Tuesday 29 June 2021

[12.47 p.m.]

Mrs PETRUSMA (Franklin – Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Management)Mr Speaker, it is with great delight that I rise to reply to the Governor’s Address.  I congratulate you on your election to the Speaker’s Chair.  I have no doubt that your wisdom and experience will provide for a very orderly but fair House.  I would also like to congratulate all new and returning members of this House on their successful election on 1 May as we collectively form the fiftieth parliament of Tasmania.  Being a member of parliament is a great honour and privilege and I know that we are all here because we all want to make Tasmania an even better place in which to live, work and raise a family and to enjoy everything that our beautiful state has to offer. 

First, I thank the electors of Franklin for their overwhelming support.  The support from my people in my electorate was truly humbling and I look forward to representing them in parliament and in Government over the next four years.  I also wish to acknowledge my fellow Franklin member and great colleague, Nic Street.  I want to congratulate him on his re-election and I look forward to working with him very much for the next four years for the betterment of the Franklin electorate.

I am truly honoured to have been asked by the Premier to join his Cabinet.  I congratulate him on our historic third term election victory, as well as to thank him for his leadership and friendship.  The Premier, Mr Gutwein, has shown strong and calm leadership throughout the pandemic, with decisive decision-making that has protected Tasmania’s people whilst rebuilding our economy.  I look forward to working with the Premier and my Cabinet colleagues to secure Tasmania’s future.

It is a core function of government to ensure that its citizens and communities are kept safe from harm and I look forward to working with our police, fire and SES heroes over the next four years as the Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Management.  Since 2014 the Tasmanian Liberal Government has made significant progress in this portfolio and I look forward to building on that progress to ensure our communities remain safe, especially during COVID-19.  I recently had the pleasure of visiting the State Control Centre and saw first-hand the work that has been undertaken by our police officers and state servants while working hard to protect our state from COVID-19.  Under our emergency management arrangements Commissioner Hine as State Controller has responsibility for coordinating the whole-of-government response to the pandemic and I want to offer him my sincere and deep appreciation for his strong leadership, as well as my sincere and deep appreciation to Deputy Commissioner Scott Tilyard as Deputy State Controller, as well as all of our hard working emergency service and health personnel who continue to be on the front line of keeping us all safe and protected from the threat of COVID-19.

To assist, the new state-of-the-art State Operations Centre and State Control Centre will be operational this year, providing our emergency service personnel with the equipment and space they need to plan and respond to emergencies.  On top of this, we are also providing $900 000 to establish a permanent multi-hazard intelligence team that will work from the State Control Centre to plan and provide rapid advice to incident response.

This Government also understands that we face increasing climate-related threats and challenges, which is why we are responding and planning for these threats to ensure our communities are ready and resilient.  The provision of skilled staff to activate the State Control Centre promptly in emergencies will provide the preparedness and capability to plan and respond to all types of hazards.

This Government also has a strong track record for rebuilding our Police Service.  On top of the 258 police officers that the Government has previously committed, we are adding an additional 50 police officers over the next five years, bringing the total to 308 under this Liberal Government.  This will take Tasmania Police to the highest establishment that it has ever had, with 1428 police officers, a 30 per cent increase since 2014, and will assist Tasmania in being one of the safest places in which to live, work and raise a family.  However, we know that there is more work to be done, which is why the focus of the additional 50 police officers will be to bolster criminal investigation capability which will help to tackle cybercrime as well as disrupt organised crime networks.

I recently had the privilege of visiting the Crime and Intelligence Command, a new division of Tasmania Police that has been established due to the investment of this Government.  This new command is delivering real results to the Tasmanian people, results like the one we saw earlier this month involving the dismantling of a drug syndicate yielding the largest volume of illicit drugs and cash seizures in Tasmanian of over $5.5 million.

We are also delivering more support roles for police officers to ensure our officers remain on the front line and in our communities.  This includes eight additional State Service employees who will support police in roles such as prosecution, cybercrime and digital evidence analysis.

The Tasmanian Liberal Government also delivered the police Capability Review in our last term.  This demonstrated that the nature of policing is changing, with a need for specialist roles that complement and assist police investigations.  This is why we are providing this support to our police, so they can continue the fantastic work they are doing in reducing crime in our state.

Since 2014 the Government has also provided significant investment to improve our police stations around Tasmania.  This is in recognition of both the need to contemporise police stations for our officers and also because we have increased police numbers in our communities to help keep Tasmanians safe, therefore larger stations are needed to accommodate these additional officers.

We are also delivering a new $5 million police station in Longford, a new $5 million police station in New Norfolk and a new $12 million Emergency Services hub at Sorell.  On top of this we have committed $20 million to provide a new police station at St Helens and to upgrade the Bridgewater police station.

This Government has also delivered our nation-leading health and wellbeing program for our emergency services personnel.  This is in recognition of the challenging and confronting roles that our emergency services workers perform and the risk factors that can impact their mental and physical health.  Due to the success of the health and wellbeing program, we are doubling our initial $1.5 million investment to provide the program with $3 million per annum.  This will provide support services to both our career and volunteer emergency services personnel.  This program is already delivering real results in the form of physical and mental health support through services such as psychologists, physical exercise programs, critical incident stress management and wellbeing support. 

I am pleased to note that this Government will also deliver a $4 million grants program to allow local communities to purchase and install CCTV cameras to make Tasmania safer.  While overall crime is reducing, we know there is more to be done to keep our communities safe.  This is why the installation of these CCTV cameras will help deter criminal activity and allow police to access evidence that will assist them to identify offenders as well as to prosecute them.  These new cameras will provide an additional tool for our police officers and build on our very successful drone program which is already delivering results in prosecuting offenders. 

Unfortunately, our emergency services personnel are at times confronted with violent offenders which in some incidents can involve offenders biting, spitting or exposing our personnel to body and blood fluids.

This is abhorrent and places our frontline workers under stress as they wait to hear the results of blood tests to determine if they have been exposed to a transmissible disease such as HIV or hepatitis.

To address this, the Tasmanian Liberal Government will introduce legislation to ensure that mandatory blood testing can occur when a person has deliberately exposed a frontline worker to blood or body fluids that puts them at risk of contracting a disease.

For more than 25 years Crime Stoppers has operated in Tasmania providing an important avenue for people to report crime and to assist police to identify offenders.  Earlier this month we had Crime Stoppers Week which focused on reporting those that deal with drugs.  This Government recognises the important role Crime Stoppers plays in our community, which is why we will provide Crime Stoppers with $100 000 over the next four years to assist in delivering its education programs and adopting innovative programs such as Bikelinc, which will assist Tasmania Police to return stolen bikes to their owners.

Responses to critical mental health incidents usually involve uniformed police officers and this does not always result in the best outcomes for a patient.  This is why this Government will deliver a $5.1 million emergency mental health co-response team.  This team, comprising mental health workers, police and ambulance officers, will improve the way our services respond to critical and specialised mental health cases, ensuring better outcomes for our patients.

I acknowledge our Tasmania Fire Service and State Emergency Service career and volunteer personnel for the incredible work they undertake every day to ensure our communities are ready to respond to emergency situations, and also for their valiant efforts when fire, flood and other emergency incidents occur.  They are always there for us in our time of need and I thank them, as I do Tasmania Police, from the bottom of my heart for their bravery in keeping Tasmanians safe.

To assist them, the Government has invested strongly to keep our community safe from the threat of bushfires and floods. This includes $1.7 million for community protection planning for floods and storms; $4.66 million for flood mitigation for the township of Latrobe; $2.75 million for new state-of-the-art firefighting appliances; $2 million to provide volunteers with equipment through our grants program; $1.5 million to undertake a flood-mapping project; and $9.3 million for 12 extra staff to reduce fuel loads across the state.

We are also continuing a strong investment to provide our communities with as much planning protection as we can from the effects of hazards and emergencies, to ensure that our communities are ready and resilient to the threats of bushfires, floods and other emergencies.

We have already invested $55 million in the fuel-reduction program to protect our communities from bushfire. Building on the success of this program, we are committing a further $2.5 million to support mechanical clearing.  This funding will provide an alternative to burn offs, with machinery to remove trees and undergrowth.

A new division is also being established within the Tasmania Fire Service to manage planning and response to bushfires.  This is through an investment of $8 million.  This division will have responsibility for the management of the Fuel Reduction Program.

On top of this, our Red Hot Tips program has been hugely successful, with 144 farms and private landholders registering.  These participants manage over 327 500 hectares of land and have now completed 189 planned burns. This has been achieved through the Government’s initial investment of $595 000.  Due to the success of this program, we have committed a further $2.5 million so as to continue to manage and reduce bushfire risk.  This funding will allow the program to expand so that more landholders and farmers can seek assistance to undertake bushfire planning and burning, which will enhance business property and community safety.

We are also investing $2 million to roll out enhanced standard equipment for volunteer brigades.  Our volunteers rely on special personal protective clothing and equipment to ensure they can do their jobs.  This means helmets, overalls, jackets and mission-critical equipment that they need to keep themselves safe.

We are also providing $250 000 to provide new-generation defibrillators for volunteer fire trucks.  This not only increases safety for volunteers; it prioritises an added level of coverage to support communities in rural and remote areas.

It is important, especially for our rural communities, that our highly trained volunteers are supported.  With this in mind, we are providing $2.4 million to establish a dedicated team to recruit and support our volunteers across the state.  These new staff will be recruited specifically to work with communities and brigades to recruit new members and retain existing members.

In addition, a permanent executive officer will be allocated to support the volunteers’ associations.  This Government strongly supports our volunteers, which is why we are providing the support needed to grow our volunteers throughout our communities.

We will also deliver a new Fire Service Act for Tasmania.  The Act was proclaimed in 1979 and is no longer contemporary.  Work is underway to commence consultation on the development of a new Act.

Debate adjourned.

Sitting suspended from 1 p.m. to 2.30 p.m.

Resumed from above.

Mrs PETRUSMA – (Franklin – Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Management) – Mr Speaker, I am also delighted to be appointed as the Minister for Parks.  Tasmania’s natural assets are world‑renowned and they hold a special place in my heart.  I am a passionate and frequent user of our parks, and my family and I love nothing more than to pull on our hiking boots and to get out and about in our wild and beautiful places.

I passionately believe that protecting our outstanding universal values must be achieved through culturally sensitive, environmentally sustainable visitation to our National Parks, reserves and Crown lands, to ensure that our beautiful land is available for our future generations, and that future generations can not only explore and learn about our state’s unique wild places, but ensure that our wild places will be passed on to future generations in even better condition than they are today.

Through our unprecedented investment, the Tasmanian Liberal Government has demonstrated its firm commitment to ensuring that these special places are protected and presented in ways that will allow all people to enjoy the natural and cultural values they contain, irrespective of their level of ability.

That is why, in the recent election, this Government made commitments totalling more than $41 million to future‑proof our world‑renowned national parks and reserves through our Parks Powering Regional Economies policy.  This investment will continue to support our regional economies in terms of economic activity and job creation.  These commitments also build on the Government’s record investment in our parks since 2014, where more than $80 million in funding has been committed.

I am particularly pleased about the planned upgrades to the parks facilities in my electorate of Franklin and the far south region.  The Government has committed $3 million towards two major projects in the area, investing in both the redevelopment of the Hastings thermal pool site and upgrades to the Cockle Creek campgrounds.

The Hastings Caves State Reserve is already a key regional tourism drawcard.  Renovation of the popular thermal pool and surrounds will ensure that these facilities are suitable for all. 

Cockle Creek is the southern gateway to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, and is a popular area for camping and for families.  As part of this project, we will realign the site and provide new and enhanced camp sites, including facilities for RVs and motorhomes.  These works will build on and complement the recently completed new day use shelter and toilet facility at the site that I was delighted to visit recently.

A small but very important commitment in the far north‑west of the state is the improvement of access to the Black River day use area through the upgrade of Spion Kop Road.  This commitment will deliver the resheeting and upgrading of 2.1 kilometres of road, and for the removal of vegetation and clearing of drains.  We have also committed to contracting the works within 100 days.  This will certainly be achieved, and I am advised that the grading and resheeting works will occur in the next month. 

On Tasmania’s West Coast, the Government has also committed $600 000 to complete the Horsetail Falls Trail at Queenstown, adding to the short walk offerings that are a significant drawcard activity.

Stage one of the Horsetail Falls walk was funded by the Liberal Government to assist the West Coast community after the Mount Lyell mine entered care and maintenance back in 2014.  At a difficult time, our investment provided access to a platform overlooking the falls, adding a memorable tourism experience to the region that supported increased visitation and jobs in the area.

Our commitment to stage two will provide an attraction in its own right, taking visitors right to the top of the falls and providing a complementary experience to the extensive work being undertaken by the West Coast Council to build a mountain‑biking destination at Mount Owen.

On the East Coast, Freycinet National Park has been one of the fastest growing and most popular tourism destinations in Tasmania.  We have taken the responsible approach of improving infrastructure to meet the existing demands, but also taking steps to ensure that the benefits of tourism do not compromise the national, cultural and social values of the magnificent Freycinet Peninsula. 

Our commitment of an additional $14 million will fund the development of a new visitor gateway to the park.  The gateway will include a transport hub with a shuttle bus to the Wineglass Bay car park, and redesign the road to alleviate congestion on Freycinet Drive as well as reduce the impact on residents.

This new visitor gateway will also build on our joint $15.6 million investment in partnership with the Australian Government to deliver improved waste water treatment and other projects, such as the already completed shared-use track from the Freycinet National Park visitor centre to the Wineglass Bay car park and the second lookout at Wineglass Bay.

I was pleased to recently release the Tourism Master Plan for the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.  One of the priority actions from the plan is the development of a master plan for the Mount Field National Park.  This iconic National Park is a gateway to the TWWHA and the Tasmanian Liberal Government has committed in the election to undertake these master planning works as well as to construct a new arrival concourse at the entrance to the park, a very much needed $1.8 million investment.

The Maria Island National Park is a key attraction on the East Coast and the Tasmanian Liberal Government has recognised our commitment to further invest in this site with an additional $6.8 million for stage 3 of the Maria Island Rediscovered project.  This follows on from our previous commitment of $5.8 million, which will ensure that Maria Island remains a unique and sought-after destination on the east coast of Tasmania.

The new commitment will enable the completion of new wastewater treatment facilities, fund the installation of improved electricity generation infrastructure, including power connection to all buildings in the Darlington precinct, as well as improving rainwater storage infrastructure and undertaking crucial heritage maintenance.  This important project will ensure the facilities on Maria Island are modern and fit for purpose.

Flinders Island has some of the most beautiful and photogenic landscapes in Tasmania and providing access to these areas for visitors is very important for ensuring that these places can help drive, in a sustainable manner, our regional tourism economy on Flinders Island.  This is why we have acknowledged this with a $900 000 investment into parks assets on Flinders Island.  The funds will deliver improvements to infrastructure at Trousers Point Beach, perhaps the most photographed place on the island, as well as investment in camp facilities across the island.

Ben Lomond has, for many years, been known as a ski destination.  Its close proximity to Launceston and the presence of existing infrastructure, make it perfect for development as a year-round attraction.  The Tasmanian Liberal Government will invest $2.8 million to unlock the potential of this National Park by undertaking crucial planning to guide future development, identify priority infrastructure crucial in the development of this site and investing in the highest priority assets.  This investment will allow the Government’s current funding of a replacement for the Ben Lomond public shelter which was destroyed by fire in 2018. 

A planned $2.8 million investment to replace the Tamar Island Boardwalk of the Wetland Centre will secure the future of this outstanding visitor asset in the north of the state.  The centre provides access to a superb wetland and ecosystem of mudflats, lagoons and islands with abundant wildlife and plant species and is operated 364 days of the year by a fantastic team of dedicated volunteers who provide visitors with valuable educational and recreational experiences.

In my electorate of Franklin, we are investing $1.7 million in upgrades of picturesque Cape Bruny in the South Bruny National Park.  These funds will deliver upgraded day-use facilities, improve road access and car-parking facilities and site-planning work to guide future development.  These works will also ensure that the site remains able to cope with an increasing number of visitors wishing to see this glorious and most beautiful coastal environment.

The redevelopment of the Edge of the World experience at Arthur River will provide an important visitor experience in the far North West of Tasmania at this wild and beautiful coastal location.  This investment is important because currently, while the far north-west region receives about 150 000 visitors a year, only about 30 000 of those visitors head in to the area west of Stanley.  We want all areas of Tasmania to benefit from our strong visitor economy. This Government has therefore committed $2.75 million to undertake this redevelopment, which will provide another high quality, natural attraction, to draw visitors to the coast and provide a reason to stay another night.  The redevelopment will allow for the construction of a new, unobtrusive all-weather shelter which will offer visitors the opportunity to take in the breathtaking vista of the west-coast landscapes and the pounding Southern Ocean.

The project also provides another opportunity to deliver high quality interpretive materials to highlight the outstanding values of the Western Tasmanian Aboriginal Cultural Landscape.

Since the development of Safe Homes, Safe Families, our first Family Violence Action Plan in 2015, we have demonstrated our commitment and our belief that it is every Tasmanian’s right to live free from all forms of violence and abuse and it is everyone’s responsibility to make it happen. 

As a survivor of family violence, I am humbled as the new Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence to now be able to work with my cabinet colleagues, this parliament, across government, with community sector organisations, businesses and the wider community towards this important aim.  This is an issue of immense personal importance to me, and eliminating family and sexual violence is, and continues to be, a top priority for the Tasmanian Liberal Government.

Over the past six years, the Tasmanian Liberal Government has invested over $240 million in direct and indirect services in responding to family and sexual violence.  In addition, since 2015 we have provided a further $61.2 million in funding specific measures and we have secured $7.1 million in additional investment by the Australian Government.  We are now in the second year of our second Family and Sexual Violence Action Plan, Safe Homes, Families, Communities, which continues to prioritise the safety and wellbeing of people affected by family and sexual violence, particularly women and their children.

We are also progressing the implementation of 40 actions under Safe Homes, Families, Communities.  These actions form a whole-of-government multi-agency response to addressing family and sexual violence, including measures for primary and early prevention, response and recovery, and actions to strengthen the service system.  Alongside my fellow Ministers, I am privileged to have responsibility for delivering seven actions as the Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence and a further five actions as the Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Management.

I thank all of our emergency services and support personnel, as well as anyone across government, in our non-government organisations, who assist survivors of family and sexual violence and helps them in their most vulnerable time of need.

I was privileged to recently visit the Safe Families Coordination Unit and see firsthand their important work in action.  Under Action 27 the unit is undertaking important work in mapping high-risk families, identifying affected children and notifying schools, and making recommendations to other government agencies.

The SFCU is also working with all partner agencies to broaden data access and to facilitate strategic data analysis.  This aims to provide a more comprehensive evidence base to inform future policy direction and decision-making around targeted, effective interventions.

Our trial of electronic monitoring undertaken under Action 28 proved very successful, with an 82 per cent decrease in high-risk family violence incidents, a 75 per cent decrease in assaults and an 81 per cent decrease in threats, as well as an 87 per cent decrease in allegations of emotional abuse, a 74 per cent reduction in property damage, a 100 per cent decrease in reports of stalking, and 80 per cent did not reoffend in six months following the removal of an electronic monitoring device.

In addition to providing victims with an extra level of safety and comfort, electronic monitoring provides information that forms evidence in court and, in some cases, helps victims avoid attending court to give evidence.  This is why our election commitment includes $2.4 million to continue the monitoring of high-risk family violence perpetrators so as to increase the safety of victims and the accountability of perpetrators.

It is also notable that while there was an increase in reporting of low-risk family violence incidents from 2015 to 2020, at the same time there was a continued reduction or decrease in the number of family violence incidents assessed as high-risk, which is now down 30 per cent.  This is because the Action Plan is not just a checklist of 40 measures:  the Action Plan is a living document that evolves over time.  We will always look at new ideas and explore opportunities to invest into programs that will make a difference.

We will also take action to address emerging needs.  I was inspired to recently meet with the CEO of the Sexual Assault Support Service, Jill Maxwell, and the new CEO of Laurel House, Kathryn Fordyce, following the Government’s announcement of additional funding of $500 000 to these two wonderful organisations.  This additional funding was provided in response to increased demand for their services, enabling both organisations to employ more counsellors and administrative staff.  I was touched to see the comments of Jill Maxwell in the newspaper where she said that “This will make an immediate and tangible impact for many Tasmanian survivors of sexual violence.”

In total for 2021-22, $3.91 million will be provided to support Tasmanians affected by sexual violence. 

It is important to know that our investment in family sexual violence is having a real and measurable impact.  As our last Annual Report on achievements shows, our actions have seen 4 421 abused children being identified, with 3 015 notifications by the Safe Families Coordination Unit to schools, so as to support students experiencing family violence.  The SFCU mapped 197 high-risk family violence incidents ; 643 clients provided with support, counselling and referral options; 353 additional clients provided with legal assistance by the Women’s Legal Service and Legal Aid; 155 women provided with safety upgrades to support them to remain in their own home or home of choice; and 238 children and young people provided with 2019 hours of counselling support by the Australian Childhood Foundation.

As part of our Keeping Women and Girls Safe election policy, we have also committed to the development and implementation of a third action plan.  The third Family and Sexual Violence Action Plan will continue our strong track record through a comprehensive public consultation process with the community and key stakeholders that will commence later this year, and will develop a range of fully-funded evidence-based initiatives to continue our efforts to eliminate the incidence of family and sexual violence in our communities and the devastating impact it has on victims and their families.

In advance of the development of Tasmania’s third action plan, the Australian Government will convene the next National Summit on women’s safety in July.  This National Summit will bring together both levels of government, together with persons with lived experience, family safety advocates, service providers and other stakeholders.  The Summit will continue the important discussions that Australians are now having, building on the existing National Plan in forming the development of the next National Plan that will commence in 2022.  I am very much looking forward to participating in the summit alongside the other Tasmanian community delegates that will be accompanying me.

Tasmania has voted for a strong, stable majority Liberal government because we presented a united team and a detailed plan to secure Tasmania’s future.  As part of the Gutwein Liberal team, I look forward to delivering on our commitments over the next four years, improving and caring for the national and cultural values of our parks, working with our police, fire and emergency service heroes to keep Tasmania safe and continuing our fight against family and sexual violence.

I also want to thank my ministerial staff for everything they have done for me over the last few weeks since becoming minister.  I deeply value all of their advice and support, and I also want to thank my electorate officer Rochelle, without whom I would not have been re‑elected.  I also want to pay tribute and acknowledge the love and support of my family.  Without my husband Tim, my four children and my six grandchildren, I definitely would not have been elected, because it was through all of their help and support that my election signs were put up.  They helped to keep the house tidy and clean and I just want to say how much I value their love and support of me.

I thank and acknowledge everyone in this House again for being returned again to this Fiftieth Parliament.