Dr WOODRUFF question to MINISTER for JUSTICE, Ms ARCHER
You and Mr Barnett issued a joint media statement on the morning of 21 February that stated that you had referred the alleged unsafe workplace behaviours of the Bob Brown Foundation to WorkSafe Tasmania. Later the same day, Mr Barnett gave a confounding interview on ABC radio. First he denied the Government had referred the matter to WorkSafe; then he flipflopped and said your joint media statement was still correct.
Those positions are entirely contradictory. Since then, the evidence of Government involvement in this matter has strengthened. Yesterday the Premier admitted he had advance notice of WorkSafe issuing the prohibition notice. Unions Tasmania yesterday stated they no longer have confidence in WorkSafe Tasmania as workers' safety complaints are not being dealt with in a timely manner. In the case of the Bob Brown Foundation, things seemed to move extremely quickly.
As Minister for Justice, responsible for overseeing WorkSafe Tasmania, will you come clean with the Tasmanian people about the Government's involvement in this matter? Did you seek legal advice from the Solicitor-General to cover your sanctioning of WorkSafe legal overreach and its misuse of public resources in this matter?
Madam Speaker, I am a little surprised that the Greens have the gall to come in here again today, particularly after a fairly scathing response from the Chief Commissioner of the Integrity Commission.
As you know this side of the House sought advice in relation to the Greens wishing to table their referral document. It has a number of allegations in it that are not currently protected by privilege outside this House and I see as highly defamatory.
Madam SPEAKER - Order. Can I please hear the answer?
Ms ARCHER - I am going to read the response by the Chief Commissioner and I will respond to the other issues. It is important for this House to know that when they refer matters to the Integrity Commission -
Dr WOODRUFF - Point of order, standing order 45, relevance. The minister is trying to divert from the very serious questions being asked here by talking about a matter of referral to the Integrity Commission. Not once did I mention the Integrity Commission. This is a question about the minister and her authority, her responsibility and her politicisation of this, WorkSafe Tasmania.
Madam SPEAKER - That is not a point of order. I ask the Attorney-General to resume.
Ms ARCHER - Thank you, Madam Speaker. I will address those other issues, but it is important for members to know that if they wish to make a referral to the Integrity Commission it will only be seen as politicising the issue, as the Greens are doing on this occasion.
The response from the Chief Commissioner of the Integrity Commission to the Leader of Government Business -
I refer to your correspondence to Mr Bingham …
He is the CEO.
… and respond on behalf of the Commission. It is always inappropriate to have investigations being compromised by the publication of complaints. We question the motives of those so doing and do not appreciate attempts to use the commission for political purposes. However, as the investigation has already been compromised by the release of the complaint to the media, I do not see any further complications arising by having the complaint tabled in parliament.
Clearly the Greens want the protection of parliament to make the allegations that they have made in the complaint. I urge them to allow the Integrity Commission to do its job. I make it clear to the Greens and to this House that we as a Government take the issue of workplace health and safety extremely seriously. Every employer has a legal obligation under the workplace, health and safety laws. As members know, WorkSafe Tasmania is the independent workhealth and safety regulator. It makes its decisions independent of the Government. Contrary to the claims from the Greens, the Government did not refer the matter to workplace health and safety regulator.
Dr Woodruff - Why does your media release say you referred it? Why is still on your website? Are you retracting it then?
Ms ARCHER - I am pleased that you are just so hung up on the government website.
Madam Speaker, I am in parliament as the minister responsible. I know my responsibilities are not to mislead the parliament, so can I make it unequivocally clear that the Government did not refer the matter the workplace health and safety regulator.
Dr Woodruff - Did you? Why did you release a statement that said the opposite?
Ms ARCHER - I did not refer the matter - nor did Mr Barnett refer the matter - to the independent regulator. The independent regulator has also, for the record, made it very clear, publicly, on the radio, that there has been no interference by the Government or by me as the minister -
Ms O'Connor - Then how come you put out that media release saying that you referred it?
Madam SPEAKER - Ms O'Connor, I urge you to show restraint.
Ms ARCHER - Members in this House - and Ms O'Connor should know; she has been a minister - that following the regulator's decision to issue a notice I was advised of its decision to do so. It is normal in the course of matters of significance that a minister would be advised that something is going to happen. There was no interference at all. I have made that very clear.
Madam SPEAKER - Order. I am sorry, Attorney-General, but I cannot have conversations going across the room; it is really distracting. The member asked an important question and I need to hear the answer. You may continue but you are now well over four minutes, due to the distractions.
Ms ARCHER - Thank you, Madam Speaker. As members know, the Greens have referred this matter to the Integrity Commission in an overtly political manner, so I would ask that the Integrity Commission now be given the opportunity to undertake its work without any further politicisation.