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Ministerial Statement on COVID-19

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Tags: COVID-19

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, I rise to respond to the ministerial statement. I believe the announcement that the border restrictions will be maintained until 1 December is absolutely the right thing to do and will be supported by the vast majority of Tasmanians.

To follow up on your point, Ms White, about how it would have been nice to have received a call from the Premier, yes it would have, and we did have quite a good, trusting relationship until your party decided to go in and advocate for the racing industry at a time when Public Health advice was that it should be shut down.

Mr O'Byrne - You complain about opposition parties being muted. You talk about democracy. If you disagree, you cannot speak up?

Ms O'CONNOR - If you want there to be communication and trust then you have to demonstrate yourself to be trustworthy. I am not surprised that you are squawking the loudest because you led the charge for the racing industry.

Mr O'Byrne - The hypocrisy again.

Madam SPEAKER - Order, please.

Ms O'CONNOR - We can all agree that 2020 is the year that just keeps on taking. It started with the most wicked bushfires on the mainland and the most devastating bushfires, climate induced, that this country has ever seen, the loss of at least one billion native animals. Then we were thrown straight into a global pandemic with a disease that kills people.

We are in so much a different space from where we were this time last year. Everyone has had to make changes to the way they live and it has changed the way we think and feel in some ways. Now, what I find is that those small moment between people when you go into a retail outlet or a shop, those moments where people are looking each other in the eye and you know you cannot touch each other. I just bumped into the new member for Rosevears in the corridor. Congratulations Ms Palmer, who I have known for more than 20 years. I could not hug Jo to congratulate her. This is how life has changed. We cannot touch each other as much as we want to. We cannot hug and we cannot kiss. That is a big and dramatic shift in the way that we relate to each other but it has led to a new connection, I believe, between people and between Tasmanians and the number of conversations. I am sure every member of this House has conversations with people who feel so thankful that they live in Tasmania. In a world that is increasingly chaotic and sick, people are so thankful that they are here in Tasmania. They are thankful for the Premier for his leadership and Public Health and Tasmania Police.

Of course, it does not mean we are blindly accepting of every measure that the Government takes, every decision or every pronouncement, but in broad term the response to the coronavirus in Tasmania has been well handled. There are legitimate questions about exemptions for essential travellers like Mr Powell for Tourism and Hospitality Services Australasia, or essential workers when we know that many of those workers could be sourced here.

Having an extra layer of assessment, where you have the Department of State Growth as well as the Department of Primary Industries and Water examine applications for exemptions before they go to the State Controller is a positive. I question whether State Growth is the best agency to do this when you have the Department of Premier and Cabinet who could provide that whole-of-government oversight. I understand State Growth has responsibility for industry and so they may have a lens on whether or not essential worker applications are legitimate.

I did want to also note that funds are being allocated to schools in order to visit our beautiful parks and heritage places and question again why the decision was made to increase parks fees, day park passes for Tasmanians when so many people whose lives have changed so profoundly find such salvation in our parks.

I do hope that school children are also given a chance to have a look at some of our beautiful forests, which store carbon and are a haven for native species. It would be terrific if more young people could go up to the Styx and have a look at places like Coop TN034G, which is such an exquisite piece of forest and has a very expensive taxpayer funded forestry road built into it. As you go to that lovely forest on the top of the hill at the end of the taxpayer funded road you go past a massive clear fell and burn site. That is why Sustainable Timber Tasmania cannot get FSC certification, because none of its logging operations are sustainable.

The call for locals to help out the agricultural sector this year is excellent. There is probably going to be quite a large take up of that. I hope so because as I understand it there will be no Falls Festival this year, which does keep young people over the summer break from taking on some of those jobs that they might otherwise have.

I urge the Premier to respond to the letter that we wrote to him late last week about the need to extend the residential tenancy protections from rent increases and evictions. We are already hearing from some tenants whose landlords are saying come the first of October we will be asking you to sign a new lease at a new rental rate. Given that JobSeeker and JobKeeper are expiring on the current schedule on 30 September it is untenable that as a state we would allow tenants in private rental properties to have their rent increased or to be evicted. Given that there has been such a positive response from your Government, Premier, for the need to protect residential tenants I hope that those protections are extended past 1 October in the same way that the border restrictions have been extended.

Finally, I just wanted to take note of the Premier's Economic and Social Recovery Advisory Council taskforce report and acknowledge that the Premier has said the 64 recommendations will be adopted. One of the problems is that that report made no mention of climate and the need for recovery to incorporate climate action.