APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1) 2020 (No. 46)

Second Reading

Wednesday 18 November 2020

[12.27 p.m.]

Mrs PETRUSMA (Franklin) – Mr Deputy Speaker, it is my pleasure and honour to speak today in response to the Tasmanian Liberal Government’s seventh Budget.  First, I take this opportunity to recognise, acknowledge and applaud our Premier and Treasurer, Peter Gutwein, and all the Cabinet for having delivered yet another budget that will rebuild a stronger Tasmania.

This Budget is especially crucial during this unprecedented time of this pandemic as it will rebuild our economy, create jobs and continue to invest in essential services and protect our way of life, which is why our 2020-21 Tasmanian Budget is all about jobs, confidence and community, rebuilding a stronger Tasmania.

This COVID-19 pandemic has been the largest shock in generations to our way of life, our society, our economy and our budget, which is why this Government moved swiftly to put in place measures at our borders and in the community to save lives and leverage our strong balance sheet to save livelihoods.  These immediate steps, difficult as they were, enabled us to control the spread of this insidious disease and in recent months they have allowed us to return in a staged and careful way to a more normal, albeit a COVID-19 normal, way of life.

Throughout this year Tasmanians have shown and demonstrated great compassion, courage and resilience and I want to commend Tasmanians for what they have done throughout these many months and put on the record today that I sincerely thank them all, because going forward the challenge we face will require all Tasmanians to work together as we face what I see are the two main elements.  What we are going through at the moment is both a health crisis and an economic crisis and we must deal with both and the road ahead will not be easy.

There are things that we cannot control, as the Premier has outlined, such as volatility in international markets or how soon a vaccine may become available, however what we can control is how we respond to this situation – our health response and our economic response.

I applaud the Premier because he has made it very clear that we can never tax our way to prosperity, nor can we cut our way to recovery.  The only way we can rebuild a stronger and more resilient Tasmania is to invest heavily to support jobs, to regain confidence and to rebuild our economy and our community. 

That is why, in addition to COVID-19 support measures, the 2020‑21 Budget will provide the economic platform needed to rebuild Tasmania, including allocating $5 billion towards building the infrastructure our state needs.  It will support around 25 000 jobs.  It will build the intergenerational infrastructure our state needs to thrive, and it will provide the economic stimulus to return our budget to surplus in two years.  This will increase confidence, grow our economy, attract investment, support jobs and rebuild a stronger Tasmania.

As Saul Eslake, well known economist, stated in regard to the Budget –

It has been presented in the circumstances which are radically different from those which have confronted any Tasmanian government in living memory.  The overall conclusion is that this Budget is an appropriate response to the circumstances which the Government is confronting.

As the Mercury editorial stated –

With interest rates at an all time low it is the right time to spend and as we have said before Mr Gutwein has carte blanche to fork out the cash.  With a planned $5 billion infrastructure spend Mr Gutwein says he is throwing the kitchen sink at our recovery and that is what is needed.

Matthew Pollock, Executive Director, Master Builders Tasmania, said –

Premier Peter Gutwein is committed to building our way out of this economic crisis and today’s State Budget makes good on that pledge with construction put at the centre of our recovery strategy.  Construction will be our economic accelerator and a jobs generator.

Stuart Collins, Executive Director, Housing Industry Association, commented –

The Government has handed down a Budget designed to increase confidence, grow our economy, attract investments, support jobs and rebuild a stronger Tasmania.

Rachel Matthewson, the CEO of the Civil Contractors Federation, said –

The uncertainty around COVID has dramatically impacted on market confidence in Tasmania.  By announcing a record investment in infrastructure the Government has laid the foundation for our economy’s recovery.  Our members are looking forward to building infrastructure that will serve the community for generations to come as a result of today’s Budget.

This Government is backing Tasmanian businesses, supporting their recovery and growth and making it easier for them to employ.  Rob Mallett, the Executive Officer of the Tasmanian Small Business Council, stated –

Tasmanian Budget, whilst forged in the fires of the world’s worst crisis in 100 years provides unprecedented opportunity for the Tasmanian small business sector.

I note funding of $145 million in 2020‑21 has been allocated to a central COVID-19 provision to support the response measures of the Premier’s Economic and Social Recovery Advisory Council (PESRAC), by supporting businesses, stimulating economic activity through improving the environment, creating regional jobs and supporting young people into training and apprenticeships.  Of the $145 million, $50 million has been allocated to initiatives to support businesses, jobs and our economy, support the cultural and performing arts sector, improve our environment and invest in public housing infrastructure upgrades.

This Government will also transition the Government fleet to electric vehicles by 2030 and Michael Bushby, President of Roads Australia, stated –

RA also applauds the Budget’s announcement of a target for electric vehicles by committing to transition its own fleet by 2030 and in investing in charging network infrastructure the Tasmanian Government is helping to provide the community with greater confidence about EV technology that will be central to increased uptake.

I also note that $30 million will be invested into circular economy initiatives including a container deposit scheme, waste action plan and waste recycling and re‑use facilities.  As Mayor Christina Holmdahl, the President of the Local Government Association of Tasmania, stated –

The commitment of $4 million to implement the waste action plan, $10 million to co‑invest with the waste management sector and recycling infrastructure and $5.5 million to match the Commonwealth Government’s recycling modernisation fund are most welcome by the local government sector.  The targeted investment in the collection and sorting of recycling combined with funding to support improved resource processing will serve Tasmania very well from a jobs and resource recovery perspective.

As importantly our investments in Tasmania’s renewable energy future will not only have the potential to create thousands of jobs and to help our economy, but confirms our commitment to transform Tasmania from not only being Australia’s renewable energy powerhouse, but to also being the world leader of clean, reliable and affordable energy with a 200 per cent target by 2040.  We will also invest $168.7 million dollars for Tasmanian Irrigation to build the next tranche of our Pipeline to Prosperity Irrigation Project state-wide which will greatly assist agriculture in Tasmania.  I note that Peter Skillen, CEO of TFGA, stated –

The state budget has once again shown the government’s support for agriculture in the state in conjunction with recent announcements the total package for agriculture is to be warmly welcomed.

The Government recognises the valuable investment businesses make in training the next generation of Tasmanian workers.  To assist this valuable investment of Tassie businesses we are investing more than $43 million to boost jobs for apprentices and trainees in Tasmania, to give businesses the confidence to employ more Tasmanians.  This includes $10.5 million towards the Australian government’s $21 million dollar job trainer fund, delivering up to 7000 additional free training places specifically for youth and the unemployed.

Angela Bennet, CEO of Master Plumbers Tasmania, has welcomed the government’s job training fund initiative.  It means that up 7000 Tasmanians have a chance to kick start their career. 

Peter Cornish, CEO of Fruit Growers Tasmania, said the budget job training initiative which would target school leavers, young people and job seekers, builds on the recent joint efforts between the fruit industry and the Tasmanian government to promote the job opportunities available to locals in the fruit industry. 

I note that YNOT also welcomes the Tasmanian government’s investment in job creation for apprentices, trainees, and youth employees.

To ensure our businesses are incentivised to hire apprentices and trainees, we will extend our successful payroll tax rebate scheme and small business apprentice and trainee grant scheme for a further 12 months until June 30 2022 and we will broaden these schemes to all industries.  This will be an investment of more than $22 million to significantly boost jobs for apprentices, trainees and youth employees.  We will also extend the payroll tax rebate for all youth employees for a further 18 months from the end of the year until 30 June 2022.  These schemes are already supporting nearly 4000 apprentices, trainees and young people and we expect that these initiatives will support an additional 4000 new full time jobs for apprentice, trainees and youth employees.

We also recognise that we need to do more, particularly to attract and support more women into non-traditional roles, with these sectors set to play a vital part of supporting our recovery.  That is why the 2020-2021 budget includes $2.5 million over two years to develop a statewide program to enable and empower more women to participate more broadly across our economy.  To achieve this, our Government will work with peak industry bodies and skills and training providers to support women to train and to enter roles in industry. We will also support employers to help them develop the skills that they need to succeed to shift community and employee perceptions of traditionally male dominated industries.

There are specific initiatives in Southern Tasmania which greatly assist my electorate in Franklin.  I note our Government has committed $85 million for the construction of the new southern remand centre on the Risdon site, including an additional $15 million in this budget.  Also, the State Budget has $19.7 million over four years to meet the additional operational costs associated with the remand centre.  The construction of the centre is well under way and is expected to be completed at the end of 2021.  This additional funding is being provided to ensure that the centre will be ready to open after construction has been completed.  Funding of $9.3 million is also provided to upgrade shared facilities at the Risdon Prison.

I commend Dogs’ Homes of Tasmania at Risdon Vale, and thank them for their great work in caring for and re-homing dogs.  I was delighted the minister locked in $200 000 to assist them with critical upgrades over the 2020-21 period.  This vital infrastructure improvement will help Dogs’ Homes Tasmania to meet projected demand into the future, and as importantly, ensuring that dogs have a safe refuge to be cared for and to be re-homed. 

Tasmanians love their pets and we have one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the country.  Dogs are a very important part of many Tasmanians’ lives.  I am the owner of two dogs.  I know Michael Sertori, CEO of Dogs Homes Tasmania, was delighted with this funding,  and as he said –

In challenging times it is extremely difficult to fund organisations such as ours yet in this budget the Gutwein Government has had the courage to not only fund high level economic activity but also small project activity within the animal welfare sector.

In regard to high level economic activity, both the east and western shores of Franklin will also benefit from our massive $2.4 billion state roads and bridges program which will support jobs, give the construction and engineering sector the confidence it needs to keep employing Tasmanians and will continue to improve safety and travel times on our roads.

Michael Bushby, the president of Roads Australia, stated –

Tasmania’s road network will be safer and more sustainable as a result of the record level of infrastructure investment in today’s Tasmanian State Budget. 

Stacey Pennicott, Chief Member Experience Officer RACT said –

This budget delivers on the Government’s key commitments around road funding. 

Some of the many projects include:  $65 million to match funding from the federal budget with a $130 million Tasman Bridge project, which will improve pedestrian and cyclist safety and provide future traffic growth through the installation of new smart transport management systems.  This includes road travel information, variable message boards and automated and dynamic tidal flow for the Tasman Bridge.

There is also $20 million as the first investment into the $37 million duplication of the Midway Point and Sorell causeways to complement the $150 million in funding from the federal budget.  We are also investing $46.5 million together with the Australia Government for the Hobart Airport interchange which is part of the now $350 million South East Traffic Solution, which will deliver a continuous four-lane highway from Hobart through to Sorell.

There is also $175.5 million over four years with the Australian Government for the Greater Hobart Traffic Solution, including funding to address congestion in Kingborough; a fifth lane on the Southern Outlet, the Derwent River ferry service trial; Kingborough park and ride facilities; bus improvements and prioritisation measures; active transport upgrades and improvements to Macquarie and Davey streets and $23 million for Intelligent Traffic Systems around the Greater Hobart area, enabling the road network to be more resilient and to accommodate traffic changes arising from unplanned events.

Other road, bridge and infrastructure projects to be funded in Franklin include $23.2 million for the duplication of the East Derwent Highway at Geilston Bay, including COVID‑19 stimulus funding for improved local road connections; $6.5 million for the final stages of the Richmond Road upgrades; $7.5 million dollar for the Channel Highway diversion at Huonville; $7 million for the Sandfly intersection upgrade on the Huon Highway and $7.5 million for the Bruny Island landside infrastructure.

Through the 2020‑21 State Budget focusing on the infrastructure and services that Tasmanians need now and into the future, we will create and support the jobs and confidence needed to recover and rebuild, including in our tourism industry where I note that the Tasmanian Liberal Government is committing almost $10 million towards upgrading the Hobart International Airport, which is part of a $17.5 million plan in partnership with the airport’s owners to upgrade the infrastructure and to facilitate its international border arrangements.  It is fantastic that in the future, Tasmania will be welcoming international flights from New Zealand for the first time in more than two decades.

This will provide a boost for local jobs across tourism as well as more jobs at the airport.  As the upgrades take place, this will set Hobart Airport up for a big positive future for locals and visitors alike while also stimulating our economy and creating jobs.  As Matt Cocker, the acting CEO of the Hobart Airport stated:

Welcoming direct international flights will be a massive shot in the arm for the tourism sector and the economy more broadly.  In addition to that, the upgrades themselves will be a great stimulus for the local economy.

I also note that the 2020‑21 State Budget also includes a record $9.8 billion in health spending over the next four years and I commend the minister who is here today, Ms Courtney, because this is a record investment by any Tasmanian Government.  It is unprecedented resourcing for our health system that is recruiting record staffing, opening beds and investing in the facilities our patients and staff deserve.

This is $1.7 billion more than in last year’s budget, a 21 per cent increase and is operational expenditure on top of the $391.2 million capital program being delivered across Tasmania, which includes $89.8 million to continue stage 2 of the Royal Hobart Hospital redevelopment, including an expanded ED and ICU.  This is the biggest-ever uplift in health spending and it also includes $600 million of additional funding to the Tasmanian Health Service over the next four years and a boost to our funding base that will help meet the demand in our hospitals and will underpin improved health outcomes.

In addition to this, we are providing a $45 million injection into elective surgery, taking our additional investment to $60 million.  I thank the Commonwealth Government for the $15 million that they have also provided towards this fund.  This funding will provide an estimated 8500 additional surgeries over the next 18 months, above and beyond what was already due to be delivered.

The Government and the THS are also committed to meeting demand in our hospitals with $50.2 million over the next two years to support staff and beds in our major hospitals.  This is in addition to $299 million over four years to continue the rollout of the 250 new beds at the Royal Hobart Hospital.  I note there is $11.9 million for extra graduate nurses.  As a registered nurse, I think this is fantastic.  It will allow for about 60 additional extra graduate nurses for the south, and $11.4 million is also in the Budget for the Community Rapid Response Service, including the southern pilot. 

It is crucial that we support care for patients and their families when they need it most, and I am also delighted to see that we are delivering further funding of $1 million over two years for Palliative Care Tasmania.  Also, to further support the delivery of cancer related services and programs during the COVID-19 response and recovery period, there will also be $500 000 for the Cancer Council of Tasmania in 2021, as well as $2.9 million over two years to support our other very hardworking community healthcare providers.

I also note that the minister has also been firmly committed to ensuring our regional communities have modern health facilities for staff and patients, which is why the Budget will deliver $24.4 million over the next two years to upgrade and renovate regional health and ambulance facilities, including in my electorate of Franklin.  The upgrade of the Cygnet Community Health Centre and the Huonville Community Health Centre will enable the delivery of better care for our patients and modern infrastructure for our staff. 

There is also $4.1 million for mental health integration and reform; $4 million for reforming Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services; $4.9 million to implement alcohol and drug sector reform; $19.8 million to build 27 new mental health beds in southern Tasmania and $21.6 million for a new human resources information system.

As Dr Helen McArdle, the president of the AMA Tasmania said –

AMA Tasmania has valued the approach taken by the Government in guiding our State and the health system through COVID-19.  It has been critical for our clinicians to know that access to funds was not going to be an issue when dealing with this insidious virus. 

We support the government’s commitment to funding investment into the State health sector.  We could not as a State or as a health system have coped with cuts to state government expenditure at a time when the economy is fragile, and demand for health services is increasing.  [OK]

Paul Lupo, the CEO of St Luke’s Health, stated –

The funding boost for elective surgery and mental health support would go a long way to tackling some of the challenges the Tasmanian community faces.

Dr Scott Fletcher, the vice president of the AMA, said:

Any increase in funding for elective surgery is welcomed as this will help us to manage waiting lists. 

Connie Digolis, the CEO of the Mental Health Council of Tasmania, also welcomed the Tasmanian Government’s ongoing commitment to reforming the state’s mental health system, as demonstrated through the funding announced in the 2020‑21 State Budget –

This Budget is a clear acknowledgement by the Tasmanian Government of the need to create an integrated system that supports the mental health and wellbeing of all Tasmanians. 

I note that the Youth Network of Tasmania (YNOT) also welcomes the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) reform, supporting the mental health and wellbeing of students impacted by trauma and a new youth at risk centre in Launceston.

Adrienne Piccone, the Chief Executive Officer of TasCOSS said –

The Government’s welcome shift towards prioritising investment in people’s health and wellbeing throughout the COVID-19 recovery is evident in this Budget. 

I note too that there is also $350 000 in this Budget for TasCOSS to assist the community sector to adapt and respond to COVID-19. 

I also note that the Tasmanian Government is also investing a record $7.5 billion over the forward Estimates into education and training as part of our plan to rebuild a stronger Tasmania.  We know that education is a major contributor to improving social and economic outcomes in our state, including health, happiness, life-expectancy and productivity.  That is why this Budget will be continuing to employ additional staff in Government schools, in line with our commitment of 358 more staff, including 250 additional teachers by the end of 2024. 

This Budget includes $38.9 million to employ 87.25 teacher FTEs which will have the benefit of reducing the instructional load for primary school teachers by about one hour per week and will also enable teachers to have more time to spend on lesson planning.  A further $12.8 million will also be invested in an additional 35 quality teaching coaches, including six new lead numeracy coaches for 2021 and a further 29 coaches for 2022.

Investment in this Budget will also continue to support Learners to Succeed, with $36 million to continue our commitment of expanding all government schools to year 12.  I note that a total of 47 schools have already been extended to year 12 with a further nine to commence in 2021, leaving just one to be extended in 2022.

Other significant educational investments in the 2020-21 Budget include $6.6 million to engage and empower our learners in senior secondary education through providing flexible learning pathways to and from years 9 to 12 with a focus on school-based apprenticeships.  There is $1.2 million to engage parents as partners in student learning by providing families with greater access to information on their child’s progress and achievements.  There is also $3.2 million for the student system renewal, including a case management platform to deliver a cross-agency view of learners facing vulnerability.

There is $53 million across the forward Estimates for the educational adjustments model for students with disability to continue building participation engagement for students with disability.  There is also $4.4 million for the Adult Learning Strategy and $14 million to expand the Student Assistance Scheme which waives the cost of government school levies for eligible students, and $14 million for supporting mental health and wellbeing in our schools including students impacted by trauma.

On top of all of this, there is $222 million for new and upgraded schools, training centres and IT infrastructure, including $3.6 million for the redevelopment of the Southern Support School in Howrah and $28 million for six new Child and Family Learning Centres statewide including in Kingborough.

The importance of education and supporting our learners has been further highlighted following the challenges of COVID-19.  A commitment to improving education and supporting our economic recovery is evident in this Budget and again I commend the minister and the Premier on these initiatives.  These initiatives also support PESRAC’s recommendations of accelerating existing strategies to deliver improved educational opportunities that meet individual student needs and also provide clear pathways to jobs as well as supporting our most vulnerable students across all sectors.

As the Australian Education Union (Tasmania) said:

Having recognised the increasing number of students with trauma in our schools last year, it is most welcome to see an increase in funding in this budget to begin addressing the complex needs of students affected.

The Tasmanian Government deserves to be commended for committing to needs-based funding in our schools – it’s a common sense, fair funding approach. 

On top of all of this, the 2020-21 State Budget also includes a range of targeted investments totalling more than $13 million into our public training provider, including $2 million to employ more teachers in areas of high demand.  An extra 10 teachers will be employed across a range of courses including aged care, electrotechnology, plumbing, allied trades and nursing.

We are also continuing our strong investment in TasTAFE infrastructure, with $4 million in this Budget for upgrades to IT infrastructure to futureproof our training provider.  The funding will support switch and server upgrades, a new wi-fi network statewide and support the implementation of critical systems including teacher competency records and work placement management.  These upgrades are vital to support digital innovation at TasTAFE and to support TasTAFE’s move to become a more agile training provider which delivers flexible training for students.

I note that an additional $7 million has been allocated in the Budget towards TasTAFE’s Energy Trades and Water Centre of Excellence in my electorate of Franklin at Warrane, which will increase our student enrolment capacity and deliver the skills needed to rebuild Tasmania.  This brings the total investment for this facility now to $21 million.

With regard to housing, the Tasmanian Liberal Government has continued to rebuild a stronger Tasmania with our record investment in new social and affordable housing to continue in the 2020 State Budget.  Overall, the Budget includes more than $300 million to deliver new housing and homelessness initiatives which will help some of our most vulnerable while creating jobs, growing our economy and strengthening our communities in every region.  This includes locking in the $100 million investment announced as part of our construction blitz which will build up to 1000 new homes over three years with an EOI currently under way.  The new homes will be delivered where Tasmanians need them most whilst supporting local economies in their recovery from COVID-19.  This is a great outcome and forms a crucial part of our record investment into infrastructure across the state that will create jobs and opportunities for Tasmanians. 

I note as well that this Budget also includes $16.8 million to extend the Safe Space program as a 24/7 wraparound service in Burnie, Launceston and Hobart.  This will allow the program to run through to June 2022, with over $6 million of this investment used to continue to deliver general health and mental health support to people experiencing homelessness. 

This comprehensive housing package also builds on the exceptional work done to date since we commenced our Affordable Housing Strategy by locking in the operating expenditure for key projects and continuing the rollout of the Government’s second Affordable Housing Action Plan and in southern Tasmania includes more than $10 million for a new Hobart youth foyer including operating costs, more than $22 million for new supported accommodation facilities around Hobart, and the delivery of the Huntingfield land release project, a subdivision that will provide around 470 residential lots.

Overall our Affordable Housing Strategy has seen more than 2400 households supported into housing that suits their needs.  I note that the waiver of the Commonwealth housing debt will also assist a further 400 households into suitable accommodation including the construction of 300 new social housing dwellings. 

As well, the State Budget also allocates $15 million to public housing heating and energy efficiency initiatives to ease cost-of-living pressures for tenants, reduce emissions and create jobs.  This will include completing the Government’s program of replacing inefficient direct electric and gas heating in all public housing stock with energy-efficient heat pumps where it is appropriate and viable to do so.  We will also begin a program to progressively replace existing standard electric hot water systems with new heat pump hot water cylinders.

Pattie Chugg, the CEO of Shelter Tasmania, has welcomed the State Government’s 2020‑21 Budget with increased spending for social housing and homelessness services.  She says –

A building-led recovery will help increase jobs and create more affordable homes for Tasmanians.  Today’s announcement that $300M over four years will be spent on social and affordable housing will provide certainty and a pipeline for new construction.  Shelter Tas welcomes this clear commitment to increasing much-needed public and community housing across the state. 

With a quiet confidence and cautious optimism Tasmania is returning to a more normal way of life.  We will continue to take action with the levers we have to keep us safe and to provide security, certainty and confidence for Tasmanians, our businesses and our community. 

Once again, I congratulate the Premier and his Cabinet for delivering a solid and sensible Budget as we recover from the greatest challenge of our generation, the coronavirus pandemic.