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MMG Mine at Rosebery

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 25 August 2021

Tags: Mining, Environment

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, we have this confected lovers’ tiff now between Dr Broad and the minister, Mr Barnett, who on just about every issue agree with each, are in lock-step. Yet we have this motion brought forward so that Dr Broad can again dog-whistle to his constituents in Braddon and pretend there is any substantive difference between him and minister Barnett when it comes to resource extraction in Tasmania.

The first thing I want to say is that the Greens support a sustainable mining industry. We recognise the enormous contribution the mining industry has made to Tasmania's economy. Over the winter break I took out of the Parliamentary Library The Peaks of Lyell by Geoffrey Blainey, which I highly recommend to any member of this place to read if you want to understand the history of this island, the history of the west coast, the role of mining in kick-starting our economy and employing people. A fascinating read. A wonderful read.

Members - Hear, hear.

Ms O'CONNOR - I am also the daughter of a former sand miner on Minjerribah, Stradbroke Island. I understand the importance of mining but you have to do it sustainably. There has to be a social licence for mines. We have Dr Broad sneering about people who live in Hobart as if we do not understand the value of mining to Tasmania's economy, this sneering dismissal of people who live south of Ross.

All over this island people genuinely want to see a balance. That is in the Premier's Economic and Social Recovery Advisory Council Report. Tasmanians recognise we are blessed with many assets. We have resources and we have great wilderness. Extraordinary scenery. It is the reason people come here from all over the mainland and all over the world. Even in a pandemic, we have seen visitation from the mainland, when it is possible to do so, be sustained.

Then I heard Dr Broad muttering, when the minister was on his feet about, 'Oh, the minister is trying to politicise it'. Oh, my goodness - read the original motion. You want to talk about playing politics. That is exactly what the motion was about. We have this one-trick pony in Dr Broad, who is obsessed with the Bob Brown Foundation. He trundles out onto the racetrack. You know, he is a bit of a plodder but he does stay in his lane, I will give him that.

Do not sneer at people who do not live on the west coast. Let us stop marginalising each other because of which part of Tasmania we happen to live in. This tiny island.

I was listening to both Dr Broad and the minister, and the minister so excited about his new goose-stepping anti-protest laws. You know the person who came into my mind? That radical protester, Anthony Houston -

Mr BARNETT - Point of order, Mr Speaker. I consider the use of those words by implication offensive. I draw that to the Speaker's attention. I ask the member to withdraw those parts of that phrase from her contribution, and perhaps you could reconsider the use of those words.

Mr SPEAKER - There has been offence taken.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you, Mr Speaker, I am happy to withdraw the use of the words 'goose-stepping' in relation to the proposed anti-protest legislation. The person who came into my mind when the minister was talking was that radical protester, Anthony Houston, lettuce farmer extraordinaire, who was one of 71 people, many of them everyday Tasmanians, tourism operators, older people, pensioners, young people worried about the future, who were arrested over that seven weeks defending the Tarkine.

We know that the anti-protest laws which have been knocked out once by the High Court, recobbled together because this is a minister who thinks you can put a shine on a cow pat. Sat upstairs for a year - that is something I have to agree with Dr Broad about, this urgent legislation which was jammed through here one day in December and left to sit upstairs for almost a year until just before the election.

Dr Broad - Labor opposed it.

Ms O'CONNOR - No, they did not. They gagged the debate and jammed it through. So, as I said on election night, on behalf of young people and everyone who cares about this island, if this minister and his cheerleader Dr Broad think that the most draconian anti-protest laws in the country are going to stop people from defending wild places, they are very slow learners.

When I am out of parliament, I will be there too. There are plenty of us, because we care, and we are prepared to stand between people who would wreck wild places and habitat for threatened and endangered species and those places. Those sacred places.

We will not be supporting the amendment, and we will not be supporting the original motion, because they are both just garbage. This is an amendment from a minister who stood in this place not more than an hour ago and voted against a climate emergency declaration that is backed by science, facts and young people.

Mr SPEAKER - Through the Chair, please.

Ms O'CONNOR - I was talking through the Chair, Mr Speaker; I just was not looking at the Chair.

The minister talks about us wanting to lock up the Tarkine. I do not know if the minister was there when there was that big sign, at a public road, put there by Forestry Tasmania on behalf of the mining company, that stopped we, the people of Tasmania, from being able to go into that rainforest. Allowed a corporation in there that was in there unlawfully. This is something Dr Broad does not seem to be able to acknowledge or grasp.

Dr Broad - That is your opinion.

Ms O'CONNOR - Well, no. I will read you now a letter that was sent to MMG by Roland Browne, who represents the Bob Brown Foundation. The reason we know that Mr Browne was on the money is that once this letter was received, MMG took advice and pulled its machinery out.

Dr Broad - I do not think they wanted a further delay by an injunction. That was probably the truth.

Mr SPEAKER - Order.

Ms O'CONNOR - This is a letter to Mr Steve Scott, Acting GM of the Rosebery Mine, MMG Australia Limited, 7 Hospital Road, Rosebery:


Dear Sir,

I act for the Bob Brown Foundation incorporation of Dr Bob Brown. I refer to the above referral by MMG dated 10 May 2021 for the construction of, amongst other things, a tailings dam west of Rosebery.

MMG is currently upgrading the access track from the Pieman Road in a general southerly direction. That upgrade work has included grading the roads, cutting trees at the side of the road and placing rock and other road base material on the road prior to grading.

Section 74AA of the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, (the Act), provides that it is an offence for a person to take an action where there has been a referral to the minister and whereupon the other prerequisites to that provision are satisfied.

Clearly the proposal has been referred by MMG under section 68. A component of the referral is the upgrade of the roads.

This is made clear by Figure 4 to the referral depicting the access track to be upgraded. That access track has already been upgraded for a substantial distance in the order of three-quarters of a kilometre into the rainforest.

Unless section 74AA(2) is invoked by the minister having made a requirement or request and by MMG giving her written notice of the action in accordance with that provision, the inevitable conclusion appears to be that section 74AA(1) has been breached by MMG.

If section 74AA(2) has not been invoked, will you please confirm as a matter of urgency that MMG will halt all works that are part of the action that has been referred to the minister and which is now the subject of a controlled action and assessment decision, made on 12 July 2021.

I further refer to the decision by the minister on 4 June 2021 to suspend the referral and assessment approach decision time frame until 23 July. That decision requires an agreement to be reached in writing with the minister.

Can you also please also provide a copy of the agreement reached with the minister.

I look forward to your urgent response.

Yours sincerely,

Roland Browne

Two days later, Dr Bob Brown wrote to the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police about the fact that MMG was still unlawfully, under national environment law, so Commonwealth law - I know, quaint, just dismiss Commonwealth law - and MMG got it and they got out.

There is a federal legal framework here that MMG Australia Pty Ltd was not compliant with. We know, from the EPBC referral they made, that there were insufficient environmental impact assessment details in their documentation. They blamed the BBF for that.

Blaming the BBF and the Greens. We are quite used to being the punching bag for people who want to degrade and damage nature, but the federal environment law is the federal environment law. That is all there is to it. And MMG was in there unlawfully.

As I have mentioned before, we made a submission to the federal minister to talk about those values that are matters of national environmental significance under the EPBC Act 1999. We are talking about an area that is about 285 hectares of forested wild lands. I have never personally said they are pristine, but there are certainly large chunks of those rainforests that are unspoiled, undamaged, and by definition are wild and wilderness.

This is 285 hectares of forested wild lands, including pristine rainforest. Dr Woodruff and I have both been there. The forests west of Rosebery were independently verified as having World Heritage and National Heritage value. Just because a federal Liberal environment minister from a coal-loving, climate-destroying government does not agree to National Heritage listing for the Tarkine does not mean it should not be on the National Heritage list, because it should.

The January 2020-21 Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment Protected Matters Report did confirm that the MMG tailings dam proposal will, or is likely to, impact on the following matters of national environmental significance: the fact that within these forests there are Tasmanian devils, which are endangered; spotted-tail quolls, vulnerable; masked owl, vulnerable; wedge-tailed eagle, endangered; Tasmanian azure kingfisher, endangered; swift parrot, critically endangered - and driven closer to extinction on this Government's watch, and according to the ANU scientists, down to about 300 individual birds. There are also critically endangered forest communities of Eucalyptus ovata.

As I reminded the minister on behalf of the Greens, even The Australian newspaper reported that an MMG spokesperson confirmed the company had not conducted the environmental studies required to determine the proposed tailings dam's impact on EPBC-listed species.

At a federal level, despite the Samuel report, which looked at whether the EPBC Act was doing its job to protect nature and habitat and our incredible wildlife, we know that the Morrison Government has ignored the Samuel report's findings on the EPBC Act and are trying to work out different ways and probably having a chat to Mr Barnett while they are at it to weaken the EPBC Act. The review found not only is the act not protecting the environment, it is actually driving environmental damage, habitat and species loss. Our national environment law is failing the environment and you have Dr Broad here who wants to make it even weaker. That is reassuring isn't it? That is great in a time of climate and biodiversity crisis, that is just epic.

Dr Broad - Can you not believe in uncertainty.

Ms O'CONNOR - There is no legal uncertainty about the provisions in the EPBC Act. You might want to narrow cast your view of the world to only things that happen in Braddon, but there is a national environmental law and it is clear that MMG was not compliant with it either in the documentation they sent in in the referral or the fact they were undertaking works without approval.

Dr Broad interjecting.

Mr SPEAKER - Order, Dr Broad. No interjections but I ask also that you present through the Chair please and do not direct your statements and incite interjections.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you, Mr Speaker. I hope the next time Mr Barnett is on his feet inciting interjections, pointing at the Greens and shouting at us that you raise the same concern with him.

We are here having this debate because Dr Broad wants to be a cheer leader for MMG and pretend in any way that he is in any substantive manner different from his ideological mate, Mr Barnett. We have the original motion which does not understand Commonwealth law and calls on the state Government to basically ignore Commonwealth law and then we have the amendment which is a load of bollocks.

We are not supporting either of these. We stand by every one of those 71 people who put themselves on the frontline to defend the Tarkine. We stand with Bob Brown Foundation and we always will. We stand with them because they are defending what makes this island unique in the universe. Despite the best endeavours of majority governments, whether they be Liberal or Labor in this place it is civil society and conservationists who have protected enough of this island to uphold some brand integrity.

I have said this to Luke Martin who makes sport of bagging out the Greens. You should be on your knees saying thank you to the conservation movement for their decades of hard work to defend what makes this island unlike any other place on the planet. It is civil society who will stand up for this place. I bet there is not another member of this House at the moment apart from Dr Woodruff and me, possibly, who were there for the March for Saving the Styx. It was about 15 years ago now. I could not believe it, I could not see the end of the line of more than 10 000 people who had come from all over the island to the Styx to defend the forests. The 10 000 or more people, most of whom you would not call radical Greenies who marched through Launceston to save the Tamar Valley from the Gunn's pulp mill.

We hear a lot from Mr Barnett about balance. He has no idea. This is a minister who is accelerating native forest, logging, chipping and burning. This is a minister who is party to meaningless memoranda of understanding with the Leatherwood bee keepers while he continues to allow Forestry Tasmania to harvest and fell and often waste Leatherwood trees. This is a minister whose own department said, 'Do not please go ahead with the duck-shooting season this year' - and this is the year-before-last - because there has been so much pressure on these species caused by drought interstate that they are coming here for refugia and we need to put a stay on duck shooting for this year and what did the minister do - he ignored it - so we will not be supporting any of this rubbish.