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Treasurer – Local Communities Facilities Fund

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 6 June 2023

Tags: Pork-Barrelling, Treasury, State Budget

Dr WOODRUFF - During the 2021 election campaign the then Premier and Treasurer, Peter Gutwein, released a media statement on 29 April 2021 about the Liberals' financial policy. The statement said:

We have submitted each and every one of our policies to Treasury to be costed.

To the best of the secretary's knowledge, is that true?

Mr FERGUSON - Thank you for allowing me to eat a lozenge while we speak to each other. I will take all the questions. I'm the person who is accountable to this committee. I will certainly rehearse with you, Dr Woodruff, that I remember that period quite a lot. I was supporting the Treasurer at the time in my previous role as Minister for Finance and supporting the Government, including with our policy development. I will seek some advice and see how we can assist the committee.

To assist the committee, the first thing I will do is protect my secretary by indicating that he is not in a position ever to speak on behalf of the Liberal Party of Australia Tasmanian Division, for your party, or the Labor Party.

Dr WOODRUFF - I'm not asking him to.

Mr FERGUSON - In fairness, if I were to ask him to answer this, I suspect that he would say, 'I can't know what the full suite of policies were and whether they were submitted'. He would only be able to talk about the process and how his team in the period of caretaker government would cost policies, so I invite him to do that but I'm happy to stand by the party's position and take any praise or criticism that may be deserved.

Mr FERRALL - Through the election costing period, for want of a better description, under the Charter of Budget Responsibility Act, we are required to cost election commitments. We are only required to cost election commitments that have been submitted to us and have been effectively publicised so that they are known as a policy commitment. We have no way of knowing whether all commitments have been submitted but what we do is provide a reconciliation which was on our website which shows all of the policies that were submitted and those that we were unable to cost for various reasons, and when we costed a commitment that was published on our website as well.

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you. Were all of the election policies that were funded after the 2021 election submitted to Treasury for costing during the election period?

Mr FERRALL - I can't answer that question offhand.

Dr WOODRUFF - Could you take that on notice, please?

Mr FERGUSON - Could you run it past me again, please, Dr Woodruff?

Dr WOODRUFF - The secretary has made the point, which is a reasonable one, that it's not actually possible to know from his point of view whether a party has submitted every single election promise, so my question then is, after the election, had all the election policies that were then funded by the Government been provided to Treasury for costing before the election? That's a subset of the first. Can I put that on notice?

Mr FERGUSON - I'll answer it now to the best of my ability. First of all, during caretaker period it is a unique time in governance of the state where the Government and the Executive itself enters into caretaker convention, and that is a responsibility that's held by ministers and the Premier of the day to restrain themselves from the normal workings of Government and not make major decisions that should be done during a time when the parliament is not dissolved.

I won't take the question on notice but I’m happy to be challenged if you have any individual instances, because I would remind you, Dr Woodruff, that policies that are being provided to that process are in fact provided on behalf of the party organisation, in this case the Liberal Party. In your case it's the Greens party, which is wider than your parliamentary role. So I just make those comments. I'm happy to be challenged on any individual instances. I think the secretary is offering to say something further but I will not take it on notice but I’m happy to have further challenge on this.

Mr FERRALL - Through that period of time it's always very important that Treasury maintains its complete independence through this process and all parties have to have confidence that any policies that they submit will be dealt with appropriately by Treasury. We have in place very strict approaches and rules in relation to that. We go to each party and ask them to have their policies submitted by a particular individual. We ask them to ensure that they've given us the information that enables us to cost them appropriately, and through that process we get various pieces of information from all parties which I would not disclose at all after the close of that election period costing process.

There are things that we would not disclose at all that have come from your own party and the Liberal Party and the Labor Party through that period of time. What we do disclose, though, and did disclose was that there were 62 requests for costing that were unable to be costed due to either insufficient time or insufficient information and -

Dr WOODRUFF - From the Liberal Party?

Mr FERRALL - No, collectively.

Dr WOODRUFF - Okay. I'm just talking about the Liberal Party.

Mr FERGUSON - Are you? Why?

Dr WOODRUFF - Because you're the party that got into government afterwards and you're the one who's been spending money.

Mr FERRALL - To be fair, I wouldn't be willing to comment on any particular party.

Dr WOODRUFF - Okay. Minister, you asked for a specific example.

Mr FERGUSON - Yes, if you have something.

Dr WOODRUFF - We know many of the dozens or even hundreds of Local Community Facilities Fund projects were never costed by Treasury. Were all of those projects submitted to Treasury on or prior to 29 April 2021? If you don't know that, I could take that on notice.

Mr FERGUSON - If it was to be taken on notice, I would be taking it on notice and I'm more comfortable addressing them in the committee as well. I've actually provided extensive feedback on this very issue to, I think it was a public hearing of the Public Accounts Committee, so I certainly commend the Hansard of that extensive hearing where I and I think the secretary as well provided extensive information to that committee. I think there was a particular inquiry into those matters and the record won't change on that because we were very thorough.

Dr WOODRUFF - This is a different question, minister, and we're in the Estimates budget committee now.

Mr FERGUSON - But I'm not taking it on notice for the reason I've said.

Dr WOODRUFF - Can you answer the question if you're not going to take it on notice?

Mr FERGUSON - I've actually answered the question by referring you to my answers at the Public Accounts Committee -

Dr WOODRUFF - I don't know what the Public Accounts Committee asked, I wasn't on that committee.

Mr FERGUSON - It's publicly available.

Dr WOODRUFF - I'm asking you a question now about whether all of the Local Communities Facilities Fund projects were submitted to Treasury prior to 29 April 2021. You understand why, don't you? Peter Gutwein told Tasmanians that they had all been costed, yet we know that hundreds of them never were costed. Now we want to know if they had been submitted to Treasury.

Mr FERGUSON - I do appreciate exactly why you are asking this question because -

Dr WOODRUFF - Because it's a dodgy use of public money

Mr FERGUSON - Because you are a politician and you want to get politics. I understand that and I can articulate it.

Dr WOODRUFF - We still have not got to the bottom of it.

Mr FERGUSON - Costings of election policies are matters for the division and Treasury in that time frame. What happens in government, we are accountable for. I am happy to take questions and respond further in relation to executive decisions of government including the budget that followed that election. If I can assist you in any individual instances, I would be happy to do that.

Dr WOODRUFF - At the PAC hearing, which you referred to on 28 November last year -

Mr FERGUSON - So, you do have it?

Dr WOODRUFF - Mr Ferrall said that on 5 May 2021, his department received the list of local communities facilities fund projects from the then premier's office. Minister, you might need to ask Mr Ferrall this: by what method was this list provided? Was it provided by email, post, in person or pigeon courier?

Mr FERGUSON - Pretty sure we don't use pigeons. I am happy for the secretary to answer it if he wishes to and is able to. Otherwise it's interesting to me that I commended the PAC hearing inquiry which was public to you and it was apparent from your reaction that was not relevant to the matter. You're now quoting from it so clearly you do know about it, clearly you have been able to access that public information.

Dr WOODRUFF - Your petulance on this topic is very telling, Mr Ferguson.

Mr FERGUSON - It is not petulance, it is politics on your part. I will take the question on notice, happily.

Dr WOODRUFF - Mr Ferrall is sitting here. He could answer it.

Mr FERGUSON - What was the date of the communication?

Dr WOODRUFF - He said last year, that he received the list from the Premier's office and I am asking by what method.

Mr FERGUSON - What date, sorry?

Dr WOODRUFF - On 5 May 2021.

Mr FERGUSON - On 5 May, so after the election in 2021. I will take the question on notice.

Dr WOODRUFF - Why can't you ask Mr Ferrall, he is sitting there?

Mr FERGUSON - Because I have already offered Mr Ferrall the opportunity to answer it if he wished to.

Dr WOODRUFF - Well, he hasn't opened his mouth. You have not looked at him and offered it to him.

Mr FERGUSON - I am trying to be helpful.

Dr WOODRUFF - He might just be able to say.

CHAIR - Dr Woodruff, please.

Mr FERGUSON - Chair, if I might be really brief. It is apparent that providing the opportunity to Mr Ferrall to answer it, I was comfortable with him saying whatever in this particular case he thought appropriate. I am not going to make the man say something.

Dr WOODRUFF - I hear you struggling to speak.

Mr FERGUSON - You are actually speaking over us, so if you have that to add, please do.

Mr FERRALL - You would be well aware through the parliamentary committee that all of these details were put on record in terms of the timing of what was received, when it was received, what we did with it, what we didn't do with it. There were certain aspects that I wouldn't disclose which again start to relate to that very narrow election costing period where I didn't want to go into any details on what any party had provided to Treasury or not through that period, apart from what we had already put out publicly.

The question you are asking has already been delivered through that process. I can add that we get information from a variety of sources. It is provided to Treasury, sometimes electronically, sometimes by mail. There could be occasions when ministers or ministers' offices could deliver hard copy information to us. I can't at this point tell you exactly what the form was that might have been delivered to us on 5 May 2021.

Dr WOODRUFF - I am entirely confident PAC did not ask you that question. It's a specific question. Would I please be able to take that on notice?

Mr FERGUSON - No, well I do not take that on notice.

Dr WOODRUFF - Why not? What are you trying to hide?

CHAIR - Dr Woodruff, can you let the minister answer.

Mr FERGUSON - I will tell you now, because now I am completely confident that the question has been answered to the best

Dr WOODRUFF - No, it has not.

CHAIR - Order, Dr Woodruff.

Dr WOODRUFF - He is misleading the House.

CHAIR - Order, Dr Woodruff.

Dr WOODRUFF - The Committee of the House.

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, I have checked the Public Accounts Committee Hansard from November last year and I am confident that the question that I asked before and this question now, were not asked at that Committee.

Can you please tell me how many projects were on the list of Local Communities Facilities Fund projects that Mr Ferrall said were received by Treasury on 5 May 2021? That might be a question for Mr Ferrall.

Mr FERGUSON - We don't have that information to hand so I'll welcome the question on notice. I will take that on notice.

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you. In an RTI by the Greens to the Office of the Treasurer we asked specifically for the list of Local Communities Facilities Fund (LCFF) projects that the then Treasurer Peter Gutwein's office provided to Treasury on 5 May 2021. In the information we received in our RTI, that document wasn't included. We checked with the RTI officer to make sure it wasn't an oversight on their part and they assured us it wasn’t.

How can it be that the Office of the Treasurer provided such a document to the Department of Treasury and the secretary referenced it under sworn testimony in the Parliamentary Standing Committee of Public Accounts (PAC) but then all of a sudden it doesn't exist when an RTI request is made?

Mr FERGUSON - The best I can do with the question at the moment would be to say that if the position is being put that information hasn't emerged, an RTI process is engaged by the department, not by a minister's office. The department would have RTI officers who assess applications and make determinations. We trust their integrity to manage that process. If the secretary says that information was received and wasn't able to specifically recall the format of the delivery, I don't see that I need to challenge the secretary in any way going forward.

Dr WOODRUFF - I didn't ask you to challenge the secretary, I asked you to explain what's going on here. The RTI process ought to have delivered that information because we know it exists. We checked with the RTI officer of Treasury and we were told that it didn't exist.

Mr FERGUSON - May I clarify please, what specifically doesn't exist?

Dr WOODRUFF - The full list of Local Communities Facilities Fund projects which you just said you will allow me to put as a question on notice and you will provide that to me. We were told under RTI that that wasn't available. Why would that be?

Mr FERGUSON - I am not the RTI officer to be able to answer that, Dr Woodruff.

If the secretary is able to put any further light on the matter, I'm happy for him to do so but I won't force him to say something. In relation to that, the RTI process is more or less a right to information. If information is able to be sought and obtained then information is released. I don't like to speculate but if the position is that a particular format of information wasn't able to be found with respect to a particular date that's not a matter for me to have to answer because I am not the RTI officer to make that determination.

Dr WOODRUFF - The RTI officer told us that they were not provided with the list. Why not? It existed. Was there a decision not to provide that, to release that information?

Mr FERGUSON - Can I ask you to clarify again. I am not sure if you're verballing somebody but if you're putting the position forward that an RTI officer has told you in writing or verbally - was it verbal or in writing?

Dr WOODRUFF - It would have been in an email exchange, I expect.

Mr FERGUSON - With yourself?

Dr WOODRUFF - It was with my staff.

Mr FERGUSON - Can you produce it?

Dr WOODRUFF - Can you produce it?

Mr FERGUSON - No, you're making an allegation. I'm just asking you for the substance.

Dr WOODRUFF - It was an email and we can provide it if that's what you want.

Mr FERGUSON - That would help.

Dr WOODRUFF - What will help the Committee is to understand why an RTI process was stymied, it seems, within Treasury where the RTI officer was not given a list that we know existed, that was withheld from the RTI officer. Why? Why was that information not provided when we asked for it under a legal process?

Mr FERGUSON - I am still unclear on the nature of the allegation but it sounds like it's possible that you claim to have an email that says what you're alleging. If I could understand that more. I'm not the RTI officer, which is a person charged with a duty to perform and there is integrity to that process. If what you are alleging is that a person in Treasury has not shown integrity, then that is a different allegation. But I invite the secretary to respond further.

Mr FERRALL - I am aware of the response that was made to your office in relation to this. I am aware that the RTI officer advised that they had provided all in scope information provided to me to them in their determination. You are probably going beyond what the response from the RTI officer to your office was.

Mr FERGUSON - You have misquoted them.

Dr WOODRUFF - It is very curious that this obviously existed because you acknowledged it existed under sworn testimony. We still don't have the list. The Treasurer has said that he will give it to us only on writing, on notice -

Mr FERGUSON - I have said I will take it on notice.

Dr WOODRUFF - It obviously exists -

Mr FERGUSON - You have misquoted this person.

Dr WOODRUFF - It obviously exists. And yet it wasn't released to the Greens when we asked that under RTI.

Mr FERGUSON - I think it appalling what you have done.

Dr WOODRUFF - I think it is appalling this information has not been in the public domain.

CHAIR - Order.

Mr FERGUSON - You are making an allegation to a parliamentary committee. You have misquoted the RTI officer.

CHAIR - Order. I am going to throw to Mr Young.

Dr WOODRUFF - Treasurer, I want to go back to the RTI request we made then.

Mr FERGUSON - That surprises me, but I'm happy to do so.

Dr WOODRUFF - We asked for the list of Local Communities Facilities Fund election commitments distributed by the Office of the Treasurer to any state government departments on 5 May 2021. You might want to listen to this, minister.

CHAIR - Can you ask the question?

Dr WOODRUFF - I am just waiting for the Treasurer to listen so he can be attentive to the words. We asked for the LCFF election commitments distributed by the Office of the Treasurer to any state government departments on 5 May 2021 and all information that was included in and/or with that list.

Treasurer, this list was not included in the schedule of documents, nor in the information released, so our staff asked if there was no record found for that request. The RTI responded by email, saying, 'I have included all in-scope information provided to me in my determination'. Treasurer, you accused me earlier of mis-speaking -

Mr FERGUSON - Misquoting.

Dr WOODRUFF - But perhaps it was not a misquote and that is why I read it back to you.

Mr FERGUSON - You said it didn't exist.

CHAIR - Order, minister.

Dr WOODRUFF - Perhaps you do not understand. This document was by definition in scope because we asked for it and our request was accepted, but now we know that it was not provided, even though it existed. Clearly, it was not provided to the RTI officer because it was withheld somewhere else in the department. Why wasn't that document provided to us, even though it was in scope?

Mr FERGUSON - I will respond to the question and I will be very careful. I note you walking back your previous allegation. I did not say that you mis-spoke.

Dr WOODRUFF - Yes, you did.

Mr FERGUSON - No, I said you misquoted.

CHAIR - Order, Dr Woodruff.

Mr FERGUSON - You misquoted that RTI officer. That was very poor form to do that and it should not be necessary for the Treasury secretary -

Dr WOODRUFF - Can you answer the question?

CHAIR - Dr Woodruff, the minister is answering the question. I ask you to hear him in silence, please.

Mr FERGUSON - It should not be necessary for good people to have to waste time fact-checking your false claims, which is what has now had to happen. The correct wording has been read back to the committee. You have walked back your previous recitation that was a misquote, not a mis-speak. You misquoted that person and it was careless and reckless and frankly unfair. I have taken the earlier question on notice. If you want to challenge the integrity of the RTI officer you have other ways to do that.

I'm not going to entertain it, I think it's wrong, unfortunate for people's reputations, good people in the department who work hard for Tasmania. I reject without evidence your claim that those people have not followed their proper duties lawfully and if you strongly feel otherwise, you can follow it up yourself and be accountable for the things you say.

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you for wilfully misconstruing what I asked you -

Mr FERGUSON - You walked it back.

Dr WOODRUFF - because it speaks volumes about yourself and how you're trying to dig yourself out of a hole. I'm not talking about the RTI officer and I never was.

Mr FERGUSON - You were.

Dr WOODRUFF - I just then asked you the question. The RTI officer said in writing that no information was provided to them. I am saying therefore we know it existed, it was withheld, clearly by inference. Why wasn't it provided when it was in scope to our Right to Information request? Why was it withheld from someone else in the department?

Mr FERGUSON - If you want to believe in that conspiracy theory that the people in the Department of Treasury are out to get you and out to wilfully disobey the rules, that's a claim you can make. You can provide evidence and you can be accountable for it, but it's on you to demonstrate it. I have taken the earlier question on notice and I'm happy to do my best in answering questions that require a factual response. I don't know what I will provide back to the committee at this time. I'll have to seek advice and I've done that in good faith, but it's very plain to me that you're not approaching this in good faith. You have misquoted somebody and you had to be corrected.

Dr WOODRUFF - Well, thank you, principal. That used to be your former career but you don't need to correct me now.

Mr FERGUSON - You just don't like being caught out.

CHAIR - Order. Dr Woodruff, do you have another question?

Dr WOODRUFF - Yes, I do. There was a document obtained by the Greens under another RTI that shows that Treasury undertook an assessment of different options for funding election commitments made prior to the end of June 2021. What was the specific nature of the request made to Treasury to undertake this assessment and when and how was that request made?

Mr FERGUSON - By the then Treasurer, I presume. I don't know the answer to that; I wasn't Treasurer in June 2021. If we can shed any light on that I'm happy to but I don't have that information. Do you claim to have it?

Dr WOODRUFF - Would the secretary be able to respond?

Mr FERGUSON - I'm happy for the secretary to provide a response if he has one, but as you know, the person who was Treasurer at that time, Mr Gutwein, is not a member of this House anymore and I don't have that information.

Mr FERRALL - Can I just clarify something that I think should be on the record? Your RTI request was on the Treasurer, not Treasury, and it also related to the time frame of the former Treasurer, not the current one. I think you've made a number of comments about the department withholding information, which are incorrect.

Dr WOODRUFF - That's not the question I asked. The question I asked was about an RTI that showed Treasury undertook an assessment of different options for funding 2021 election commitments that were made before the end of June 2021. I want to know the nature of the request to undertake such an assessment to Treasury.

Mr FERRALL - So you want me to disclose the nature of a request from a former Treasurer for Treasury to provide particular information to the Treasurer's office?

Dr WOODRUFF - Yes, absolutely. It's not advice, it's just an assessment of different options. When was the request made and why was it made?

Mr FERRALL - Well, the Treasurer's office makes numerous requests to Treasury to do things. This is about 2021 and it's now 2023 –

Dr WOODRUFF - Yes, this is the first chance we've had to ask these questions because last year I came into this place and talked to the Sports minister and he fobbed us off with all the LCFF, and it's all come out since then. This is our first chance to go back. This is $20 million of Tasmanians' money, it affects the Budget now and in other years and it's totally reasonable to ask these questions. There was a different funding assessment done. Why was that asked for? It used to be the COVID-19 provisions. That was what was talked about in the election campaign, that these election commitments would be funded through COVID-19 provisions, and then all of a sudden there was an assessment to get money from elsewhere. Why? What happened?

Mr FERRALL - I wouldn't be prepared to disclose decisions made by the former Treasurer in relation to funding sources.

Mr FERGUSON - I've got a different comment to make, and that is without my urging, the Treasury secretary has thoroughly called you out in the most professional way I have ever witnessed for getting it wrong and you do not have the grace to walk back your false claims. You've misquoted an RTI officer -

Dr WOODRUFF - The office of the Treasurer is what I talked about.

CHAIR - Dr Woodruff, please listen to the answer.

Mr FERGUSON - You don't like being called out. Secondly, you have been exposed for making a claim against Treasury staff when clearly the secretary has now highlighted to you that it relates to information that might or might not have been provided by the Treasurer's office.

Dr WOODRUFF - Office of the Treasurer.

Mr FERGUSON - No, I can see what you're doing.

Dr WOODRUFF - I've got it here in my notes.

CHAIR - Dr Woodruff, order.

Mr FERGUSON - You do not have the grace to apologise for your slur against Treasury staff and I think that is disgraceful.

Dr WOODRUFF - Not a slur, just a question.

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you. Treasurer, after the 2018 election -

CHAIR - Dr Woodruff, please ask your question.

Dr WOODRUFF - Yes. Waiting for the Treasurer to compose himself. After the 2018 election, the Government was under real scrutiny for your election grant scheme for the 2018 election. Shortly after the election, a Treasurer's instruction on grant management gutted the existing one. The old instruction, I have a copy here, was over 2200 words, single spaced, five pages. The new instruction that came into place on 1 July 2019 is single spaced, two-and-a-half pages, a third of that length. What's lost is the safeguards and the checks and balances. It saw the removal and significant weakening of key provisions of grant management. Who made the decision, Treasurer, for that change to occur and why?

Mr FERGUSON - I'll take it on trust that you're being honest about the dates. It's a big exercise for me to take you on trust after your previous behaviour. If it was dated 1 July 2019

CHAIR - Order, Dr Woodruff.

Dr WOODRUFF - No, I'm - well, I -

CHAIR - Just listen to the answer.

Dr WOODRUFF - Chair, excuse me. He's just accused me of being dishonest.

Mr FERGUSON - I did actually. It's true, I did.

CHAIR - Dr Woodruff.

Dr WOODRUFF - I am showing this.

CHAIR - Dr Woodruff.

Mr FERGUSON - I did, I admit it.

Dr WOODRUFF - It's entirely reasonable.

Mr FERGUSON - I apologise. I admit it. Dr Woodruff, clearly you know who was the Treasurer at the time. I'll invite the secretary to provide further context if there is any.

Mr FERRALL - If I've got the dates correct, Dr Woodruff, that would have been the time of the introduction of the new Financial Management Act. A new set of Treasurer's instructions were introduced in 2019 which moved from older Treasurer's instructions which were quite expansive and black letter, to more a principles based approach in regard to those Treasurer's Instructions, with the accountable authorities to ensure that the principles were met, as opposed to the previous Treasurer's Instructions, which had quite detailed and very specific requirements which quite often couldn't be met by the accountable authorities.

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you, Mr Ferrall. The Financial Management Act was in 2016, I believe -

Mr FERRALL - Yes, but it wasn't introduced until 2019.

Mr FERGUSON - That's right.

Dr WOODRUFF - So I take it that you weren't concerned at any of the changes and the diminution. I've read them both and the problem when we go to principles-based general statements is that they don't have things like, for example, a requirement for annual reporting which gives the public an opportunity to determine whether any grant guidelines have been breached. They don't provide the specificity that the preceding ones did about an adherence to accountability details for smaller grants as well as grants worth millions of dollars. Was there no concern in Treasury about this diminution?

Mr FERRALL - No. The TIs moved to a principles-based approach. There are also updates to better practice guidelines that were put out as well around the same time; I would have to check the particular ones in relation to that. It is also important to note that there is a difference in that Treasurer's Instruction became effectively written law under the new act, so they were written within that context as well, whereas the previous Treasurer's Instructions had various components to them, including sometimes quite detailed practices to be followed within agencies, which didn't necessarily mean that they were achieving the outcome that was required by the Treasurer's Instruction, so they delved into procedures within agencies as well in the older Treasurer's Instructions.

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you. Treasurer, as Minister for Finance you took carriage of the Appropriation (Supplementary Appropriation for 2021 22) Bill in 2022. It passed through parliament in the first half of last year. In your second reading speech you cited around 40 specific funding initiatives that were covered by the bill. One project you didn't mention was the $400 000 funding for the Bracknell Hall Redevelopment. At the time you brought this bill to parliament, were you aware this project would be funded through this appropriation, and if you were, were you aware that the member for Lyons, Mark Shelton MP, had direct involvement in the project and had advocated for that funding?

Mr FERGUSON - I know you're trying to set me a trap, so I might take it on notice and provide an answer. I can see you coming.

Dr WOODRUFF - This is your response to answering a reasonable question about nearly half a million dollars of finance - setting you a trap.

CHAIR - Dr Woodruff, I know you are a very passionate politician but can you please allow the minister to answer in silence after you ask him a question instead of interrupting all the time. Thank you.

Mr FERGUSON - Because I can see you coming, I am going to take it on notice but also provide any other information we're able to at the table here today. I think it's appalling the way that members of your party have attacked my colleague Mark Shelton in relation to this matter. I feel that he and his family's good name has been rubbished by members of your party in the pursuit of a scalp for the Government supporting a really important local project. I will say that much. I listened carefully to your question. I think you made some comment about Mark Shelton being personally involved in the project and I wonder if that's some sort of reference to him being on the steering committee or the hall committee that I think was raised in the House of Assembly. That gentleman has never really had a decent opportunity to defend his good name on this because he's in the Chair -

Dr WOODRUFF - He can do it any time he wants.

CHAIR - Order.

Mr FERGUSON - Laying traps for people is a pretty rough thing. I can remember doing that when I was a pretty new Treasurer at the time in the lead-up to the budget in April or May. Naturally, I was responding to a range of costs that needed to be met, including the TRMF at the time, and I'm happy to be fully accountable for the contents of that bill. My early advice is that project - and I will qualify this by taking it on notice - that initiative was funded in the budget year 2022-23, not in the supplementary appropriation. If anything I have said is not strictly accurate, I will respond further to the committee at my earliest opportunity.

Dr WOODRUFF - I will put on notice the question about whether you were aware that Mark Shelton MP was a member of the Bracknell Hall committee and that Mark Shelton MP advocated with the Meander Council directly.

Mr FERGUSON - That wasn't the question?

Dr WOODRUFF - Yes, it was. His role in advocating for this funding was in the question. You said you would take it on notice. I am clarifying the question I read out to you before, so don't tell me I didn't ask you. I just asked you. Don't gaslight me.

Mr FERGUSON - Don't use that word.

Dr WOODRUFF - Well, don't do it.

CHAIR - Order.

Mr FERGUSON - You alleged that it was funded in the supplementary appropriation bill. My early advice is that is not correct. I am going to check it again and if I need to correct the record I will do so. That is my advice, that it is possible that you were incorrect. People do make mistakes; well-intentioned ones are fine. I have sought to clarify the truth of the matter and if I need to respond further, I will do so.

Dr WOODRUFF - I'm asking this question now so we can move on to the question.

Mr FERGUSON - I am not taking it on notice. The other questions you can pursue in your other forums, but with regard to the financial appropriation, I have answered the question and Mr Ferrall, the secretary, has confirmed my understanding that you are not correct about it being funded through the supplementary appropriation bill 2021-22 in 2022. My understanding on advice is that it was funded in the 2022-23 budget proper.

Dr WOODRUFF - In the 2022-23 supplementary appropriation bill, did you mention the $400 000 funding that went to the Bracknell Hall redevelopment, or was it in the budget and if so, where?

Mr FERGUSON - That is a perfectly fine question - where is it in the budget? That was in last year's budget in the budget year we are still in and whether or not I specifically mentioned it, I don't have that information immediately to hand but we can get it and I will seek to find for you, Dr Woodruff, because that is a fair question, in what line item or initiative it was funded and will certainly provide that to the committee today.

Dr WOODRUFF - Okay, thank you. Treasurer, member for Lyons Mark Shelton's misconduct in the Bracknell Hall matter is blindingly obvious.

Mr FERGUSON - Only to the blind.

Dr WOODRUFF - You previously said, and you reaffirmed it then, that Mr Shelton did nothing wrong. Given your obvious lack of understanding of integrity and lack of judgment in this matter where you don't think it is inappropriate for someone to sign off on something when they are sitting on a committee and personally receiving it -

Mr FERGUSON - Personally receiving it?

Dr WOODRUFF - to their family -

CHAIR - Dr Woodruff, do you have a question?

Dr WOODRUFF - how can Tasmanians trust you to administer their money?

Mr FERGUSON - You've had the worst clangers of anyone I have seen at today's Estimates, worse than the Labor Party.

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you. Sorry, Dr Broad, I know you've been trying.

Dr BROAD - No, he's a fine judge, this one.

Mr FERGUSON - You've made outrageous allegations that have been already proven false against Treasury staff -

Dr WOODRUFF - No, they haven't.

CHAIR - Order.

Mr FERGUSON - You have misquoted RTI officers who take their job very seriously. You've now made a series of quite appalling comments about a good man from a great family in Bracknell, a great town, under parliamentary privilege. You're in coward's castle attacking people. I am happy to take the question on the financial element, but I will not stomach the attacks you continue to make on Mr Shelton. He can defend himself in whatever forum he chooses but you have not made an argument about the integrity of Mr Shelton in relation to this matter. The budget decisions are made by the Government. They are then taken through the budget.

Dr WOODRUFF - He is in the Government.

CHAIR - Order.

Dr WOODRUFF - Last time I looked he was in the Government.

CHAIR - Order, Dr Woodruff. Please listen.

Mr FERGUSON - You need to be more careful with what you say. Mr Shelton is not a minister. Even if he were, there would be ways in which people are able to disclose or make it known about any interest that they may have, whether they be personal or general or of a perception nature. But the way that you and your Greens party continue to try to damage good people's reputation should be beneath you. I am prepared to take the financial question in a moment but I reject your appalling allegations against Mr Shelton and his family, who have got a very good history of supporting their local community and that is why they keep electing him.

To the question, I am advised that it was specifically named up in the 2022-23 budget. I am currently looking at it. It is shown in the policy and parameters statement in the 2022-23 budget. I commend it to you. I will read it to you under the heading of Bracknell Hall, not the supplementary appropriation bill, the actual budget:

Funding is provided in 2022-23 to complete the replacement of Bracknell Hall to provide a community space and hall for youth club activities and sporting clubs.

I am also advised that it is named in the key deliverables.

Dr Woodruff - And the Shelton family committee. That is who it is benefiting.

CHAIR - Order, Dr Woodruff.

Mr FERGUSON - It is disgraceful that when you are shown how wrong you are you still dig your hole even deeper and that is a really low act. I am so disappointed that this place can be thrown around like a tawdry toy on this sort of stuff -

Dr Woodruff - You brought it all on yourself, Mr Ferguson.

Mr FERGUSON - In the process, with that silly grin, you continue to attack good people. You are appalling.

Dr Woodruff - Playing out again with the stadium.

CHAIR - Dr Woodruff, do you want me to name you to the Speaker.


Dr WOODRUFF - Treasurer, we have quite a backwards and forwards and I am now really wanting to understand the situation. Prior to the 2021-22 State Budget, the premier's office requested the Bracknell Hall was funded through that budget, but it was not included in that 2021-22 budget.

After this, a request for additional funds was made to fund the project. In an email to secretary, Mr Ferrall on 31 March 2022, a Treasury official asked for advice on whether or not projects 'previously in Supplementary Appropriation should be included or excluded from the budget'. One of these projects was Bracknell Hall and I have here, that email exchange, through an RTI.

Can you please explain this? It would seem that the Bracknell Hall was in the Supplementary Appropriation Bill 2021-22.

Mr FERGUSON - I commend you, Dr Woodruff for one thing, and that is that you are wilfully persistent, even when you have been shown how wrong you have been in the past. I am aware of the RTI, I am aware of the contents of it at a point in time and quite plainly it shows that at some point in time, the former treasurer was considering the best vehicle to fund the Bracknell Hall upgrade.

I have been very clear in showing you how wrong you were about that. It was funded in the subsequent budget and I have been able to read from those budget papers in the 2022-23 the following budget process which not only did it include the descriptions around the policy and parameter statement but also in the key deliverables and in a meeting like this one, 12 months ago, members of this House had the opportunity to ask all sorts of questions on that in full awareness that it was in the budget.

You have had a clanger of a day by making claims presumably based on that RTI, but it would be forgivable if it was only an innocent mistake but you were wrong and there is nothing wrong with being wrong so long as you are prepared to accept correction if you are able to be shown where you got it wrong.

The problem I have got, is that you used your incorrect understanding to try to attack somebody under parliamentary privilege, clearly as the RTI indicates at a point in time it was being considered and plainly as the facts are now thoroughly borne out, and we have had a lot of good people checking and double checking and setting the record straight that you incorrectly brought to the Committee.

As the Minister for Sport and Recreation has previously said, funding for the Bracknell Hall and three other projects were not election commitments. These projects were negotiated directly through the office of the former premier who was also treasurer at the time and funding was approved. That's a matter of fact.

Mr Shelton should be commended for not just his integrity but his advocacy on behalf of his Lyons electorate and his local Bracknell community. He's associated with that community and has done a great job representing that community. I invite you, Dr Woodruff, whatever your RTI may suggest to you about a point in time to accept that you are incorrect in your allegation, made worse by the fact that you were trying to use the incorrect understanding of how the Bracknell Hall was funded to attack Mr Shelton because you're being very political.

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, it would be much easier if you would just answer the questions that I asked. I know you want to waste a lot of time. What I have here, unless you're disputing the RTI evidence, I hope you are not doing that, an email between secretary Mr Ferrall on 31 March 2022, it's called 'Outstanding Budget Issues - Non-Government Schools and Supplementary Appropriation'. It has previously in Supplementary Appropriation replacement of the old Bracknell Hall, $400 000.

Mr FERGUSON - I'm familiar with the RTI.

Dr WOODRUFF - My question was, it would seem that the Bracknell Hall was included in the 2021-22 Supplementary Appropriation Bill. Is that your understanding?

Mr FERGUSON - Dr Woodruff, I don't know how to further answer your question. It may well have been at a point in time being considered for that bill. It did not make it into that Supplementary Appropriation Bill.

Dr WOODRUFF - It wasn't. But is it 'no'? I don't understand.

CHAIR - Dr Woodruff, can you let the minister finish his answer before you ask another question, please.

Mr FERGUSON - It's been borne out by the facts. I shouldn't have to bring up last year's budget papers to demonstrate the point. There is no dispute around the facts in the RTI, at a point in time clearly the release of information that related to communications between different officers of different departments. My point is where I started, it was funded in the budget, not in the Supplementary Appropriation Bill. I'm not sure what we're arguing about, only that you have, just like you did when you attacked our RTI officer, you just don't have the grace to back off and say, 'I got it wrong' and move on.

Dr WOODRUFF - What we have is a commitment to expenditure that happened in the 2021-22 financial year. Subsequently it was not included in that budget, despite the fact that at the time you said to Tasmanians it was.

Mr FERGUSON - It was in the budget.

Dr WOODRUFF - No, in the 2021-22 it was not, so it was subsequently put in that to patch up a mistake that you made in an attempt to hide the truth about the relationship between somebody who was obviously connected with Bracknell Hall and the super funding in a non-merits process to that particular community above others in Tasmania.

My question to you, minister, is given the lack of scrutiny and the lack of honesty that you've demonstrated in this portfolio, can you understand why Tasmanians are so deeply sceptical of your Government's ability to manage a $1.5 billion stadium when you have been secretive about the deal from the very beginning?

Mr FERGUSON - Is that the question? Dr Woodruff, Tasmanians can be completely confident in our bona fides. They will be shattered by your appalling loose grip on the truth and the inability that you possess to just be able to admit that when you made a mistake you got it wrong and move on. You have discredited yourself today. You have been shown in at least two occasions how your fundamental accusation was based on either a mistake or a wilful dishonest statement by yourself. You run around accusing everyone else of lying but you've been exposed and you've been caught out.

I've been very clear in my responses to you. We've been very gentle on you. The projects were negotiated directly through the office of the former premier, who was also the former treasurer, and funding was approved. There is no dispute around the contents of the emails that you bring up but they don't cover the fact that you are exposed for getting it wrong. Regarding transparency, the budget papers describe this allocation. There were 63 hours of budget Estimates scrutiny that you could have availed yourself of 12 months ago. You could have explored this with me. As the incoming Treasurer I could have been made to account for that commitment in last year's budget. For you to come to this Committee and assert that it wasn't in last year's budget is just baffling. I don't know how to respond further. I'm going to stop there.