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Estimates Reply - Minister Petrusma

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 13 June 2019

Tags: Women, National Disability Insurance Scheme, Land Returns, Treaty

Ms O'CONNOR - Mr Chairman, I rise to speak on Mrs Petrusma's Estimates hearing and to restate a point I have made a few times this week and last. We asked the Minister for Women if she was on the Expenditure Review Committee of Cabinet and the answer we received from Mrs Petrusma is that Cabinet matters are a matter for Cabinet. But Mrs Petrusma had detailed the membership of the family violence sub-committee of Cabinet in a previous Estimates hearing. The then minister, Mr Hidding, had also detailed the infrastructure sub-committee of Cabinet to the Estimates committee, so this is not standard procedure and it is not a question of Cabinet confidentiality. This is the Treasurer being secretive. The reason the Greens are pursuing this is because there has to be transparency and accountability about the people who are making decisions about which services to cut and which roads and bridges to fund. It is a particular question that I wanted the Minister for Women to answer because if there are no women on the Expenditure Review Committee of Cabinet that impacts on the decisions made by that sub-committee of Cabinet, which is colloquially and widely known within the public sector as the razor gang. That is because they make those hard decisions about what services to cut, what roads and bridges to build and what houses not to build.

The minister would not confirm whether she was on the Expenditure Review Committee of Cabinet. The Treasurer wilfully stonewalled questions about who is on the Expenditure Review Committee of Cabinet. I think I asked Ms Courtney if she is on the Expenditure Review Committee of Cabinet and had the same stonewalling. We will keep asking and we will hope the journalists start asking, too, because it is inexcusable not be open and transparent about which faceless people are making these decisions.

Also, in the Women's Estimates section, I questioned the minister about the Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women. Having attended that ceremony, I warmly congratulate those outstanding women in our community who volunteer their time selflessly with heart and years of conviction and who are rightly inaugurated onto the Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women. I do not believe, and I will maintain this until my last breath, that a person should be nominated to the Honour Roll of Women simply for doing their job, for which they are paid around half a million of taxpayers' money each year. I hope that the next Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women utilises a much more robust selection process that does not disregard nominations for two outstanding women from opposite ends of the political spectrum but who have had a lot in common in terms of their heart for people. That is Christine Milne, former Tasmanian Greens leader, former Australian Greens leader, vicepresident of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, a leading advocate for climate action, and the late attorney-general, Vanessa Goodwin, one of the best people to ever come out of the Liberal Party into public office and who is widely respected within the community sector.

We need to make sure that women of that calibre who are nominated are prioritised over the Secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, who earns half a million per year. I simply reinstate our call on the minister to make sure the process is robust and you are not undermining the integrity of the roll by inaugurating people onto the roll who have not yet earned their right to be on that roll, in my view.

We also talked about the critical issue of Aboriginal Affairs and the minister's Aboriginal Affairs portfolio. It is a matter of public record that no lands have been returned by this Government in the past five years except for a small piece of land at nirmena nala, which I began the process of returning when I was the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. It was hydro land up the River Derwent, in the valley and that piece of land has gone back to its original owners. Other than that, there has been no significant return of lands to the people our ancestors stole this land from and that brings shame on this parliament. I call on the minister to make sure that that we are giving it back to the people from whom our ancestors stole and who never ceded it in this term of the Tasmanian Parliament. There was never a treaty, as there was with the Maori people of New Zealand. There was no agreement by the First People, the palawa pakana, to have their land taken away from them. They were banished to the Furneaux Islands where they suffered terribly. We still have not made anywhere near amends for what happened to Tasmania's First People and we must do that. I wish the minister all success.

We cannot continue to marginalise Aboriginal people from decisions about their land while paying lip-service to reconciliation. The point I make here, is that leaders across the Aboriginal groups do not support the expressions of interest process for development inside the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage area, other reserved lands and Crown lands. They have not been consulted about that process. This is a two-faced Government when it comes to Aboriginal affairs. It says that it wants to reset the relationship but at the same time, cuts the First People out of any sort of negotiation about what happens to reserved lands within which there is the most spectacular and remarkable living cultural landscape that dates back tens of thousands of years.

We must involve Aboriginal people in discussions about developments, the use of land, particularly those reserved lands which their ancestors looked after for tens of thousands of years before the first Europeans came here in 1803. If we are serious about resetting the relationship, that is something we must take on.

I will talk about the NDIS and Disability Services that are not eligible under the NDIS. This is a matter that has been raised in this House a number of times and at Estimates and simply put the minister on notice.

The minister said that the Government will walk hand-in-hand with those organisations like TasDeaf, Guide Dogs for the Blind, and the Brain Injury Association of Tasmania, as they go through the ILC grant round. That is somewhat reassuring to hear for those organisations perhaps, but until the funds are in the bank and their future is secure, we will keep watching this minister. To lose those organisations from the fabric of advocacy and community in Tasmania would be a travesty. It would undermine the effectiveness of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and leave a whole lot of people who are not eligible for the NDIS without any representation by those organisations which, in some cases for decades and more, have been representing their interests in the community.

Finally, I place on record my disappointment that while last Friday I stood quite gladly with the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition for a Tasmanian AFL team, it was off the back of a most regrettably parochial federal election campaign which absolutely undermined Tasmania's bid for its own AFL team. I hope that some of the damage has been repaired by that show of bipartisanship plus one, Mr O'Byrne who came along on the day. We should have our own AFL team. We have produced some of the best talent that has ever been in in the VFL or the AFL. From Darrel Baldock to Peter Hudson to Nick Riewoldt, bless him because he did not support the fish farm at Okehampton Bay. We have produced some the finest talent for the AFL. We are doing so now with the AFL women's league. I want to see it go from strength to strength.