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Matter of Public Importance – Integrity


Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 23 November 2022

Tags: COVID-19, Pork-Barrelling, Misleading Parliament

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, this is an interesting topic for us to discuss today, and it is worth placing on the record right here and now that I do not think anyone in this place has a monopoly on integrity. We can all try to be the best people we can be and act honourably and honestly but, ultimately, we are all only human.

In terms of the contribution made by Ms White, I want to address the matter of Ms Howlett's preselection as the Liberal candidate for the division of Prosser. I do not think it put Ms White in a good light to raise that in the context of an integrity debate. It is a matter for the people of Prosser whether or not they believe Ms Howlett is the right person to represent them. I would argue and feel very strongly that Ms Howlett has paid a heavy price for the allegations that have been levelled against her. Regrettably, they have never been tested, but she has certainly paid a heavy price.

While I am on that, in terms of integrity, I remember that Labor signed a secret memorandum of understanding with the Tasmanian Hospitality Association before last year's state election that required Labor to consult with industry on its policy in relation to poker machines, which we know claim lives and livelihoods. It was an MOU that was signed in secret and was only revealed to the Tasmanian people during the last campaign because of the work of a journalist who got hold of it, so let us not pretend in there that either of the major parties have a monopoly on integrity.

Honestly, I believe there is a fundamental decency and integrity in our Premier, but I feel he has lost his way, and part of it is that for 20 years of his political career he worked with opposition leaders who had a fairly free-loving relationship with the truth. We saw that when Will Hodgman became premier and a decline in standards in question time. We saw a shift in the way ministers were answering questions. They became much less precise and factual in 2014 when the Liberals were elected to government. We saw also in Estimates again repeated attempts of obfuscation at the table by newly appointed Liberal ministers. The worst offender I remember in those first couple of years is the now Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, Deputy Premier and Treasurer.

So there is a cultural issue here that has contaminated the whole government, despite Mr Rockliff's innate decency. It has been eight years in the making. I urge Mr Rockliff to shake off what he learnt as 2IC to Will Hodgman and Peter Gutwein and find his strength.

When he says he wants to be honest and open with the Tasmanian people, to not revert to behaviours that have worked for him in the past, be genuinely honest and open with the Tasmanian people. We have not seen that with the Local Communities Facilities Fund. We have not seen a willingness to accept responsibility for incorrect information provided to the parliament. It is basic human psychology. If you admit that you have done the wrong thing or you made a mistake or you could have done things better, it can make the pain go away, politically.

There has been a really unfortunate approach to this Local Communities Facilities Fund. I do not know if it is because the Liberals want to do it again in the next state election but there has been secrecy; ongoing obfuscation and lack of clarity about what was funded and how, and the multiple conflicts of interest between Liberal Party candidates and organisations who received money through the Local Communities Facilities Fund.

I was having another look at the list of organisations. No one begrudges the Tasmanian community organisations a cent. You can see how much need there is in the community for extra infrastructure and program support funds, so why is the Government not saying, 'We won't t do that again. What we will do is establish a standing community grants program for just these sorts of projects that people can openly bid into.

The Tasmanian Community Fund is moving away from infrastructure-based projects and more into longer-term educational programs. That is fantastic but there will be a vacuum for community and sporting organisations that have legitimate needs for funding support. It should be open; it should be accessible and it should be transparently administered. That is a win, win, win.

It will not be able to be used during an election campaign to ingratiate yourself with a particular group but it could be catalytic to changing this broader island community and making sure that organisations from across the island - from pipe bands to men's sheds, to cricket clubs - know that there is a pool of money there that is fairly administered and is based on need and merit and is supported by the Rockliff Liberal Government - established by the Rockliff Liberal Government, if you want to get some political wins for it.

There are much better ways to do this. The Premier said he wants to be up-front and honest with the Tasmanian people. We are calling on him to do so in relation to COVID 19 infection and mass reinfection.