Rebecca White MP | Labor Member for Lyons

Free TAFE courses, more trainees and infrastructure projects will accelerate Tasmania’s recovery

COVID-19 has had the greatest social and economic impact on Tasmania in a generation.

Many businesses have closed, some permanently, more than 20,000 Tasmanians have lost their jobs and, tragically, 13 people have lost their lives.

The pandemic has also amplified inequality in our community. Before the virus, Tasmania had the highest rate of underemployment in the country, and too many people relied on precarious casual employment. Many of these were the first to lose their jobs when COVID-19 hit.

But we have a unique opportunity to emerge from this crisis a better and fairer state, with opportunities for all Tasmanians.

Labor’s COVID-19 Recovery Package, which will form the basis of Labor’s submission to the Premier’s Economic and Social Recovery Advisory Council, is designed to get Tasmanians back into jobs, help those hardest hit by the pandemic, and create a better, fairer and more resilient economy and society.

We have the opportunity to work with business, unions, local government and the community as we recover and focus on our number one task— to create jobs for Tasmanians.

Labor’s COVID-19 Recovery Package is the result of significant stakeholder consultation across the state, with people who are deeply invested in our shared future.

We are advocating support of projects identified by those groups as important to COVID recovery.

We are contributing positively through the Advisory Council’s consultation process, and it will be for the council to recommend final projects for the government to consider as they develop the budget.

Labor’s package also includes projects that have already been announced by government, but which have stalled. We know those projects are costed; what we are advocating for is for the State Government to get them back on track and fast-track their delivery.

The government’s response to date has been focussed heavily on infrastructure projects, all of which have the support of the Labor Party.

But, as important as this is, we also need to support other sectors and workers hardest hit by the shutdown.

Labor’s number one priority is to create jobs.

But this cannot be onedimensional. It must reflect that some sectors have been hit harder, and that women and young people have been disproportionately affected.

The opportunity in recovery is to reverse the trend of casualisation, insecure work and erosion of workers’ rights, which leave thousands of people just one week’s pay away from homelessness.

Labor’s free TAFE policy would provide immediate opportunities for Tasmanians to get the skills they need to get a foot in the door and get a job.

We must ensure that Tasmanians benefit from the government’s large stimulus spending by requiring 20 per cent of all employees on these projects are apprentices or trainees. This will not only train a workforce for the future, but will help tackle Tasmania’s high youth unemployment rate, now at a staggering 14.9 per cent.

Recovery requires a comprehensive response that covers all sectors and all regions, with a place-based focus on buying local, building local and employing local.

We need to strengthen our regions and empower them to rebuild.

Businesses will need continued support to survive in the short-term. But longterm recovery will rely on government working with business and industry to innovate and identify new market opportunities.

Labor is calling for the establishment of industry and region-specific innovation and investment funds to provide support and assist targeted growth.

We are open to supporting the creation of industry-led co-ops to allow smaller businesses to collectively increase their purchasing power.

There is also a need for clear access to lines of equity and capital at reasonable rates, in some cases underwritten by government.

Government assistance for industry must be tied to businesses building a better framework of economic security for workers. Without job security, the decisions workers make on a daily basis on where and how they spend their money will be severely restricted. Job security builds consumer confidence and a stronger economy.

Labor will continue to push for the JobKeeper scheme to be extended beyond September for the worst-hit sectors, and for better clarity on border restrictions with safe states, so tourism and hospitality operators will know when they can return to normal trade.

Significantly, we need to remember that social recovery is just as important as economic recovery.

COVID-19 will have lasting impacts on people’s mental health, particularly our young people who require targeted support. We repeat our call for the government to adopt Labor’s policy to make sure there are mental health workers in every state school.

The pandemic has demonstrated the catastrophic consequences of underinvestment in the health system and highlighted the need to upgrade health facilities across the state, particularly regional health facilities and services.

COVID-19 has brought much pain and distress. But we can and must learn from it and one of the most important lessons is that we are all in this together, and we need to look after each other.

Tasmania can be a beacon for fairness. We are small enough that no one should be left behind, and clever enough that we can do great things that make us the envy of the world.

From this tragedy, let’s find a way to build hope for the future — for all Tasmanians.

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Rebecca White

Authorised by Lindsay White, 276 Masons Road, Nugent, 7172