September 4th, 2014
 Second Reading

Mr Deputy Speaker, I congratulate the Treasurer, Peter Gutwein on delivering this Liberal Government’s first State Budget.  It delivers on our promises, fixes the Budget mess and lays the foundations for the future.  For the first time in a long time Tasmanians have a Budget that gets the balance right.  It is a measured and a responsible approach to get the state’s finances back on track.

The Budget will protect essential services and vulnerable Tasmanians with $300 million for concession holders.  This Government is committed to helping the community sector by absorbing cost increases associated with award wage rate increases in the CPI.  Indexation will be applied to base grant funding at a rate of 2.25 per cent, which equates to an allocation of $5.3 million for indexation in 2014-15.

Further assistance with implementation of the Equal Remuneration Order, or the ERO, is also being provided.  An additional $5.2 million will take the total support for the ERO in 2014-15 to $13.4 million.  An additional ERO supplementation of $24.2 million, included in 2017-18, will enable community sector organisations to meet their obligations and requirements under the Fair Work Australia ERO.  The Tasmanian Government has committed $82.5 million to the first six years of the ERO.

An additional $9 million in funding will help community sector organisations meet the challenge of increased operational costs and improve sustainability.  In 2014-15 $2 million will be distributed for this purpose.  The Government is also committed to delivering a more joined-up Human Services support system.  Clients, service providers and advocacy groups have called for a more joined-up Human Services support system to better meet the needs of vulnerable people and improve and streamline what at times is a complex and unwieldy system.

The first stage is the preparation of a business case.  It will include a case for change, a vision for a more joined-up service system and a range of options and initiatives to help build a Tasmanian-specific and more integrated support system.  The Department of Health and Human Services is seeking input and ideas from the community sector, clients, carers and other government agencies.  Consultations have already been held with providers and clients of each region during August.  An online survey remains open until 8 September.  This project is a collaborative effort with a mix of stakeholders from community sector organisations and across government, including departments such as Police, Justice and Education.  The business case will be completed by the end of 2014.  It will inform the next stage of the project and any broader reforms to the service system.  Reforms proposed will build on existing strengths, be realistic and demonstrate achievable outcomes.  There will also be a structured system to assess and monitor the outcomes delivered to clients.

The department has worked with the community sector to develop the outcomes purchasing framework.  It will continue to roll out across funded organisations during 2014-15 and describe how the department will work with the community sector.  It will include outcomes they want to achieve for clients and the broader Tasmanian community and how those outcomes are being achieved.  The framework will be the trialled for a sample of DHHS-funded programs over the next 12 months.

Additional funding of $250 000 over four years will be available for TasCOSS.  It will help measure and monitor outcomes as well as support community sector organisations with the structured implementation of outcomes across all department-funded programs.  The department will also collaborate with TasCOSS on the joined-up Human Services project so initiatives that emerge have indicators and tools in place to measure success.

A priority of government is to reduce red tape to the community sector.  The Peaks Network and the Government Strategic Forum have established a working group which held its inaugural meeting on 5 August 2014.  The working group will survey the extent of red tape across the system.  It will work with the community sector to uncover specific examples of red tape and act to reduce it.  The survey will be considered by the working group at their next meeting on 4 September and finalised and distributed in mid-September.  Preliminary findings will be available at the October forum meeting.  A final report will be considered by the forum in February 2015.

There are 34 neighbourhood and community houses across Tasmania in disadvantaged, rural and remote communities.  Thirty-three are funded through the DHHS.  Programs and services range from community gardens to working with local businesses.  Others support employment and job training initiatives.  As a strong supporter of neighbourhood houses, the Tasmanian Government is providing funding of $1.7 million over two years on top of the $4.6 million already committed.  This additional funding of $25 000 per annum for two years will further assist promotion of social inclusion and links to other vital services.

The Government will also provide a further $100 000 to neighbourhood houses in 2015-16 to resource 15 to 20 start-up food cooperatives.  Planning for this will commence during this financial year.  This will help families and individuals to access low-cost healthy, fresh and nutritious food.  It will establish partnerships between community, local food producers, neighbourhood and community houses and food relief organisations.

Capital investment funding of $4 million for 2014-15 will also be spent on the upgrading and refurbishment of neighbourhood houses and responsive maintenance works.  The department will work closely with the Tasmanian Association of Community Houses and neighbourhood houses and their communities to meet the needs and views of people who use and manage neighbourhood houses.

The Tasmanian Government has also committed $500 000 over four years to the Kentish Family Support Service.  This service will be provided by Glenhaven Family Care in partnership with the Kentish Council.

The Government is also committed to the elder abuse strategy.  An additional $450 000 over the next three years has been provided with $250 000 to continue implementation of the strategy in 2014-15.  A total of $700 000 will be spent to protect the interests of vulnerable elderly Tasmanians over the next three years.  This will support the continuation of the helpline, peer education and awareness activities.  In 2014-15, the powerful Elder Abuse Is Not Okay advertising campaign will continue and ensure all stakeholders deal with sufferers of elder abuse in an effective and timely manner.  A review of the strategy will also be undertaken.

The government funds Sexual Assault Support Services Incorporated – or SASS – in the south and Laurel House in the north and north-west of Tasmania.  They provide a range of services to support and empower adults, young people, children and their families who have been affected by sexual assault.  In continuing these vital services, the Tasmanian Government has committed additional funding of $124 000 for sexual assault services on top of the existing funding of $2.25 million.  To increase capacity of the after-hours services $100 000 will be spent over two years.  A further $24 000 will provide training and resources for allied health and hospital staff on the impact of child and adult sexual assault.

The Gambling Support Program and gamblers help services provide ongoing support to Tasmanians.  Anglicare is funded to provide face-to-face counselling, support services and community education at a local level.  The Eastern Health Turning Point also provides telephone and online services with 24/7 access to counselling, information, referrals and self-help tools.  Gambling awareness campaigns with a Know Your Odds campaign will continue during 2014-15 with further media advertising showing character Jack providing information about the risks of gambling and where to find self-help, information and online support.  The new campaign will also address the risks to young people and particularly young adult men of the recent and continuing emergence of sports betting and its promotion.

The state Government has also committed a total of $43.9 million for the Housing Tasmania capital program 2014-15.  This investment will allow Housing Tasmania to deliver 287 new dwellings and seven residential lots, directly contribute $35.9 million into the building and construction sector, and create 269 direct jobs for Tasmanians.

The Trinity Hill youth accommodation and training facility has a planned expenditure of $7.3 million during 2014-15.  This project will deliver a mixed accommodation facility for 46 young people, which will provide tenants with stable, supported long-term accommodation.

Some $511 000 has also been allocated to purchase an appropriate location for a youth supported accommodation facility on the north-west coast, a very much applauded new initiative.  Some $20.2 million will also be spent on the Housing New Projects program this financial year.  The program will deliver 205 affordable homes and seven lots of vacant residential land.  Significant components of this program include constructions at Watchorn Street in Launceston and Shore Street, Rose Bay; refurbishment and the provision of two extra bedrooms at the Annie Kenney Young Women’s Refuge; the purchase of purpose-built units under the Adaptable Housing Project; the purchase of government equity shares under the HomeShare program; and continuation of the NRAS shovel-ready round.

In addition 34 new affordable housing dwellings and the commencement of a subdivision of 70 new residential lots will occur under the new supply land transfer program.  An amount of $3.9 million from the Housing Fund in 2014-15 will also deliver 46 new dwellings under NRAS rounds 1 to 4 this financial year.  Funding of $815 000 has also been allocated in 2014-15 for two new homes to be constructed on Cape Barren Island.

The Government will also build on the success of the Housing Connect model with the Housing Connect information system being built this financial year.  The system will support Housing Connect to undertake assessments, complete housing applications, make referrals and report progress.  Housing Connect will also pilot a new tenancy guarantee program in 2014-15.  Under this scheme, $1 500 will be available in addition to the bond to help around 100 vulnerable Tasmanian households having difficulties securing private rental accommodation.  This new service is based on a successful model in New South Wales.  Priority will be given to families who are homeless and unable to secure housing and thus reunite them with their children.  The scheme will deliver the Government’s commitment to help vulnerable Tasmanians find and sustain safe and affordable homes.

The Government has also delivered on its election commitment to successfully overhaul HomeShare.  The Government relaunched HomeShare in May 2014 with increased assets, income and assistance levels for eligible Tasmanians to access affordable home ownership.  Since the project was relaunched, an additional 23 people have been assisted into home ownership through HomeShare.  Early indications suggest that there has been a 15 per cent increase in the take-up of the HomeShare program since the relaunch, with many more inquiries.

There has also been significant interest from buyers to purchase house and land packages, which stimulates new construction and supply and provides greater employment opportunities in the building industry.  The relaunch of the scheme also included making HomeShare available for the first time to all public housing tenants who are able to afford a loan so as to encourage more public housing tenants to move into home ownership.  This change has resulted in at least one public housing tenant taking up the opportunity to purchase a HomeShare house and land package. As well as helping this family to home ownership, this has also freed up a public housing property for another person in need.

The state Government has also revised the Streets Ahead program to be consisted with HomeShare with increased asset and income limits.  All public housing tenants can access Streets Ahead if they can afford a loan.

The state Government will also deliver a $250 000 state affordable housing strategy during the 2014-15 financial year.  The Tasmanian Affordable Housing Strategy 2015-25 will provide a clear framework for the next decade around home ownership, affordable rental, public and community housing and crisis accommodation.  The strategy will address the entire housing spectrum, recognising that the system needs to support people whatever their needs or stage in the system.  The aim is to ensure that all Tasmanians have access to affordable, safe and sustainable housing.  Initiatives within the affordable housing strategy will align with our commitment to build a more joined-up Human Services support system as well as our statewide planning reforms and the transport access strategy.

The state Government is also committed to reducing homelessness as well as increasing affordable housing options.  The extension of the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness provides $5.4 million to address homelessness during the 2014-15 financial year.  This funding continues to support the programs already under this agreement, such as the five supported accommodation facilities statewide.

The Tasmanian Government has also committed an additional $2 million or $500 000 per year over four years to provide around 12 000 hours of additional support for Tasmanians with a disability who are not within the 15 to 24 year age cohort of the National Disability Insurance Scheme or NDIS trial.  The NDIS is an important and exciting initiative that will provide support to approximately 1 000 young Tasmanians over the three years of the trial from 2013 to 2016.  Over 800 participants have since successfully transferred and Tasmania is on track to deliver on agreed targets.  It is also pleasing to note that in the National Disability Insurance Agency’s most recent quarterly report, Tasmania recorded the highest satisfaction rate in Australia, with young people with disability accessing the NDIS in record time and costs remaining on track.

Around 10 600 Tasmanians with a disability are expected to be supported when the NDIS is fully operational in July 2019.  An amount of $2 million is allocated for the NDIS rollout in 2014-15 with additional funding of $39.6 million being provided in 2017-18.  Once fully implemented, the Tasmanian Government will provide an additional $55.2 million for people with disability, bringing total funding to $232 million.

The NDIS is also a job creator for Tasmania and to ensure we are building a skilled and capable workforce, the Government is committing $250 000 to National Disability Services Tasmania or NDS, the peak body for disability service providers.  This funding will allow NDS to continue to implement its workforce development and skills plan during 2015-16 and 2016-17, ensuring a job‑ready workforce by the time the NDIS is fully rolled out.

The Government is also committed to delivering a statewide continuum of care from birth to adulthood for children with autism and has convened an advisory panel to develop a long-term strategy.  A commitment of $1 million over four years will support the Autism Advisory Panel to develop a strategy and to implement best-practice autism care in Tasmania.  This commitment is an investment in our future and gives children with autism spectrum disorder the best opportunity to learn and reach their full potential.

In the coming year, the Tasmanian Government will also release a new disability services strategic plan which will outline the goals and objectives that will guide disability services in Tasmania over the next three years.  The plan will outline action that will be taken across important areas, such as social inclusion and economic participation, access to services and ways to support individuals, families and carers.  The plan will be guided by principles such as a person-centred approach, considering the whole person across their life stages, meaningful engagement, and facilitating clients to have choice and to make their own decisions.

The Tasmanian Government is focused on ensuring that all Tasmanian children have every opportunity to grow, thrive, live, work and be raised in their own families.  Children and Youth Services provides a range of services and supports that contribute to ensuring children, young people and their families are safe, nurtured and well.  We recognise that raising children is one of the most important jobs in the world and that in order to protect children we must support families.  When families experience difficulties which result in safety and risk to their children, we require an responsive, supportive and integrated service to ensure that the child’s need to be safe and have nurturing care is made possible, either in the family or, if necessary, through the provision of out-of-home care.

Children and Youth Services are strengthening Child Protection Services through a wide range of reforms aimed at improving outcomes for children and their families.  This includes a focus on early intervention preventive support and care to avoid children being taken into the statutory child protection system.  It provides parents with the support they need to keep their families safely together.  By investing $300 000 into short-term preventive care we can support parents earlier when they experience unexpected emergencies.  This initiative is aimed at giving practical support to those families who might be at risk of Child Protection Services becoming formally engaged due to circumstances completely outside their control.

Child Protection Services has also recently commenced the implementation of the Signs of Safety practice model, a strength-based child safety-focused approach which promotes the building of partnerships with families in order to strengthen their capabilities to provide a safe and nurturing family home for their children.  This approach focuses on working closely with families to agree on the things that need to be done to ensure that the right changes are being made to keep a child safe and loved at home.

The out-of-home care system for children who are unable to remain safely at home with their families is also being reformed and strengthened.  Planning is underway to redesign the out-of-home care system so that we can build a complete range of care options which reflects and responds to the needs of children who require a safe and nurturing care experience provided by caregivers who are supported and trained.

To provide more stability and permanency for children one approach we are continuing to develop in out-of-home care is the opportunity for carers to take on guardianship responsibilities for a child in their long-term care.  In this situation, the department continues to provide limited monitoring and support but the responsibility for decision-making is transferred to the child’s carers.  This allows carers to make timely day-to-day decisions which affect the child in their care, create stability and strengthen the sense of permanency for the child.

Other initiatives being progressed include a review of child protection practice guidelines to incorporate clear and transparent decision-making processes that involve parents from the beginning; establishing an independent process for the review of child death and serious injury incidents; and assisting the Foster Carers Association of Tasmania in its goal of becoming a modern responsive organisation that represents carers.

Our CHAPS teams are a recognised and trusted community-based service that supports parents of young children from birth to five years of age.  Delivered from over 100 locations across Tasmania, CHAPS promotes the health and wellbeing of all young children through universal schedules of child health checks.  The service also focuses on the early identification of risk and potential problems with referral pathways to secondary support services for short-term intensive support.  Alongside the CHAPS universal services we also ensure that the most vulnerable children and babies have their health and wellbeing monitored and their parents supported to do the best job they can in raising their child safely.  One of the key commitments of this Government is to strengthen the way a wide range of services respond to our most vulnerable children through the implementation of a statewide Vulnerable Babies and Infants strategy.  CHAPS nurses will have a very key role in developing and delivering this commitment.

The Government is also committed to breaking the cycle of youth crime in Tasmania.  Across government, $5.3 million will be invested over three years into a statewide network of youth justice programs aimed at diverting young offenders or those at risk of offending into programs that re-engage them with education, training, employment and positive influences.

In Child and Youth Services, Save the Children’s Supporting Young People on Bail program and a post-detention transition program will be provided.  Both programs have shown outstanding results in helping young people who have offended to re-engage with education and positive influences and prevent reoffending.  For example, the bail program won a 2013 national crime and violence prevention award from the Australian Institute of Criminology.  Funding of $600 000 per annum will be provided towards both programs, with Save the Children contributing an additional $250 000 per year.  This funding will allow both programs to operate statedwide.

While the detention of young people is the last resort, the Government is also committed to providing quality secure care in custody for young people who are detained by the courts.  The Ashley Youth Detention Centre has recently introduced quality improvement processes and improvements to site amenity and facilities for young people in custody.  These include around-the-clock health services, improved facilities and better vocational training and education opportunities.

The Family Violence Counselling and Support Service provides programs for children, young people and adults who have experienced or are experiencing family violence.  Along with all programs delivered by Children and Youth Services, the Family Violence Counselling Support Service is striving to achieve service improvements in relation to collaboration across programs, particularly with Child Protection Services and Safe At Home partner agencies, options for supporting safe reunification or custody arrangements within families, targeted investment into the community sector for complementary services and accessibility of services for parents and children based on assessment of needs.

In the Women portfolio, programs such as the Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women, the Women’s Register, International Women’s Day events and the Women on Boards strategy are delivered.  The focus in 2014-15 will continue to be on primary prevention to address family violence and implementing initiatives under the 2013-18 Tasmanian Women’s Plan.  We will be providing effective and targeted consultation across government and the Tasmanian community in relation to women’s issues as well providing specialist advice and comment on issues that impact on women.

Since its inception in 1990, the Tasmanian Women’s Council has played a valuable role in shaping Government’s priorities for women.  The council advises the Tasmanian Government on issues of importance to women and contributes to the development strategies that address inequality and increase the participation of women in all aspects of society.  The Tasmanian Women’s Council also provides a forum for the women’s sector to communicate directly with myself, as minister, and with the Government.

Some of the areas that the council are currently focusing on include:  providing advice on a gender mainstreaming policy; raising awareness with appropriate bodies about issues concerning economic security for women and the rising cost of education; appointments to appropriate government advisory bodies, such as the Tasmanian Sexual and Reproductive Health Collaborative Group and the Social Determinants of Health Network; discussing women’s health and wellbeing with DHHS representatives with a particular focus on preventative measures; providing advice and feedback on the draft Women on Boards 2014-19 report, which is aimed to increase the number of women on government boards; and working in the safety and justice area through actions such as encouraging support for the White Ribbon Day campaign and its key anti-violence messages.  The Government and the council will also be monitoring the progress in advancing gender equality in Tasmania through the Tasmanian Women’s Plan by releasing the inaugural Women and Girls in Tasmania report in a couple of weeks’ time.

In the area of family violence, Taking Action, Tasmania’s primary prevention strategy to reduce violence against women and their children, has been developed to strategically build Tasmania’s primary prevention response.  Primary prevention aims to prevent violence before it occurs and the goal of taking action is a significant and sustained reduction in violence against women and children in Tasmania.  To reach this goal, the Tasmanian Government continues its ongoing collaboration with the White Ribbon organisation through their promotion of White Ribbon Day, the White Ribbon Ambassador program and White Ribbon program in schools, workplaces and universities.

The Tasmanian Government is also committed to contributing to the Australian National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety, ANROWS, with $35 100 per annum for three years to 2016.  This contribution is funded through equal contributions from the Department of Justice, the Department of Police and Emergency Management, DHHS and the Department of Education.  ANROWS’ first major task has been to produce a national research agenda on behalf of all Australian governments.  A dedicated research agenda is a vital element in efforts to reduce violence against women and their children.

This Government is wholeheartedly committed to working to improve the safety and wellbeing of all women and girls in Tasmania and to enable them to fully participate economically and socially within our community.  Therefore important work will continue to ensure that there are equal opportunities for women in education, training and leadership, support for women to achieve economic security, financial independence and freedom from discrimination, and access to information and services that allow women to make informed choices about their needs, health and wellbeing.

In conclusion, the Liberal Government’s Budget has delivered on all our promises, fixed the budget mess and has laid the foundations for the future.  I once again congratulate the Treasurer for delivering a budget that has the balance right.