27 May 2014

Madam Speaker, I congratulate all members of this House on their election and re-election on 15 March.  All here, whether Liberal, Labor or Greens, have worked exceptionally hard for the privilege of being in this Chamber today.

It is a real privilege and honour to stand here as an elected Liberal member for Franklin for a second term.  I feel especially humbled, as I know from the feedback I have received since the election that many of the people who voted for me either voted Liberal for the first time or for the first time in 16 years, and I want to thank them today for their vote of confidence in both me and in the Liberal Party.  I do not take their vote confidence lightly and intend to prove to my electorate that I am once again worthy of their support and trust. 

I really enjoyed this campaign.  I had a lot of fun and laughs along the way, mainly due to the great team of supporters we had, especially the Liberal Party members and all the wellwishers who assisted me in so many generous ways during the campaign.  I especially want to pay tribute to Nic Street and Sue Bastone, who unfortunately cannot be in this Chamber with us today.  During the campaign we had a great time together.  We did a lot of things together and they truly were great team members and I look forward to working with them in whatever capacity again in the future.

A special thanks must also go to my husband, Tim, who spent weeks redecorating the electorate of Franklin with signs they were here, there and everywhere, as well as being campaign manager, chief cook, cleaner, caregiver, event and doorknocking coordinator.  I also thank my four children, my biggest supporters, who were with me every step of the way.  You could not do this job in parliament without the support of your loved ones and your kids.  I am very grateful for all their love and support.

I would also like to congratulate all the returning members to this House, especially in my own electorate of Franklin, the members Nick McKim and Lara Giddings.  I pay tribute to Lara as being our first female Premier of this state; likewise to you, Madam Speaker, for being our first female Speaker. Let me also congratulate our new member for Franklin, Paul Harriss MP.  I certainly enjoy working with Paul in the electorate of Franklin, and now in Cabinet.  As well, a big welcome to our new Liberal member for Lyons, Guy Barnett; our new member for Bass, Sarah Courtney, and our new members for Braddon, Roger Jaensch and Joan Rylah.  I also welcome the member for Lyons, David Llewellyn, back to the House.

Debate adjourned.

Resumed 5th June from 27 May


Madam Speaker, I will resume from where I left off by congratulating our new member for Franklin, Paul Harriss MP.  I certainly enjoy working with Paul in the electorate of Franklin, and now in Cabinet.  As well, a big welcome to our new Liberal member for Lyons, Guy Barnett; our new member for Bass, Sarah Courtney, and our new members for Braddon, Roger Jaensch and Joan Rylah.  I also welcome the member for Lyons, David Llewellyn, back to the House.

I especially welcome and congratulate the new member for Denison, Madeleine Ogilvie, for her stance during the election campaign of supporting the Liberals’ long-term plan for autism, and generally for being willing to state publicly that our policy – as you did say – was far and away superior to the policies of both her own Labor Party and that of the Greens.  I appreciate that that was a tough call for you during an election campaign, so I genuinely thank you for being willing to take such a strong stand on such an important issue.

I pay a special tribute and acknowledgment to my other Franklin colleague who is now the Premier of Tasmania, the Honourable Will Hodgman.  Words cannot adequately express how much I valued his leadership, guidance, support and friendship over the last four years.  I am absolutely delighted that he is now our Premier.

I am absolutely delighted to be taking up the Human Services portfolio and continuing as minister my work over the last four years with the community sector.  I have the highest regard for the community sector and its professionalism and I look forward to working with this sector for an exciting future.

It is a fact that as a result of 16 years of Labor, Tasmania has entrenched disadvantage.  Almost one third of our population relies on Commonwealth benefits as their main source of income, compared to just over 22 per cent nationally.  In addition, 13.7 per cent of Tasmanians live below the poverty line and unemployment is the highest in the nation.  Therefore, demand for support has skyrocketed.

This Government will always support those who are vulnerable and need support.  However, we cannot keep on doing things the way they have always been done for the last 16 years under Labor and expect that these statistics will change.  That is why as a new government we have set down an agenda for long-term and significant reform in the way we support Tasmanians, one that provides joined-up support to clients and communities and delivers improved integration between services.  However, the Government alone cannot achieve this reform.  This is a collective effort between government and the community sector.  We know that we need to work constructively together hand-in-hand to achieve it.

Part of working hand-in-hand is for the Government to further ease the burden of compliance and reporting that takes the sector’s resources away from service delivery and clients.  My work in aged care made me all too aware of the perils of red tape and over-regulation, and how simplifying reporting requirements can result in greater service delivery and better outcomes for staff and clients.  I am pleased to say that to this end the Peaks Network and Government Strategic Forum are establishing a working group that will undertake a data and reporting audit to identify areas for red tape reduction.

With children and youth services now part of the Human Services portfolio, there are significant synergies and opportunities right across the portfolio as housing, disability, community, children and youth services quite often have contact with the same clients.  This is also a human services platform from which to achieve our long-term plan to create a seamless support system that will be easier for families and individuals to navigate, and reduces frustration and duplication.  It will be focused on outcomes instead of the current output based human services support system.  Because of output program-based funding, it is fragmented, uncoordinated, and difficult to access.  For vulnerable individuals and families with complex needs, it can be a full-time job finding and accessing support.

Our plan is a long-term one and certainly will not happen overnight.  That is why the first step is consultation with the community sector to develop a shared vision of what we want to achieve and the steps we need to take to move towards new client-centred approaches and to simplify an increasingly complex system for our clients to navigate.

I am pleased to say, as detailed in our first 100-day implementation plan, that the first round table with the community sector will be held this month so that we can begin this new long-term plan.  One focus of the Government’s long-term plan for children, young people and families is support to assist families to address problems earlier and to stay together.  Initiatives include short-term respite for children while families are receiving intensive support.  This is to prevent children being removed unnecessarily while parents get the support they need to keep their family together.  It includes a pre-placement process as part of a comprehensive continuum of care that addresses the needs of children and their families far earlier in a planned and structured manner.

In child protection, measures include earlier consideration of long-term permanent placement options for those children who can never be returned safely to their family home; the establishment of an independent process to review child death and serious injury; and the beginning of a new model of child protection that will provide greater back-up and support to workers by creating small child-protection teams who work together for a group of families or children.

In the United Kingdom, this model has resulted in a 50 per cent reduction in staff sickness, a reduction in the bureaucratic burden, a 40 per cent reduction in children going into care, and a better consistency and continuity of care.  As well, we want to work with the Foster Carers’ Association of Tasmania to assist FCAT in its goal of becoming a modern, responsive organisation that supports and advocates for foster carers, while improving the relationship between child protection services and foster carers.

We will be investing in a statewide network of youth justice programs to break the cycle of youth crime.  In my portfolio, this includes Save the Children’s Supporting Young People on Bail program, which won a 2013 Australian Crime and Violence Prevention award from the Australian Institute of Criminology.  We also have Save the Children’s post-detention transition program that provides one-on-one support.  It has shown outstanding results in helping young people who have offended to re-engage with education and positive influences, and to prevent re-offending.  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 statewide.

With regard to disability services, this Government has been the strongest supporter of the NDIS from day one.  I note that in the Federal Budget, despite Labor’s scaremongering and month-long fear campaign, it is the Liberal Party making the NDIS a reality for people with disability and their families.  In fact, the Federal Budget actually returned an extra $44.9 million to the NDIS, which the previous Federal Labor government had ripped out when they incorrectly applied an increased efficiency dividend to funded support under the NDIS.  That is $44.9 million extra that will go directly to meeting the needs of people with a disability.

To further demonstrate our commitment to people living with disabilities, we have committed an extra $2 million over four years to deliver vital support to people living with a disability.  This equates to an extra 12 000 hours of support to address the historically high waiting lists which are a legacy of both Labor and the Greens.  Eighty-three per cent of Tasmanians are currently outside of the 15-24 age cohort of the NDIS, and we acknowledge that extra assistance is needed now – not in 2019.  In recognition of the changed workforce demands brought about by the NDIS, we will also fund NDS, National Disability Services, to develop a workforce plan to assist the sector to transition to a new environment, and to help ensure we have an NDIS job-ready workforce.

We are also investing in unlocking the learning potential of children with autism and introducing best-practice autism care into Tasmania, including the award-winning and innovative web-based platform, Rethink Autism.

The community sector employs almost 11 000 people in all regions of the state and is one of the largest employers in Tasmania.  Therefore this Government is also committed to contributing to wage increases for Tasmanian community sector employees, flowing from the 2012 equal pay case decision.  The Government will also provide additional operational funding to the community sector over four years to supplement indexation.  This will make a big difference to the community sector organisations around Tasmania, enabling them to recruit and retain a quality workforce into the future and to meet increasing demand for their services.

In an average week there are over 7 600 participants in Neighbourhood Houses across Tasmania and over 600 volunteers, averaging 3 880 volunteer hours.  That is why this Government will also invest $1.7 million into Tasmania’s 34 neighbourhood and community houses, providing each house with an additional one-off funding injection of $25 000 per annum over the next two years.

In addition to our one-off funding injection we will also provide $100 000 to resource 15‑20 start‑up food co-operatives to help families and individuals to access low‑cost, healthy, fresh and nutritious food by establishing partnerships between community, local food producers, neighbourhood and community houses and food relief organisations.  We will also ensure that in future emergencies, local community houses are properly recognised and resourced as part of a crisis response in playing a key role in distributing emergency aid and acting as a community hub, like Dunalley Neighbourhood House did in the January 2013 bushfires.

This Government also has a long-term plan to improve housing outcomes, with work already commenced on the development of a state affordable housing plan for Tasmania as per our first 100-day implementation plan.  Last month I hosted a round table of 50 key stakeholders from government, local councils, community housing providers, homelessness support providers and representatives from industry bodies and the private sector to begin the conversation about what the plan needs to achieve for housing over the next decade.  This plan will address the entire housing spectrum from home ownership to affordable rental, public and community housing and crisis accommodation.  It will also consider innovative partnerships between government, community and private sectors to increase the supply of affordable housing into the future.

This roundtable followed the announcement earlier the same week that we have also delivered on our election commitment of overhauling and reviewing the HomeShare scheme so as to make it easier for low‑ to middle‑income Tasmanians to purchase their own homes.  Under HomeShare the cost of buying a new home is shared with the Director of Housing.  By sharing ownership, low‑ to middle‑income Tasmanians are now able to buy a house that they otherwise could not afford.  For the first time, HomeShare will also be available to all public housing tenants who are able to afford a loan, giving them the opportunity to also take the step from renting to home ownership.

The Liberal Government has also commenced the construction of the Trinity Hill youth accommodation and training facility, which will provide for ongoing and supervised housing for 46 young people who would otherwise find themselves homeless.  The construction of this facility will see at least 100 extra direct and indirect jobs being created for Tasmanians by Tasmanian firm Fairbrother, and will produce around $34 million in new economic activity for Tasmania.  Sixteen of the independent living units will also be targeted towards low‑ to moderate‑income earners, including young people living with disability supported by the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

As other members have commented, I welcome the increased female representation now in our Parliament.  As the first dedicated Minister for Women since 2006 I am 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.  As all members would be aware, we know that, sadly, family violence and sexual assault are still primarily perpetrated against women, that women are still paid less than men and that women are under-represented in leadership roles.  That is why since becoming minister I quickly commenced working with the Australian Government on the second action plan of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children as well as uniting with the Commonwealth and other states and territories to jointly fund the new Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety – ANROWS – to address Tasmania’s high rates of domestic and family violence.  In the 2012‑13 financial year there were 2 530 reported incidents of family violence in Tasmania – 1 267 cases in the south, 598 in the north and 665 in the west.  Alarmingly, in 2012‑13 more than 80 per cent of recorded family violence victims in Tasmania were female.  These statistics are unacceptable and that is why the Liberal Government is contributing $100 000 over a three-year period to ANROWS to research the driving factors behind violence against women so we can better tailor our response.

To further raise the importance of primary prevention, I have written to all my Tasmanian parliamentary colleagues in both Houses asking them to continue to support, or become engaged in, the White Ribbon Ambassador campaign.  White Ribbon is the world’s largest male‑led movement to end men’s violence against women.  Therefore if all the male members of this Parliament can consider becoming White Ribbon Ambassadors and if all the women in this Tasmanian Parliament can be White Ribbon Champions, that is a powerful message for us to make together to the Tasmanian people that violence against women is unacceptable.

To further protect women and children, this Government will invest an additional $924 000 over four years into preventing sexual assault and to increase after-hours sexual assault services.  This funding will be going toBravehearts so they can implement their student safety program in Tasmanian schools statewide, where evaluations have found that this program has the potential to reduce child sexual assault by up to 50 per cent.  We will also provide increased funding to the after‑hours crisis service for adult survivors of child sexual assault who are also experiencing complex issues including severe post-traumatic stress disorder, and training resources for all hospital and allied health staff about the impact of child and adult sexual assault.

Women have long been recognised as the group that experiences significant inequities based on their gender.  There is therefore important work to be done in this area to ensure there are equal opportunities for women in education, training and leadership, as well as 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.  I acknowledge all the work that has already occurred in these areas through the development of the Tasmanian Women’s Plan 2013‑2018, as well as Taking Action: Tasmania’s Primary Prevention Strategy to Reduce Violence Against Women and Children 2012‑2022.  Both these documents are living documents from which we will continue to develop and implement further strategies.

We also have a wide range of ongoing activities that will help us to improve the safety and wellbeing of all women and children in the long term, such as professional development for service workers and education programs that model respectful relationships for young people in schools.

I also acknowledge the invaluable role the Tasmanian Women’s Council, which I met with on Tuesday, has played in shaping the government’s priorities for women since 1990.  It is doing important work in advancing women’s leadership in Tasmania in many settings, such as women in our rural communities, women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, Aboriginal women and women with disability.

I was pleased to announce today that nominations for the Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women for 2015 are now open.  We know many women and women’s organisations do not receive the recognition they deserve.  This is an ideal opportunity to showcase the inspiring lives of Tasmanian women.  Nominations for the 2015 Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women are open until 26 September 2014 and will be assessed by an independent judging panel.

All these initiatives demonstrate that 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.

This Liberal Government is getting on with the job of delivering our long‑term plan for Tasmania.  We know there are no silver bullets, but step by step we are delivering on our long‑term plans to change Tasmania for the better, especially for Tasmania’s most vulnerable.  We have begun fixing the budget mess and, just as importantly, we have begun rebuilding Tasmania’s human services system.