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Thursday, 20 October 1983
Page: 2014


Mr GAYLER —Is the Minister for Home Affairs and Environment aware of a report by the Queensland Ombudsman on the improper procedures followed by the Queensland Government in subdividing land in the Cape Tribulation rain-forest? How extensive is the State Government Ombudsman's condemnation of the Queensland Government and of the Minister's involvement? What damage will be caused by the subdivision of this fragile environment? What are the implications for Queensland taxpayers-


Mr SPEAKER —Order! Is this matter within the administration of the Minister for Home Affairs and Environment?


Mr GAYLER —It is to do with the environment.


Mr SPEAKER —The honourable member may finish his question.


Mr GAYLER —Thank you, Mr Speaker. What damage will be caused by the subdivision of this fragile environment? What are the implications for Queensland taxpayers of this highly improper method of apportioning land use?


Mr McVeigh —Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. The Standing Orders preclude a Minister answering a question on a matter not under his administrative responsibility. These matters are peculiarly the responsibility of the Queensland Government and you must rule the question out of order.


Mr SPEAKER —There are a number of areas for which the Minister for Home Affairs and Environment has responsibility. I call the Minister.


Mr COHEN —Home Affairs and Environment is my portfolio, dummy!


Mr SPEAKER —Order! I invite the Minister to answer the question.


Mr COHEN —I am aware of a report by Mr C. L. Johnson, the Parliamentary Com- missioner--


Mr Sinclair —Crime in New South Wales is not important?


Mr COHEN —It has very little to do with rain-forests.


Mr SPEAKER —Order! I invite the Minister to ignore interjections and to continue his answer.


Mr COHEN —I am aware of a report by Mr C. L. Johnson, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administrative Investigations-the Ombudsman-and it confirms all the worst speculations about the procedures of the Queensland Government. This matter deals with the highly unusual and improper way in which the Queensland Government decided to subdivide land in an important and fragile rain-forest on Cape Tribulation. The report of the Queensland Government's own Ombudsman indicates that no consideration was given by Queensland Minister Hinze--


Mr SPEAKER —Order! While relevance is fairly tenuous in answers, I would like the Minister to indicate how it affects his administration. I have some concern about this.


Mr COHEN —First of all, the question of rain-forests has been raised in this Parliament. There is before the Senate a Bill from the Australian Democrats. The National Estate includes large parts of this area and that is my responsibility.


Mr SPEAKER —The Minister should continue.


Mr Hodgman —You have taken over Tasmania and now you want to take over Queensland.


Mr COHEN —We are doing a very good job in Tasmania. As I said, the report of the Queensland Government's own Ombudsman indicates that no consideration was given by Queensland Minister Hinze to the environmental impact of allowing such relatively small subdivisions in a vulnerable rain-forest area, but the extraordinarily improper procedures whereby Mr Hinze arranged this subdivision will be of concern to all Queenslanders, especially as they decide to vote on Saturday. It goes to the very question of whether such National Party Ministers are fit and proper people to hold such office.


Mr McVeigh —I take a point of order. Mr Speaker, I draw your attention to standing order 142 in relation to questions to Ministers. The matter of subdivision is a State Government responsibility. It is a rain-forest and there is no National Estate involved. You must rule it out of order.


Mr SPEAKER —Order! There is no point of order. The question is an environmental one.


Mr McVeigh —Don't you go by these Standing Orders?


Mr SPEAKER —Order! I warn the honourable member for Darling Downs. He has on other occasions selectively quoted the Standing Orders. He should not defy the Chair.


Mr COHEN —The Ombudsman's report begins by explaining:

The final decision as to the zoning of the land was of course a matter for the Minister for Local Government.

That is Mr Hinze. To continue:

The local council changed its recommendation that the land in question be zoned rural residential rather than rural general farming.


Mr Porter —Are you going to intervene?


Mr COHEN —If he continues to rape the country in the way he is doing, possibly we will. The Queensland Government's own Ombudsman explained that the Council had been motivated by an irrelevant consideration, and that consideration was that the developer was a friend of the Minister, Mr Hinze. Unfortunately the impression might have been given that some landholders received favoured treatment--


Mr Peacock —Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. You had great difficulty earlier in determining the relevance of the answer being given by the Minister. It is clear that he has given very wordy evidence of the irrelevance since you intervened, striving to find the relevance. I ask you to rule him out of order now.


Mr SPEAKER —I ask the Minister, in concluding his answer, to come back to the question which was asked of him concerning the environment.


Mr COHEN —I am very pleased to see a Liberal supporting the National Party. Unfortunately the impression might have been given that some landholders received favoured treatment because of their relationship with influential persons.