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Leave to Move for the Suspension of Standing Orders

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 23 November 2022

Tags: Misleading Parliament, Pork-Barrelling

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, we support the seeking of leave so we can have a debate about whether the House agrees the Premier should be censured for two responses he has given now to questions around the Local Communities Facilities Fund. The first was the one that was raised in parliament yesterday when he was asked about his statement that all of LCFF projects were funded through the Budget process, when they were not.

Mr Ferguson - It was a question about Sandy Bay, and you know it.

Ms O'CONNOR - Yes, okay, I have the Hansard here. It is actually about promises being funded included in the Budget and the Budget being agreed to by the parliament.

Mr Ferguson - The question was about Madeleine Ogilvie and Sandy Bay.

Ms O'CONNOR - Okay, I guess the question then for the Premier and for you, Treasurer, is: why is this like pulling teeth? When the question was asked of the Premier, why could there not have been clarity about the different sources of funding for what was an electoral bribery scheme?

We had some discussion about this answer in the previous contribution but the Premier said yesterday, 'The funding of some commitments, prior to 30 June 2021, was transparent in the Budget Papers for the 2020-21 financial year, on page 42'. That was a mistake, wasn't it? The year of the Budget was a mistake. Why could the Premier not come in here and say, 'Yes, I made a mistake. I am sorry'. We all do that. We could not even have that admission of error.

Premier, page 42 of that Budget is about Community and Disability Services. However, on page 42 of the 2021-22 Budget, there is a brief description of the Local Communities Facilities Fund. There is false information in the Budget papers which asserts that the Local Communities Facilities Fund was set up in June 2020, when it was not. It was established in Liberal HQ, working with the Premier's office in April 2021, in the early days of the last state election campaign. So, we have printed Budget papers perpetuating an untruth about the origin of this massive electoral bribery scheme. That is a fact too: a false claim is in the Budget papers.

The Budget also incorrectly states the number of projects funded in the 2020-21 financial year. It fails to note the use of the Treasurer's Reserve to fund 111 projects - more than half of the Local Communities Facilities Fund Projects, and it does not list them. It is not very transparent, not at all.

I acknowledge that two of the Government members who are under the most pressure over this electoral rorts scheme did not cook it up. The person I believe was primarily responsible for cooking up the Local Communities Facilities Fund is the former premier and treasurer. Now, the current Premier and current Treasurer and the Minister for Sport and Recreation are carrying that can. Why would they not distance themselves from the lack of transparency, the clear rorting and conflicts of interest? Why would the Premier not say, 'It will not happen again, not with me as Premier, it won't.'? We need that commitment from this Government. That is the goal here. It has to be the goal for democracy in this state.

We had the Treasurer get up a bit earlier and come back into the House after the question that we asked, which was pretty clear at the end: 'Did the Liberal Government attempt to use the COVID 19 provision to fund election commitments in 2021?' We did not say did the previous treasurer, or did the previous premier. We said 'did the Government seek to', knowing that in the letters that went out to community organisations the framework was around how this project might contribute to recovery from COVID 19, which as we all know - it is worth putting on the record - is not over, and we are a long way from recovering from it.

The Treasurer comes in on indulgence and his answer says that I referred to documents, which I did not. He narrowed his answer down to the right to information documents which we have, and they were not mentioned in my question. The question was much bigger than what is in those RTI documents. I did not refer to any documents and Mr Ferguson said I did. He quoted me as saying, 'Did the Government plan to', and I did not ask that. He did not answer the question, because the question was:

Did the Liberal Government seek to use those COVID 19 recovery funds to fund its own election promises?

We have not got an answer to that, because the Treasurer narrowed his response to the information in the RTI documents we have.

Again, they are not transparent or frank. There is an inability to admit wrong, to take responsibility and to move on. We are copping it on this side of the House from Government members because we dare to apply the blowtorch of scrutiny to a government that is using millions of dollars to buy votes in a secretive and shady rorts scheme. This is Opposition members and the crossbench doing their jobs. This is large sums of public money and the information we are seeking from Government is in the public interest on expenditure and probity. We need to hear this will not happen again. Let us have the debate on censure.