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Want of Confidence in the Minister for Human Services

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Tags: Brahminy, No Confidence Motion, Ministerial Accountability

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Deputy Speaker, it absolutely is a priority and it should be a priority of this entire parliament to make sure that those young people are safe. I also attended the briefing at lunchtime. I have to say over the course of a number of years now I have had a lot of faith in Mike Pavanne as a departmental secretary and as a high quality and dedicated public servant. When Mike Pavanne says something to me, I see it and hear it through a different lens from what I might hear from the minister himself.

I was significantly reassured that the children who are there right now are being well cared for in this moment. I also listened very carefully to the Child Advocate, Sonya Pringle-Jones, who spoke with great passion for those young people and great concern about the level of media speculation and the impact that it might have on those children. I will keep my comments brief because I do not want to fuel those concerns from people who are working with those young people. That said, we have been really clear in recent days that there is a question of our level of confidence in this minister. That goes beyond the issue of what is happening at Many Colours 1 Direction. I am proposing a couple of amendments to the motion.

I do not think it is fair to say that the vehicle was stolen - it was a borrowed vehicle. I will say again that I urge the Mercury newspaper to stop describing that young person as a 'hoon'. It has been used twice in headlines now. It is wrong and it is unfair. It is actually placing a label on a person that can lead to stigma and judgment from the wider community. So, it was not a stolen vehicle in that video, it was a borrowed vehicle from Many Colours 1 Direction, so I propose to delete 'stolen' and insert 'borrowed'.

Going through this motion with a level of, I have to say, discomfort, after the briefing I went through it clause by clause. Dr Woodruff and I worked through it and talked about what we could agree with. Points 1 and 2 are statements of fact. Point 3 is problematic - you cannot call that vehicle stolen; it is a borrowed car. The evidence is that the video went to the minister's office on 5 October and that the minister viewed the footage on 7 October - another statement of fact. The minister knew about this incident when he claimed children in the program were safe - that is, again, another statement of fact. We could possibly live with point 6 but point 7 is not germane to this debate.

It is irrelevant when the minister showed the Premier the video. To be perfectly honest with you, Madam Speaker, when I was in government if I had been made aware of a difficult piece of information within my portfolio, I am pretty certain the first person I would not have gone to is the Premier of the day. That is just a fact. This is a matter that was in Mr Jaensch's portfolio. It was a matter of concern to Mr Jaensch and whether he told the Premier four days, five days or six days later, to me, is not relevant to the question of confidence.

The minister has demonstrated poor judgment. On the issues that we have raised previously we struggle to have confidence in this minister. I understand Mr Jaensch is an empathetic human being, highly intelligent and fundamentally a kind man. None of this makes me feel comfortable, personally. The reason that we do not have confidence in Mr Jaensch is because of the answer that he gave to the question on 24 September. I know the House has voted on that but this comes down to the numbers and we still have that issue with this minister. We still have an issue with the minister who tries to tell us that a decision is not a decision.

We certainly have an issue with a minister who has child safety guidelines in the department which are out of date and have not been updated so the guidelines for placing at risk Aboriginal children were last updated in 2006. The Guidelines for Adolescents at Risk of Suicide Assessment was written in the year 2000. The Guidelines for Responding to Domestic and Family Violence are almost 20 years old.

We also have issues with the minister's involvement in approving drilling at the Westbury site on Birralee Road during the endangered wedge-tail eagles breeding season. We have serious issues with this minister who appears to have walked away from a commitment to review the reserve activity assessments that underpin development inside protected areas. We have an issue with the minister for ignoring concerns from his own department for an endangered leafy sun-orchid at Rosny on the eastern shore.

Madam SPEAKER - Sorry, Ms O'Connor. I am clarifying. If you are moving your amendment, can you pass it up, please?

Ms O'CONNOR - It is simply to delete 'stolen' and insert 'borrowed' in point 3 and to delete all of point 7.

There are a range of issues that we have with Mr Jaensch as minister which we have not resolved in our minds and it is on that basis that we reluctantly will support the motion as amended



The 2020-21 Federal Budget


Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I will try to leave a few minutes for the other member for Franklin to speak. This is an important issue, and I can say at the outset that the Greens will not be supporting this motion. We do not believe the Scott Morrison Government should be commended for this budget, and we do not believe it is going to deliver strong benefits for Tasmania. Quite the reverse.

It certainly was a budget delivered in exceptional circumstances. The pandemic has not only hit the economy hard, it has exposed the fault lines that already existed, particularly the social fault lines. We have insecure work, we have poverty, we have rampant privatisation, we have incredible socialisation, and extremely underfunded public services. A budget that ought to have been the most important budget since World War II has been, if anything, reinforcing those fault lines, and is going to make them far, far bigger.

The earth's climate is breaking up around us and we are living through a mass extinction event. Nature is being destroyed at a record pace, and the ecological systems that the economy and our society depend on are in absolute crisis.

On top of that, wage growth is at record lows. We have the proportion of the national income going to company profits being at record heights. The end result is wealth inequality that is entrenched in Australia. It is significant, it is rising, and it will be increased with this budget.

There are record low interest rates, record high household debt, failing home ownership - the lowest level since the 1950s in Australia now - record workforce participation. People want to work but, with low wages growth and high company profits, the jobs are not there to pay to keep up with the price of survival, so people are moving into poverty, moving into lower income brackets every single day. More and more people are getting less and less, despite the fact that we are told the government is making greater and greater efforts.

Meanwhile, the big corporations, the super-wealthy who own and run them, are getting a great deal out of this budget. Thanks to neo-liberalism, we have entered the pandemic with an underfunded healthcare system, with an underfunded and privatised childcare system, with an underfunded and privatised and barely regulated aged care system, and we have seen that play out across the country. It has been decades, but in the last five years cruel things have been exacted on the aged care system, as they have been on our education system.

The universities in Australia have been under attack from the Morrison Government, and this budget has doubled-down and we are looking at a record number of people in our university sector being turned off. This is the sector that should be there - that will drive the intelligence, the experimentation, the inventiveness, the initiative that Australia has been known for. It has been gutted budget by budget by the federal Liberal Government, and Mr Ellis really should know that in order for people to make a buck, in order for families to be able to give children what they want for their future, there has to be funding going into education. The reverse is happening.

We have 40 per cent of our workforce in insecure work, entrenched rates of high unemployment and underemployment, and a social safety net that is far below what people can survive.

This year's budget - how did it stack up? What did it provide? It was an opportunity for a great postwar budget. It was an opportunity to build a nation, and there certainly were Greens there at the federal level giving all the information that the Morrison Government could possibly need. All the evidence is there of what should be done.

Instead of looking after the lives of good people, and providing hope for children for the future, what did we get? We got nothing to respect nature and climate, and we got nothing from this Prime Minister or this Treasurer or this federal government to give hope for the poor, and to give hope for children. It is a neo-liberal train wreck of a budget. It is going to impoverish poor people. It is stealing the hopes and dreams of young people. It is entrenching wealth inequality, underemployment, unemployment, and it is going to line the pockets of big corporates and the super-rich.

We cannot support this motion. We might support the intent of Mr Ellis in hoping that the federal government would have done something different, but the reality is so far from what Mr Ellis has put up in the motion before us today. It is so far from doing anything fundamental that working-class Australians need, and children need for their future.

Mr Deputy Speaker, the government could have used this to do something about the real issues in the country. It is a fantastic budget for coal companies. It is a fantastic budget for gas companies. It is a great budget for the banks. It is a bonanza for the arms manufacturers. It is a great budget for the federal government's mates, and it sure does deliver for the government's political donors. But, if you are a First Nation's person, if you are a woman, if you are under-employed, if you are unemployed, if you are struggling to pay the bills, or you are worried about the climate crisis, or the biodiversity crisis, or the threat of bushfires in the coming summer, this is not a budget that will offer you any hope.

We reject this budget. We reject the fact it does nothing to fix or to address the climate emergency. On no basis would we ever support this motion. We recognise that budgets are about choices. This federal government had a choice, it does reflect its priorities. We reject those choices, and we reject those priorities.

We want to build an economy that works for people, not the other way around. We want to build an economy that respects nature, that respects our ecosystems, that respects our climate, that does not see natural places merely as resources to be dug up and burned and profited from, or as dumping grounds for toxic chemicals.

We have a plan that responds to the magnitude of the challenges we face as a planet, and that is based on evidence and reality. That is the choice that parliament can make. The federal Liberal Party with the support of the Labor Party, does not make those choices on a daily basis, but that is what the Greens always stand for and will always continue to stand for.