Minister for Human Services, Minister for Women
Consolidated Fund Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2017 (No. 31)
Second Reading
Wednesday 31 May 2017

[2.30 p.m.]

Mrs PETRUSMA (Franklin – Minister for Human Services) – Mr Deputy Speaker, I am exceptionally proud to speak on the Hodgman Liberal Government’s fourth budget.  I congratulate the Treasurer for all the hard work that he has put into this Budget because it truly represents a budget that is building Tasmania’s future.

I believe this Budget both reflects that we have undertaken the hard yards over the past three years in government and we are now able to capitalise on and invest in areas of need, whilst at the same time acknowledging that there is still much more that can be done to continue to make Tasmania the best possible state for all of its residents.  Our Budget this year also highlights our goal to lead the nation in health and education, to create a job ready generation, to give our children the best opportunities possible, to have better roads and transport, to take action on the cost of living and the continued investment in essential services, such as public safety and supporting Tasmanians in need.

I am especially delighted that in my portfolio of Human Services that the 2017-18 Budget allocates record funding of approximately $270 million to support around 225 community sector organisations, or CSOs, providing access to essential community services for Tasmanians in need.  This significant funding recognises the state Government’s commitment to supporting vulnerable Tasmanians, as well as recognising the hard work of our CSOs.

The Government is very grateful and thankful for the enormity of the work that CSOs do every day.  This funding includes indexation of 2.25 per cent and $24.2 million to meet the CSOs obligations under the Fair Work Australia Equal Remuneration Order, or ERO.  In total, the Tasmanian Government has committed $185.6 million to funding the ERO.  The $270 million also includes $2.5 million from the state Government’s $9 million election commitment to provide additional funding to CSOs over four years in recognition of the important work of community sector organisations in delivering services for vulnerable Tasmanians.  This indexation, plus the extra $2.5 million means that total indexation for the community sector organisations is around 3.15 per cent for 2017-18.

In regard to people living with disability, the 2017-18 Budget outlines that the state Government will contribute $750 million through cash and in kind contributions to the National Disability Insurance Scheme over the Budget and forward Estimates period.  Transition to the full NDIS scheme commenced on 1 July 2016 and will benefit around 10 600 Tasmanians by July 2019.

Since the start of transition between 1 July 2016 to 31 March 2017, 715 participant plans have been approved in Tasmania bringing the total number of participants to 1877 as at 31 March.  The transition of people to the NDIS is on an age group basis with eligibility determined by the age of a participant at the time an access request is made.  All remaining people aged 15 to 24 and children aged 12 to 14 years commenced transition from 1 July 2016.  Adults aged 25 to 28 years commenced transition from 1 January 2017.  Children 4 to 11 will transition very soon from 1 July 2017.  Adults aged 29 to 34 years will transition from 1 January 2018.  Children aged 0 to 3 years and adults aged 35 to 49 years will transition from 1 July 2018.  Adults aged 50 to 64 years will transition from 1 January 2019.  Eligible residents in shared supported accommodation will access the NDIS together on a house by house basis.

We recognise that the NDIS is a huge change for organisations, clients and their families.  While for the participants they have had a very high satisfaction rate with the scheme we know that this is because behind the scenes disability service providers have been working exceptionally hard.

To assist the sector outside of the Budget, Tasmania has received $3.23 million in sector development funding.  This funding has been allocated to four projects which will help its sector development, organisational capacity building and individual capacity building.  The breakdown of funding includes funding to National Disability Services for workforce development and capacity building.  I am delighted that over $1.3 million is going to TasCOSS to establish and coordinate an expert panel to assist providers.

The expert panel project recognises TasCOSS’s desire to provide support to organisations who are going through significant reform, especially those transitioning to the NDIS.  The Minister for Health has also recognised the support needed for services which intersect with the NDIS including the mental health sector.  In this year’s Budget we are providing more than $16 million in additional funding for the mental health sector, funding which is over and above the $11.7 million additional investment in mental health than our previous budgets.

The 2017-18 Budget also allocates additional funding of $900 000 over two years to continue the trial of the Lead Support Coordination Service as part of the joined up Human Services project.  Our election commitment to give a hand up to vulnerable Tasmanians outlined the need for a long term-plan and partnership with the community sector to improve access to the Human Services system.  This plan included the delivery of a system for appointing a lead worker for individuals with complex needs.  This additional funding will extend the existing trial and also increase its focus on providing services for young people with complex needs.

The Lead Support Coordination Service appoints a coordinator to work with Tasmanians with multiple and complex needs to help them to access Human Services, community-based alcohol and other drug services and mental health services.  The coordinator works directly with the client to establish a complete, holistic understanding of their service and support needs and develops a single plan to address these needs.

The coordinator will also liaise with service providers on behalf of the client to arrange, where necessary, appointments and with the client’s consent, share required information and work with the client support network to assist the client where possible.  Mission Australia, Baptcare and the Australian Red Cross have already commenced delivery of the Lead Support Coordination Service.  The funding for this initiative is in addition to the 2015-16 Budget allocation of $1.2 million over two years that commenced the project and the implementation of the five high priority initiatives.

Recently in this House I announced how our wonderful state funded neighbourhood houses plus Phoenix House on King Island will each receive an additional support payment of $10 000 to further assist their valuable work in increasing social inclusion and to facilitate links to other vital services in their local communities.  This is in addition to the $990 000 provided in the 2016-17 state Budget of additional funding of $30 000 over two years or $15 000 each year for our state funded neighbourhood houses.

This additional funding will support a range of activities including educational programs like cooking and computer classes, community gardens, breakfast clubs and social groups.  These activities improve the lives of families and individuals, reduce social isolation and builds communities.  Like the previous funding, this new commitment is additional to recurrent support and in 2017-18 our total funding for our neighbourhood houses will be more than $6.3 million.

The 2017-18 Budget invests an additional $51.2 million in Child Safety Services to better support families and children at risk and to ensure our out of home care system provides the best possible care.  Our additional investment of $27.5 million in out of home care comes on top of the $20.6 million announced in the 2016-17 Budget to deliver a whole of government coordinated redesign of Tasmania’s Child Safety Services – Strong Families, Safe Kids.

The $27.5 million boost for out of home care will ensure that when children and young people come into care their individual needs are met and supported with appropriate and tailored therapeutic supports.  A component of this additional funding will also be utilised to enable the implementation of all recommendations in the Commissioner for Children and Young People’s Children and Young People in Out of Home Care in Tasmania report.  It also includes an additional $1 million over four years to the commissioner’s office to assist with independent external oversight and monitoring of the out of home care system.  An additional $6.3 million is also being invested in the significant replacement of the Children and Youth Services ICT system, which will reduce and minimise unnecessary administrative burdens on staff, giving them more time to focus on children in need.  These two new investments complement and further build on the 30 initiatives outlined in Strong Families – Safe Kids, our whole‑of‑government refocus of child safety services.  Through Strong Families – Safe Kids a further 19 frontline child safety positions will be created.

In regard to youth justice, the 2017-18 Budget provides $2.4 million over four years to enable Save the Children to continue its youth justice intervention programs aimed at breaking the cycle of youth crime and diverting young people who offend, or those at risk of offending, from the youth justice system.  As part of our 2014 election commitment this Government initially pledged $1.8 million over three years to expand the Save the Children programs to a statewide delivery.  This funding has now been extended as both the Supporting Young People on Bail and Post-Detention Transition Programs have shown very positive results in helping young people who have offended to re-engage with education and positive influences and to prevent re-offending.

Supporting Young People on Bail aims to divert young people who have recently commenced offending away from further involvement with the youth justice system by supporting them to re-engage with educational, vocational, employment and positive recreational opportunities.  Youth workers work one on one with young people, designing individual bail support plans that are presented to the magistrate.  Practical, therapeutic mentoring support is provided to the young person during their bail period to help them meet the goals in their plan.  The young person’s willingness to work towards their goals is reflected in their sentencing.

The transition from Ashley Youth Detention Centre programs assist young people aged 12 to 18 years who are in detention or remand in Ashley Youth Detention Centre to reintegrate into the community.  Youth workers support young people both in Ashley and when they transition back into the community to identify and meet their recreational, educational, and vocational and employment goals and aspirations.

The Hodgman Liberal Government is committed to making housing more affordable for Tasmanians.  We are already rolling out our nation-leading affordable housing strategy delivering on our commitment to build new homes and affordable housing options for Tasmanian households in need.  In 2017-18 and 2018-19 the state Government will spend almost $62 million on providing affordable housing for Tasmanians as part of our Affordable Housing Action Plan.  Our Affordable Housing Action Plan will deliver over four years affordable housing options for 1600 Tasmanian households, on top of around 1000 families housed in social housing each year and the more than 3000 households assisted by private rental assistance through Housing Connect.

Major projects to be undertaken during the next year under the Affordable Housing Action Plan include:  commencement of landlord initiatives designed to improve access for vulnerable Tasmanians into the private rental market; $12 million for social housing units in major urban centres; 25 units at the new Devonport Youth Supported Accommodation facility; a new Hobart women’s shelter, which will provide a 37 per cent increase on existing accommodation; eight additional units for young people at Thyne House, a youth supported accommodation facility in Launceston; nine units at the Youth at Risk Response Centre in Moonah; and construction to commence on up to 65 units under the Regional Supply Initiative.  The original target of 940 new homes to be supplied under the action plan is also expected to be exceeded with more than 1050 new homes now projected.

We are also making home ownership possible through the HomeShare program.  This year the state Government is making more than $6 million available through the HomeShare program to assist eligible Tasmanians to own their own home.  HomeShare is a partnership between the state Government, the Bendigo Bank and Tassie Home Loans and provides loans for home purchase and deposits for eligible low to medium income Tasmanians.  The program is a shared equity scheme where people initially purchase up to 70 per cent of a property, with the Director of Housing owning the other 30 per cent.  Purchasers are required to pay off the loan with the 30 per cent component.  Once repaid, this amount goes back into the HomeShare pool. 

During 2017-18 more than 100 affordable housing lots will also be available in Tasmania as part of the state Government’s action plan.  These lots will also be available for people to purchase through HomeShare with a view to building on them.  HomeShare is an ideal way for people trying to break into the housing market in Tasmania so the Government will be undertaking a new marketing campaign to create greater awareness of HomeShare and to outline the advantages of HomeShare for people who may have thought home ownership was out of their reach.

The state Government will also allocate an additional $2 million in 2017-18 to undertake window modifications to ensure that all Housing Tasmania properties comply with recent changes to the Residential Tenancy Act 1997 regarding ventilation and security.  This will see windows replaced in around 200 Housing Tasmania properties, which will further increase their energy efficiency.

More needs to be done to help people to enter the housing market and that is why the 2017-18 Budget also contains a New Housing Incentive Package, which will make it easier for Tasmanians to build new housing.  This package has five key features.  We are making it easier for Tasmanians to build their first home extending the $20 000 first home builders grant for another 12 months.  Stamp duty will only have to be paid on the value of land for eligible house and land packages, providing stamp duty relief of around $7500 on the average cost of the standard, off the plan, house and land package.  This measure will be back dated to 14 May, the day this measure was first announced.  We will also be simplifying supply side levers such as planning rules and building regulations, which cuts red tape and makes it easy to build a home and increase housing stock.  This Budget allocates $300 000 to assist councils to finalise their local planning rules so they can become a part of the statewide planning scheme at the earliest opportunity.

To complement our nation-leading planning and building reforms this Budget invests $1.9 million into iPlan, a one stop online shop for building and planning approvals.

Finally, the Government can make housing more affordable by increasing the supply of land available for development.  Various government departments, government businesses and state-owned companies have significant land holdings.  We have tasked Treasury with conducting a review to determine what land may be suitable for repurposing for housing to increase the availability of supply to either support the Government’s Affordable Housing Strategy or to the broader housing market. 

An affordable housing working group will be established, to be jointly led by Housing Tasmania and Treasury.  Membership will include non-government organisations such as Shelter, that support vulnerable Tasmanians, as well as those organisations that represent the home building and construction sector.  This will ensure the maximum community benefit from any land identified as part of the audit.  It is expected that this review will be completed later this year.  Through this process the Government wants to help make the dream of owning your own home a reality for more Tasmanians.

This year’s Budget also provides $800 000 a year to run the new Moonah Youth at Risk Response Centre for young homeless Tasmanians and those at risk of homelessness.  Under our affordable housing action plan the $1.7 million centre will compliment supported accommodation for young people at Trinity Hill in North Hobart, Thyne House in Launceston and a new 25 bed facility being built in Devonport.  The centre will connect young people aged under 16 to the support they need to return home or transfer to longer term supported accommodation.  Referrals into the accommodation units will come directly through children and youth services, youth justice, Gateway, education, crisis shelters or Housing Connect.

Young people are over-represented amongst the homeless population with 25 per cent of homeless Tasmanians aged between 12 and 24.  Young people are vulnerable to becoming homeless when they are disconnected from their family and/or it is not safe for them to live at home.  The Moonah site will have eight safe and secure units for young people and another for a live in manager/caretaker.  It will have separate office, private space for staff, a communal lounge area for residents, a communal kitchen and dining area and a communal laundry. 

The centre will also incorporate facilities for the provision of services.  The recurrent funding of $800 000 per annum incorporates the provision of trauma-informed, multi disciplinary support services within the centre.  These support services will help young people to restore relationships with their family, engage with school and other youth services and access alternative options for longer-term wellbeing when restoration with their family is unachievable.  Case workers will be able to provide referral support to the young person to connect them with services such as Headspace and alcohol and drug counselling. 

The 2017-18 Budget also provides an additional $150 000 to continue helping to protect older Tasmanians from abuse.  This funding is an extension to our 2014 election commitment, providing $450 000 over three years to protect older Tasmanians from abuse.  Tasmania’s Elder Abuse Prevention Strategy 2015-18 reflects the state Government’s continuing commitment to protecting older Tasmanians from abuse.  The strategy has seen the Government would closely with the Council of the Aging and Advocacy Tasmania to help raise awareness and prevent elder abuse in Tasmania.  The Government provided COTA with $300 000 from 2014-15 to 2016-17 to train those working with older Tasmanians through the You’re Worth It peer education program.  The Government will provide COTA with a further $100 000 in 2017‑18 so COTA can continue to promote awareness, provide peer education and build community capacity to respond to elder abuse.

The Government’s election commitment also provided Advocacy Tasmania with an additional extra $60 000 to recurrent funding over three years for its elder abuse helpline and follow up advocacy service.  The helpline provides information and advice to callers, an advocacy service for older Tasmanians, an awareness campaign and training for those caring for older Tasmanians.  The 2017-18 Budget provides Advocacy Tasmania with an extra $20 000 towards this service, over and above ongoing base funding of approximately $147 500.  The Elder Abuse Is Not Okay campaign, which regularly features in Tasmanian media, will also receive $30 000 in 2017-18. 

Therefore, the total funding for the elder abuse strategy in 2017-18 is approximately $297 500.  The Hodgman-Liberal Government is the strongest supporter of our volunteer groups, community support organisations and Tasmania’s multicultural diversity.

With the Budget back in balance, we are also able to continue to support groups that give their all to support other Tasmanians in our community.  The Hodgman-Liberal Government greatly appreciates the outstanding work done by our thousands of volunteers.  We will continue to support Tasmanians in need as we build Tasmania’s future.  The 2017-18 Budget includes $400 000 to Food Bank over the next four years to establish a base in the north-west region.  This is in addition to the $300 000 per year provided to Tasmanian food security organisations.  There is $60 000 in further support for our mobile food vans, including Loui’s Van in Hobart, Launceston’s Missionbeat, and Gran’s Van in Devonport to continue their great community service in 2017-18.  There is $200 000 to Volunteering Tasmania over the next four years, which is building an army of volunteers in the event of a natural disaster or emergency called EV Crew.

This is in addition to $260 000 per year to Volunteering Tasmania.  There is $1.46 million over three years to help refugee families arriving in Tasmania by providing education support, employment pathways and a welcoming environment.  Other significant community funding support packages in the State Budget include:  $50 000 in my electorate of Franklin to support the Risdon Vale Bike Collective to continue its youth mentoring programs through the Risdon Vale Bike Shed and Blue Hills Bike Trails; $346 000 to support Tasmanian seniors, including COTA Seniors Week and to kick-start Tasmania’s new active aging plan; $90 000 for the Tasmanian Men’s Shed Association to support Men’s Sheds around Tasmania, in addition to the $550 000 allocated since 2014-15; $100 000 over two years to support additional community participation; and $50 000 to support Tasmania’s hosting of the Federation of Ethnic Communities Council of Australia’s Congress, a national multicultural conference in 2019.

In regards to my portfolio, the Tasmanian Liberal Government remains firmly committed to eliminating family violence.  The 2017-18 State Budget is all about building Tasmania’s future, a future which should be free of family violence.  This budget includes $15.4 million over the next two years to continue our nation-leading family violence action plan, which has grown to include 23 separate actions.  This is on top of recurrent funding of $16 million in direct and $24 million in indirect funding each year.  A new initiative is a trial of electronic monitoring of high-risk family violence offenders, in partnership with the Australian Government.  This will involve a target group of high-risk perpetrators who have a monitoring condition placed on them as a condition of a family violence order.  Perpetrators will have exclusion zones specified in accordance with relevant conditions contained within an order.  The trial will also allow victims the option of voluntarily carrying a small portable GPS device to enhance the ability of officials to detect breaches involving approaches made to victims outside identified exclusion zones.  Monitoring of perpetrators will occur in real time using GPS technology that will alert officials to any breaches, helping to keep women and their children safe.

This $2.79 million initiative will be funded in partnership with the Australian Government.  In addition, significant new funding has been allocated for initiatives right across government to support victims of family violence and to assist the prosecution of perpetrators, including $1.68 million for a Family Violence and Sexual Assault Unit in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to increase the chances of successful prosecution and to improve victim support.

There is $420 000 over two years for an Eligible Person’s Register so victims of family violence, if they choose, can be informed of a prisoner’s location and progress in the prison system.  We have $3.4 million over four years to roll out body-worn cameras to all frontline police officers, a very important tool in responding to family violence incidents.

With the Budget back in balance the Hodgman Liberal Government is also giving young Tasmanians every opportunity for a great future by ensuring they get the best possible education.  We have made record investments in education and training since 2014.  In the 2017-18 Budget we are building Tasmania’s future with a record $6.36 billion investment aimed at improving educational outcomes and creating a job-ready generation of young Tasmanians.

Importantly, the Department of Education is a key partner with the Child Safety Service in implementing Strong Family – Safe Kids.  Many of the new initiatives in Education will assist with and complement our cross-government redesign of the Child Safety Service.  This includes fulfilling our Gonski pledge over the full six years of the original Gonski agreement.  This represents $134 million of state government funding over six years. We have $6.9 million to employ an additional 14.8 FTE professional support staff across our government schools, including speech pathologists, psychologists and social workers to work with students who might not otherwise reach their full potential at school, which in turn improves their education and employment prospects.

Student health and wellbeing can impact learning.  Therefore, we are: investing $5 million for student re-engagement programs; developing a new $1.6 million Child and Student Wellbeing strategy; investing in more school health nurses in district schools; and investing $250 000 in grant funding to Stay ChatTY, for suicide prevention and mental health awareness.

We are developing an education system with more support for students with disability, with ongoing funding of $12 million for the reforms from the ministerial taskforce over the forward Estimates.  We are continuing our investment in school infrastructure across the forward Estimates, including upgrading students’ learning environments and growing a Tasmanian economy with a total school and TasTAFE capital program of $117 million.  There is also $57 million over four years to implement the new Education Act, which will improve education outcomes for all young Tasmanians and assist us to reach our goal of leading the nation in education.

The Hodgman Liberal Government’s number 1 priority is jobs.  Under our long-term plan 6400 jobs have been created.  The unemployment rate has dropped to 5.8 per cent, the second lowest rate of any state in the country, but there is still a lot more to do.  That is why this Budget will contain a game-changing job creation package so that we can build Tasmania’s future.  It will help support 7600 jobs right around the state.

I am especially delighted that the centrepiece of our package is a $25 million Youth Employment Strategy, which will give young Tasmanians a helping hand to land a job.  If we can help more young people to find work, we will help them to stay in Tasmania and build a future right here.  The $25 million Youth Employment Strategy includes: $17.1 million in payroll tax relief for businesses that employ apprentices, trainees and young people; grants of up to $4000 for small businesses to employ a trainee or apprentice; $4.1 million to partner with TasCOSS and the TCCI to remove barriers that limit job opportunities for young people, such as transport; $600 000 for the WorkReady program to target high-risk youth aged 16 to 24; and $1.1 million for the Workforce for Now and the Future initiative, including the Driving for Jobs trial to help young people to get a driver’s licence by blending driver training with education and vocational training.

There are also a number of other measures in the Budget that will help all Tasmanians right around the state to find work, such as the $60 million Tasmanian Economic Stimulus Scheme which alone will support up to 800 direct and indirect jobs and will allow councils to bring forward much-needed infrastructure projects.  Not only will our $2 billion infrastructure plan help build the infrastructure that Tasmania needs, it will also help build Tasmania’s future.

Time expired.