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Leave to Suspend Standing Orders - Motion Negatived

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 22 November 2022

Tags: Misleading Parliament, Pork-Barrelling

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr speaker, what a woeful response. Premier, you have been accused of misleading parliament and you have been asked to correct the record. Your words speak for themselves. Now you are cowering behind a statement made by your Finance minister - a few words dropped into this place a year ago - when it is here in black and white that you gave false information to the parliament. You did, clearly.

We had the honourable sight of Mr Street getting up this morning immediately correcting the record at the first available opportunity.

In case you have forgotten what you said, even though Ms White stated it in here a short time ago, let me remind you of how you did, in fact, mislead the House. When we asked you about conflicts of interest where Liberal candidates were swanning around the electorate and facilitating grants to, for example, their daughter's rowing club or their association's volleyball club, and on the list goes, you said:

Mr Speaker, I thank the member for her question. I am advised that the election promise made to the Sandy Bay Rowing Club during the 2021 election was part of a range of small, one off election promises made by local communities around the state. This is not unlike a raft of other promises we make. Just like any other election promise, the promises come to fruition dependent on two things: (1) the party being elected to form government and enabled to enact that commitment; and (2) the election promise being funded, included in the budget, and the budget being agreed to by the parliament.

That is not true, as Mr Street confirmed a short time ago. More than half, a total of 111 of those projects, were funded through the Treasurer's reserve, which we argue is a misuse or misapplication of the Financial Management Act. It is supposed to be there in times of real need and crisis, not to fund political parties' election promises. We know there was an attempt made to fund those promises through the COVID 19 funds. That fell flat when Treasury told you it would not wash, so you tapped the Treasurer's reserve.

We strongly support the seeking of leave. This is about probity, integrity and transparency. It goes to this Government's reflex for secrecy. It never saw a pot of public funds it did not want to stick its snout into. We are talking vast sums of public money here in a secretly established local communities facilities fund during the last state election - a minimum of $15 million but closer, by our calculation, to around $28 million. Huge pots of public money.

This is the same issue raised by the Integrity Commission and investigated by the Integrity Commission after 2018. While they did not actually accuse the Liberal Government of electoral bribery, the words were enough in the Integrity Commission's findings to point to an electoral bribery scheme on the part of Government.

It is one thing to do that. It is another to be misleading about how those promises were funded. That is what we have here. We have two directly conflicting statements. We have the Premier saying it was all funded through the Budget and now coming in using weasel words and cowering behind a statement of his previous finance minister. We have Mr Street telling the truth.

What we just saw from the Premier is nowhere near good enough. If you have done the wrong thing, the best approach - and this is not just in parliament, this is everywhere - is to fess up straight away and take responsibility at the first opportunity. If the Premier thinks this issue is going to go away, he is sorely mistaken. Every day, as we examine this local communities facilities fund, it gets smellier and smellier, and the secrecy continues.

I do not know who has advised the Premier not to fess up and admit he misled parliament, or if he has made that decision himself. It is the wrong decision because the evidence is in black and white that the Premier gave false and misleading information to this parliament. He clearly did. He gave the same information to the parliament as Mr Street, who has come in here and corrected the record, and sincerely apologised. It is the same information based on an untruth about how those election promises were funded.

First of all, they tried to tap into the COVID 19 recovery funds, then tapped the Treasurer's reserve for more than half of the projects. Then we had repeated false information provided to Budget Estimates by Mr Street, who I truly believe was badly advised. Now we have had an honourable response to the evidence by Mr Street but not the Premier, who clearly gave false and misleading information in this place. It is not just about false and misleading information - and it is not just about false and misleading information for members, is it Mr Speaker? It is about being honest with the people of Tasmania, because, after all, this is their money. We are their elected representatives, this is their parliament, and the people of Tasmania have a right to expect that if a minister or a premier says something in this place that is untrue, that when the evidence is presented to them, they correct the record. That is the honourable thing to do. The Hansard record now contains a misleading statement.