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Treasury – Exclusive Brethren


Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Monday, 23 November 2020

Tags: Exclusive Brethren, Subsidies

Ms O'CONNOR - Treasurer, I wanted to talk to you about the $2 million grant made to Scottsdale Pork which was announced by ministers Ferguson and Barnett, I believe, on 27 October. Are you able to give some information on the terms of the grant, who will own the abattoir once it's constructed, and whether it will be available to other pork producers in Tasmania?

Mr GUTWEIN - I don't have details on that in front of me but I can provide my understanding of the process there. With the closure of JBS at Devonport the pork industry was put into a difficult position. We negotiated a couple of years' worth of use of that facility for pork. My understanding is that the amount of pork slaughtered in Tasmania each year is -

Ms O'CONNOR - Pigs are slaughtered and become pork. They are animals.

Mr GUTWEIN - Sorry. The number of pigs slaughtered each year, I understand, is somewhere around 20 000 to 25 000 depending on the year. The Scottsdale facility provides the vast majority of those pigs. The facility is being built to service all producers in the state should they wish their pigs to be slaughtered there. It made sense on the basis of the vast majority of pigs coming from that side of the Sideling to build a facility there rather than transporting them to a slaughterhouse somewhere else in the state. The Government, on advice, supported investment into that facility. As I say, my understanding is it's there to service the market in Tasmania.

Ms O'CONNOR - My understanding is that the total cost of the abattoir at Springfield will be about $3 million, so instead of building a public abattoir the Government is giving $2 million to Scottsdale Pork, the owner of which is Roger Unwin who, last we checked, was a member of the Exclusive Brethren, which took part in the 2006 homophobic anti-Greens campaign to the extent that he was spotted down here at Salamanca wearing a gorilla mask one day. He had hateful signage on a trailer on the back of his car, and yet the Tasmanian Liberal Government is giving this person from the Exclusive Brethren, so Scottsdale Pork presumably pays no taxes, $2 million.

Mr GUTWEIN - To support the pig industry in Tasmania.

Ms O'CONNOR - But Mr Unwin will own the abattoir, won't he?

Mr GUTWEIN - As I have said, the investment is to support the pig industry in Tasmania.

Ms O'CONNOR - But you know that Scottsdale Pork doesn't pay taxes.

Mr GUTWEIN - In terms of supporting the pig industry in Tasmania a solution was required. I think you understand that.

Ms O'CONNOR - An old friend of the Liberal Party.

Mr GUTWEIN - The investment was made on advice -

Ms O'CONNOR - From any other pig owners or pork producers?

CHAIR - Ms O'Connor, I ask you not to talk over the Premier.

Mr GUTWEIN - In terms of pig producers, the vast majority of pigs produced in the state for slaughter are produced at that farm.

Ms O'CONNOR - Just to confirm, the Liberal Government has given $2 million to a non-taxpaying Exclusive Brethren producer. Nice work.

CHAIR - Ms O'Connor, you can come back to your question next round.

Mr GUTWEIN - I am not certain of Mr Unwin's religious affiliations.

Ms O'CONNOR - Mr Ferguson didn't tell you, or Ms Archer, who represented him in 2006?

Mr GUTWEIN - He could have been a Catholic, a Protestant or a Hindu, as far as I am concerned. At the end of the day a decision was made to support the industry.

 

Ms O'CONNOR - Treasurer, we have gone back into the ABC archives and Scottsdale pig farmer Roger Unwin, along with another Scottsdale man, Trevor Christian, took out ads during the 2006 election campaign on behalf of the Liberals supporting the Liberals. Then opposition leader, Rene Hidding, said he stood by the material. That material was hateful, homophobic and transphobic.

Roger Unwin is a member of the Exclusive Brethren. Scottsdale Pork does not pay taxes because it is an Exclusive Brethren company. How can your Government justify handing out $2 million to someone who, historically at least, is homophobic and transphobic, to a company that does not pay any taxes? Why didn't your Government build a public abattoir rather than grant an Exclusive Brethren person $2 million of public funds?

Mr GUTWEIN - Regarding the position you take against the Exclusive Brethren or any other religious organisation, that is a matter for you. As I understand it, Mr Unwin's business produces the vast majority of the pigs in the state and it's a co-investment with that business to establish an abattoir which will service other pig producers in the state.

We need a solution for pigs in Tasmania. JBS has been very generous in putting in place arrangements that have enabled a part of that abattoir to be utilised to service the pig industry. You well recall that when they made that decision to exit the JBS facility, there was a risk that we would have had no slaughtering capacity in the state at all, which would have meant that our pig industry would have closed.

Ms O'CONNOR - It is fair to say isn't it, on the historical record, that Mr Unwin is an old friend of the Liberal Party? The story here says:

Members of the Liberal Party admit to having held meetings with the conservative sect before the election campaign.

I remind you that the Exclusive Brethren does not think it should involve itself in elections. It does not believe that girls should go to school; it does not pay taxes. Yet a member of this sect is being given $2 million in public funds. When we look at the history, we can see that the Liberal Party has had a close connection with the Exclusive Brethren and particularly Mr Unwin.

Mr GUTWEIN - The investment decision was made to support the pig industry.

Ms O'CONNOR - You do not have any problem with money going to a sect that does not want girls to be educated?

Mr GUTWEIN - This was about ensuring that we had a sustainable pig industry.

Ms O'CONNOR - It is a company that is Exclusive Brethren. My question to you is, how do you explain to other pork and primary producers in Tasmania who have not had a look in and you are saying they will have access to this abattoir, but how can you explain such a substantial grant to an Exclusive Brethren figure who owns a company that does not pay taxes and also who holds the view that girls should not receive an education?

Mr GUTWEIN - Setting aside your commentary, the circumstance that the pig industry faced was widely understood. There was no prohibition on anyone, a pig producer, wanting to bring forward and build an abattoir to support the industry. I don't think there was any prohibition on anyone bringing forward an investment proposition. That investment proposition was brought forward by the largest pig farmer in this state. My understanding is that it will service the entire industry.