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Leave to Move Motion to allow the Speaker to make a statement

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 2 March 2023

Tags: Conflict of Interest, House of Assembly, Integrity

Dr WOODRUFF - The most patrician I have ever seen Mr Ferguson in the Chamber, ticking us all off for wanting to uphold the standards of the House.

As the Treasurer said, 400 years of tradition, 400 years of parliament to defend. That is what we are here for. That is exactly why we are seeking leave to debate this motion because there is an army of unanswered questions waiting at the doors.

The member for Lyons has so many questions to answer and we have given many opportunities for the member of Lyons to do that. An amount of $400 000 of public money walked out the door without a merit-based approach after having previously been knocked back for a development by the Tasmanian Communities Fund. It had been knocked back on a merit based approach and then it walked out the door.

What we do know from Right to Information is there was a range of meetings, a range of letters and a range of conversations that were held, but we have so much more to find out. This is about the integrity of the Code of Conduct that we all sign. The member for Lyons is a member of the House. The fact the member for Lyons is also the Speaker gives that particular member immunity, it appears, from having to answer questions about whether there has been a breach of the Code of Conduct of this House. We maintain that there has obviously been a conflict of interest. There is obviously a failure to uphold the public interest in his actions when he did not take all reasonable steps to avoid, disclose and manage an obvious conflict of interest in his position and his family members' position on the Bracknell Hall committee.

He did not disclose it in the annual discretionary disclosure return statement. He could have done that at any time. Most importantly, he did not step aside and not go into the meeting with the Meander Valley Council GM. He should have said: 'I have an interest here. I am not going to take a letter that you have written and use it to secretly and sneakily extract $400 000 from the public purse without a merits-based approach. Just put it forward next time, make the changes.'

It is a pity that the Bracknell Hall would have to be delayed in its development, which is what the Meander Valley Council recommended: 'Oh dear, we only received $600 000 in federal funding from Scott Morrison. We were knocked back on the $400 000 because we were so greedy we had to have it all done at the same time.'

Not like the rest of Tasmania. Not like the Cygnet Seadragons - they have been asking for a toilet for 10 years. They would have loved to have had a tiny part of that $400 000. They have nowhere to change in the rain. Kids have to walk across the road, they have to get a key on the weekend because the Education department will not let them in there. It is a whole palaver they have been doing for a decade. Not a shekel has gone to them. Nowhere for parents to sit out of the rain.

But no, Bracknell Hall had to have it all at once. It was not enough that they received $600 000. They had to wait for the next one but they were not prepared to wait so they did a sneaky process. There are so many questions that need to be asked. The only way we can do it is for the Speaker to vacate the Chair and for the member for Lyons, Mr Shelton, to answer those questions.

We have a right to understand why Mr Shelton does not think he has a direct interest in the process, why he would meet with the local council, why he was the one who received the funding request from them. Why would he play a role at all when it is such an obvious objective conflict of interest? A member of parliament seeking to gain money for a hall that he and his family are committee members of, who made the decision about the size of the project, the construction, the design, the layout, the comfort and the obvious benefit to them over other parts of the Tasmanian community, other areas in Lyons, who all might have liked to have had a say about their local facility that they would like to design and construct.

There are many competitive and merits-based opportunities for public funding, like the Tasmanian Community Fund. This hall fell over; it was not approved through that process. This was about a cosy arrangement to sidestep that merits-based process. This was about avoiding public scrutiny. This was about continuing the shovelling of money into Liberal members' pet projects, into things that advantage their families' interests in the community. We expect to hear from you in your role as the member for Lyons.