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First published August 28

The Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment’s (DPIPWE) refusal to co-operate with the British Ecological Society on requested fox information is astounding.

I have written to Premier Will Hodgman and Minister Jeremy Rockliff on several occasions. They seem to be reluctant to advise the DPIPWE to pass on their findings on the Police Investigation and especially the Simon Fearn report to the British Ecological Society. (Journal of Applied Ecology London.)

DPIPWE knows that once they do the BEC will withdraw the paper of Sarre et al at Canberra University called “Foxes are now widespread in Tasmania”, the very foundations this scandalous abuse of taxpayers’ money was based upon.

It would appear that the Premier and especially the Minister are terrified of DPIPWE; probably more so that they might have to hand the fraudulently obtained funding back?

The DPIWE Secretary John Whittington clearly stated in Budget estimates June 5th 2017.

Mr DEAN - DIPIPWE is currently investigating foxes. What stage is that at, when is the report likely to be released and will it be released publicly?

Mr Whittington - I need to answer with more than a date.  They considered the Tasmanian Police review material that you provided them, they made their findings and passed on their findings both to the department and to the Integrity Commission.  I do not know what the Integrity Commission is doing.  We are cooperating with everything that we have.  The police review indicated some potential inappropriate behaviour by public servants.  That is what we are investigating under the State Service Act.  That process will be quickly completed.  I cannot give an exact date.  I will say that should either the Integrity Commission report or the work that is done through this process find any integrity issues we will be very public about that and we will make that very clear on all of our documentation.

Fox Eradication Program - Inquiry

Mr DEAN question to ACTING LEADER of the GOVERNMENT in the LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL, Mrs HISCUTT

[2.35 p.m.] August 17th 2017
My question relates to the inquiry/investigation undertaken by the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment - DPIPWE - into the Previous Fox Eradication Program, as suggested by Tasmania Police.

During Estimates, it was said this was being treated as a serious matter and the inquiry/investigation has been commenced.  Will the Acting Leader please advise -

(1)  What stage is the inquiry investigation at?
(2)  If applicable, when is it likely to be concluded?
(3)  If concluded, when is the report likely to be made public?

ANSWER
Mr Acting President, I thank the member for Windermere for his question.

(1)  The Hodgman Liberal Government disbanded the Fox Eradication Program.  While this program was established under previous governments, this Government takes these allegations seriously and supports their full investigation.

    In relation to the specific question, investigations relating to potential breaches of the State Service Act 2000 are a matter for DPIPWE independent of the Government.

    In relation to the specific question, DPIPWE advice is that -

•      Tasmania Police completed its review of documentation relating to the Previous HitFoxNext Hit Eradication Program and determined that no criminal offences had been committed.

•      Tasmania Police provided DPIPWE with its review.  The police review indicated there may have been inappropriate behaviour by public servants that warranted investigation under the State Service Act 2000.

•      Of the employees noted by Tasmania Police, only one remained as a State Service employee at the time the department reviewed the files and determined further action was warranted.

•      To ensure an independent process, an alternative Head of Agency was delegated with authority to commence an investigation under the provisions of Employment Direction No. 5.

•      An investigation into alleged breaches of the State Service Code of Conduct by an employee of the department was commenced with the appointment of an independent investigator.

•      On 3 May 2017 the employee who was the respondent to the allegations in this matter tendered his resignation effective 4 May 2017.

•      In light of the resignation, a decision had to be made on whether an ongoing investigation was warranted.

•      On 2nd August 2017 the investigation was terminated after consideration of the improbability of being able to determine a substantive outcome while complying with the principles of natural justice, in relation to the alleged conduct, in light of the resignation.

(2)  The answer to this question is covered above.

(3)  I am advised that DPIPWE is cooperating with the Integrity Commission in reviewing the complaint it received relating to the Fox Eradication Program.  Further, DPIPWE remains committed that should the Integrity Commission find any integrity issues, these will be addressed and this will be made clear in all relevant departmental documentation.

    In the interim, DPIPWE’s website has been updated as follows -

The Fox Eradication Program, including evidence collected during its operation, is subject of a complaint to the Integrity Commission.  The Department advises that the information on these pages will be reviewed in light of any outcomes of the Integrity Commission’s considerations of the complaint.

So on the basis of one employee resigning the whole scandal is put to bed?

I have never seen so much ‘butt covering’

*Ian Rist has contributed Fox articles to Tasmanian Times since 2004, He has been referred to as the ‘Fox man’ by many journalists including Sue Neales et al.  Ian was the person that obtained the revealing Police letters in 2002 that referred to the allegations of Fox cub importation and release as based on gossip, rumour and innuendo. He also uncovered the Fox scat import scam in 2008 and supplied documentary evidence to several Politicians. This didn’t stop the head of CRC Invasive Animals suggesting at the 2009 PAC Inquiry that “he must be smoking something”  to even suggest such a thing. Ian has likened the 1080 fox baiting of Tasmania as a tragedy akin to the Government of the day putting a bounty on the Thylacine.

Mercury, September 4, 2017: An investigation into Tasmania’s $40 million fox eradication program has been quietly dropped … But DPIPWE has revealed, after prompting by MLC Ivan Dean in parliament, that the investigation has been abandoned. The probe was dropped, according to DPIPWE, because the last remaining employee from the fox program suddenly resigned earlier this year. Mr Dean, a long term critic of the program, said he was stunned by the decision. “I was just absolutely speechless, I couldn’t believe what I was being told and I was horrified,” he told The Mercury. “How can you close off an investigation into acts of misconduct in an area like that, simply because the people who were engaged in it have now gone” …