You are here

Resources – Anti-Protest Laws

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 7 June 2022

Tags: Anti-Protest Laws, Protest

Ms O'CONNOR - Dr Broad needs to understand that his Labor colleagues supported the inclusion of those particular areas of forest in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA), so stop playing politics with it. It is childish.

Minister, yesterday, in the Work Place Safety Estimates with the minister Ms Archer, we had confirmation of zero injuries to workers or protests since 2014 as a result of peaceful protest, yet you have trumpeted the amendments to the Police Offences Act which will bring in disproportionately high penalties as a response to workplace safety.

Do you admit that the legislation is based on a lie, given that there have been zero serious safety incidents on workplaces as a result of protests?

Mr BARNETT - I thank the member for her question, and to note that our Government commitment and our priority as a Government over many elections for which we have a mandate, and that is to protect workers right to work, and to support businesses' right to operate free from unlawful interference and disruption of business.

Of course, I will not comment on the bill currently before the parliament.

Ms O'CONNOR - You were untruthful about the foundation of the bill.

CHAIR - Ms O'Connor it would helpful for the good people working in Hansard if you don't interject over the minister. I am happy to maintain a natural flow of conversation so that you can ask your questions but it would be unhelpful for everyone if you are asking those questions as the minister answers.

Minister, you have the call.

Mr BARNETT - As I was saying, I don't want to reflect on the bill before the parliament because that's unparliamentary but the principles behind the bill certainly can be reiterated which I've just done. It is not acceptable to allow for intrusion and trespass and we want to clarify and strengthen the laws of trespass and obstruction and that's what we are doing with our legislation. I reject the proposition that there has not been disruption to businesses and risks, to people's -

Ms O'CONNOR - You didn’t base this law on disruption but safety.

CHAIR - Ms O'Connor.

Mr BARNETT - I reject the proposition that there has not been disruption to businesses and risks to people's safety. Regardless, it is incumbent on parliament, I suggest, to seek to put in place mechanisms to proactively avoid a serious incident occurring.

Ms O'CONNOR - So you will be legislating for industrial manslaughter, will you?

Mr BARNETT - The Tasmanian Minerals and Energy Council said in its submission to government, and I quote:

This amendment seeks to address the mental health issues suffered by workers and other personnel who are having to deal people actively. Acting proactively, it permits Tasmanian companies to carry out the work which has been lawfully approved. It does not preclude protestors to have their view made public and it enables investors and jobs, creating employers to know that establishing an enterprise in Tasmania can be done provided the relevant laws are followed.

Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, you didn't confirm it but I'll just restate it. The foundational argument for the Police Offences Amendment was about workplace safety and we've established that there have been zero safety incidents reported to WorkSafe in the last eight years, but minister, what are the latest sustainable yield estimates for Tasmania's public native forests and how does this compare to actual and planned harvests?

Mr BARNETT - Thank you for the question. Of course, it goes directly to Sustainable Timber Tasmania which is up for an inquiry at the end of this year but -

CHAIR - Minister, I will remind the Committee at this juncture that the opportunity to ask budget questions is the Budget Estimates Committee and there will be an opportunity later in the year to ask questions about government business enterprises but if the minister is able to answer the question in a way that is relevant to the Budget he may feel free to do so.

Ms O'CONNOR - We have asked exactly the same question in previous years and it's been permitted.

CHAIR - I appreciate the feedback, Ms O'Connor. The minister has the call.

Mr BARNETT - Thank you very much, Chair. Of course, the Sustainable Timber Tasmania Wood Supply Five Year Report is expected in coming months in the middle of this year which we look forward to reviewing and assessing. To make it clear, as I said in an earlier answer, we are now at a minimum of 137 000 cubic metres of high-quality eucalypt veneer and saw logs each year. That was a halving under the previous Labor/Green government so we abide by the law as our government; we support that continuing. I make the point in terms of wood supply that over 70 per cent of Tasmanian wood and wood products are sourced from private forests. The remaining proportion is from Sustainable Timber Tasmania, and Tasmania is the only jurisdiction in Australia to have an authority dedicated to promoting and fostering private forestry as in Private Forest Tasmania and I pay a tribute to them as well.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, we can't have questions being asked at the table that are wilfully avoided by the minister when they're simply seeking facts which the minister will have available to him. We can't allow that at the table if this is going to be the way it is all day. I have to take points of order.

CHAIR - Ms O'Connor, as I mentioned to you previously, the question did also pertain to a government business enterprise. As you would no doubt be aware, there are no staff here from that government business enterprise. If that is an indication of whether that question is relevant or not, I think it is important that we establish this is a Budget Estimates committee, the Minister will answer the questions relevant to the budget, and as they pertain to such matters and I will reorder, so Mr Wood.

Ms O'CONNOR - On the point of order, there are staff here today who are part of the Forestry Policy unit in the Minister's agency and this is information that is about government policy.

CHAIR - Ms O'Connor, I have ruled that the Minister has answered the question, I cannot put words in his mouth, and Mr Wood has the call.