You are here

Reply to the Premier's Address (state of the State)

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 22 March 2023

Tags: COVID-19, Renewable Energy, Climate Change

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Speaker, I rise to give my reply to the Premier's state of the state speech. On behalf of the Tasmanian Greens I acknowledge and pay my deep respects to the Tasmanian Aboriginal people, to their elders past and present and those living amongst us today. To the warriors who fought in defence of their land, to those who were murdered, banished and enslaved in the process of the colonisation of Tasmania. As the Greens we are committed to truth-telling, treaty, justice, and a voice and constitutional recognition, and to bringing real change and self-determination for Aboriginal people, including through the return of land.

What a harsh and confronting state of the state Address from the Premier. Harsh because it was an unadulterated ode to business, mining, investment and the economy. Our cities are quote, 'gateways of commerce', not living communities. It was confronting, because in his Government's year of working towards treaty and truth-telling, it was 47 minutes before the Premier mentioned Aboriginal people in his speech. Shame on him. That followed on his full throated commitment to do everything possible to get a cable car on kunanyi, to open the pinnacle of that wild place to development. That effort has been roundly rejected in the Tasmanian planning court, by the Hobart City Council, by 12 000 Hobart residents, and most importantly, by the Tasmanian Aboriginal community. The Premier shamefully and dishonestly declared he is listening to and learning from Aboriginal Tasmanians. He has cultivated selective hearing, because he is deaf to their shouts and outrage at his party's' continued efforts to privatise the pinnacle of this steep and spiritual mountain.

Listening to the Premier's Address, I thought ChatGPT did a passable job at pretending we had someone at the helm. It could not simulate a Premier who understands his duty is to govern in the public interest. It could not give us a leader with the heart and bravery we need to make in-roads into the grave and complex issues Tasmania and the planet faces, now and in the near future.

All of us live with the reality of runaway global heating and the evolving breakdown of the natural world. You would not know that from the Premier's or the Opposition Leader's comments. Crickets from both of them on the climate emergency. Both major parties are captured by decades of donations and they have shackled our nation to the profit-making interests of fossil fuel companies. Yesterday's IPC final choice for humanity could not be starker. Oil and gas profits or a liveable future, we get to choose. At the moment at the federal level, the Labor Party is choosing to go with their donors. The Greens are standing strong. We are standing for the children, we are standing for the people living here today who know they reject the sort of future that the Labor and Liberal parties and their donors want us to have. It is not a habitable planet.

We are witnessing the extreme transformation of sea and landscapes, expanding threats to food systems and climate extremes that are reshaping our social and built fabric, but we do not have a Premier who is brave enough to even acknowledge this reality let alone address the challenge. The challenge is dramatic; sectoral emissions reductions and a scale-up of community support. We know, because as climate scientists have told us, that the safest place on the planet in the climate crisis that we will live through for the rest of our life, is the place that has the strongest communities. That, is something Tasmania could really be proud of. We could put all of our efforts into strengthening our communities, into building engagement and networking, so we can be as resilient as we need to be for the inevitable succession of extreme events that will keep on occurring in our life.

Under a decade of the Liberals at federal and state levels, our public support systems are so eroded in real investment and privatised to for-profit businesses, that our health, housing, education, disability and aged-care services are in critical downward spiral. A large proportion of Tasmanians do not have private health insurance, they are renting, they are in mortgage stress, they are homeless and reliant on buses. They are living on the edge and the services they desperately need when they fall off the cliff - like a safe house when they escape from family violence, or an ambulance to get to hospital on time - no longer exist.

Under minister Michael Ferguson, 100 bus services were cancelled in one single day. Too bad for all those people who were trying to get to work. Jeremy Rockliff as Premier has proven the point: regardless of a person's progressive or conservative social values, all Liberals are the same at the core. His speech detailed what drives Liberal Party priorities in government: cut public services and shovel as much money, assets, and Crown land possible into private hands. The people who stand up and protest loudly at that obvious injustice and blatant transfer of wealth to the rich, lock them up, criminalise their right to speech, and bankrupt their organisational bodies.

Tasmania needs a Premier to fight for our island and people, not one who caves to the wealthy and his conservative Cabinet. Jeremy Rockliff is no Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Would that he was, then he would stand up to the bullies like Gillon McLachlan, he would fight the corrosive influence of dirty money, secret deals, and sports rorts corruption that is threatening the heart of our democracy.

Instead he has narrowed his vision as Premier to delivering just one thing: a stadium Tasmanian's do not need and do not want. Instead of spending precious capital on health facilities and infrastructure to withstand extreme climate, his transformation of 'Tasmania' - yes, you can buy the MONA rip-off Liberal merchandise - will bring us decades of debt for a loss-making venture.

The Liberals under Jeremy Rockliff have developed into an unabashed cheer squad for big business. There is no community view or sacred place that stands in the way of donors' interests that they will not malign or bulldoze. Consultation processes around all controversial discussions are cynical box-ticking formulae without transparency or accountability. Now the gloves are fully off. Planning overlord Michael Ferguson is openly abusing his ministerial powers, overturning strategic planning processes and council decisions to fast-track conservation land for developers. There is no planning process or tribunal that has upheld the protection of Aboriginal heritage or wilderness against a private development that the Liberals would not appeal to a higher court, or write special legislation to circumvent and that includes the rights of people with disabilities. There is no science they will not deny if it messes with business as usual for their mates.

For this Liberal Government, rubbishing science and scientists is second nature. The Liberals know better than the WHO, better than the Ausage epidemiologists and the AMA. According to Jeremy Rockliff and the rest of the Liberals, COVID-19 in Tasmania is nothing to worry about. Never mind that the world's best research is steadily amassing evidence of hugely increased risk of serious organ damage from infection and repeated infections. Do not worry about the burden of disease it is bringing down the line or the devastation that COVID-19 exhaustion is bringing to our healthcare workforce. It is obviously operating on our society. We have clearly had a step change in the way people are able to be involved in business and work since the start of the pandemic. It is the start of the pandemic.

It is not over, despite what the Premier falsely perpetuates as he did yesterday. It is continuing and it will keep changing and we need to be smarter and cleverer than that bloody little virus. That means planning for a future with a pandemic and doing everything we can to make sure that we have safe air, safe ventilation in schools where children are wholly unvaccinated, in hospitals where people are sick and cannot move and desperately do not need another infection, in our workplaces, in our public spaces. This is the sort of planning the Liberals should be doing, but instead they are winding back surveillance. There is barely anything left. They have finished testing. They have ended infection control measures in health care centres that are mandated.

The Premier pushed at National Cabinet to end COVID-19 isolation requirements and he now allows more people to go back to work without symptoms and remain infected. What a surprise that the wheels are falling off in many parts of our economy. You could not have a clearer and starker statement yesterday than the IPPC Synthesis report, following by the comments of the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres. He said, 'Humanity is on thin ice and that ice is melting fast'. Developing nations must make a quantum leap and end new fossil fuel exploration and quit coal, gas and oil altogether by 2040. We are staring at a future where temperatures, despite anything we do today, are likely to reach 1.5 degrees by the mid 2030s. What has been described as a very dangerous planetary tipping point is now closer to us today than the beginning of Tony Abbott's prime ministership and the start of a decade he shepherded in of Liberal pork barrelling, Robodebt, sports rorts and worse by far, the fostering of climate denialism to justify their repeated emissions reduction inaction. All of that to do the bidding of Liberal fossil fuel industry donors.

So, it goes on with the Labor Party. We stand at a time in history more important than any other. Now is the time to throw away incrementalism, to call out the gaslighting and the greenwash, the pathetic attempts to keep business as usual staggering on to line the pockets of the super-rich as long as possible. There is no justification for opening coal and gas mines anywhere in Australia or elsewhere on the planet.

The federal parliamentary research showed our country has oodles of capacity and they showed that last week despite minister Bowen's falsehoods in that regard. There will not be a loss of energy generation if we ban new mining, but I tell you what there will be enormous jeopardy for businesses, community safety, good supply lines and natural systems from the greater heating that we have coming towards us if we do not end coal and gas mining. Every day every tonne of emissions into the atmosphere is taking us likely past that 1.5 degrees of heating. We likely cannot stop that but we sure as hell can do and must do everything possible to stop more carbon emissions being added to that too high level. The Liberals have a trenchant focus on our current net zero emissions levels, which come from our carbon-storing native forests. But industry emissions in many sectors have continued to rise and are enormous. Focusing on net zero is a deliberate and dangerous red herring. It is a strategy the Liberals are using to cover up the inadequacy of focusing on ephemeral, volatile landscape carbon stores.

The science is crystal clear: ultimately, and soon, we must put a stop to all the carbon we are emitting into the atmosphere. Offsets were never meant to be an excuse for business as usual. That is an uncomfortable and hard reality and the solutions are not obvious. We do not pretend they are. They are not easy and they are not going to be painless. The job of every government is to best position their people for a safer future, which means planning a pathway to absolute zero and incentivising the industries we need to get us there.

The IPCC Synthesis report's message is that we have to phase down existing industry production. That means cutting total greenhouse gas emissions for Tasmania, starting with the big emitting sectors. In Tasmania, our priority is to end native forest logging and burning, to electricify transport and direct combustion, and assist agriculture and industrial processing to dramatically reduce their emissions. These have stayed high and have been quietly increasing over the last few decades. Saying we have the world's best emission strategy does not make it true. The Liberals have no plan to reduce energy use, no incentives and no targets for businesses' emissions. On top of this, our state's emissions are expected to rise under the Liberals' planned population growth.

The Government and Labor both voted against setting industry emission targets in last year's review of the Climate Change Act. Our amendments to that bill, based on the science and the expert advice, would have reversed this trend of delay, gaslight, all fine and normal.

The latest research by Dr Jennifer Sanger estimates that native forest logging by state owned Forestry Tasmania is our largest carbon-emitting sector, greater even than transport. On the brink of climate tipping points, what level of madness or, perhaps, state capture continues to legislate the clearfelling and landscape-level burning of native forests? They are forests rich in carbon stores and irreplaceable habitats for threatened and endangered animals and plants. The Greens have committed to ending this dangerous industry and would invest the state subsidies that prop it up into regional communities to create reliable, carbon neutral jobs in landscape restoration and bushfire prevention.

Alongside the climate emergency, we are living in a global and national biodiversity crisis of human making. Australia has lost 96 per cent of its healthy intact ecosystems since colonisation. Only 4 per cent of these remain across the continent, and about half of them are in Tasmania. We are a crucible of the planet's remaining healthy ecosystems. We have a responsibility to protect them. With this in mind, we are deeply concerned about the Liberals' testosterone-enhanced push for Marinus, with many questions on behalf of this island and its people.

Through the millions of dollars of non-stop spin, campaigns, publicly funded influencers, wall-to-wall Mercury full-page ads and advertorials, Google and social media popups, and many movies telling the story of colonisation and appropriating the history of wilderness activism in the service of getting Tasmanians to swallow the dream of Marinus, we understand we are being spun.

So, what is Marinus? So far, we know Marinus is a $3.557 billion debt to Tasmanians, depending which day of the week it is.. Of course, we need more renewables but the proposals for Marinus mean the destruction of vast healthy habitat in the protected areas and rainforests of the north, northwest and northeast for industrial-scale windfarms and transmission corridors. How can it be green power when it comes at the expense of the environment? Greta Thunberg has been campaigning with and on behalf of the Sami in far northern Scandinavia. She knows, they know, that we cannot continue with this tradeoff between our priorities. When it comes to nature, we need it all and we need it to be intact.

Marinus means Hydro and TasNetworks would focus on buying and selling power to the mainland markets. As a consequence, it clearly means no possibility of a local hydrogen market because Hydro would not be stumping up for a firm contract to a hydrogen company when they are trying to play the national spot market to repay their enormous debt. If we are wrong, tell us how and show us how.

The Government's first focus should be planning to reduce our state's emissions, not looking to export to create company profits. In the headlong rush to take on decades of debt for Tasmanians, the Liberals have no plan for what our first priority must be: to rapidly electrify Tasmania's transport and direct combustion sectors, which together, are 40 per cent of our state's emissions. So much for their commitment to action.

In a climate and biodiversity crisis, we need to retain critical habitat like Robbins Island, with its myriad threatened and critical endangered species, thousands of birds and carbon stores. Instead of Marinus, we could refocus our state to the key priority of cutting absolute emissions in every sector. Instead of Marinus trashing the wild north of Tasmania to export electrons to the mainland, we could take out a state-backed loan to generate a local emissions reduction and jobs intensive electrification industry, one that partners with small scale investors to generate distributed, sector specific emissions reduction solutions. One that prioritises investment in rural and regional areas for energy security, with new generation situated close to existing transmission lines and in places that are not biodiversity hotspots.

The Greens have been asking these questions of the Liberals for years. Tasmanians demand answers about what is being done in their name, with their money and in their future interest.

In the United Nations Decade on Ecosystems Restoration, a top priority must be to protect, enhance and restore natural systems. The Robbins Island approval shows a monstrous failure of Tasmania's environmental laws. If it were to go ahead - and we are hoping it falls over in the appeal, it would destroy habitat and species on the edge of extinction, like the eastern curlew, the orange-bellied parrot and the large disease-free Tasmanian devil population.

The windfarm proposed is an industrial remaking of a wild place like nothing on Earth, a place where Aboriginal clans have gathered for tens of thousands of years. Aboriginal heritage will be destroyed, with just a sticks and-stones assessment ticked off as good enough by the EPA. We cannot be naive about this. There is no offset on the planet that could replace Robbins Island. There are no conditions that can mitigate the industrialisation of this Ramsar deserving ecosystem. There is no other island at the bottom of the world for Arctic and Siberian birds to migrate to.

Our laws and regulatory bodies should protect critical irreplaceable nature like Robbins Island but they have not. To have had an approval by the EPA on any single one of these issues is inexcusable. It is a travesty that they stamp their approval with all of them. All eyes are now on Tanya Plibersek, God help us, to do her job of protecting critically endangered species and an inestimable cultural heritage.

It just shows how captive the EPA has become to the Statement of Expectations from the minister, which directs the EPA board in its decision-making. A Greens government would legislate, as we tried to do last year, for the complete independence of the EPA from Liberal or Labor governments. Both parties are committed to development at any costs and we need our Environmental Protection Agency to look first at the environment.

Even as the wildlife of our oceans struggle to adapt to warming waters and invasive species, the Liberals allow them to be burdened with pollution from salmon industry waste and antibiotics - 34 tonnes of antibiotics in the last 20 years, and nearly five tonnes in the last four, used by Tassal in our southern public waterways. That is not okay. Finding excess levels of antibiotics in wild-caught fish two kilometres from a fish-farming lease is also not okay. It is shocking. So, where is the EPA? Oh, that is right, they signed off on Tassal's antibiotic conditions. Business as usual, nothing to see here.

Increased nutrient levels devastate inshore marine environments. The Tasman Peninsula, Bruny Island, the Channel and Huon, and the new leases those companies have opened at Brabazon Point and off Garden Island - we have seen those communities record devastating changes in their inshore marine environments. We should not have salmon farming in shallow waters with minimal flow. We welcome and support the new coalition of public citizens who have established a marine life network to further the push for marine parks. Now, more than ever, we need to support the '30 by 30' global commitment Australia has signed up to. We will support the push for expanding marine protected areas to 30 per cent of lutruwita/Tasmania's coastal waters within the next seven years. That is what we need.

The Greens will wait to see the Liberals' final 10-year expansion plans for fish farms, but it does not take a genius to join the dots. Jeremy Rockliff hosted a $4400-per-head Liberal Party fundraiser while the salmon plan consultation process was still open. He gave the stage at the dinner to the CEOs of JBS and Cooke Canada, who flew in especially for a private chat. They own our salmon companies - lock, stock and stinking barrel. The Premier promised them he would back them all the way, even though the salmon plan would not be very popular. A school kid could work out big salmon will get everything it wants: free public water, real estate and a licence to pollute - no questions asked. Money trumps people and environment every time for the Liberals.

Without a legislated independent EPA free of ministerial influence, Tasmania is on a fast track to the same marine catastrophes that we have seen occurring in overseas countries. So we applaud and support the marine communities and their fight to defend their waters. We will not stop until salmon farming and its pollution and plastic harm is out of our oceans for good.

Mr Speaker, there has been an incredible surge in recent years in community organising, in activism, and in an awareness of how we need to change to survive as a community, and to live on just terms with each other. This year will be such an important year for all Australians with the referendum on the Voice. It gives us pause to reflect and have deep conversations with each other about what the ongoing process of colonisation looks like, and how we can act to bring real justice to Aboriginal Tasmanians, and to all Aboriginal Australians.

Increasingly, in Tasmania, we see young and old people coming together. People at both ends of the life spectrum understanding the pressures and the threats with the changing climate, putting their lives and bodies on the line to defend ancient forests and the rare and beautiful animal and plants that exist nowhere else on earth. They will stand in takayna. They will stand in the Wentworth Hills. They will stand in the southern forests. They will stand in the eastern forests. They will stand in the north-east. They will stand wherever there are ancient beautiful forests with priceless species that need to live in that habitat. Irreplaceable habitat; habitat that cannot be regrown. It has its own time and place.

They will stand there and they will continue to resist the senseless and mindless clear-felling and burning of our native forests subsidised wholly by the public purse, for no reason. They stand up to protect our local places. They will be there regardless of what this Government does, to always protect kunanyi from a cable car. You can be sure of that. They will be there to protect marine waters from large-scale fish farm pollution.

They are outraged at the Liberals reaching in to Clarence Council's decisions. Now that they have become more progressive as a council, this Liberal government wants to dive in over the top of planning processes, to take control of things they have lost control of because the people are taking over. Where bad laws exist, good people will stand up.

It was heartening yesterday to see an amazing show of Tasmanians coming out on the spur of the moment to the lawns of parliament to stand against those fascists, fake feminists, trans-phobes who, in pathetically small numbers, were still prepared to demonise and hate peaceful people who just want to have a life, who just want to exist, who just want to be included in the community like every one of us.

So, with these people we will always stand for lutruwita/Tasmania. If the Premier is serious about leaving this island a better place, then he should see all of us as allies and resources - and get out of the conversations behind closed doors with private developers, and come out into the light and join with Tasmanians.