Thursday, 11 April 2019

[4.03 p.m.]

Mrs PETRUSMA (Franklin – Minister for Disability Services and Community Development) Madam Speaker, I congratulate the Premier on his 2019 Address.  As the Premier outlined, under his strong leadership, Tasmania, has captured the attention of the world with an envied reputation for our unrivalled natural environment, our premium grade products and excellence in education, science and research.  This is Tasmania’s time to shine.  With such strong growth, inevitably comes challenges.  Our Government will grasp the challenges, as we likewise do all the opportunities, as we aim for strategic growth so that more Tasmanians across every region can share in our state’s prosperity. 

As a proud member of the Hodgman Liberal Government, it is an honour and privilege to be back for the second year as a member of this, the Forty-Ninth Parliament of Tasmania.  I acknowledge my previous parliamentary colleagues, Adam Brooks and Rene Hidding, for the deep, heartfelt and passionate commitment they had for their respective electorates of Braddon and Lyons.  I welcome back my wonderful parliamentary colleague, the member for Braddon, Joan Rylah.  Braddon will be well served by Mrs Rylah in this parliament.  She has always demonstrated her commitment to working hard for her electorate and I am looking forward to working with her again.  I also welcome the member for Lyons, John Tucker MP.  Mr Tucker may the newest face in this Tasmanian Parliament but he is already well-known in the Break O’Day community in his role as a councillor.  He is an important part of our team as we continue to deliver for Tasmanians and for his electorate of Lyons. 

I acknowledge the Premier for his leadership, loyalty and friendship, as well as for being a wonderful colleague in the great electorate of Franklin for over nine years now.  I thank him for all he does as he continues to lead this Government through even more exciting days ahead.

A parliamentary career is a demanding one.  No one knows that more than the family and friends that surround you.  I am very grateful to my number one supporter, my husband, Tim, my four children and all my grandchildren.  I would not be here without their love and encouragement, and I am always conscious of the many sacrifices they have to make on a daily basis to allow me to have a career in public life. 

Thanks to my electorate and ministerial staff without whom I could simply not do this role; likewise, all the wonderful Franklin members of the Liberal Party, as well as the fabulous staff in Communities Tasmania and Aboriginal Heritage Tasmania.

I especially recognise the residents of the Huon Valley in my electorate of Franklin who recently were severely tested by bushfires.  Tragically, due to the sheer scale and ferocity of the fires, some properties were unable to be saved.  I pay tribute and give my grateful thanks to the Huon Valley Council, the wider community, and to the efforts of our emergency services and all the volunteers who, through their commitment and diligence ensured that no lives were lost.  I also acknowledge and applaud the fact that we saw the best of the wider community, government, community sector organisations and the business community all coming together and working in tandem to contribute all their efforts to help the Huon Valley get through what was many weeks.

There are always lessons to be learned after major fire events and I welcome the Premier’s announcement that the best way to do that is through an independent review by the Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Authorities Council with submissions from members of the public and interested parties all welcome and very much encouraged.  The four-week consultation period closes on 3 May 2019 and the final review is expected to be delivered to the Government by July this year.

A confident economy grows on the back of a strong, stable government – one that knows how to manage its finances, a government that invests wisely in the services that people need and deserve and a government with strong, decisive leadership and a plan for the future.  This Government is focused on the opportunities before it.  We know there will be challenges, there always are, but we are also quick to meet them head on because we have had a strong and clear plan that we are focused on delivering.  We are delivering on health and education services, working to keep families and communities safe, and keeping pressure on the cost of living so that we can afford to live life the way we want to.

As a member for Franklin, I am also excited to see the raft of measures being implemented to deal with traffic congestion in Hobart as people from both sides of the river in my electorate need to get into and often through the city to get to their work, to drop kids off at school, or just to participate in normal daily activities.

It is also an honour to be minister for the vital roles of Disability Services and Community Development, Aboriginal Affairs, Women, and Sport and Recreation. 

With regard to Aboriginal Affairs, in our first term of government under the Premier’s stewardship, we focused heavily on resetting our relationship with the Aboriginal community.  Over the last year, I have been privileged to continue the work that the Premier started and I have been so fortunate and blessed to meet so many members of Tasmania’s Aboriginal communities.  All have been exceedingly gracious with their time and so very generous with the knowledge that they have shared and I have greatly valued and appreciated their genuine efforts to work with this Government so that together we can make a real difference for more Aboriginal Tasmanians.

Together we have achieved so much.  Today, more than ever, we are continuing to deliver on our commitment to reset the relationship with Tasmanian Aboriginal communities.  We are focused on improving the social, cultural and economic outcomes and to promoting greater understanding and acceptance of Aboriginal culture.  That is because we have a genuine desire to make a positive difference – a true difference that recognises Tasmania’s remarkable 40 000 years of Aboriginal heritage and culture and one that points to a brighter future for Aboriginal Tasmanians.

One of our most significant achievements over the last five years was the landmark constitutional recognition of Aboriginal people in Tasmania.  For the Government and more broadly for the Parliament and community, it was a proud day to introduce a clear statement of acknowledgement of the first Tasmanians in our constitution.  As profoundly important as this initiative was, it was just one step on our long road to true reconciliation.

We have since taken other important steps like introducing a new approach to Aboriginal eligibility.  We know that not all Aboriginal communities see eye to eye and recognising these sensitivities was a very important symbolic statement by the Government to say to Aboriginal Tasmanians right across the state that we recognise each and every one of you.  This has not always been so in the past which led to the perverse situation of some Tasmanian Aboriginals being recognised by our Commonwealth but not by the state of Tasmania which needed to be rectified. 

Other important steps in the reset include our reviews of the dual naming policy and the model for returning land and to explore more joint land management arrangements.

We want to see more dual naming because of its vitally important contribution and role in the broader community’s understanding of Aboriginal history and culture in Tasmania.  Assigning Aboriginal names to Tasmania’s features and places also assists in preserving the language and culture of our First People and recognises their continued connection to country, land and water.

The Government is committed to reviewing the land return model and joint land management arrangements as an important part of our reconciliation process, both in creating economic and tourism opportunities for Aboriginal Tasmanians as well as helping to maintain cultural connections to country, land and water.

We are also committed to the Closing The Gap refresh, which will increase efforts to close the gap and disadvantage between Aboriginal Tasmanians and the wider community and initiatives to help reduce family violence.

We are focusing on improving employment opportunities and career development for Aboriginal Tasmanians within the State Service.  The Aboriginal Employment Strategy will improve recruitment and retention and identify stronger pathways for Tasmanian Aboriginal people to engage with employment opportunities.

This work is being undertaken as part of the Tasmanian State Diversity and Inclusion Policy Framework and we are very proud to support this work.  We are also close to finalising the Tasmania Indigenous Procurement Policy.  Increased indigenous economic participation will lead to improved outcomes for both Tasmanian Aboriginal people and the broader economy.

The Tasmanian Government is also committed to supporting the growth and sustainability of Aboriginal employment and enterprises as part of our commitment to Closing The Gap.  In partnership with Aboriginal communities, enhanced resources and training have also been developed to support teachers to deliver the history and cultures component of the Australian curriculum with a focus on Tasmanian Aboriginal people.

This new outstanding education curriculum is already creating greater understanding and respect for Tasmanian Aboriginal people by acknowledging past injustices and valuing 40 000 years of history and culture.  It is also enabling the Tasmanian Aboriginal voice to be brought into our schools and is accessible to all.

As important as our pledge to reset our relationship with Aboriginal people is our steadfast commitment to the protection of Tasmania’s Aboriginal heritage, which is why in 2017 we made significant amendments to what was then the Aboriginal Relics Act 1975.

The former Act, now renamed the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1975, was an unfortunate reflection of the way Aboriginal people, their history and culture has been treated for far too long.  The amendments in 2017 addressed some of the most outdated and problematic elements of the old Act and were seen as a positive step forward.

The change of name, the removal of the offensive cut-off date for the creation of Aboriginal heritage and a significant increase in penalties for unlawful interference or damage to Aboriginal heritage were all important first steps in moving towards more contemporary legislation.

A requirement of the Act is that a review be undertaken within three years of commencement of the Act and a report on the outcome of the review be tabled in Parliament within six months.  In other words, by February 2021.  We have commenced work on this review and have commenced consultation with Aboriginal communities and other key stakeholders.  A discussion paper will be released later this quarter.  The Aboriginal Heritage Council will be a critical source of advice during the course of the review and I place on the record how much I have appreciated working with the members of the Aboriginal Heritage Council and for their strong commitment to protecting 40 000 years of Aboriginal heritage.

I feel blessed to continue looking after Community Development.  Community Development has the aim of building community capacity, enhanced access and participation and to support individual and sector development for carers, children and young people, migrant and multi-cultural communities, volunteers, older persons, men’s sheds, women and girls, LGBTI and people with a disability.

I am delighted that in my portfolios I am fortunate to work with the respective peak organisations as well as key government advisory groups, including the Tasmanian Women’s Council, the Minister’s and Premier’s Disability Advisory councils, the LGBTI Whole-of-Government Reference Group, the Carer Issues Reference Group, the Multicultural Reference Group, the Family Violence Consultative Group and the Aboriginal Heritage Council.

Each of these key reference groups and their members provide invaluable feedback and advice and I very much look forward to working with them as we continue to deliver instrumental bodies of work in these respective areas. 

Over the next three years we will also be investing more funding into the community development peak organisations, including the Council on the Ageing Tasmania, the Multicultural Council of Tasmania, Volunteering Tasmania, Carers Tasmania, the Tasmanian Men’s Shed Association and the Youth Network of Tasmania.  In the 2018-2019 budget all these peak bodies’ core funding was increased to $110 000 per annum.  I am delighted that in  2019-2020 the Hodgman Liberal Government will provide annual indexation to these peak bodies’ core funding.  This is the first time that indexation has been provided to these peaks and is a well-deserved recognition of the importance of these peak bodies for the vital services that they provide to the Tasmanian community.

The Hodgman Liberal Government is a proud supporter of our grassroots organisations, which is demonstrated through our strong investment in programs and facilities that are much needed across Tasmania.  The Men’s Sheds Association is a very important community organisation and there is no stronger supporter in Tasmania than the Hodgman Liberal Government, especially through the TMSA grants program, which supports the sustainable development of men’s sheds in Tasmania.  In 2018-2019 33 sheds shared in $125 000 in funding, delivered to all corners of the state, from King Island to Zeehan, St Helens and Huonville.  Men’s sheds are a valuable community asset to the state and ideally placed to improve mateship and the health and wellbeing of Tasmanian men.  Whether it is passing on skills and knowledge to other members or training younger people on how to use tools safely and correctly, the contributions that our men’s sheds make to our local communities is invaluable.

The Hodgman Liberal Government is committed to working in close partnership with the community and for the community to build an inclusive, accessible and supportive island that empowers all Tasmanians to thrive and to get the most out of life.  This is reflected in Accessible Island, Tasmania’s Disability Framework for Action 2018-2021.  This sets out the actions the Tasmanian Government will take to help make it possible for people with disability to participate in all aspects of community life.  In regards to disability services, the Government, over four years, is investing more money on people with disability than ever before with a massive $982 million in the 2018-19 Budget and forward Estimates.  This includes $878.7 million in cash and in‑kind supports over the forward Estimates to deliver on our commitment to the NDIS.  As shown in the 2018‑19 Budget Tasmania is also fully budgeted for its future NDIS funding requirements, which from 2019‑20 onwards is a fixed contribution under the full scheme arrangements, which for 2019‑20 is $233.3 million, again fully funded.

This is because under the Heads of Agreement’s states and territories agree to make a capped fixed contribution to the NDIS based on population share.  It is only the Commonwealth’s contribution that fluctuates.  All participant plans remain fully funded to provide the reasonable and necessary supports that they need to achieve their goals in accordance with the NDIS act.  Participants will actually receive an increase in funding for their individual plan from 1 July 2019 due to the $850 million injection to grow the NDIS services market and to increase the choices available for NDIS participants.  This will assist disability service providers as well.

The NDIS is changing the way that people with disability are able to participate in the broader community.  It is providing people with disability greater choice and control over their disability supports and assisting them to achieve their goals and aspirations with all eligible Tasmanians aged 0 to 64 now having access to the scheme. 

Regarding Tasmanians who will not be getting individualised support under the NDIS, it is under the Information Linkages and Capacity Building Framework that all people living with disability in Tasmania, their families and their careers are connected to the broader system and support, including mainstream and universal services.  The ILCs were recommended by the Productivity Commission as part of the tiered NDIS approach so that all people with disability across Australia are connected in some way to the NDIS.  Anyone who does not have an NDIS plan can have access to ILC supports, which was a recommendation of the Productivity Commission to ensure that all Australians with a disability can be a potential beneficiary of the NDIS.  Under the NDIS we will have 10 600 Tasmanians who get individualise funded support, but the ILCs are there to meet the remainder of the need including access, information and referral to the mainstream and universal services which will be there to support these Tasmanians.

The NDIS does have its challenges, however the Hodgman Government is determined to work hard to ensure that the National Disability Insurance Agency gets it right, so we are continuing to strongly advocate with the NDIA as well as with our federal, state and territory counterparts on the Disability Reform Council for the best possible outcomes for Tasmanians and, likewise, all Australians living with disability as we complete the transition to the full scheme. 

In addition to providing significant funding to the rollout to the NDIS, our other election commitments for disability include another $21.2 million in funding over and above our NDIS commitment.  This includes $20 million of the $125 million in stage 2 of our Affordable Housing Strategy which will be quarantined for disability-specific housing for people living with a disability.  We have also increased funding to the peak body, National Disability Services, to $600 000 over three years so that NDS can help support the necessary growth and transition needed by our disability service providers as Tasmania moves towards the full rollout of the NDIS. 

We also committed $300 000 in funding for continuation of the early detection and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders to ensure that children get the earliest interventions they can for improved outcomes under the SACS-R project.  There is continued funding of $150 000 to the Autism Cooperative Research Centre to ensure that Tasmania stays at the forefront of autism research in Australia, and $150 000 for disability sports to continue to facilitate sport participation for people with disability.

The Tasmanian Government is also steadfastly committed to working very collaboratively with the Australian Government in establishing the Royal Commission to inquire into violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability.  Likewise we are very committed to working closely with the Tasmanian community, including people with disability, their families and carers, community organisations and advocacy service providers to ensure that the Royal Commission provides an opportunity for people’s stories to be heard and for recommendations to be developed that will improve the lives of people with disability, their families and carers into the future.

It has been an honour to have been the Minister for Women for over five years now.  The Hodgman Government’s vision and plan is for a more inclusive Tasmania that empowers and enables women and girls to fully participate in our economic, social, political and community life.  As a government we have led by example and elevated women to a number of key roles, including Tasmania’s first female Speaker of the House of Assembly, the Honourable Elise Archer MP; our first female Governor, Her Excellency Professor the Honourable Kate Warner AC; and our first female Chief Magistrate, Catherine Geason.  I also note that the member for Braddon, Joan Rylah’s successful return to the parliament increases the overall representation of women in the House of Assembly to 56 per cent and the whole of the Parliament of Tasmania to now 53.5 per cent women, so the Hodgman Liberal Government is also delivering on our plan to improve outcomes for women in Tasmania. 

Last year I was delighted to launch the Tasmanian Women’s Strategy 2018, with the four key priority areas of financial security, leadership and participation, health and wellbeing and safety.  In regard to leadership, it was the Hodgman Liberal Government that launched the first Tasmanian Government Women on Board strategy which also has funding, a target and a timeframe, and we are seeing results.  Our target is for 50 per cent of women to be on government boards by 2020 and we are making excellent progress, with 44.17 per cent representation as at December 2018, an over 30 per cent increase in the ratio of women, or 10.37 percentage points. 

We also have our partnership with the Australian Institute of Company Directors to deliver the Tasmanian Government’s Board Diversity Governance Scholarships Program, giving more Tasmanian women the opportunity to learn the skills they will need to serve as company directors with a genuine focus on building board diversity and inclusivity.  I was delighted that of the 17 scholarship recipients for 2018-19, seven are from a migrant or refugee background, two are women with disability and three are working in the STEM areas.  I look forward to the next round opening in the coming months.

Across Government we are very determined that all appointments to government boards must also comply with the Government’s policy of gender equality.  I am delighted to report that at the end of December, 55 per cent of GBE directors are now women and currently 48 per cent of directors of state-owned companies are also women.  In regard to leadership, we have seen women in the Senior Executive Service increase from 28.3 per cent when we formed government in March 2014 to 41.4 per cent as at December 2018.  This is a significant milestone, as the target set in August 2016 was for at least 40 per cent of senior executives to be women by 2020.  I am glad this target has now been achieved 18 months ahead of time, with the new goal now being 50:50. 

Also in regard to participation, Tasmania is full of exceptional women from a wide range of different backgrounds who are all dedicated and willing to make a significant contribution to our state.  This is why the Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women plays such an important role in preserving the stories of these women and women’s organisations.  I was deeply honoured to induct 29 women and one women’s organisation to the Honour Roll on 15 March in Launceston.  To date, 325 nominations have now been included on the honour roll from a vast range of backgrounds, including community service, Aboriginal Affairs, agriculture, business and industry, education and training, multicultural affairs, arts and media, history and science, just to name but a small few.  I am delighted to say that nominations are now open for the 2020-21 round of inductions and applications can be submitted until Friday 25 September 2020.

The gender pay gap continues to be a major barrier to women’s financial security, which is why financial security is a key priority in the Tasmanian Women’s Strategy.  Our Financial Security for Women Action Plan was released in September last year and includes improving outcomes for women in paid employment, increasing the number of women and girls in STEM and trades, building financial capabilities and increasing opportunities for women entrepreneurs. 

In regard to safety, one of the many achievements and the one I am the proudest of is our nation-leading Tasmania’s first Family Violence Action Plan – Safe Home, Safe Families.  This Government took a whole-of-government approach to tackling the scourge of family violence and its elimination is a top priority for us.  With all the actions under our $26 million Safe Home, Safe Families Action Plan now well underway, and with our further commitment of another $20.2 million in the 2018-19 budget for family violence initiatives, including $18 million for the next Safe Home, Safe Families, we are continuing to take a responsive and evidence-based approach to addressing this scourge.  We are also taking note of emerging issues and learning from new evidence as we undertake the next stage of the process.

The Government is currently finalising the review of the family violence system to inform the next Safe Home, Safe Families Action Plan that will be launched later this year.  As we did with the first action plan, we are undertaking extensive consultation with the community, key stakeholders and the Family Violence Consultative Committee to ensure that all Tasmanians have the opportunity to have their say on the next Action Plan, as family violence is a scourge that affects us all. 

Over 150 stakeholders attended a series of roundtable discussions across the state in February that will assist in shaping the next action plan, as well as the first whole-of-government Sexual Violence Action Plan that will be released in July in recognition of the fact that sexual violence often intersects and overlaps with family violence.  Later this year we will also be developing a Health and Wellbeing for Women Action Plan in recognition that gender is one of the most powerful determinates of health outcomes.  Over the next three years we will continue to build on the gains we have made and create even more opportunities and better outcomes for women in Tasmania. 

One of the greatest privileges of being the Minister for Sport and Recreation is seeing what a profound and positive benefit sport can have for all people in our community, whether they are younger or older, competing hard or playing just for fitness, fun and laughs.  Sport truly is one of the fabrics that binds our communities together.  In pursuing strategic growth for our state, sport is also critical as a social enabler and is a major part of our regional and statewide economy that also generates investment and jobs.  It is important for so many other reasons too.  We know that getting people into sport is key to establishing lifelong healthy habits to ensure that future demand on our health system is manageable.  Sport builds confidence and resilience, builds a sense of belonging and personal discipline, improves physical and mental health, builds social skills and networks and provides the perfect vehicle for developing communication, leadership and organisational skills. 

The Hodgman Liberal Government’s goal is for Tasmania to be the healthiest state in Australia by 2025 and also to reduce the rates of obesity to below the national average at the same time.  This requires coordinated investment into all levels of sport and the infrastructure that creates the opportunity for participation.  This is why this year we will continue our investment into sporting organisations through the major sporting grant round to support infrastructure and also the minor sporting grant round to help clubs with their needs.

Our commitment to improving health outcomes for women and girls is also reflected in our record capital investment into Levelling the Playing Field.  Last year when I launched the Levelling the Playing Field Round 1 expression of interest process, I was keenly aware that poor and inadequate facilities was the biggest barrier to women and girls playing sport.  There was a big demand for major improvements to girls and women’s sporting infrastructure, especially in the sports of AFL and cricket which have seen participation numbers boom in recent years.

The Hodgman Liberal Government’s $10 million commitment over two years to improve sporting facilities for women and girls is the largest investment per capita by any state or territory and will provide funding between $15 000 and $1 million per project.  Twenty-one organisations were successful in receiving funding under the first round of the program and we will be supporting women and girls’ sports around various locations around Tasmania of Wynyard, Sorell, Evandale, Longford, Deloraine, Westbury, Lauderdale, George Town, Bridport, Cygnet, Clifton, Ulverstone, Burnie, Launceston and Hobart.  The total projects to be delivered under round 1 will be over $10.1 million – a fantastic investment into these local communities, and round 2 of the program was launched recently so that we can continue to remove one of the biggest barriers to female participation that has existed for far too long.

In February we were also delighted to launch our Ticket to Play program which delivers on a policy we took to the election and is the first of its kind for Tasmania.  We know that for many families and carer’s costs can be a major prohibitive factor in children and young people not taking part in organised sport and recreation.  That is why we are very committed to doing more to provide the opportunity for up to 30 000 children who right now can access up to $100 each to meet the cost of registering for organised sport and recreation.

I also pay tribute to the over 700 clubs and their state organisations plus the schools, parents, coaches, officials and sport administrators who have been working hard to promote this program to help ensure that our children do get the chance to participate even more in sport and active recreation.

As the Premier stated, it is an exciting time for Tasmania.  We are living in a place that looks and feels very different to the way it did five years ago.  Back then, five years ago, this Government had just launched our plan to grow the economy, to fix the budget mess, to invest in the essential services that Tasmanians need and to get on with the job of providing strong and stable government to get things done.  Tasmanians want a strong economy because it provides opportunities and employment prospects for our children, our grandchildren and future generations of Tasmanians.

Today, Tasmania’s economic growth is the envy of other nations.  In fact, in many of the key indicators, we are leading the way, whether in housing finance approvals and completions, private new capital expenditure, job vacancies, retail sales and business confidence.  For only the fifth time in a quarter of a century, Tasmania’s economic growth for the last financial year was higher than the nation’s and per capita we are growing at our fastest rate in a decade – nearly double the national average.  Respected economists have also reported that for the first time in 27 years, economic growth in Tasmania is now broadly based across all industry sectors.

As part of our plan, we are investing more into vital social infrastructure, including in my portfolio of Sport and Recreation and have developed the state’s first 10-year infrastructure pipeline which maps $13.9 billion of infrastructure investments for government and the non-government sector.

We know there is more to do because our aim is for all Tasmanians to feel the benefits of a strong economy, and the Hodgman Liberal Government is equipped for the challenges and ready to grasp the opportunities.  Today we are excited about what it is to be a Tasmanian.

Time expired.

[4.34pm]