Dr WOODRUFF question to ATTORNEY-GENERAL, Ms ARCHER
The Integrity Commission report tabled yesterday contained allegations from the CEO of WorkSafe that you and your office asked the independent regulator what he was intending to do about the Bob Brown Foundation forest protesters. The report also found that any public comments you made about the matter would be required to seek approval by the Government Communications Office within the Premier's office. You have denied these allegations and yesterday threatened to take action against me for discussing the Integrity Commission's report.
The WorkSafe CEO argued he did not act on perceived or actual pressure in making his decision, so it is hard to imagine he would make up the claim that you and your office attempted to influence his actions. Why would Mr Cocker lie? Why would Tasmanians take your word against Mr Cocker's, the independent WorkSafe Regulator, on this matter?
Mr Speaker, I thank the member for Franklin for her question.
I cannot believe Dr Woodruff would come here - although, I am not surprised, because she has parliamentary privilege protection - but I was surprised that she had the stupidity - and I will call it that - to issue a media release yesterday calling into question -
Dr WOODRUFF - Point of order, Mr Speaker. I take offence at that language. I was repeating words that were in the Integrity Commission's report. I take offence that the Attorney-General would call it stupid to want to make stuff public.
Mr SPEAKER - Minister, the member has taken offence, so I ask you to withdraw.
Ms ARCHER - If the member has taken offence I withdraw the word 'stupidity', the sheer stupidity, but she should know better than to come in here and misrepresent findings in the Integrity Commission report.
Dr Woodruff - No, there is not a scintilla of misrepresentation.
Ms ARCHER - I would like to address this as it is quite serious. Yes, I have threatened to look into this further, because it is a very serious allegation to continue to make when the Integrity Commission has cleared me, Mr Barnett and our staff of any wrongdoing.
Mr Speaker, they have disregarded the Integrity Commission investigation findings. The investigation is, unfortunately, another example of the Integrity Commission being weaponised for perverse, political, ideological games. This is yet another example of the Greens making a complaint - which they are well entitled to do, and I do not have an issue with that - but they need to accept the umpire's decision.
Dr Woodruff - You weaponised the WorkSafe Regulator.
Mr SPEAKER - Order, member for Franklin, you have asked the question. Please allow the Attorney-General to answer it without interjection.
Ms ARCHER - They need to accept the umpire's decision, and that was the Integrity Commission Summary Report of Investigation Tyndall is clear: there were no findings of wrongdoing. The Integrity Commission also stated there was no evidence that the Government attempted to pressure or influence the former independent regulator.
Ms O'Connor - How hard did they look?
Ms ARCHER - I hope that interjection gets on Hansard, Mr Speaker. It also stated that Mr Cocker did not act on perceived or actual pressure or influence from any person - including me as Attorney-General, or what was then called Building Construction, now Workplace Safety, or Mr Barnett or our staff when he decided to issue a prohibition notice.
It found we did not attempt to exercise undue influence over the regulator in relation to the issuing of a prohibition notice. It further found that no ministerial staff failed to respect the regulator's independence in terms of action that could be taken by the regulator in relation to the Bob Brown Foundation and ongoing forestry protests, including in relation to the issuing of a prohibition notice. It went on to state that there is nothing improper in the Government maintaining good relationships with community members who support a policy position.
I have said this on a number of occasions, but for the benefit of the Greens, I will repeat it. In the Integrity Commission's 2017-18 annual report, the Chief Commissioner and the CEO of the Integrity Commission stated -
It is of great concern that public statements have been made by members of parliament about possible or actual complaints to the Integrity Commission.
The report was also very damning -
Ms O'Connor - Suddenly they become allergic to transparency under your Government.
Mr SPEAKER - Order.
Ms ARCHER - I suggest the Greens reflect and actually read the report a bit more and find the comments on them as well, because the statements in this place today, and Dr Woodruff's media release yesterday, fly in the face of the Integrity Commission findings. Quite frankly, I find their comments offensive.
Ms O'Connor - Please sue us.
Ms ARCHER - If there was any damage to my reputation, I would not hesitate, because you are wrong.
Mr Speaker, I hope this is a lesson to the Greens, too. When you do make a complaint, do not make it public, do not weaponise the Integrity Commission - and certainly, when the Integrity Commission makes a decision, actually accept the umpire's decision.