Rebecca White MP | Labor Member for Lyons
A year ago we were told by this Minority Liberal Government that the state was on the cusp of a golden age.
Tasmanians were promised that they would all share the benefits of economic prosperity and good budget management.
Tasmanians were promised that services would be improved and infrastructure delivered – all while keeping the budget in surplus and out of net debt.
At that time, the Treasurer’s words rang hollow for the people living in tents at the Hobart show grounds.
His brash statements were cruel to hear for the patients stuck in hospital emergency departments.
His comments showed scant regard for the thousands of Tasmanians looking for work.
The cry of a golden age with spoils to share was empty rhetoric for thousands of teachers, nurses, paramedics, firefighters and park rangers who were told they did not deserve a pay rise that kept up with the cost of living.
The Treasurer’s words rang hollow then.
And they certainly ring hollow now.
Just a year after the Treasurer promised the dawning of a golden age, he has plunged our state into debt and budget cuts due to his financial incompetence.
Spending on Ministerial staff and credit cards has exploded at the same time the Liberal Government is sending the state into debt and taking the axe to the public service.
The Premier has no coherent explanation for the bloated spending across Ministerial offices.
Ministerial staffing has blown out by 27.6 per cent in three years.
The Government Media Unit has grown by 50 per cent in the same period.
In the year to March, $42,436.99 had been racked up on credit cards by Ministerial staff.
In a single year, the Chief of Staff to Guy Barnett spent $14,846.64 on the credit card.
Labor Leader Rebecca White said the level of government waste was appalling.
“The Liberals claim to be responsible financial managers and yet they are spending like drunken sailors and have plunged Tasmania into $1.1 billion in net debt,” Ms White said.
“The axe is hanging over the jobs of teachers, nurses and park rangers at the same time that Ministerial staff numbers have ballooned.
“The priorities of this Minority Liberal Government are all wrong.”
The shameful hypocrisy of Will Hodgman has again been laid bare with revelations he personally encouraged Mona to lobby both major parties for Federal funding for its hotel development.
Federal Labor committed funding to secure public amenities as part of the development, including a theatre and convention space.
Will Hodgman sat silent as his Federal Liberal colleagues recklessly used Mona as a political football.
Labor Leader Rebecca White said the Premier should be ashamed.
“The revelation that Will Hodgman actually encouraged Mona to lobby for Federal funds is extraordinary,” Ms White said.
“He pretended to support Mona’s development and then he betrayed them in pursuit of a political advantage.
“This is a shocking example of the shameful hypocrisy of this Premier.
“He is a fair weather friend of the tourism industry and he cannot be trusted.”
Labor Leader Rebecca White today called for the Hodgman Government to ditch its arrogant 2 per cent wage cap for Tasmanian public sector employees.
Ms White said “Labor stands with Tasmanian teachers, nurses, paramedics, park rangers and child safety officers who are among the thousands of committed public service workers currently facing a real wage cut from this Government.
“The Premier and the Treasurer have shown time and time again that they don’t value or respect our hardworking men and women.
“In contrast to that, last week it was revealed that many of the Government owned businesses are paying increases above the cap.
“One GBE is giving its hardworking team a rise of 4 per cent this year.
“In a ‘golden age’, it’s only fair that workers are rewarded for all their hard work – not taken for granted.
“The Treasurer is too arrogant to back away from his unfair and unreasonable pay offer, and the Premier is too weak to make him do it.”
The Government is deliberately trying to protect the new Commissioner for Children and Young People from scrutiny under Right to Information.
Labor Leader Rebecca White said it was no coincidence that a day after the appointment of the new Commissioner, the Government tried to amend the RTI Act.
“The Government is conveniently attempting to exempt this position from Right to Information when it has never been excluded before, “ Ms White said.
“Can the Premier honestly claim this is a coincidence or is this a deliberate attempt to shield the Government from further scrutiny?
“We know that in July last year, the former Commissioner for Children and Young People Mark Morrissey wrote to the Government asking it to consider including the position in the RTI Act.
“Why did it take the Government 16 months to act?
“We can only assume it is because the person appointed to this new role happens to be the Deputy Premier’s former Chief of Staff.
“The Government has interfered and removed the fundamental need for the Commissioner’s role to be entirely independent from government and free from political interference.”
Labor is forging ahead with its commitment to work with stakeholders across the state’s key economic sectors to create more full time jobs in Tasmania.
The Labor Party today held the first meeting of its newly established Industry Advisory Councils with Daniel Leesong from the Tourism Industry Council Tasmania chairing the Tourism, Hospitality, Festivals, Heritage and the Arts IAC at Perth this afternoon.
“We know that to create jobs, we need to have real conversations with the people who know our industries best,” Labor Leader Rebecca White said.
“That’s why we have established eight Industry Advisory Councils to develop strong, enduring policy for our state.”
The meeting coincided with a tour of a local whiskey distillery, which is eager to attract more tourists and employ more Tasmanians.
“The owners of Adams Distillery at Perth expressed concerns over a lack of skilled workers available in Tasmania for its business,” Ms White said.
“This whiskey distillery has been so successful, the owners will soon need to employ another distiller but unfortunately they will need to look interstate and overseas as Tasmania lacks appropriate training courses for their industry.
“This is a common theme expressed by many businesses we are visiting around Tasmania and more needs to be done to match these skills shortages with the education and training being offered to Tasmanians.
“Our IACs will focus on the longer term challenges and opportunities facing Tasmania’s economy and our people, including education and training.”
The Morrison Liberal Government has broken a major promise to Tasmanians by outsourcing Medicare jobs in Hobart to a labour hire company.
Shadow Minister for Federal State Relations Rebecca White said the move by the Prime Minister to outsource up to 12 Tasmanian jobs breaks the Federal Government’s commitment to deliver services from within the public service and was further evidence of the Liberal’s determination to privatise Medicare.
“This is a shocking breach of trust by Scott Morrison, especially considering the Liberal Government gave a definitive commitment that no area of Medicare would be privatised,” Ms White said.
“Malcolm Turnbull made what he called an unequivocal commitment in 2016 that every element of Medicare services would continue to be delivered by government.
“To do otherwise now is an extraordinary betrayal of Tasmanians and local jobs.
“If Mr Morrison is serious about that commitment to Medicare and is serious about supporting and keeping federal public service jobs in Tasmania, he will step in and stop this outsourcing.
“Tasmanians and Australians are proud of Medicare and they rely on this crucial service that should not be contracted out to private companies by the government.”
Premier Hodgman’s farcical response to the Sarah Courtney scandal has once again highlighted a weak leader who is totally unprepared to make tough decisions and act in the best interests of Tasmanians.
Labor Leader Rebecca White said the Premier’s failure to take action against a Minister - even in the face of a clear breach of the Ministerial Code of Conduct - proved his Cabinet members would not face reprisals for inappropriate behavior under his weak leadership.
“This is a desperately secretive Premier who is prepared to tolerate unacceptable behavior from the Liberal Members of Parliament who Tasmanians put their trust in to represent them and act with integrity,” Ms White said.
“Tasmanians are right to be questioning yet again this government’s lack of transparency and asking: What does a Minister actually have to do to get sacked by this Premier?
“Today it has been confirmed that Ms Courtney breached the Code of Conduct but despite this, the Premier has failed to remove her from his Cabinet, just as he has refused to move his failed Health Minister Michael Ferguson and just as he has refused to address other glaring problems with his government.
“The Premier must end the secrecy and release full, un-redacted copies of the reports he commissioned because right now there are more questions than answers.
“Tasmanians are no clearer today on the pertinent question of when exactly the relationship between Ms Courtney and Dr John Whittington began which is extremely important because of the conflict of interest and because it raises serious questions about every decision she has made as a Minister.
“The investigation has found that Ms Courtney should have disclosed her relationship on September 13 but the Premier says she told him on October 14 – given the serious nature of this conflict, why did it take more than a month?
“The Premier says Ms Courtney has been counselled but does the same apply to Dr Whittington?
“Were staff from DPIPWE interviewed as part of this investigation or were their concerns ignored?
“Have these investigations looked at the potential misuse of taxpayer funds in the course of the relationship between Ms Courtney and Dr Whittington?
“The Premier has to answer these questions – and others – and not attempt to sweep yet another scandal in his government under the carpet.”
Premier Hodgman has an opportunity to show Tasmanians he is prepared to step in and provide solutions to the health crisis rather than play politics on this critical issue.
Labor Leader Rebecca White said the Premier should agree to work toward implementing workable measures that could be put in place quickly to alleviate unprecedented pressure on doctors and nurses, other health professionals and patients.
“Labor has presented the Premier with a detailed list of actions which are readily available to the government to help ease the pressure on emergency departments, reduce waiting lists and give Tasmanians access to the health care they need,” Ms White said.
“The Premier today has the opportunity to show that he understands this issue is above politics. We must work together to ensure this crisis is addressed today, not in 12 or 18 month’s time.
“Tasmanians want leadership from Premier Hodgman. Tasmanians are rightly tired of the arrogance of Michael Ferguson who does not want to act and clearly has no intention of providing effective solutions.”
Ms White called on the Premier to work with Labor to: