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Referral of the Racing Minister to the Privileges Committee

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 28 February 2023

Tags: Privileges Committee, Integrity, Misleading Parliament

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, the Premier did not defend his minister then. We support the referral of the Racing Minister to the Privileges Committee. In case Ms Ogilvie or anyone in Government needs a reminder, being a minister is about much more than wearing a nice frock to the races. It is about having honesty and integrity.

If we go to the media release, which is the subject in question here, it fails the reasonable person test. The media release read at face value would let Tasmanians and those in the racing industry believe that Mr Eriksson left because he wanted to spend more time with his family. The reasonable person would believe that Mr Eriksson would be returning to Sydney to spend more time with his family and that is why he left.

Ms Ogilvie has some questions to answer. She did not answer them adequately at the Estimates table last year. The Privileges Committee is the right place for this matter to go. I hear Ms Ogilvie groaning over there in the stalls -

Ms Ogilvie - It was a sigh.

Ms O'CONNOR - Sighing in the stalls. I am sorry that scrutiny and accountability tires you. It is something that the Greens are very interested in. Perhaps Ms Ogilvie would like to rise and explain herself and why she should not be referred to the Privileges Committee.

Mr Eriksson did not leave Tasracing because he was going to Sydney to spend more time with his family. Mr Eriksson was sacked. That Government media release with Ms Ogilvie as minister's name on it is prima facie misleading. Full stop, end of story. It is misleading and it should be dealt with by the Privileges Committee because it is not a truthful media release. It is lying by omission.

Government members interjecting.

Mr SPEAKER - Order.

Ms O'CONNOR - Mr Ferguson, I have spent a lot of time in communications. I understand what has happened here with this media release. It is a lie by omission. We had the Premier this morning getting up and rewriting history to pad out the circumstances around this media release and say that Ms Ogilvie said he was 'also' to be returning to Sydney to spend more time with his family. The insertion of the word 'also'.

This Government has form in abusing ministerial standards. I remember, other members of this House might remember, when Mr Jaensch got up to this lectern and told a complete untruth about the Government's moves to weaken tenancy protections. We had a Cabinet minute in our hand. We remember when Mr Barnett got up and was dishonest with this House about advice that had come to him from his own department about the need not to have the duck shooting season that year, in 2020. Again, misled.

We had the Premier in relation to the Local Communities Facilities Fund claiming wrongly, falsely, that it was all part of a budget process and election commitments. It was not and Mr Street did the right thing and corrected the record.

I want to briefly refer to another example of dishonesty from this Government. It relates to the Ashley whistleblower, Alysha, when we had this woman who stood up to defend those kids at Ashley, lodged a worker's compensation claim, was drawn through the process for years and we had ministers saying they could not intervene. It turns out they could. It turns out that is exactly what happened. We had the Solicitor-General writing to Alysha's lawyers asking for records of her victim impact statement on the Friday and on the Monday they are prepared to settle. Another untruth dropping from a minister's mouth.

This matter should most certainly go to the Privileges Committee. If Ms Ogilvie got up and said, 'Yes, I understand why there would be some concern about the language that I used in that media release; it is misleading by omission; I should have been honest about the circumstances surrounding Mr Eriksson's departure and I am sorry about that; I will do better next time', maybe it would not be a matter for the Privileges Committee. We will not get that because never, ever, except for Mr Street last year, do we get ministers taking responsibility. I am hoping that Ms Ogilvie will take the opportunity that is presented to her now and set the record straight, which she has refused to do.

Mr Rockliff - You are so fair.

Ms O'CONNOR - I think that is fair. Hang on a minute. You people earn $230 000, $240 000, $250 000 a year. You earn a fortune. You have a Ministerial Code of Conduct you have signed up to and that requires you to tell the truth and if there is an untruth or a mistake to set the record straight at the first opportunity. This media release goes back to July. We had that vacuum of truth all the way through to Estimates, when finally Gene Phair let the cat out of the bag. He was honest about it. It would not have hurt for the Minister for Racing at the time to say, 'Mr Eriksson's employment was terminated; we wish him well; he is going to Sydney to spend more time with his family'. That would have been an honest and accurate explanation for what happened to Mr Eriksson but we did not get that. We got misleading by this minister -