutiny process as it was intended to be used. Instead of simply answering those questions and doing his job, the minister spent his time focusing on attacking the member for asking them. I am sure Dr Broad has a thick enough skin to be able to move beyond this but it was pathetic to watch and it needs to be called out.

It spoke volumes about how defensive minister Ferguson was about any reasonable questions about the Budget. It was also in the context of today's performance from the minister about integrity, next level hypocrisy.

During the Treasury hearing, I also had a range of conversations with the minister about a number of matters. He sought to do everything in his powers to avoid answering reasonable questions. We asked about the RTI that the Greens made to the office of the Treasurer and the fact that a particular document was not provided to us through this process, despite the fact that the Treasury secretary had referred to that document in his sworn testimony to the Public Accounts Committee.

During the conversation I had with minister Ferguson about this RTI, he accused me of being dishonest, he accused me of making false claims, accused me of getting it wrong, accused me of a disgraceful slur, and accused me of believing in a conspiracy theory. Gaslit, I think, Chair, is the umbrella summary term that you use for Mr Ferguson's behaviour. So, was it not interesting - and it is interesting to hear that Mr Ferguson holds so firmly to his position - on the Friday morning last week after Estimates, that the Greens received a letter from the Treasury secretary, Mr Ferrall, that included his correction to the statements he had made to the Public Accounts Committee.

Surprise, surprise, the very document that had been missing from the Greens' RTI was the one that he was referring to. That is right, Mr Ferguson, after all your accusations, it turns out you were completely wrong. You should be red-faced, but I am not sure you have the honour to be. So, given everything that Mr Ferguson said during the committee and his lectures to us in the House today about integrity, I would like to think that he would offer me and the Greens an apology, but I think everyone in the House knows that he is not a big enough man for that, despite his lofty claims to high moral standards.

Minister Ferguson likes to dish it out and give directions to other people, but he does not follow his own commandments when it gets tricky. During the Treasury committee, we also asked a range of other questions about the local community facilities fund and the performance by Mr Ferguson in relation to that matter was also contemptible. He is a minister who likes to pretend he is the ultimate parliamentarian and Westminster institutionalist, but when the rubber hits the road, he is just a cynical, political operator with little regard for the truth, which he has shown again and again throughout the committee.

He refused to answer basic questions or take them on notice. He frequently put twisted words in the mouths of me and other members who were asking questions. He constantly resorted to personal attacks. He even provided misleading information to the committee. Our questions related to the now documented and well-published corrupted processes that the Liberals used to help pork barrel their way into seats at the last state election. We are talking about tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer's money that was misused, ministers such as Mr Shelton and Ms Ogilvie, who funnelled out money, an advantage to members of their family.

This approach to abusing public moneys in itself is contemptible, but we are seeing it again on display on a massive level, on a huge scale, and we are not talking about tens of millions, we are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars of financial commitments to the AFL, through secret deals that we still have not got to the bottom of, to an ill-fated stadium that we do not need and that the majority of Tasmanians do not want. We are talking about the secrecy and the contempt for this parliament that means that minister Ferguson, just one of many ministers, but particularly, minister Ferguson thinks it is fun to cover stuff up.

You obviously do, minister, because you spent the whole of estimates making sure you did not answer a question if you possibly could and that you did not allow the secretary, Mr Ferrall, to answer the questions which I asked, which he has proven were correct but you stopped him answering questions. In every other committee that Mr Ferrall was present, he was able to answer questions whenever he was asked. He was able to answer questions throughout the rest of this committee except on that subject, minister.

There is a whole range of things you refused to answer questions about. I asked a very reasonable question on behalf of residents of Clarence City Council who were deeply concerned at you jumping in as the planning overlord seeking to overturn the decision of the Clarence City Council about buying back the land from Shandong Chambroad - a huge decision, one that had been years in the coming. Despite the fact, the strong support for the community to get back that land, the best bit of real estate in Bellerive, the most beautiful view of kunanyi, to get it back, to actually be used instead of the dirt patch it has been ever since the CCP owned petroleum company bought it, you did not answer the question that is on everybody's lips.

Is it actually about the Liberals supporting land banking from CCP influenced companies, allowing it at the very least, not being concerned that these large tracts of land are sitting there doing nothing? Why would you jump in? Why would you jump in over the top of a council which is obviously acting in the best interests of their community, trying to get back land which is sitting there as a dirt patch. They are never going to do anything on that land. They only want to keep it. Why would you not be concerned on behalf of Tasmanians about actions such as that? Why would you not be asking questions?

You covered yourself in a crown of thorns on this and, unfortunately, you have not learned anything from it. You seem to have hardened yourself even further. The problem with Liberals and what you have shown today, you and the Premier, that you do not get it and Tasmanians are seeing for themselves in real time, how it does not matter what the issue is and how valid the question is, you will refuse to answer it if you do not think it is in your political interest.

It is all about how the politics play out for you. It has nothing to do with the supposed moral standards. You call yourself a Christian man and you cannot apply the most basic rules of being honest. I wish you would show a little contrition, be able to apologise when you have obviously been caught out -

Mr Ferguson - Just admit that you had a pretty bad Estimates.

Dr WOODRUFF - Yes, it was a terrible Estimates for you. I had a great time, making it obvious to Tasmanians that you cannot be honest to save yourself.