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Estimates Reply - Minister Courtney


Rosalie Woodruff MP

Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Tags: Tenant Rights

Dr WOODRUFF - I rise to make some comments on the building and construction industry.

I have to say that I found the minister's agreement with alacrity to provide answers to some questions I asked about the Residential Tenancy Commissioner's activities under the Residential Tenancy Commissioner's obligations under the Residential Tenancy Act refreshing and hopeful. I have not received them yet, I believe. Unless I am mistaken I do not believe I have received them. I would certainly hope that the answers are as fulsome as I was led to expect by her response. I really hope they are because given the situation with the housing crisis in Tasmania and the homelessness crisis, particularly in southern Tasmania but across the state, and winter and the continual discussions we have had, it would be very disappointing if the minister let me down.

I asked some very specific questions about the ability of the Commissioner to undertake enforcement actions around the Commissioner's obligations under the act. I look forward to hearing, for example, the numbers of complaints and requests for resolution from people regarding repairs and maintenance, rent-related matters such as the non-lodgement of bond, and miscellaneous matters and rent increases that are unreasonable. The sorts of matters that people may take to the Residential Tenancy Commissioner and make a complaint about.

I am hoping to get some quite clear answers about the enforcement actions that were taken, particularly whether there was a warning, a fine or a prosecution. These are matters of action and response that are important to understand how effective the role of the Commissioner is able to be within the Residential Tenancy Act. The Greens will continue to follow this issue closely. The Residential Tenancy Act, as the Government would know, having heard the Leader of the Greens, Cassy O'Connor, speak about numbers of times, is an act which has many parts of it that need to be updated. There are many opportunities for the Government to make substantial improvements to the lives of residential tenants, to their experiences, to the natural justice that they receive in their contractual relationships with landowners. In order to understand how the Residential Tenancy Act needs to be reviewed and the details of that, it does come down to what we are learning from the complaints and the issues that are brought before the Residential Tenancy Commissioner.

I would also like to make some comments about the minister's responsibilities for doing something within her portfolio about the climate emergency. Going back and looking at Hansard of the Estimates conversations that were had last week in this portfolio, it gives a lie to the assurances of Ms Archer, the putative minister for climate change when we do not have a ministry of climate change, but the minister responsible for the climate change portfolio. It gives a lie to her words where she gave some indication that with her climate change responsibilities the Government would be bringing some real targets with real teeth into the review of the state climate change act, which must come before us. It is already overdue to come back to parliament to be reviewed.

The Greens, along with people across the sector with concern, experience, understanding of the actions we need to take to make real inroads into reducing our emissions as a state and to increasing our ability to adapt to the changing climate, we understand that there has to be sector specific targets for emission reduction, not a whole Tasmania target. I asked Ms Courtney within her capacity as the Minister for Building and Construction what she was doing with respect to her portfolio activities and particularly understanding how we can best reduce emissions from the building and construction sector, such as in the area of reducing concrete and increasing the potential for a manufacturing industry in Tasmania for cross-laminated timber. This would be an opportunity for the Greens, the Liberal Party and the Labor Party to collectively agree that a plantation-based cross-laminated timber that did not take -

Mr Jaensch - It is happening in Wynyard.

Dr WOODRUFF - That is great to hear, minister for Housing, by interjection from the side. I did not hear any details of that from the Minister for Building and Construction. That is the sort of detail, not just that it is happening but how much is it happening? Specifically, I asked the minister did she have confidence that the quantum of plantation timber resource was sufficient to stimulate real growth in an industry like that so that we could look at actively replacing concrete used in building construction around Tasmania with island grown cross-laminated timber. Would it not be wonderful to be talking about all these new buildings that are going to be built in Hobart by UTAS and all the other growth that is happening in the building sector, would it not it be great if it was truly sustainable in terms of emissions reduction. She did not have any information that she could provide in that area. That is disappointing that she flicked this off as a conversation I should be having with the minister for the Environment when it is a core part of her work to understand how we can reduce emissions from one of the most emission-intensive sectors.

I will turn to the minister's responsibility under resourcing. I asked about Venture Minerals' planning permits, which were issued in September 2013 and have ostensibly expired but the Government, through the minister, is giving succour to that company to continue limping on, despite that fact they have made no substantial development at all. The time limit of two years has well and truly expired, even with all the special pleading and everything else, the legal challenges under which they are asking the Government to run cover for them.

The minister is using rubbish words such as that Venture Minerals needs to put the operation into 'care and maintenance'. I wonder what that means? What does it mean in terms of being given a special opportunity to extend your permit when you should start all over again? Why would they not want to start over again? Things have changed incredibly in the Tarkine. There have been bushfires and the Tasmanian Devil facial tumour disease has taken an even greater toll in the number of devils that it had in 2013. Times have changed and it is well and truly time to stop pretending we can have our cake and eat it. There is no such thing as multi-use in the Tarkine except for a national park. A national park and a mine cannot co-exist. End of story. As soon as the Government understands that preserving priceless Aboriginal heritage and an amazing temperate rainforest such as takayna and wildness of the coast, cannot co-exist with the mine and we will continue to make those points.