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International Day for Democracy

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Tags: Native Forest Logging, Misleading Parliament, Democracy, Right to Information, Native Ducks

International Day for Democracy, Cassy O'Connor MP, 15 September 2020


Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - 'Well said', says Ms Butler, the member for Lyons when Dr Broad got up and smeared scientists who are doing research in the public interest. I will point to the words of a scientist who has far more credibility, heart, rigour and respect in the community than you, Dr Broad, and that is distinguished UTAS Professor Dr Jamie Kirkpatrick, who said in June this year -

The clear and overwhelming evidence is that logging makes forests more flammable. These are the findings of four peer-reviewed published scientific studies from four institutions in six years and of multiple scientific reviews.

Dr Broad, right now I could not be bothered with you but I will tell you what, you will keep and I will be in here tomorrow night to respond to your smear of scientists working in the public interest and your denial of an obvious scientific truth that if you log the bejesus out of something you dry it out and make it more prone to fire.

Dr Broad - Check your data.

Ms O'CONNOR - Dr Broad, you will have to live with yourself when you are old. I will sleep quite comfortably.

Madam Speaker, today is International Day for Democracy and in a time of pandemic it is even more critical that we nurture and protect the foundations of our democracy. I point to the United Nations International Day of Democracy publication which warns about fighting misinformation, disinformation and hate speech, which have mushroomed in the crisis. It is true that mistruth and misinformation is what fosters public anxiety and distrust of government. When you are in the midst of a crisis, faith in government is critical.

What we have in this place is a serial misleader in the minister, Mr Guy Barnett. I go now to an issue which may be out there in the community. People are not talking about this at great volume but as elected representatives we have a responsibility to be truth tellers. If we are going to make statements as ministers of the Crown, where the Governor anoints us as a minister of the Crown and says we are 'trusty and well beloved' - they are the words on the ministerial seal - you want to come in here and tell the truth. Mr Barnett is a serial misleader.

I go to the issue of Styx Road closure and have sought the leave of the House. I have passed on the right to information documents we have but right now seek the leave of the House to table two RTI documents. One of them is from DPIPWE which relates to the truth about the proposed closure of the Styx Road and the other is also from DPIPWE which points to the department's advice to close the duck season on Crown land this year, advice that was apparently ignored by the minister which he pretended he knew nothing about and then he signed off on the duck season.

Let us go to the time line here. On 14 July we have an email from Sustainable Timber Tasmania so-called, but as we know their trading name is actually Forestry Tasmania, confirming planned closure of the road. The subject line is 'closure of Styx Road' and the RTI from STT says:

A plantation thinning operation at TN052K on Styx Road is scheduled to commence in early August and for safety reasons we would like to close the road for a period of approximately five weeks.

Once the Bob Brown Foundation - much maligned by the member for Braddon, who really has some real issues with respecting nature - heard from tourism operators that Forestry Tasmania wanted to close the road, they wrote to the minister. The Bob Brown Foundation wrote to the Premier, Mr Gutwein, raising concerns about the Styx Road closure on 31 July and we have a copy of that email here sent at 5 p.m. on 31 July.

On 1 August, the next day, the Bob Brown Foundation issued a media release just before 8 a.m. The media release references the letter to the Premier and the proposed road closure. Two days later, on 3 August, Mr Barnett issued a media release including 'environmentalists have completely baseless claims' and saying there were no plans to close the Styx Road. In fact, he said they were completely baseless, completely untrue and what it turns out to be is that they were completely true. Forestry Tasmania wanted to close the Styx Road for a logging operation.

We lodged a right to information request and we got it back from DPIPWE. On 26 August the right to information request disclosed the Sustainable Timber Tasmania (STT) so-called correspondence which confirmed the Styx Road closure. On 4 September, the Mercury ran an article about the road closure. On 14 September, Mr Barnett doubled down on his previous claim and today in parliament, what we had was a minister of the Crown trying to get around the fact that he is pinged by an RTI that showed that he had, on government media release letter-head, at best misled, at worst knowingly told an untruth to the people of Tasmania and the media about the proposed Styx Road closure.

In parliament today, the minister stated that STT was planning to close the road but changed their plans in early August. No, they did not. They changed their plans very quickly after the Bob Brown Foundation wrote to the Premier. That might have been early August but it was not on the basis of any independent decision on STTs part. From STT, quoted by the minister in parliament today -

A scheduled plantation thinning adjacent to the Styx Road coup, TN052K was delayed in early August.

We know that. The Bob Brown Foundation wrote to the Premier on 31 July. Also, today -

The decision to not proceed with this plantation thinning operation was made prior to the Greens and the Bob Brown Foundation's alarming local businesses and creating a media event to advance their own selfish goals.

The point to remember here is that Mr Barnett initially said there were no plans to close the road, and that it was a completely baseless accusation. We just heard the same sort of vilification and untruth from the minister that we have heard just then from Dr Broad.

Now we know there is a plan. Now, apparently the decision not to close the road was changed in early August after the Bob Brown Foundation wrote to the Premier of Tasmania expressing concern.

Madam Speaker, do you want me to lay these on the table?

Madam SPEAKER - Yes.

Ms O'CONNOR - I am very happy to do that.

Madam SPEAKER - I can put the question that leave be granted to table the papers.

Mr BARNETT - Point of order, Madam Speaker, seeking leave.

Ms O'CONNOR - Mr Barnett is very sensitive on us tabling the evidence of his perfidy.

Madam SPEAKER - I have put the question.

Leave granted.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you very much. I understand why Mr Barnett is sensitive about us but he is a serial misleader.