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Estimates Reply – Jaensch

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 22 June 2023

Tags: Commission of Inquiry, Parks, Youth Justice, State Budget

Ms O'CONNOR - Mr Deputy Chair, it was an interesting discussion with the minister in terms of my shadow portfolio. The Greens started questioning on the commission of inquiry. As the minister responsible for Child Safety, minister Jaensch has a specific responsibility and interest in. I believe he is committed to making sure that the recommendations of the commission of inquiry that were handed down in August, are implemented.

We asked about the number of stand downs in relation to historical or contemporary child sex abuse allegations and ED5 investigations. We got the same fob off that we did last year. We were not asking for staff in the Department of Education or Child Safety or any other agency which minister Jaensch has responsibility for to be identified. For parents who are sending their children into our public schools, particularly, we are adamant that Tasmanian parents and staff in our broader education system should have an understanding of how significant the problem of historical and contemporary child sexual abuse has been in the education system, and to have confidence that the processes and the safeguarding within that system is robust as well as being appropriately transparent, and that victims of abuse in the education system can feel safe and supported to come forward and know an investigation will be undertaken.

We still do not agree that there should be any secrecy about the number of stand downs in the Department of Education because we acknowledge that historically too much of the damage caused to children has been because predators have found their way into our schools and other educational settings. That makes the children in those settings extremely vulnerable. I am certain that the Education department now has much more robust processes in place to protect children. We need more transparency around stand downs in that department.

We also asked the minister about the apparent inclination of the minister to his right, the Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Management, to view young offenders as just another criminal problem. We saw some recent headlines in the Mercury newspaper about the alleged crackdown on juvenile offenders. We hope that minister Jaensch has help minister Ellis understand that a strictly punitive approach to juvenile poor behaviours or law breaking will definitely not solve the problem, definitely not make our community safe, and most certainly not lead to better outcomes for children and young people. As we know, once you send a child to Ashley, noting that the vast majority of children in Ashley right now have not been sentenced, are on remand, you risk damaging them and setting them up for a vicious cycle, where they are coming into constant contact with the youth justice system, then, as they get older, the criminal justice system and they graduate into Risdon Prison. We look forward to seeing the new model for Ashley in place and without delay. We understand in all likelihood there will be significant delays. A therapeutic model is certainly what is needed.

Moving on to the Parks portfolio. This is one area of Budget scrutiny that the Greens have a very significant interest in. We remain adamantly opposed to the expressions of interest process for development inside public protected areas. This Government came into government in 2014 and by 2015 had rewritten the Tasmanian World Heritage Area Management Plan with specific carve-outs in it for development. It was an absolute corruption of the World Heritage Area Management Plan to facilitate an agenda which will damage wilderness values, natural and cultural values. It is not popular among everyday Tasmanians. No matter where they live on this island, how they vote, what their age is, there is community resentment about the expressions of interest process for development inside public protected areas.

We talked to the minister about Lake Malbena, where developer Daniel Hackett wants to establish a heli-tourism venture on Halls Island. This is the same Mr Hackett who we had it confirmed at the Estimates table is paying about $100 a week for the exclusive use and possession of Halls Island, the whole island, inside Lake Malbena and the Walls of Jerusalem National Park in the TWWHA. This Lake Malbena proposal, which would see hundreds of helicopter flights into and out of the wilderness each year, would unequivocally on established science, erode wilderness values and the enjoyment of other users of the TWWHA as a consequence.

We certainly hope that minister Plibersek makes the right call here and recognises, as did her predecessor, Sussan Ley, who in an almost moving statement about the Lake Malbena proposal, recognised that the heli-tourism proposal would have a significant and extended impact on wilderness values. We hope, at a bare minimum, that minister Plibersek recognises that as well. We are calling on her to reject Daniel Hackett's proposal for Halls Island in Lake Malbena. If the minister does decide that she will give that divisive and unpopular proposal the tick, there will be a blockade at Halls Island, there is no doubt about that whatsoever, because of the depth of feeling about that place and the history so many people have with it.

We asked the minister about the very sluggish pace on a new process for reserve activity assessments. This was something that was first promised by premier Will Hodgman after a public outcry about the secrecy around commercial development in public protected area. The minister's predecessor, Mrs Petrusma, restated that promise. That was in September 2021. We are heading into 18 months later and it is clear that the process is still dragging along. We want to make sure that this minister and this Government do not set up a process that makes development inside public protected areas something that people do not have an opportunity to participate in, and to set up a whole new process for approvals for those commercial developments without public participation and without robust planning processes would bring enormous public opprobrium down on the heads of this Government. We put this minister on notice that it will not be copped that there be a fast-track approval for these private developments that are divisive and destructive to wilderness and potentially cultural values.

Like many Tasmanians, we want to see the Government walk away from the expressions of interest process for development inside public protected areas and encourage developers to invest in rural and regional towns surrounding our protected areas. If you are thinking straight, you would recognise that the most benefit will flow economically and socially in small rural and regional communities. You could put some fantastic accommodation and other tourist ventures in and then you would have far less community concern about the divisive expressions of interest process.