Budget Reply Speech
Member for Franklin, The Hon. Jacquie Petrusma MP
Wednesday 4 June 2015

Mr Deputy Speaker, it gives me pleasure to speak on the Liberal Government’s second state Budget.  There is no doubt Tasmania is finally moving in the right direction.  Under our long-term plan the economy is growing, jobs are being created and we are getting the state’s finances back on track so that, most importantly, we can continue to invest into essential services now and into the future.  This Budget, like our first, gets the balance right.  It is a measured and a responsible approach and continues the Government’s commitment to and support of Tasmania’s most vulnerable.

Once again this Budget provides around $300 million worth of concessions to Tasmanians and also continues to fill the nearly $9 million funding gap left by the Federal Government last year and ensures that those who receive concessions continue to receive them.

The Government passionately wants to rebuild essential human services to give vulnerable Tasmanians the support they need.  Many of the services that are helping to make the biggest difference in the lives of families and individuals right across the state are provided by community sector organisations.  This Government respects the work they do and we are committed to supporting the sector to deliver better outcomes for Tasmanians in need, whether that be young people at risk, people with disability or those living with autism.  This Budget will provide record funding of $255.28 million to over 230 community sector organisations which in turn provide around 440 services to Tasmanians, especially our most vulnerable.

I would like to thank all the community sector organisations at TasCOSS last Thursday evening who came up to me after the session and expressed their gratitude for the Government’s honouring our election commitment on maintaining indexation at 2.25 per cent, unlike the previous government who took an election commitment to indexation and then slashed it by a third.  They also thanked us that in line with our election commitments we also provided additional funding to the community sector of $2 million of the $9 million election commitment, equating to about 0.84 per cent, which on top of indexation of 2.25 per cent equals around 3.09 per cent extra funding to assist our community sector organisations.  One organisation pointed out to me that at 3.09 per cent, especially when the Hobart CPI was only 1.7 per cent, they were very grateful this Government was looking after the sector.

We are also providing significant funding to help those organisations to meet their obligations under the Fair Work Australia Equal Remuneration Order, or ERO.  More than $93 million is committed in this Budget and over the forward Estimates to meet ERO costs, funds that will go directly to those Tasmanians helping our most vulnerable.

One initiative of which I am extremely proud is the One Door project.  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 over $100 billion.  However, despite Government funding increasing by over 60 per cent, demand is still exceeding supply.  Therefore we know we cannot keep on doing what we have always done and expect improved results.  Worldwide, in Victoria and in the ACT, governments are looking at joining up 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 for Tasmanians.

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 that provides for vulnerable Tasmanians a one-door 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, as well as an outcomes-based focus working with individuals and families on their strengths and goals.

A large body of work has been completed on this project during phase 1 over the past year with the community sector and government partners contributing a lot of time to this project by joining the design group, participating as members of a working group, participating in an online survey that received over 600 responses and attending a regional focus group.  Our second Budget now delivers an extra $1.2 million over the next two years to implement phase 2 of this project, including a range of initiatives that will trial innovative approaches to working with families and individuals.  Phase 2 of the project is called One Door and will focus on taking a holistic view by placing individuals and families at the centre of service delivery.  This no-wrong-door approach will mean that those most vulnerable will have better access to the right support at the right time; they will experience less duplication and red tape and will not have to continually retell their story time and time again.  They will also be supported to build self-capacity and resilience so they can move out and stay out of disadvantage.  The five initiatives funded in this Budget and overseen by a high-level One Door project oversight steering committee are, first of all, a person-based initiative targeting individuals and families with multiple and complex needs with an inclusive, outcomes-based case coordination system.  Second, there will be a service improvement initiative assessing the effectiveness of earlier intervention through a lead worker, and a case coordination approach to families with children at risk.  Three, there will be a place-based initiative building on the information-sharing and service delivery models currently being developed in the Huon Valley.  Four, there will be a systems-based initiative exploring and testing electronic management platforms to support the front end of an integrated client management approach and the back end for improved service planning.  Five, there will be a privacy legislation scan reviewing what is possible under current legislation in sharing personal information for improved service practice and de-identified data for research and planning.  These projects have been identified in consultation with the community sector and other government agencies.

Together we have developed a shared vision between the Government and the community sector and how a more joined-up service system will look like now and incrementally over the long term.  Today I want to say a big thankyou to all the community sector and all the government employees who have been taking part in the reform to date and for their efforts into the future.

For Tasmanians living with disability the Budget will take us another step closer to the full implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme – the NDIS.  The first stage providing support to around 1 000 young people aged 15-24 with disability will be delivered in the coming financial year, with transition to the full scheme then occurring from 2016‑17 to 2019-20.  Around 10 600 Tasmanians are expected to benefit from the NDIS when it is fully implemented in 2019‑20.  This Budget commits almost $93 million over the next four years to assist with the introduction of the NDIS and Tasmania will contribute an estimated $232 million to the NDIS in 2019-20 when it reaches full scheme.  On top of this commitment, a further $1.5 million will provide additional support to those living with disability who fall outside the 15-24 year-old cohort of the NDIS.  Another $250 000 will be invested into National Disability Services to help them to deliver the workforce needed for the full rollout.

We are also continuing to support the Elder Abuse Awareness program and Gambling Support.  Both of these programs have had positive effects, providing great benefit to our community.  That is why this year we will see $284 000 invested in supporting the Elder Abuse Prevention Strategy, which is an extra $134 000 on top of the $150 000 budgeted for as part of our election commitment of $450 000 over three years in funding.  These funds are to continue programs that ensure older Tasmanians are supported and protected from abuse, demonstrating our strong ongoing commitment to education, prevention and raising public awareness of elder abuse.  The additional ongoing funding of $134 000 per year for the Tasmanian Elder Abuse Hotline is now in place for the next three years.  This means the Government will spend around $1.1 million between 2014-15 and 2017-18 to protect the interests of vulnerable older Tasmanians.

We have also developed the Gambling Support Program Strategic Framework 2014-19 which provides an overarching platform for the gambling support program strategic direction, and the planning and delivery of innovative and contemporary initiatives.  We have also 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 our general practitioners.  This resource will enhance the capacity of GPs to identify and respond to people presenting with gambling issues.

The state Government is also committed to delivering a statewide continuum of care from birth to childhood for children with autism spectrum disorder and has convened an advisory panel to develop a long-term strategy.  In this Budget, ongoing work on this strategy will receive $800 000 over three years.

In the portfolio of children and youth services, work has been undertaken on a range of important initiatives which are aimed at improving the lives of Tasmanian families, including continued investment to strengthen short-time respite care and support services, as well as investment into a pre-placement process for children moving into out-of-home care.  The additional funding for respite support services has enabled Gateway Services to offer an additional 400 bed nights of respite per year to families in need of extra support.

We have also spent a lot of time developing a vulnerable babies and infants strategy, which was recently released for final consultation with stakeholders across antenatal, child health, child protection and child mental health services.  The development of this strategy has been an unparalleled statewide collaboration, and is an excellent example of the positive results that can be achieved when government agencies work constructively and effectively together.

We are also strengthening the role of the Commissioner for Children, including extending the tenure, in addition to the creation of stand-alone legislation.  We are continuing to invest $5.3 million from 2014-17 into a statewide network of youth justice programs to break the cycle of youth crime.  This includes working in partnership with Save the Children to expand its youth justice diversion programs.

We are developing a new framework to strengthen support for vulnerable children through out-of-home care reform, with phase 1 ready for implementation from July.  We are supporting Tasmanians affected by sexual assault through additional investment into professional training expansion of the after-hours services.  We are strengthening the delivery of child and youth services to families in the north-west through co-location of professional teams, and we are establishing an independent process to review child death and serious injury.  Tasmania will no longer be the only Australian jurisdiction without an independent mechanism for reviewing child deaths.  As well, we are investigating measures that allow for early consideration of long-term placement options for children.

These commitments demonstrate that this Government wants to ensure that Tasmanian children and young people have every opportunity to grow, live, work and raise their own families in Tasmania.  We know that there are no silver bullets to address all the issues in child protection, so I do not underestimate the challenge ahead.  However, I believe that with open communication, ongoing discussion with parents, carers, families, children and staff, as well as the involvement of these stakeholders in decision-making, we can focus our collective energy and create the optimum culture in organisational environment to build a better future for Tasmanian children, young people and their families.  The next year will be equally exciting, and I look forward to being able to deliver more for Tasmania’s children.

There are 35 neighbourhood and community houses across Tasmania in disadvantaged, rural and remote communities; 33 are funded through the DHHS as neighbourhood houses.  Programs and services range from eating with friends, community gardens, and working with local businesses.  Other neighbourhood houses support employment and job training initiatives.  So in this Budget I am delighted that there is now $1.7 million to provide a new purpose-built facility for the northern suburbs community centre in Launceston, which incorporates the Rocherlea Neighbourhood House.  This new centre will be built in a more appropriate location to enable easier community access and will be contemporary and flexible to allow the delivery of a range of community programs and services.  This capital investment in the northern suburbs builds on the Government’s $2.1 million election commitment to provide $50 000 in additional funding to each of the state’s 33 neighbourhood houses over two years, $100 000 for food co-ops and $300 000 for mental health outreach services.

This funding is also on top of the $4.8 million in recurrent funding committed to neighbourhood houses for the delivery of services in their own local community.  The value placed on these houses by their members, their coordinators, their volunteers and their local communities shows that our investment is worthwhile and is making a big difference for countless Tasmanians.

The state Government has committed a total of nearly $23 million for the Housing Tasmania capital program in 2015-16, which will deliver 630 new affordable homes, $5.5 million more than the former government allocated across the forward Estimates for 2015-16.  Examples of some major projects are $3.3 million to complete construction of the Trinity Hill Youth Accommodation and Training Facility in the south.  This follows from the $7.2 million spent in 2014-15.  Trinity Hill will provide 46 units for young people, including 16 units suitable for young people living with disability.  Work on this site began in 2014-15 and will be completed in the 2015-16 financial year.

In 2015-16 $1.5 million will be spent developing a new youth accommodation facility on the north-west coast.  A total of more than $7.5 million is committed for this project, including the  $6 million allocation in the 2015-16 Budget, and is expected to be completed in 2017.  Outside of the 630 homes, $1.5 million is also allocated for the redevelopment of 31 units at the Indigo Lodge Supported Residential Facility in the north.  This will increase the amenity of the complex and improve the layout.

A total of $1.3 million will be spent on the upgrade of 13 neighbourhood houses across the state.  Of the 630 new affordable homes across Tasmania in 2015-16, 550 will be built in Tasmania under the national rental affordability scheme and 16 dwellings will also be built by community housing organisations under the Better Housing Futures initiative.

The Government is also working to further increase supply through land transfers.  Three land parcels are expected to be developed in the coming year, including the site of old Brent Street Primary School, Huntingfield in the south and the former Somerset Primary School in the north-west.  All these initiatives not only increase the supply of affordable housing in this state, they also provide jobs and a significant economic stimulus.

The Tasmanian Affordable Housing Strategy will soon be delivered.  The strategy will provide direction for the next 10 years about how Tasmania can improve housing affordability and help those most vulnerable to housing stress and homelessness.  Community engagement has been a key part of the strategy as we wanted it to be a shared vision amongst government, the community sector and the private sector with outcome-based solutions specifically for Tasmania.  The strategy will build on the Tasmanian homelessness plan 2010-2013 and the Tasmanian Affordable Housing Strategy 2003-08.

There will be a guiding framework for future action.  It will identify the roles and accountability of all stakeholders and position Tasmania to respond to change over the next decade.  It is being developed with research and analysis from the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, or AHURI, and the University of Tasmania’s Housing and Community Research Unit, otherwise known as HACRU.  The strategy will address the entire housing spectrum.  It will include recommendations to reduce rental and mortgage stress, deliver more appropriate homes, prevent homelessness and increase exit points from crisis and transitional accommodation to sustainable homes.  It aims to give all Tasmanians access to affordable, safe and sustainable housing.

Funding of $1.8 million has been allocated to support capital initiatives under the Affordable Housing Strategy in 2015-16 with further initiatives and actions to be outlined for the next 10 years when the strategy is delivered at the end of June.

One of the most rewarding areas this year has been the Women portfolio and I look forward to working in this role.  In September last year I launched the Women and Girls in Tasmania Report, a biennial publication by which we can track the progress towards gender equality across a number of outcome areas.  The report shows there are significant differences for men and women in Tasmania in key areas, such as education, employment, economic security and health and wellbeing.

Progress has also been made on implementation of a number of strategies under the 2013-18 Tasmanian Women’s Plan, such as the development of a gender mainstreaming policy for government agencies as well as a gender analysis toolkit.

In the area of women’s leadership, the contributions of women in this state and community have often gone unrecognised.  The Government knows the importance women play within our society.  We know all people prosper when women are equal participants in society.  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.  Women continue to be under-represented on boards and committees in both the Parliament and in the public and private sectors, nationally and internationally.  As the proportion of women board members has stabilised at around one-third in recent years, we will soon be releasing a new Women on Boards Strategy 2015-2019 to increase women’s representation on these decision-making bodies so as to work towards the Government’s target of equal gender representation.  Since the previous Women on Boards Strategy 2011-13 was released, a growing and compelling body of work has reinforced the business case for increased gender diversity on boards.  It has proven to be an asset for corporations, positively affecting their performance, their productivity and ultimately their bottom line.  Therefore, the revised Women on Boards Strategy places a much stronger emphasis and greater accountability on the Tasmanian Government and the Tasmanian State Service to lead by example by appointing more women to board positions.

Last year we did the tripartite motion to say no to family violence in this state.  It was probably the highlight of my whole time in this Parliament.  I acknowledge the contributions of all the members to that debate.  Family violence is one of the biggest problems facing Tasmania.  In my portfolios it underlies most of the issues that I deal with.  I am proud of the Premier to now be taking the lead in addressing this social ill.  Family violence and sexual violence across Australia continues to be a challenge for government at all levels.  Family violence is the most significant economic, employment, housing, disability and health issue affecting women aged 15 to 45 years.  Day after day, article after article, interview after interview we are seeing a real picture being painted of the crisis that is domestic violence across our nation.  It is a fact that family violence is primarily perpetrated against women.

A lot has been said about the statistics here, but the fact is that one in three women experience some form of violence and one in four children are exposed to violence against their mother.  In Tasmania over the past decade there has been only a very minor improvement in reported family violence statistics.  However, what is happening this year may change that, with this year being the worst.  For example, in 2004-05 there were 4 095 events recorded; in 2013-14 there were 4 071 events, which is only a difference of 24 events.  Recently we heard Police Commissioner Darren Hine saying that from July 2014 to March 2015 police have already been involved in over 3 300 events.  Of particular concern is that over 1 000 children were present at 1 929 incidents.  Alarmingly for this year up until March, there had been over 1 200 family violence orders issued with 900 breaches across the state.

Nationally in the past one woman was killed every week at the hands of a current or former partner; this year that figure has doubled.  According to the Counting Dead Women Australia researchers of Destroy The Joint, sadly as at 28 May 2015 so far 41 women have met a violent bloody end and we are only at the beginning of June.  Some were killed by men they thought they could trust and some were killed by total strangers.

Across Australia the impact of violence is particularly worse for some women.  For example, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are 35 times more likely to be hospitalised due to family violence-related assaults than other women.  Young women aged 18 to 24 years experience significantly higher rates of physical and sexual violence than women in older age groups.  Women and girls with disability experience violence at a significantly higher rate, more frequently and for far longer, in more ways and by more perpetrators.  We also know that women from culturally diverse backgrounds experience violence and face barriers to disclosure.  The problem is we still do not have enough research to give us meaningful statistics, especially into these areas that I have just outlined.  Therefore, through the national plan we are looking to better understand these diverse experiences of violence so as to make sure that all women in our community can get the help they need.

Addressing family violence is an issue we all must take responsibility for, which is why I am encouraged by the recent increased level of awareness and understanding occurring across this nation.  As announced by the Treasurer and Premier, this year’s Budget provides new funding of $720 000 over four years to the Safe at Home program to assist victims of family violence as they navigate their way through legal and court processes, as well as $88 000 in the Women portfolio to support Tasmania’s membership of Our Watch.  Membership of Our Watch will allow Tasmania to tap into educational, media, communication, research and advocacy projects.  The strategic national approach of Our Watch builds greater understanding of the importance of a primary prevention approach to enable behavioural change and non-acceptance of family violence in our communities.  This campaign and the resources of Our Watch will complement and provide a strong basis for the work being undertaken in Tasmania.  As the Premier and Treasurer have also stated, these additional funds are a down payment only.  Additional support will be announced once the comprehensive family violence action plan is completed in August.

Across the government we contribute directly around $16 million annually across the departments of Health and Human Services, Police and Emergency Management, Justice, Education, and Premier and Cabinet on initiatives that are directly aimed at dealing with the effects of family violence.  More than $12 million of this funding is in my Human Services portfolio including shelters, emergency accommodation and family violence counselling support services.  Indirect funding in excess of $24 million is also spent across the departments of Health and Human Services and Education, around $16.5 million of which is in my portfolio area including Sexual Assault Services and Family Support Services.  I want to pay tribute to our service providers as well as the staff who work in these areas across government and in the community sector.  I passionately believe they do a marvellous albeit tough job in working with those in our community affected by family violence and I thank them very much for their continued efforts in fighting this social ill.

As the Premier has outlined, Cabinet has agreed to the formation of a family violence cabinet committee to oversee the development and implementation of a coordinated whole-of-government response to family violence in Tasmania.  The Premier will lead the committee, which also will include the Minister for Education and Training, the Attorney-General, the Minister for Health, the Minister for Police and Emergency Management, and myself as the Minister for Women and Minister for Human Services.  The first meeting of this committee was held on Monday at which key time-lines and milestones to deliver our family violence action plan were agreed.  The action plan will be developed with service providers, those affected by family violence and government agencies.  Consultation will be led by me and will begin with the reconvening of the consultative group that assisted us in developing our second action plan to reduce violence against women and their children.

The family violence action plan has five key objectives:  addressing attitudinal behaviours that lead to family violence; ensuring Safe at Home remains the nation’s best response model; strengthening support for adults and children affected by family violence; strengthening legal responses to family violence; and strengthening perpetrator management and rehabilitation.  The release this week of the internal review of Safe at Home and its 17 recommendations is an important part of the process to improve our state’s response to family violence and will be used as part of the development of the action plan, as we are adopting all of them.  The recommendations include:  enhancements to police practices when dealing with family violence, including specialised training for police officers; research into models for evidence-based, best-practice responses to and interventions for family violence; improved services for young people affected by family violence; investigation of the feasibility of a specialist family violence court; and improving the functionality of the Safe at Home information system to enable agencies to better work together.

The implementation of these recommendations will form part of the whole-of-government family violence action plan.  We have already started work to implement a number of the recommendations while the remainder are being prioritised.  We will be holding a workshop on 19 June to enable broad consultation with the consultative group, the community and stakeholders where attendees will have the opportunity to provide feedback and advice to inform the development of the family violence action plan.  Our one-door, joined-up Human Services system initiative will also play a very important role in providing seamless support for victims of family violence, making it easier for victims to navigate support and services to receive the right support.

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