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Major Projects Legislation - Comments made by Minister for Planning

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Tags: Major Projects, Democracy, Legislative Council, Legislation, Parliament

Major Projects - Comments made by Minister for Planning, Rosalie Woodruff, 16 September 2020



Your written threats to abandon the major projects legislation if the upper House dares pass amendments to it are an assault on the democratic function of this parliament. You said amendments proposed to the bill that would create an appeal rights process and would ban developers who make political donations from using this law are 'fatal to the bill'. Leaving aside the fact that neither of these amendments would affect the purpose and function of the bill, you threatened upper House members with not supporting an amended bill on its return to the House.

Madam SPEAKER - Excuse me, I am taking advice. Because the bill is still live you must be very careful with your wording and not refer to the bill.

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you, Madam Speaker, I am aware of that requirement. Your threats to vote against your own legislation border on interfering with parliament, a crime under section 70 of the Criminal Code. Your Government is answerable to the free exercise of this parliament's authority. It is not up to you to direct members in how they vote. Your comments show utter contempt for the parliament. Do you agree you are attempting to interfere in the duty of the upper House?



Madam Speaker, I will take your guidance on what is in and out of play in trying to answer that question. In terms of prejudicing parliamentary debate, I note that the Greens announced that they would be voting against the major projects bill when we released the last version of it for public consultation. Before they had seen the bill, they had already predetermined what they were going to do and announced that to their audiences and said, 'There is no way this is getting through. We haven't seen it yet but we're not going to vote for it anyway'.

Labor announced to the world that they were going to support it because they believed in growth, certainty, planning and good sound processes in our assessment processes. They brought a range of amendments, we debated them here and a number were agreed to, which is a good thing. I believe I am not allowed to say that every member of Labor voted in favour of the amended bill at the end of our debate so I will not mention it, but the important thing is that we now have a bill that is going before the Legislative Council today and it is very important legislation for Tasmania.

As everyone here knows, from time to time there comes a project which is large and complex and requires assessment against multiple different regulations under several different acts and, sometimes, across several different local government areas. We need a process which enables that assessment to be coordinated so that information is presented once, all the relevant questions are asked, all the relevant assessments are done by the people who are empowered under their act to do so, and a final decision is made by the independent Planning Commission.

That is what the major projects process does - nothing else. There is nothing particularly new about it. It is a better way of arranging existing assessment processes to deal with complex projects.

One of the things built into that legislation, which was brought over from the legislation it replaces that was introduced by Labor, is that you put Tasmania's pre-eminent planning authority in there as the decision-maker. We have heard in the debate, and in the continuing debate, the foreshadowing of possible amendments which would introduce an appeal clause to come after that.

Dr Woodruff - Shock! Appeal - holding people to account.

Madam SPEAKER - Order.

Mr JAENSCH - One of the things that is very important about the principle of an appeal is that you appeal a decision to a higher authority. On planning matters in Tasmania there is no higher authority than the Tasmanian Planning Commission. That is why we embed them in this process as the decision-maker so we have the highest authority independent of government making the decision at the end of the process.

Introducing an appeal clause potentially undermines the independent authority of the Tasmanian Planning Commission. That is not only something -

Ms O'Connor - What about the independence of the upper House?

Madam SPEAKER - Order.

Mr JAENSCH - which can render this bill unfit for purpose but also potentially brings into question the independent Tasmanian Planning Commission's final decision across the planning system, creating uncertainty for everyone seeking a planning scheme amendment.

Ms O'Connor - That is rubbish.

Dr Woodruff - No. You are dissembling, you are distracting, you are doing everything you can -

Madam SPEAKER - Order. Dr Woodruff and Ms O'Connor, this is my final warning on your interrupting on this matter.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker. I am just checking so that we are not thrown out - is that a final warning of three because we have not had any warnings yet? If you are asking us to be quiet -

Madam SPEAKER - No, it is just a final warning. I have been very generous. You have been interrupting all morning. Now that is it.

Ms O'Connor - So was Labor.

Madam SPEAKER - Oh, tittle-tattle. Come on. Please proceed, minister.

Dr WOODRUFF - Point of clarification, Madam Speaker. I would appreciate if you could provide some clarification on what you just said about what a final warning means in this circumstance.

Madam SPEAKER - A final warning means final. If you interrupt again and carry on and scream - you are the only two making a noise during this conversation - you will be leaving the Chamber. End of story.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker. I want to make it really clear that neither Dr Woodruff nor I screamed.

Madam SPEAKER - That is a matter of interpretation. From this end of the Chamber you were screaming. That is the end of it, please. No more frivolous interjections.

Mr JAENSCH - Thank you, Madam Speaker. The potential exists that if anyone was to propose and if there was carried an amendment to this bill that brought into question the authority of the Tasmanian Planning Commission, it would not only affect the useability of this bill but it would be a precedent for any other decision of the Planning Commission that has been made now or could be made in the future. I believe that would introduce considerable uncertainty to our planning system and every decision made by it at a time when Tasmania needs more certainty if we are going to attract investment and assess important projects.

Dr WOODRUFF - Point of order, Madam Speaker, under Standing Order 45, relevance. Could the minister direct his comments to the question of how political donations would be a fatal flaw to this bill and why he is trying to interfere with members of the upper House -

Madam SPEAKER - You will be pleased to know the minister's time is up and he is welcome to return to his seat.