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Foreign Investment Review Board - Decisions

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 4 May 2022

Tags: Fish Farms, Corruption

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, I want to warmly and unreservedly endorse the statements made by the minister, Mrs Petrusma, just then in relation to the incredible service that firefighters pay to our community and the part of recommitting this whole House to the prevention of violence against women.

I am not going to reflect on the vote from Dr Woodruff's private members' time a short time ago. There are a couple of statements made by our colleagues, by the minister and Ms Finlay. What we did not hear in other members' contributions on our private members' time was an acknowledgement that we want to have here in Tasmania companies that do not have a history of corruption, poor workplace safety standards or extensive environmental damage from the Amazon through the Americas, to Australia and even in Tasmania. When JBS owned the abattoir on King Island, they were dumping raw effluent into Porky's Creek. Then they made a decision to shut that abattoir which put people out of work and made life impossible for producers on King Island.

Where we see evidence of corruption or profiting from the proceeds of crime, we should be able to acknowledge and name it. This is not some conspiracy theory that the Greens have cooked up. There is a trail of evidence which was laid out by Four Corners that goes all the way from Tasmanian waters back to Brazil. We should be able to acknowledge that. We should be confident the decisions made by the Foreign Investment Review Board are in and do not sell out the national interest.

Treasurer Friedenberg, who made the decision to approve JBS' acquisition of Huon Aquaculture also made the decision to sell the port of Darwin to a Chinese company. I would argue, in both those cases, a decision was made that betrayed the national interest. We should be able to, as Tasmanians, demand the best companies invest here. Companies with a clean track record and a commitment to workers' safety. Companies that are proud of their environmental record. You could not say that about JBS. JBS is contributing to climate change. In any number of American states, JBS has been targeted by the EPA for polluting the natural environment and having a very casual regard for environmental and workplace laws and regulations.

We have an unfortunate history here of allowing big corporations to call the shots and turning a blind eye to some of their, at times, improper, utterly self serving corporate practices, from Gunns to the Federal Group, both corporations that have been big donors to the major parties here.

We need to do everything we can to clean up governance. We should not be such easy pickings for big corporations that want to profit from our shared wealth and our hard fought bran, without contributing anything to strengthening that brand and, in fact, arguably undermining it. I found Ms Finlay's contribution - I know it had to be truncated - incredibly confused, internally conflicting. What we got from minister Barnett is what we usually get, which is not to go to the substance of the issue, not to acknowledge the truth which was laid out by Four Corners, and to attack the Greens.

Ms Finlay saw our motion as an attack on the industry. I do not know if she read it properly but it just laid out the facts and called on the Attorney General to refer this matter to the Australian Federal Police. JBS has a dark history of corruption, bribery and terrible workplace standards, deforestation in the Amazon and pollution in Tasmania. It has business practices that are actually shafting primary producers here, like on King Island and on mainland Tasmania.

We should be clear eyed about this stuff. We should be able to acknowledge it and make a shared commitment that we invite the best of companies down here. This is the best place in the world. We should be able to demand a premium from companies and corporations that invest here. You cannot put a price on our brand. Nowhere else in the world has a brand as valuable as ours.

But a brand has to have integrity. You cannot as a government member, out of one side of your mouth talk about the brand, and then through your votes or your decisions take actions that undermine the brand. It undermines the brand to have a company like JBS here It undermines the brand to not properly regulate the finfish farming industry and not to make sure that scientists are at the table. I encourage members in this place to see the truth for what it is.