2022 State of the State Reply

MOTION – Premier’s Address

3 March 2022

[5.21 p.m.]

Mrs PETRUSMA (Franklin – Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Management) – Mr Deputy Speaker, as a proud member of the Tasmanian Liberal Gutwein Government it is a privilege to be back for this, the second year of the 50th Parliament of Tasmania, and I would like to congratulate the Premier on his 2022 address.  I also want to thank the Premier for his friendship and for his calm, steady leadership.  His reassuring manner has been of great comfort to all Tasmanians throughout the challenges of the past two years.

Under the Premier’s guidance Tasmania has weathered the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.  While it is not over yet, we are in a good place and our reopening plan is progressing well.  We have worked hard to deliver our plan to secure Tasmania’s future and we have kept Tasmanians safe.  This week the Premier outlined a bold long-term vision for the future of Tasmania, with significant announcements in health, education, children and young people, women, family and sexual violence, skills and training, housing, renewable energy, Aboriginal affairs, tourism, agriculture, the environment and sporting infrastructure.

It is clear that along with current economic indicators and our strong policy and infrastructure agenda that our beautiful state is poised to maximise the opportunities and to thrive once again.  Tasmania is now in a fantastic position with unemployment at a record low of 3.8 per cent, which is half of what is was when we came to Government in 2014.  Tasmania has been rebounding strongly from the worst of the pandemic with state final demand in the December 2021 quarter growing at a massive 5.8 per cent over the last 12 months.  This was the second highest growth rate in the nation.  These are just some of the reasons why CommSec has rated Tasmania as the best performing economy in Australia for eight consecutive quarters.

I am honoured to be the Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence, the Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Management and the Minister for Parks.  The opportunity to work across all three of these portfolio areas is a great privilege and I am very dedicated to delivering on all of our commitments during our third term of Government.  Like the Premier I also want to thank in the most generous of terms our hardworking, dedicated and talented public servants as well as all of our Parks personnel, police officers, fire fighters and state emergency service personnel who over the past two years have gone above and beyond in their efforts to keep our state safe and to assist those Tasmanians who needed support during these most challenging times.

Likewise, I want to acknowledge all of my wonderful ministerial and electorate staff, each of whom work exceptionally hard and very long hours to support me.  From the bottom of my heart a huge and big thank you to all of them.  I wish to also congratulate my wonderful parliamentary colleague and fellow member for Franklin, the honourable Nic Street MP, for his well-deserved promotion to Cabinet.  I wish him every success in each of his portfolios.  I likewise also congratulate the member for Clark, the honourable Madeleine Ogilvie MP, on her promotion to Cabinet, Mr Tucker for his election as Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees, and Mr Ellis on his appointment as Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier and Government Whip. 

I would like to acknowledge the outstanding contributions of both Sarah Courtney and of the honourable Jane Howlett MLC and their time as ministers.  We should all understand and appreciate the difficulty in balancing the demands of public life and family.  The recent loss of family members I know has been a devastating loss for both Sarah and Jane and their families.  To them both, I offer my deepest condolences today.

I would also like to warmly welcome and congratulate our new member for Bass, Lara Alexander MP, who has a wonderful and inspiring background in community service and will bring a wealth of skills and experience to this parliament, and to the Gutwein Liberal team.  I am also proud to represent the great electorate and wonderful people of Franklin.  I am delighted that there are an exciting range of commitments that this Government is delivering for those living south and east of Hobart.  Anyone who has travelled between the city and Sorell recently cannot miss the significant works that are currently under construction as part of our southeast traffic solution, with major upgrades at the Hobart Airport interchange and Midway Point well advanced and on track to be finished by the end of this year.

In addition to the significant investments we are already making in our greater Hobart traffic solution, in the next few years we will also be commencing the $60 million dollar upgrade to deliver a new grade separated interchange at the Algona Road roundabout, and duplication of the Kingston bypass.  On the eastern shore, we are also providing funding towards the commencement of the $55 million stage three upgrade of the South Arm Highway through Rokeby, which will provide full duplication between Pass Road and Oakdowns, and remove commuter traffic from the Rokeby commercial district.

We are providing funding to a new $8 million multi-sports facility at Bayview Secondary College, $6.5 million for a major redevelopment of Lauderdale Primary School and $15.1 million dollars for a major redevelopment of Cambridge Primary School.  These are all very exciting improvements that will vastly improve opportunities and outcomes for our children and young people in these growing parts of the electorate of Franklin.

Keeping our community safe from harm is a core function of government and I am very honoured to be working with our brave police officers, firefighters and SES staff and volunteers.  Throughout the pandemic, Tasmania Police has had a central role in protecting our community.  Commissioner Hine as the state controller has had the responsibility for the whole-of-government response.  I want to offer my thanks and deepest appreciation to Commissioner Hine for his steady leadership, as well as to all of our hard-working police officers and emergency services personnel who have helped protect us from the threat of COVID-19.  Their dedicated efforts have enabled us to reopen our borders safely and to re-join Australia and the rest of the world.

Tasmania is one of the safest places in Australia to live and raise a family because of this Government’s commitment to tackling crime and investing in policing.  Tasmania Police recorded 24 089 total offences in 2020-21, the lowest number recorded in eight years.  This is an outstanding result.  We know that there is more to do, which is why last year’s Budget committed $348 million over the forward Estimates to Tasmania Police as part of our plan to keep Tasmanians safe.  This includes capital funding of $100 million.  The Government has also committed to recruiting an additional 308 police officers, which is a 30 per cent increase since we came to Government in 2014.  To deliver on this commitment, we have another course of recruits that will be graduating at the academy next week.  I am very much looking forward to welcoming them to the force.

We continue to make investments to ensure that our emergency services personnel are well supported and have fit-for-purpose infrastructure.  I was delighted last week to open the new $5 million New Norfolk police station.  In a couple of weeks we will be opening the new $1 million northern Special Operations Group facility as well as the new $5 million Longford police station.

We also have a new $6.5 million state control centre, which will provide our emergency services personnel with the state of the art technology and space they need to respond to emergencies, with the Tasmania Fire Service and the air desk already operating from this facility throughout the bushfire season.  Linked to this investment we will be expanding the team of skilled staff in the state operations centre, with an investment of $900 000 to set up our permanent multi-hazard intelligence team, that will work from the state control centre to plan and provide rapid advice to incident response.

Tasmanians can be proud of our magnificent Tasmania Fire Service and State Emergency Service volunteers.  This Government is delivering for our volunteers: $2 million in grants funding on top of the $2 million committed in 2018, $2 million to roll out enhanced standard equipment for brigades, $250 000 for new-generation defibrillators, which are already being distributed around the state; $2.4 million for staff to recruit and retain volunteers, and we have also doubled our investment in the health and wellbeing program to $3 million, with this program being fully expanded to all of our volunteers in the TFS and the SES. 

Over the coming year, we will also complete the new Sorell Emergency Services Hub, with a contract awarded to Tasmanian company Fairbrother.  Construction is already underway.  In addition to this, we are investing $7 million to refurbish the Launceston Police Station and will be delivering a new $3.6 million Southern Special Operations Group facility, which is being built by another Tasmanian firm, Voss Construction and Joinery. 

As well, we also have our rollout of the $567 million Tasmanian Government radio network contract, which is progressing well.  Over the forward Estimates, we will also see the commencement of a new $12.5 million Bridgewater Police Station and a new $7.5 million St Helens Police Station. 

This Government understands that we face increasing climate‑related threats and challenges, which is why last year’s Budget provided $125.6 million across the forward Estimates for bushfire and flood prevention and safety, ensuring that our communities are ready and resilient.  To date, we have invested $55 million in fuel reduction and over the forward Estimates, we will deliver another $48.3 million to reduce the risk of bushfires.  This will be a massive investment of $103.3 million in fuel reduction since 2014.

We are also diversifying our approaches to fuel reduction.  Last year’s Budget provided $2.5 million through the fuel reduction program to support mechanical clearing in places where burning is not appropriate.  While fuel reduction burning does not prevent bushfires from occurring, the potential damage from fires is greatly reduced, making it easier and safer for firefighters to control them.  We have seen this on several occasions in this summer’s bushfire season, with fuel reduction burns already undertaken in recent years being credited with reducing intensities of fires at Dynnyrne, Sisters Beach and Olegas Bluff in south-west Tasmania.

I want to thank all of our brave firefighters in the Tasmanian Fire Service, Parks and Wildlife Service and Sustainable Timbers Tasmania and the staff who support them for everything they do to keep our community safe and protect our homes and our natural and cultural values and heritage.

The voices of all victim‑survivors matter.  All victim‑survivors of child sexual violence, whether historical or contemporary, need to know that they can come forward and that when they do they will be heard and appropriate action will be taken. 

On 26 February 2021 Tasmania Police released the Tasmania Police Outcomes Report in relation to the police investigation of James Geoffrey Griffin.  The outcomes report demonstrated that collaboration between government agencies was not optimal and service to victim survivors needed to be improved.  Tasmania Police and other agencies have also acknowledged this need for improvement.  As a result of the outcomes report, the Government allocated $1.5 million for the establishment of a child sexual abuse joint review team, which has been given the task of implementing the recommendations from the outcomes report, along with a need to deliver a historical complaints review process and to provide recommendations to government on structural reform for best practice service provision to victim-survivors of sexual violence.  The joint review team includes experienced child safety professionals from the Department of Communities, detectives and intelligence analysts.  Since its inception the joint review team has undertaken a significant body of work, including:  undertaken a review of thousands of records held across government agencies to assess any potential risk to children; developed MOUs between Tasmania Police, Communities Tasmania, Justice and Education to ensure that information is shared promptly across agencies; and they have also developed training and investigation guidelines for police officers and child safety professionals. 

The work of the joint review team in reviewing reports and records has been meticulous and thorough.  This process has involved the review of thousands of records held across government systems and agencies, with a focus on the approximately 136 000 individuals who are registered to work with vulnerable people in Tasmania, as these individuals have access to our children through their work or volunteering.  I am advised that after all these thousands of records were reviewed by the joint review team there have been no children identified as being at current risk of harm.  Furthermore, that reviewing intelligence holdings will continue to be a key focus to ensure that information holdings are maintained, evaluated and used to protect children and identify and respond to potential risk.

The impact of child sexual violence is devastating and it is critically important that we provide the most comprehensive and supportive response for victim‑survivors.  This Government wants to ensure that we do everything we possibly can to make sure that our children and young people remain safe and protected.  This is why, last year, the Premier asked the Commissioner of Police for advice on structural reform across government to ensure that we are providing a best practice sexual violence response for Tasmania that puts victim-survivors at the centre.

Having received the Commissioner’s advice, the Premier announced this week the Government’s intention to establish next level multi-disciplinary centres in Tasmania.  Multi‑disciplinary centres are a proven model in other jurisdictions, both nationally and internationally as they ensure that victim-survivors of sexual and family violence receive immediate and integrated wraparound support in a safe place from a range of services.

This is a landmark outcome for victim-survivors who will be at the centre of this new support model.  In addition, this will be the most significant change to how we respond to family and sexual violence since we came to government in 2014. These new facilities will be a place where victim-survivors can access the support and the services they need and, if they are ready, to formally report to specialist police investigators through the provision of multi‑disciplinary support teams including family and sexual support and counselling services, witness intermediaries, police and other related services.

These multi-disciplinary centres will also have specialist analysts embedded in them so that any and all information regarding the abhorrent criminal behaviour of child exploitation will be subject to immediate review and information sharing across agencies so that we can better protect our children, improve investigation outcomes and make our community safer.  In addition, these new centres will recognise the intersection between sexual and family violence by expanding the capabilities and resourcing of the Safe Families Coordination Unit to include sexual violence more broadly, creating a multi-agency response and intelligence hub with more effective working relationships between agencies for both sexual and family violence.

In recent years there has been a significant increase in the reporting of sexual violence which comes amid unprecedented public disclosure, media attention and awareness around sexual violence and consent.  The provision of multi-disciplinary centres will address the increasing need for services for both adult and children victim-survivors, and I am pleased to know that funding will be included in this year’s budget for the first of these centres.

Victim-survivors are at the heart of this major reform, therefore planning work has already commenced and will be coordinated alongside the development and release of the Government’s third Family and Sexual Violence Action Plan. The prevention and elimination of family sexual violence is a top priority for me and this Government.  Violence against anyone in any form is simply unacceptable but the harm caused by family and sexual violence is particularly devastating.

Today I would like to pause and acknowledge and pay tribute to the courage of all victim‑survivors of family and sexual violence.  I also thank all those in our Government and NGOs who assist victim‑survivors of family and sexual violence and help them in their most vulnerable time of need, as well as for their strong dedication and ongoing efforts to support Tasmanians impacted by family and sexual violence.

Every Tasmanian has the right to live free from all forms of violence and abuse.  All of us have the responsibility to help make this happen.  This Government takes our role very seriously.  This is why since the launch of our first nation-leading action plan in 2015 and under our second action plan launched in 2019, this Government has continued to build upon its commitment, investment and scope in preventing and responding to family and sexual violence in Tasmania.  We have invested over $300 million in direct and indirect services in responding to family and sexual violence, including $63 million for specific measures under our first and second action plans and the $19 million in direct funding and $59 million in indirect funding that the Tasmanian Government spends to address family violence each year.

Over the same period, we have also successfully secured $8.5 million in investment from the Australian Government, which has enabled the very successful Keeping Women Safe in their Homes program as well funded a range of family sexual violence supports under the national partnership agreements.

We have also always taken a flexible and responsive approach so that we can continue to be responsive to emerging needs and issues.  For example, rather than wait for the current action plan to expire, we committed to investing a further $11.5 million through our 2020-21 state election policies to address current family and sexual violence priorities and related initiatives.  As well, we have already provided additional funding to the family and sexual violence sector to maintain increased organisational capacity to meet demand up to the 30 June 2022.

We were also the first state in Australia to implement a COVID response support package in anticipation of increased family violence.  This is why since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 we have invested an extra $10.8 million in state and national partnership funding for additional service responses to meet demand.

As well, despite the challenges, we continue to deliver significant new responses and key activities under Safe Homes, Families, Communities to date, including: increased investment in primary prevention, including establishing a national first partnership with Our Watch;  committing all Tasmanian government departments to implement the Our Watch Workplace Equality and Respect Standards; the launch of our new Safe from Violence website, Tasmania’s central point of information for family and sexual violence, and I am delighted to say that in February, this website had a 535 per cent increase in monthly page views because of the launch of the Hearing Lived Experience survey on 11 February.

We have also established a harmful sexual behaviours program; we have extended forensic medical examinations to a statewide service; and there has also been ongoing legislative reform including amending the Evidence Act 2001 to allow victims of sexual offences the right to speak out publicly and to identify themselves.

We have also continued our focus on holding perpetrators to account by continuing funding for electronic monitoring following outcomes of the trial that showed:  a 76 per cent decrease in high risk incidents; a 75 per cent decrease in assaults; an 81 per cent reduction of threats; a 74 per cent decrease in property damage; a 100 per cent decrease in reports of stalking; and that 80 per cent of offenders did not reoffend in the six months following the removal of the electronic monitoring device.  These extraordinary results are why Project Vigilance won a silver award in November at the 2021 Australian Crime and Violence Prevention Awards.

I am also pleased to note that this year, my colleague, the Attorney-General will introduce amendments to the Criminal Code to introduce a new standalone criminal offence of strangulation, choking and suffocation and to amend the definition of consent in relation to stealthing.

Recent national conversations have highlighted the importance of hearing from people with lived experience, which is why the Tasmanian Liberal Government is putting the voices of victim‑survivors at the centre of our consultation approach in developing our next Family and Sexual Violence Action Plan.  Through a comprehensive consultation process with people with lived and diverse experience, the community and key stakeholders, we will develop a range of evidence-based initiatives based on feedback from those who are most impacted.

I was pleased to recently launch the public consultation process to inform the development of our next Family and Sexual Violence Action Plan.  I want to say how grateful I am and thankful that Mayor Mary Knowles OAM, who is a victim‑survivor herself, has kindly agreed to be our consultation ambassador so as to encourage other victim‑survivors to share with us their own personal experiences.

There are five key elements of our community consultation including:  the Hearing Lived Experience Survey 2022; establishing a Victim‑Survivors’ Advisory Council; partnering with Tasmanian Aboriginal people; targeted workshops with stakeholders, especially those with diverse lived experience including people with disability, women from CALD communities, women from rural and regional communities and LGBTIQ+ Tasmanians; and public written submissions.

The Hearing Lived Experience Survey 2022 is an online public survey of adult victim‑survivors with lived experience of family and sexual violence.  Through providing an opportunity for victim‑survivors to share their experience, the survey will also build upon our previous survey that we did in 2018, by also including people’s experience of sexual violence in addition to family violence.  Importantly, it provides people the opportunity to share their story anonymously.  The survey is being promoted through family and sexual violence service providers and a statewide advertising campaign.  It can be accessed through the QR code on promotional posters or via the Tasmanian Government’s Safe from Violence website.

I am pleased to note that as of today we have already received 419 completed survey responses, which is a fantastic level of take up in such a short time.  The survey will also be open for 12 months giving people a chance to have their say at a time that is safe for them.

The Government will establish Tasmania’s first ever Victim Survivor Advisory Council.  The advisory council will inform our next action plan as well as provide ongoing advice to the Government during the life of the action plan, ensuring our policy and program design continues to be informed by lived experience.

Additionally, the Government will work in partnership with Tasmanian Aboriginal people during the development and implementation of the action plan, enacting the priority reform areas of the national agreement on Closing the Gap and empowering Tasmanian Aboriginal people to lead responses in their communities. 

Development of the action plan will involve collaboration across government and we will be working with the Family and Sexual Violence Community Consultative Group as well as with a large number of government and non‑government stakeholders and service providers.

Like many Tasmanians, our parks and reserves are dear to my heart and I absolutely love getting out and about with my family to experience Tasmania’s natural beauty.  The Tasmanian Government is very committed to the delivery of upgrades and improvements to enhance our national parks and reserves as well as creating world-class visitor experiences for locals and visitors alike.  This Government committed an unprecedented $127 million in infrastructure investment at the last two elections to futureproof our parks and reserves.  This investment is continuing to support our regional economies in terms of economic activity and jobs creation.

Just this year alone, we will be completing upgrades around the state including the new Dove Lake viewing shelter as part of our $29.8 million investment in the Cradle Mountain Gateway precinct which will complement our award‑winning Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre.  We will also be completing our joint state-federal $3 million investment in new huts on the Overland Track, with renovated huts at Kia Ora and Windermere, which will improve the quality and experience for those completing this iconic bucket-list walk with modern, larger fit-for-purpose facilities.

I am pleased to note that this year with the assistance of Australian Government funding, we will be completing campsite and track upgrades in the Walls of Jerusalem National Park and a new foreshore link track at Freycinet.  We will also be undertaking a range of upgrades to camping facilities on the east coast including at Dianas Basin, Humbug Point, Scamander, Little Beach and Mount William National Park.

Our planned program of works for the future also includes investing $8.4 million to upgrade the waste water treatment systems at Freycinet National Park.  The contract has been awarded and preparations are already under way.  As well, we are committed to our $3 million revitalisation at the Hastings Thermal Pool to contemporise this jewel of the south.  In addition, we will be continuing our program upgrades on Maria Island with a further $6.8 million committed for investments in waste water treatment, energy generation and rainwater capture and storage.

We also have stage two of our camping and access upgrades at Cockle Creek with $3 million committed to deliver realignment and construction of new camping areas for caravans, motor homes and camper trailers.  Over the next three years, we also will be investing $10 million to provide improved and enhanced opportunities for recreational driving in the Arthur Pieman Conservation Area and the broader west coast region, as well as increasing the management and enforcement of regulations in the APCA through increasing the resourcing of the Parks and Wildlife Service at Arthur River as well as undertaking review of the legislative tools available to PWS staff to deal with behaviour which poses a risk to the area’s natural and cultural values.

Other identified priorities include upgrades to the shack nodes in the APCA and the development of a four‑wheel drive strategy, which will inform the investment of our $10 million with tenders for the development of the four‑wheel drive strategy for the APCA and west coast, closing on Monday this week.

I was pleased to announce in September last year that the Tasmanian Government will develop amendments to the National Parks and Reserves Management Act 2002 to recognise the RAA process as a statutory process to improve transparency and opportunity for public comment and appeals.  The current RAA process has been in existence for some time, having been first implemented in 2005, and it has served both the previous Labor-Greens government as well as this Government in managing and mitigating the impacts of activities on reserve land.

Over the last 18 months, the PWS has undertaken extensive review of the RAA system and it has been progressively implementing improvements to the system for greater transparency and consistency.  This includes earlier consultation with experts such as the National Parks and Wildlife Advisory Council and earlier engagement and consultation with Tasmanian Aboriginal people, through Aboriginal Heritage Tasmania and for matters to be referred to the Aboriginal Heritage Council, as well as formal, consultative and expert review of proposals that may affect reserved land managed by the PWS.

The next phase of RAA improvements is to develop a statutory and binding environmental impact assessment process for major use and development proposals.  This work has commenced and I am advised that the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania has established a project team to lead all aspects of this RAA reform.  A consultation paper is currently being prepared to be released in April 2022 to support further discussions and engagement.  Critical to ensuring the success of the RAA reform will be public consultation, especially with key stakeholders and the broader Tasmanian community.  Therefore, the NRET project team will be in contact with key stakeholders when the consultation process commences, and to invite them to provide a submission.  Informed by this feedback, the Government will prepare a draft bill which will be released for public consultation with a view to tabling a final bill this year.

In parallel to this, the Department of Natural Resources and Environment will shortly commence a program to collate and review existing leases and licences with the intention that NRET will be ready to start publishing these once the legislation is in place.  This will include engagement with existing lease and licence holders later this year and will be an important achievement in the delivery of the Government’s transparency agenda and a more robust process.

In conclusion, I thank the Premier for his address.  We have an exciting vision ahead for Tasmania and for the next 10 years.