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Integrity Commission Summary Report - Investigation Tyndall

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 25 August 2021

Tags: Integrity Commission, WorkSafe, Protest

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on the adjournment today to discuss the Integrity Commission summary report of Investigation Tyndall. In a media release yesterday the Attorney-General made the following statement. She said: 'As Dr Woodruff has repeated allegations today outside of parliamentary privilege found by the Integrity Commission to be false I will be considering all options available to me.'

Mr Deputy Speaker, I interpret that as a not-so-veiled threat from the Attorney General to pursue legal recourse in response to our media release. I want to place on the record an assessment of the veracity of our respective media releases. In our media release we made three claims which I believe the Attorney-General may be claiming to be aggrieved by.

First, we said:

The allegations made by former Worksafe Tasmania CEO Mr Mark Cocker suggests the Liberal Party engaged in politically motivated attempts to interfere with the work of independent regulator Worksafe Tasmania.

Mr Cocker did make allegations that suggest this and the Attorney-General has not disputed that Mr Cocker alleged that.

Second, we said:

The Integrity Commission's findings highlight a number of ways in which the Liberals inserted themselves into Worksafe's handling of the matter.

It is true that several matters in the report were not in dispute and the persistent requests for updates from the regulator about Ms Wilton's concerns is one of them and also the requirement by the Attorney-General's office that any media comments by the WorkSafe regulator on this matter go through the Government Communications Office in the Premier's office. That is a fact. The Integrity Commission found documentary evidence obtained in the investigation that supported the evidence requested of Mr Cocker. The Attorney-General herself has not disputed this.

And third, we said in our release:

That the former WorkSafe CEO's evidence notes that while he was considering issuing a prohibition notice to the Bob Brown Foundation, the Attorney-General asked Mr Cocker what he was 'going to do about stopping these protesters'.

Mr Cocker did make that claim in his evidence to the Integrity Commission and the Attorney-General has not disputed that Mr Cocker alleged this.

As far as I can tell the Attorney-General has not disputed any matter of fact contained in our media release. She seems to be aggrieved that we do not share the view that the Integrity Commission took, which is that her testimony is more credible and believable than Mr Cocker's.

I draw the attention of the House to the Attorney-General's media release which contains a number of erroneous claims about the contents of the commission's report. First, she said:

The Tasmanian Government notes today's Integrity Commission summary report of Investigation Tyndall, which stated that there are no findings of wrongdoing.

The report makes no such statement. In fact, the report explicitly states that the Integrity Commission's investigator cannot make findings of misconduct; only an integrity tribunal has the power to make misconduct findings. The second error, the Attorney-General said:

The Integrity Commissioner has also stated that there was no evidence that the Government attempted to pressure or influence the Regulator.

The commission made no such statement. The report did state there was no evidence that either Mr Barnett or the Premier, or their offices, attempted to pressure or influence the WorkSafe Regulator. They did not make the same statement in relation to the evidence presented by Mr Cocker, which was that the Attorney-General attempted to influence him to take action to stop the protesters. The commission did have Mr Cocker's evidence in relation to the Attorney-General, although it indicated it believed the Attorney-General over Mr Cocker.

Third, the Attorney-General also said this investigation was found to be yet another example of the Tasmanian Greens using the Integrity Commission for their own political purposes. It was not; that is false. The Integrity Commission has objected to referrals of the commission being made public. It has not accused the Greens of using the commission for political purposes. In fact, the commission's acceptance of our referral and their subsequent investigation suggests they found our referral to be legitimate.

I want to raise the brazen hypocrisy of the Attorney-General. She has attempted to silence me and the Greens through legal action on the very same day that she tabled the Defamation Amendment Bill 2021. That bill is the result of a Council of Attorneys-General review process. It is intended to empower the publishing of information in the public interest and to inhibit so-called slapp suits, which stand for 'strategic law suits against public participation'.

I want to draw attention to some of the provisions in that bill that relate to our media release and the Attorney-General's barely veiled legal threat. The new section 29A in the bill would make it a defence in the publication of defamatory matter if the defendant proves that the matter concerns an issue of public interest and the defendant reasonably believed that the publication of the matter was in the public interest.

Mr Deputy Speaker, that subsection three sets out matters -

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order, Dr Woodruff. You are out of order. You cannot reflect on an order of the day and that bill has been tabled. I am afraid you are out of order.

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I believe it is entirely reasonable to repeat allegations of improper conduct of the state's highest law officer, particularly when they come from credible sources. Our media release has explicitly acknowledged that the Attorney-General has refuted Mr Cocker's allegations. The sources of relevance that we quoted were the Integrity Commission's own report and the words of the WorkSafe Regulator, Mr Cocker. The Integrity Commission's report, by definition, has integrity which is also of relevance in a matter of defamation. We issued our media release in response to the commission's report on the very same day that it came out. It is in the public interest for matters of the Integrity Commission investigation to be made public.

The Attorney-General can threaten all she likes but it is a fact that this report does not vindicate the Attorney-General's role in influencing the WorkSafe Regulator and we will not give up shining the light on this Government's shady, opaque and shonky processes.