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Estimates Reply - Premier

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Tags: Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Climate Change, State Budget

Ms O'CONNOR - Mr Chair, I was quite relieved to see the Premier in the Estimates room after his health scare.

A member interjecting.

Ms O'CONNOR - Well, I was. I tell the truth in this place. I was quite relieved. A lot of Tasmanians were quite relieved.

It was the longest day of the Estimates hearing and covered a vast array of topics. I want to pick up on what the Leader of the Opposition was saying about the critical importance of having sectoral targets as part of our response to global heating, about making sure we do not lose the momentum we had in part by accident, but also largely because of the work of conservationists over the decade and the difficult decisions and votes taken during the Tasmanian Forest Agreement process. We do see, in other parts of our economy, from agriculture to transport to waste, that emissions are increasing and the Jacobs Review of the climate act makes it really clear there are some risks ahead depending on the policy decisions that Government makes. I urge the Premier to be very mindful of those risks.

Also, perhaps the next time he is on the National Cabinet hook up to have a chat with Western Australian Premier, Mark McGowan, who has made a commitment that Western Australian will end native forest logging in 2024. We know like here, in Western Australia vast tracks of native forest have already been logged and burned. There has been widespread land use change in Western Australia and loss of Kauri pine forests. It is some measure of leadership. Our understanding is that Mark McGowan made that decision following the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report which declared a code red for humanity and made it really clear we have to keep the carbon that is in the ground, in the ground, and we have to bank more carbon into the ground.

I want to go to a couple of the issues specifically were raised in the short time I have. I sat there in mortification, together with Ms White, when the secretary of Premier and Cabinet revealed, after a 22 month investigation - let us call it that and it is probably a loose descriptor - of what happened inside Communities Tasmania following the lodging of a sexual harassment complaint. But 22 months after that the complainant finds out remotely, whilst she is in Perth, Western Australia, that apparently no breach has been found. That was a denial of natural justice. It obviously harmed Alysha whose courage and clarity I believe were the catalyst for the closure of the Ashley Youth Detention Centre last week.

The decision made by the Premier, is absolutely the right decision, to close Ashley after nearly a century of torturing and harming children and young people. I am very glad to hear Labor talking about Ashley, because it has been a source of frustration to the Greens over the past six years while we have been advocating for closure, Labor has not seen the need to close Ashley or apparently read any of the evidence in the Noetic report, which makes a compelling case for the closure of the Ashley Youth Detention Centre.

We want to make absolutely certain, those children and young people who will be incarcerated in Ashley within the three years are safe. We believe that requires intensified monitoring, oversight and a stronger role for the Commissioner for Children and Young People but also for the Youth Custodial Inspector. The Premier has given us his reassurance those children are safe and we will be holding the Premier to that; there is no question about that whatsoever.

If the secretary of the Department of Health is putting to Government that Tasmania needs a 90 per cent vaccination rate before we ease our border restrictions, the Greens will certainly support given what good stead Public Health has held us in to this point.

I asked the Premier about the recommendations in chapter 6 of the Premier's Economic and Social Recovery Advisory Council Report and the particular recommendations on the need to do things differently. In that chapter on environment and sustainability I quoted a section from the report that says: (tbc)

Tasmanians told us of their concern that Tasmania's environmental credentials don't truly stack up when a close look is taken.

This is increasingly and worryingly true. We have intensified native forest logging. We have a plan to double the value of the salmon farming industry over the next 10 years. Then there is minister Barnett's dangerous plan to increase the value of agricultural production ten fold by 2050, which now we know from the scientists, including the former DPIPWE water ecologist, Chris Bobbi, the former Director of the Derwent Estuary Program, Dr Christine Coughanowr, has the potential to do enormous damage to our freshwater systems as well as our groundwater systems. If we are to abide by what the Tasmanian people have told us in the PESRAC report and the Premier, I believe, recognises this, we are going to have to do some things differently. We cannot just carry on with business as usual, because it is business as usual that has raised flags with the people of Tasmania who contributed towards the PESRAC report.

I look forward to seeing the sustainability vision which the secretary of Premier and Cabinet assured us would be underway by early 2022. This is a critical piece of work. It is not just about looking after nature; it is about making sure we have the economic and social policy settings to hold us in good stead in what is going to be a very very difficult century for the people of this planet.

From the research done and published in The Guardian, people will be flocking to this island from all over the mainland and the world. That presents to us a unique set of challenges and opportunities which was also raised with Dr Woodruff and me in our briefing with the local climate experts coordinated by Professor Richard Eccleston last Friday.

We also asked the Premier about water policy and water quality, and how you balance the tensions between rural water use, government policy, the fundamental human right all Tasmanians have to fresh, clean drinking water and the need to make sure there is enough water there for industries, particularly potentially new and exciting industries like the hydrogen industry. This is a critical point in Tasmania's history where we have some science ringing some alarm bells about river health. We have seen there has been a decline in water quality monitoring and there is increased pressure on those resources and there are future industries that will rely on our water resources and, of course, every Tasmanian in a growing population needs to have access to safe, clean drinking water.

PESRAC makes a recommendation to meet future demands for water and ensure water quality is sufficient for agricultural and environmental needs we need a broader water resource policy approach that addresses resource allocation, water security and water quality, setting specific targets and binding the state Government to monitoring and reporting as well as more transparency. This should be an immediate priority.

I asked the Premier has his Government treated water security and quality as an immediate priority. The Premier said, 'I think that matter will be looked at in the sustainability report that DPAC is currently scoping.' I said, 'Do you agree that water is an issue?' Mr Gutwein said, 'It's certainly something.' The PESRAC report was a very good report informed by a group of very sensible people from a range of diverse backgrounds. I said at the time it was my intention to accept their recommendations and to work on all of those recommendations, which we are.

I asked, 'Is water quality and security a priority for your Government?' and he said, 'I always feel like you're trying to trap me.' I said, 'No, I'm not. I'm genuinely trying to get information', which I genuinely was. I hope the Premier has a bit of a look, and maybe reviews some of the Estimates Hansard from last week in minister Barnett's Estimates, and pays attention to the water policy issue.

The other matters I wish to talk about in this Estimates I will deal with in the Treasury response.