Response to Premier’s State of the State Address
5 March, 2015
Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to support the Premier’s Address. We are approaching our first year of government and what a year it has been. Returning to government after 16 years in opposition has been an absolute privilege and an honour. As a united and focused team we are working hard every day in delivering our long-term plan for Tasmania. While there is still a long way to go, Tasmania is now headed in the right direction. Tasmania is open for business, confidence has returned, our economy is growing, the unemployment rate is down, nearly 7 000 new jobs have been created since the election, we are on track to fix the Budget, and we have commenced the task of rebuilding essential human services.
We understand there are no silver bullets and that change will not happen overnight, but with a strong and stable majority government, and by sticking to our long-term plan, we know we can deliver even better outcomes for Tasmania by maintaining the momentum of building a better future.
In my portfolio area of Human Services, we are delivering on our election commitments and have delivered on our pledge to help Tasmania’s most vulnerable. In the 2014-15 Budget we provided a record $235 million to the community sector alone. This funding has strengthened Tasmania’s human services support system and provided greater certainty in the community services sector. Funding to the sector included $9 million extra funding over four years, $2 million of which has been provided in 2014-15. An additional $5.2 million to support organisations to meet the cost of salaries under the Equal Remuneration Order, or ERO, will take the total support for the ERO in 2014-15 to $13.4 million. There is an extra $5.3 million in indexation. We are providing this extra funding because we want to see a diverse and robust community sector which will be best placed to deliver the broad range of services Tasmanians need now and in the future. We are also working with the community sector to make their work easier.
Red tape and compliance reporting requirements have a major impact on community sector organisations. In fact, in 2011 ACOSS found compliance was costing the community sector $100 million a year nationally, or two months of their working year was being spent on reporting. Reducing red tape is therefore a major commitment of this Government and this is why we have a long-term plan to reduce burdensome red tape obligations while retaining the important checks and balances of accountability.
The Peaks Network and Government Strategic Forum has established a working group to address red tape reduction which has met several times throughout 2014. The working group has undertaken a targeted survey to investigate the full scope of issues and solutions around red tape to which they received responses in late 2014.
In addition to the work being carried out by the working group, the Department of Health and Human Services is looking at other opportunities for red tape reduction, including extending the term of funding agreements, improving coordination of organisations that have multiple agreements with the department, consolidating multiple streams of program funding and streamlining the need for renegotiation for smaller scale lower-risk grants. Red tape reduction will see more time being used to deliver services to our most vulnerable.
The department has in partnership with the sector also developed an outcomes purchasing framework. This framework will deliver a more outcomes-focused approach to Human Services that is meaningful and practical for frontline staff and management in both small and large organisations. The framework describes how the department and the sector can work together to define the outcomes we want to achieve for clients and the broader community and to ensure those outcomes are being achieved. It is also a positive step towards red tape reduction.
To support the outcomes purchasing framework in our new hands-up approach, we are providing TasCOSS with an additional $250 000 to ensure effective measurement by the sector and improvement of outcomes for vulnerable Tasmanians. The finalised framework was distributed to all DHHS-funded organisations in April 2014 and it has been gradually introduced across all funded programs as contracts come up for renewal.
We are also continuing to support the elder abuse awareness program and gambling support. Education and raising awareness have an important role in enabling the wider community to play a part in both preventing abuse and recognising and supporting those at risk. Both these programs have had positive effects, providing great benefit to our community. That is why we have committed additional funding of $450 000 over three years to elder abuse prevention on top of $250 000 that was also identified this year to continue reviewing the current elder abuse strategy so as to develop a renewed further strategy. We have developed a gambling support program strategic framework 2014-19 which provides an overarching platform for the program’s strategic direction, planning and delivery of innovative and contemporary initiatives. We have delivered the new Missing the Moment campaign in response to sports betting, which is the fastest growing form of gambling in Australia, and launched the new gambling assistance program which is the first Australian accredited training resource for GPs. This resource will enhance the capacity of GPs to identify and respond to people presenting with gambling issues.
In regard to disability services, the National Disability Insurance Scheme, or NDIS, is an important and exciting initiative and one of the biggest and most important reforms that Australia has ever seen. It is revolutionising the lives of people living with disability, providing people with disability greater choice and control over their disability support and assisting them to achieve their goals and their aspirations.
The Tasmanian trial to date has been a great success, with our implementation leading the way nationally. It is encouraging that our satisfaction rate throughout the trial has been consistently high. Hearing the positive stories and how people’s lives have improved is truly heartening.
The NDIS is a great thing not only in terms of increasing choice for participants but also for increased employment opportunities for disability support workers in Tasmania, as well as for our unemployment rate, as around another 1 500 Tasmanians will need to be employed in this sector by mid-2019. We know that there is still a lot of work to be done. It goes without saying that bringing 10 600 people across to the NDIS will not be without its challenges but planning is well underway both locally and nationally to put in place the plans and frameworks needed so that we can achieve full scheme rollout by mid-2019.
This work includes ensuring that the workforce is NDIS-ready. To assist with developing the sector, this Government has engaged with the National Disability Insurance Agency, or NDIA, and National Disability Services, NDS, to identify and prioritise various sector development activities. This includes providing NDS with $250 000 to allow them to continue to implement their workforce development and skills plan. Workforce development activities are already having a positive effect, with information gathered at the end of 2014 showing that the majority of Tasmanian providers have embraced the introduction of the NDIS and have made significant moves towards the new model of disability service provision.
While the NDIS is a major reform in the sector, we know that there is still other work that can be done and we are cognisant that there are others outside of the trial cohort waiting for services. This is why we are providing an additional $2 million to provide services to those outside of the NDIS trial which will provide around 12 000 extra hours of support to these people.
We are also investing $1 million over four years into a longer-term strategy for improved autism care. The increased prevalence of autism spectrum disorder is of great concern and this funding means that we can now develop a road map of care allowing us to work towards earlier diagnosis, assessment and support. This work includes bringing Rethink Autism to Tasmania which will help to unlock the learning potential of children living with autism. The Autism Advisory Panel has also been working closely with Rethink Autism and is now in the process of finalising implementation plans and licensing arrangements for the initial phase-in which will begin in term 2 of the 2015 school year. I want to acknowledge my colleague here today, the Minister for Education, and the great work he is doing in setting up Tasmania’s first autism satellite school at Lindisfarne North in Geilston Bay. That will also commence in the second term.
The development of a joined-up human services support system is something I am very excited about. The community services sector is the fastest growing part of the Australian economy. Over the past six years the community sector has grown at twice the rate of the mining sector. In 2012‑13 turnover was $100 billion; however, despite government funding increasing by more than 60 per cent to $41 billion nationally, demand is still exceeding supply. In Tasmania we fund more than 230 community sector organisations, delivering more than 600 services in Housing, Disability, Community Services and Children and Youth Services. Despite all this, with increasing demand, we cannot keep on doing what we have already done and expect improved results.
Worldwide, and in Victoria and the ACT, governments are looking now at joining up Human Services. A joined-up, outcomes-based, integrated, collaborative service system will be easier to navigate, reduce frustration and duplication, increase engagement, break the cycle, and deliver a pathway out of disadvantage. Under our election commitment, A Hand-up for Vulnerable Tasmanians, the Tasmanian Government articulated the need to work on a long-term plan in partnership with the community sector to deliver a more joined-up human services system. It would provide a shared entry point and assessment for government and community-delivered services, a lead worker for complex cases dedicated to building a network of support around individuals and families, and an outcomes-based focus working with individuals and families on their strengths and goals. Significant work has been undertaken to develop a detailed project proposal. I am pleased to say this work has been undertaken in a consultative and collaborative manner in partnership with the community sector and other government agencies.
I am going to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the many sector and government partners who have put a lot of time and effort into this project. Thank you. Together these groups have developed a shared vision between the Government and the community sector on how a more joined-up system might be achieved over the long term. A project team has now been established and is continuing the development of this project to the next stage. Acting secretary of the DHHS, Mike Pervan, is the sponsor for the initiative, which reflects the significance and importance of this project. The team will continue regular communication on the development of this project with the community sector and other key stakeholders.
This Government is delivering on our plan to make it easier for all Tasmanians to access affordable housing and standing up for the state’s homeless to ensure they have safe and secure accommodation. This is in stark contrast to the previous government that was a plan-free zone on affordable housing. Our response includes the development of a state affordable housing strategy which will provide a clear framework for the next decade. This strategy will address the full spectrum of housing from home ownership, affordable rental, public and community housing, and crisis accommodation. This strategy is underpinned by an increase in the supply of housing through an investment of $43.942 million in 2014-15 into the Housing Tasmania capital program to deliver 363 new dwellings and seven residential lots. This includes $10.4 million towards the construction of the Trinity Hill youth accommodation and training facility, which will create 46 independent and supported living units for young people who would otherwise be homeless.
The state Government will spend $20.2 million on the Housing new projects program this financial year, delivering 206 affordable homes and seven lots of vacant residential land. In addition, 34 new affordable housing dwellings and the commencement of the subdivision of 70 new residential lots will occur under the new supply land transfer program, and there will be $3.9 million from the Housing fund for ongoing support for the National Rental Affordability Scheme rounds 1 to 4, which will deliver 46 new homes.
The Better Housing Futures program is also delivering improved outcomes and in 2014-15 will see the delivery of five new social housing dwellings in Bridgewater, Gagebrook and Herdsmans Cove, 17 new affordable housing dwellings in the same area and 12 new affordable housing dwellings in Clarendon Vale, with the potential for some of these to be onsold. Additionally, the state Government has relaunched HomeShare, which has already assisted 86 households into home ownership through the program to the end of January 2015.
We have also revised the Streets Ahead Incentive Program to be consistent with HomeShare. There are now increased asset and income limits and all public housing tenants can access Streets Ahead if they can afford a loan. This Government is helping more Tasmanians to achieve the great Australian dream of having their own home.
We have also continued our support of Housing Connect so our clients can access everything from emergency accommodation, brokerage and private rental assistance to social housing and support at the one location. Housing Connect is also piloting the new Tenancy Guarantee program where in addition to the bond, $1 500 is available to assist 100 vulnerable Tasmanian households who are having difficulty securing private rental accommodation even though their income is sufficient to cover the rent. Priority for the Tenancy Guarantee will be given to families who are homeless and unable to secure housing.
The state Government is also currently exploring a site to purchase for the development of a youth housing facility in the north-west, which will be similar to other facilities around the state, in particular Thyne House in Launceston and the Trinity Hill youth accommodation and training facility development in Hobart. These facilities will provide long-term supported accommodation for young people.
The Liberal Government is also a passionate supporter of our fantastic 34 neighbourhood houses in Tasmania, which is why we are providing an additional funding of $1.7 million over two years on top of the $4.6 million already committed, $4 million in capital investment, $100 000 for start up food cooperatives and $300 000 for grassroots mental health response. These vitally important grassroots organisations have, in an average week, over 7 600 participants and over 600 community volunteers, averaging 3 880 volunteer hours.
In my portfolio we are getting on with the job of ensuring all children in Tasmania have every opportunity to be healthy, happy, well educated and have a chance to live their lives and raise their own families in Tasmania. Ensuring the health, wellbeing and future of all Tasmania’s children and young people is a priority for this Government and should be a responsibility shared by parents, the community and all layers of government. We are committed to playing our part in supporting children and their families and our election commitments are already delivering on these outcomes.
The primary focus of the Government’s plan for children, young people and families is early intervention and support to assist families to address problems and stay together. Work has been undertaken on a range of important initiatives, which are aimed at improving the lives of Tasmanian families, including a new investment of $300 000 to strengthen short-term respite care and support services, as well as a new investment of $360 000 for a pre-placement process into out-of-home-care assessments. Both of these initiatives were funded in the 2014-15 State Budget committing to continue Tasmania’s family support services and the family support Gateway.
We are developing a vulnerable baby and infant strategy; strengthening the role of the Commissioner for Children and extending the tenure; investing $5.3 million over three years into a statewide network of youth justice programs to break the cycle of youth crime which includes working in partnership with Save the Children to expand its youth justice diversion programs; developing a new framework to strengthen support for vulnerable children through out-of-home care reform; supporting Tasmanians affected by sexual assault through additional investment into professional training and expansion of the after-hours services; strengthening delivery of Child and Youth Services to families in the north-west through co-location of professional teams; funding a new parent advocacy service that provides families in the child protection system with better access to advice and support; and investing additional funding to family support services, including $500 000 to support the recently opened Kentish Family Support Service.
These commitments demonstrate that this Government is willing to partner with families and communities to ensure Tasmanian children and young people have every opportunity. We know there are no silver bullets and I do not underestimate the challenge ahead. However, with open communication, ongoing discussion with parents, carers, children and staff and involvement of these stakeholders in decision-making, we can focus our collective energy and create the optimum culture and organisational environment to build a better future for Tasmanian children, young people and their families.
Over the following year I look forward to being able to deliver on many more outcomes for Tasmanians, especially in Child Protection Services. In CPS this includes a major cultural shift that is largely focused on engaging and supporting families earlier, providing every opportunity and chance for families to stay together and keep their children safely at home. This is a positive step towards achieving improved partnerships between children and young people, their families and carers as well as government and community partners. This less adversarial approach coupled with the ongoing implementation of the Signs of Safety program, the current reform of the out-of-home care and a statewide redesign of service delivery are steps we are taking to building a new approach to Child Protection Services delivery.
This Government is also committed to ensuring that workers feel valued and supported through the establishment of multidisciplinary teams that create team ownership of cases as well as increase the focus on family support as a priority, because it has been shown to us that if it is just one person in charge of a case, it is harder on the person than if there is a whole team, especially cases that involve a high degree of complexity.
One of our key commitments over the past 12 months was to reinstate the authority provided to the role of Commissioner for Children. This Government has always desired the role to be filled by a dedicated and passionate professional who can provide strong advocacy support for Tasmanian children and young people. When we came to Government we advertised the position with a tenure of five years instead of three and a strengthened statement of duties that made it clear that changes were being made across the scope and responsibility of the role.
I am sure members will recall the announcement back in October last year confirming that Mr Mark Morrissey had commenced in the role. Mr Morrissey has extensive and demonstrated experienced as an effective leader and change agent across a wide range of child-related community and acute services. I have had many discussions and meetings with him over the past months and sincerely look forward to more in the coming year. He has a very exciting work plan that will be rolled out. The recommendations of the Advocacy for Children in Tasmania Committee are currently being progressed, including the drafting of the stand-alone legislation as recommended by the ACTC report.
Since becoming Minister for Women it has been fantastic over this last year to deliver a number of achievements in this portfolio. These include providing the first benchmark Women and Girls in Tasmania report which was released in September last year, the first biennial publication to track progress of women and girls in key areas in Tasmania, highlighting where attention may be required and enabling the Government to shape its focus in relation to the Women’s portfolio.
The data on family violence is of great concern. I recognise that the extent of family violence and sexual violence across Australia continues to be a challenge for government at the national and state level, especially as it is the most significant economic, employment, housing, disability and health issue affecting women aged 15 to 45 years. Significant work has been undertaken in respect to the national plan to reduce violence against women, including the release of the new Daisy app at 12 o’clock today, which is available on Google and from iStore. The Daisy app is an app the Tasmanian Government was involved in developing to help Tasmanian women to get the help they need if they are experiencing violence.
A strong focus of the national plan is to drive whole-of-community action to prevent violence. The Tasmanian Government endorsed the second action national plan on 29 June last year and on 13 March I will be officially launching the Tasmanian second implementation plan, Moving Ahead, at Glenorchy. This plan looks at working with specific communities to better understand the diverse experience of violence, improving perpetrator intervention, supporting innovative services and building our evidence base of what works.
The Government is prepared to do what is needed to ensure government services work together in a more cohesive way to achieve a significant and sustained reduction in violence and sexual assault against all Tasmanians, particularly women and their children. As all members would be aware, family violence and sexual violence are primarily perpetrated against women. We know that one in three women experience family violence during their lifetime and that 61 per cent of family violence cases involve children. On average, a woman in this country dies every week from violence inflicted by a current or past partner. Sadly, already this year we have had over 17 women killed by their partners or ex‑partners across Australia, bringing the national average now to two domestic violence deaths a week. This situation is utterly unacceptable and we are determined to improve these statistics. Addressing family violence and sexual abuse is a cultural issue. It is not a women’s issue, nor is it solely the Government’s responsibility; it is an issue we are all responsible for.
I want to pay tribute to my parliamentary colleagues, especially Lara Giddings MP and Cassy O’Connor MP for their support and passion in joining with me to take action by saying domestic violence has to stop – enough is enough. I also want to acknowledge the Premier, the Leader of the Opposition and Mr Booth for taking part in a tripartisan motion last year.
In Tasmania over the past decade there has been only a minuscule improvement in reported family violence statistics. In 2004-05, 4 095 events were recorded and in 2013-14, 4 071 events were recorded. This is not good enough and that is why we need to do more to fix these statistics.
In the area of women’s leadership contributions to the state and community have often gone unrecognised, so I am pleased to advise members that a presentation event for the 2015 inductees to the Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women will be held on Friday 27 March, an event I am eagerly looking forward to. On Tuesday I met with the Tasmanian Women’s Council to discuss their work plan for 2015 which focuses on supporting Tasmania’s gender equity framework, the Tasmanian Women’s Plan 2013‑18. I would like to thank the members of the council for their commitment, dedication and enthusiasm for equality for women.
This Government knows the importance women play within our society. We know all people prosper when women are equal participants. Equal participation of women is critical to reducing economic disadvantage, enhancing economic growth and democratic governance and increasing the wellbeing of women, girls and their families. I, the Government and I am sure all members of this House are committed to continue to engage with women and to hear and respond to their views.
In conclusion, we are now headed in the right direction and our job this year is to build on the momentum. Our first year record speaks for itself and shows what can be achieved by a strong, focused majority government. There are no silver bullets, it is still early days and there is still a lot to be done, but we will always work hard and listen to our community as we deliver on our long-term plan for our wonderful state. I commend the Premier’s Address to the House.