Ms O'CONNOR question to MINISTER for RESOURCES, Mr BARNETT
Freedom of information is fundamental to a healthy democracy. This right to information is enshrined in law to stop politicians making up their own minds about what the public should know. In two recent cases, right to information disclosures have shown in black and white that you have misled the Tasmanian people.
First, our RTI on duck hunting showed your own departmental experts strongly advised against proceeding with this year's duck season, a fact that you refused to admit under parliamentary questions, even while you referenced other parts of that same advice.
Now we have received an RTI from Forestry Tasmania that shows there was a planned five-week closure of the Styx Road, a direct contradiction of your shrill denials.
Accountability is another tenet of a functioning democracy but so far, rather than admitting fault and apologising, your response to these matters has been to double down on your mistruths. Will you today, on International Day of Democracy, stand up and correct the record on these issues? Will you apologise to the Tasmanian people for the disrespect you have shown to them and to our democratic processes?
Madam Speaker, I thank the Leader for the Greens for her question. This question is coming from the Leader for the Greens and from a political party that wants to put thousands of Tasmanians out of work. They have a policy to close down our native forest harvesting sector. The implications of that -
Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker. Standing Order 45, relevance. This is completely irrelevant to the question asked. I ask you, please, to draw the minister's attention to the question.
Madam SPEAKER - As you know, that is not a point of order. I cannot put words in the minister's mouth.
Mr BARNETT - Madam Speaker, they do not like to hear the truth. This is coming from a political party that has an objective to put out of work thousands of jobs. This is during the most significant economic and health crisis of our generation.
Ms O'Connor - We are talking about your total dishonesty.
Madam SPEAKER - Order, Ms O'Connor, I urge you to calm down.
Mr BARNETT - This political party has a policy to put thousands of Tasmanians out of work. It is shame on that political party during this challenging time for all of us, economically, socially, environmentally and health-wise. They have a policy to lock-up more of our forests. They have a policy to put many thousands of Tasmanians out of work, and it is on the back of the Labor-Greens policy that was implemented where two out of three forestry jobs were lost. They took the industry to its knees. They have destroyed regional communities, thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars invested.
Ms O'CONNOR - Madam Speaker, I implore you, under Standing Order 45, to direct the minister to answer the question, please. He has gone nowhere near it. It is the same tired garbage we get every time.
Madam SPEAKER - You are a very experienced woman and you know that is not a point of order. I cannot put words in the minister's mouth. I ask him to try and be relevant.
Mr BARNETT - That is what I was saying, Madam Speaker, that this House of parliament approved the permanent timber production zone land that was specifically set aside by both Houses of parliament -
Dr Woodruff - That is nothing to do with the question.
Ms O'Connor - You have been busted lying twice to the people of Tasmania.
Madam SPEAKER - Order, please.
Mr BARNETT - including this political party, that would provide wood for our wood supply in the coming years
Madam SPEAKER - Order, please.
Mr BARNETT - that would supply wood in the coming years including for Sustainable Timber Tasmania.
Let me be very clear that I was advised by Sustainable Timber Tasmania that they had no immediate plans to harvest any coupe adjacent to the Styx Road or close the road in mid August. The following is a statement from Sustainable Timber Tasmania -
Sustainable Timber Tasmania can confirm that is has no immediate plans to conduct harvesting activity adjacent to the Styx Road. Sustainable Timber Tasmania has made publicly available its three-year wood production plan. This plan has identified areas for future harvesting, including hardwood plantation thinning -
Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker. I am concerned the minister is now misleading the House. We have an RTI from DPIPWE which shows that what he is saying is untrue.
Mr FERGUSON - Madam Speaker, on the point of order, you have ruled on this now twice and the member has not even raised a standing order. It is disruptive and disorderly. I ask that you protect the minister's ability to answer the question.
Ms O'Connor - To keep lying?
Mr FERGUSON - Madam Speaker, while I have not brought attention to that unparliamentary language, it seems that the minister would want it to be withdrawn. We are instructed to not use that language. Regardless of whether you ask the member to withdraw, it should cease. It is inappropriate and unparliamentary.
Madam SPEAKER - Yes, I agree. It is most unfortunate and I do not like people being accused of being liars. It is not a point of order. Please resume, minister.
Mr BARNETT - Thank you, Madam Speaker, that type of language is most inappropriate.
Dr Woodruff - What is inappropriate is you continuing to mislead Tasmanians.
Madam SPEAKER - Dr Woodruff, please.
Mr BARNETT - It is not appreciated. I was reading from a Sustainable Timber Tasmania brief.
Madam SPEAKER - Yes, and I am trying to hear you, minister.
Mr BARNETT - It says:
Sustainable Timber Tasmania has made publicly available its three-year wood production plan. This plan has identified areas for future harvesting, including hardwood plantation thinning and native forest harvesting adjacent to the Styx Road in the Tyenna Valley near Maydena. A scheduled plantation thinning adjacent to the Styx Road coupe TNO52K was delayed in early August, with harvesters taking longer than expected at their existing location, resulting in the need to reschedule the operational order of plantation thinning harvest activity.
Ms O'Connor - It says you're going to close the road.
Mr BARNETT - It continues:
It is anticipated that the plantation thinning will now occur at TNO52K sometime in 2021. Sustainable Timber Tasmania is committed to working with neighboring land managers to provide alternative access to the Big Tree Reserve if a road closure is required and will work to minimise the impact on local tourism operators.
Ms O'Connor - You said there was no plan for road closure.
Madam SPEAKER - Ms O'Connor, I am sorry but you are really becoming infuriating. That is warning number two.
Mr BARNETT -
Sustainable Timber Tasmania recognises the access and multiple use the forestry network provides and routinely works with local tourism operators to minimise impact of harvesting operations around the state.
That is the end of the brief. I will make it very clear that I was not aware of any potential
Dr Woodruff - How do you explain the fact that the -
Madam SPEAKER - Dr Woodruff, you know the rules.
Mr BARNETT - I was making it very clear I was not aware of any potential plans STT had for managing plantations in that area. Despite having the leaked email in question and knowing full well that the contingency plan was for a plantation thinning operation, the Greens and the Bob Brown Foundation knowingly made the inaccurate claims that giant native trees were being harvested.
I say shame on the Greens, who chose to spread misinformation and create fear during the greatest health and economic challenge in a generation simply to further their own political agenda. The decision to not proceed with this plantation thinning operations was made prior to the Greens and the Bob Brown Foundation alarming local businesses and creating a media event to advance their own selfish goals.