Rebecca White MP | Labor Member for Lyons
Will Hodgman’s government has learned nothing in the four years since extremely dry conditions in Tasmania threatened water supply for farmers.
In 2015 the South East Irrigation Scheme Stage Two was put on restrictions, limiting farmers to just 2% of their water right.
Labor Leader Rebecca White said the South East Irrigation Scheme Stage Three was opened in the same month, with a promise it would deliver highly reliable irrigation water.
“At that time, Jeremy Rockliff named up some of the biggest investors in Tasmania’s agriculture sector as beneficiaries of the scheme, the same businesses that now have investment at risk because of dramatically reduced water allocations just two months into the season.
“Will Hodgman’s government promised to protect the investment made by irrigators, investment that supports Tasmania’s reputation for premium produce, and supports creation of much-needed regional and rural jobs.
“Far from being able to invest with confidence, those businesses are now worried that without certainty of water, their crops will fail, contracts with supermarkets will be placed at risk, the reputation of nationally recognised businesses and the Tasmanian brand will be on the line and ultimately jobs will be lost.”
Ms White said the current situation is unacceptable, particularly when the Government launched a new Ministerial Policy, Water Resource Management During Extreme Dry Conditions, in response to the 2015 restrictions to prevent impacts on farmers occurring again.
“It was Jeremy Rockliff who said in 2015 that this new Ministerial Policy would, ‘minimise hardship on farmers and regional communities by ensuring that, particularly in spring, there is timelier and pragmatic decision making before the tap is turned off”.
“Embarrassingly for Guy Barnett, he seemed oblivious to the policy when asked today whether it was currently in effect.
“Using scrutiny hearings as an excuse for not attending a meeting with irrigators is very thin. Guy Barnett could have fronted the meeting and still made it to Parliament for hearings on time.
“If Guy Barnett was truly committed to meeting with irrigators to address their concerns he could have arranged the meeting for a time when everyone, including him as Minister, could attend.
“The Minister has ignored his own Ministerial Policy, he’s avoided meeting with irrigators and the Government has turned the tap off on farmers without warning, once again.”
Labor Leader Rebecca White today paid tribute to outgoing CEO of TasCOSS, Kym Goodes.
“Kym’s advocacy work has helped shape public debate on important issues such as housing, education and intergenerational poverty,” Ms White said.
“Her ability to bring the community sector together and actively work towards a whole of government approach to healthy communities is to be commended and we thank her particularly for her work on empowering communities and connecting people with jobs in order to overcome disadvantage.
“Kym’s commitment to ensuring people less fortunate always have a voice was evident even this week, with the release of the TCCI’s Tasmania Report.
“We are sure Kym’s influence at TasCOSS will continue, and trust the next CEO has the same passion for investment in social services and infrastructure.
“Labor wishes Kym all the best with her consulting business and into the future.”
The people of Rosevears have an opportunity to elect a local with fresh energy and a commitment to community in the upcoming Legislative Council election.
Labor Leader Rebecca White said she was delighted to introduce Jess Greene as the Labor candidate for Rosevears.
“To many people in the greater Launceston community Jess needs no introduction. She is a small business owner with her husband Nathan, and a union representative who has worked closely with Tasmanian workers to protect their conditions. She’s also well known for her volunteer work with Laurel House and a number of organisations working to improve health and wellbeing outcomes for children.
“The people of Rosevears deserve a representative who understands and cares about their livelihoods and the issues affecting locals, such as the rising jobless rate in the area and the broken health system”.
Ms Greene said she was a proud advocate for her community.
“As a small business owner and a union representative, I know the importance of a job to someone’s life, and I understand the pressures on operators within a small community to remain profitable and efficient within a competitive business environment.
“I know public sector workers are at breaking point and the pressure will only get worse with Will Hodgman’s savage $450 million cuts to frontline jobs and essential services. I’ll always stand up for the public services we all rely on.
“More than 700 jobs have been lost around Launceston over the past 12 months and the Liberals don’t have a plan to turn things around.
“I wish the outgoing Member for Rosevears Kerry Finch MLC the very best. He’s a genuine local and put the needs of our community first.
“I will be a strong advocate for the people of Rosevears in the Legislative Council and hold the Government to account.”
The division of Rosevears includes the West Tamar municipal area, and the Launceston City municipal area east of the southern outlet and north of the Bass Highway, including Riverside, Trevallyn, West Launceston, Summerhill and most of Prospect.
Data released today by State Treasury shows international exports continue to go backwards, reinforcing a downward trend that’s persisted for more than a year.
Labor Leader and Shadow Trade Minister Rebecca White said the September figures show exports have declined by 3.13% for the year. The figure is in stark contrast to an 18% increase in national export figures over the same period.
“If Tasmania had grown at the national rate, nearly a billion dollars would have come into the economy, supporting businesses to employ more people and generating more wages to be spent in the community,” Ms White said
“Instead, Tasmania is one of only three states and territories to have exports drop in the last year.
“Tasmania is renowned overseas for our high-quality products, including dairy products, meat, wine, seafood, minerals and timber products.
“We have quality products to market overseas but thanks to Will Hodgman’s inaction, figures have gone backwards putting Tasmanian jobs and businesses at risk.
“The Liberals came into Parliament and said the Premier was taking personal responsibility for taking trade to the next level. He has failed.
“Will Hodgman has no long-term vision for Tasmania’s economy.”
Labor Leader, Rebecca White, today met with Westbury residents who are furious about the Liberal Government’s decision to put a maximum security prison on their doorstep with no consultation.
Ms White said it was clear that Elise Archer and the Liberals had completely botched the community consultation process.
“There is significant community concern about building a maximum security prison in Westbury,” Ms White said.
“The community also has a long list of questions that have not been answered – including how many jobs will actually be created in the town.
“Liberal Member for Lyons, Guy Barnett, has broken ranks to describe the concerns of residents as “legitimate.
“What is the government doing to address these concerns, and why isn’t the Premier, Will Hodgman, here to listen to the community in person?
“Labor recognises the need for a new correctional facility in Northern Tasmania but the Liberals have not made the case that Westbury is the only site, or even the best site, for it to be built.
“We don’t know if this is the most suitable site, because the Government is refusing to release the other 9 sites that were shortlisted.
“The most concerning thing about this process is the secrecy and lack of transparency that has become a hallmark of this government.”
On World Mental Health Day, Labor Leader Rebecca White has called on the Hodgman Government to adopt Labor’s policy for mental health workers in all Tasmanian schools.
The statistics around mental health issues for younger Australians are confronting:
“We must work harder to provide better mental health support for all Tasmanians,” Ms White said.
“Labor’s Mental Health Workers in Schools Program will employ a range of mental health professionals including social workers, youth workers and psychologists.
“This will be a real benefit to students in every Tasmanian public primary and high school.
“We are prepared today to work with the Government to deliver this vital policy which will save lives.
“By identifying and treating mental ill health in young Tasmanians we can reduce the number of acute mental health issues presenting at our hospitals and we can help reduce Tasmania’s youth suicide rate, which is among the highest in the country.
“Yesterday the Government announced that it will be cutting $12 million from Tasmanian health services. That’s equivalent to 131 mental health workers sacked.
“Instead of cuts, let’s work together to prioritise the mental health of young people.”
Australian Bureau of Statistics figures released today have confirmed that under Will Hodgman, overseas exports are going backwards.
Export growth was -0.32% in the year to August 2019. National export growth for the same period was almost 18%.
Labor Leader and Shadow Minister for Trade Rebecca White said Tasmanian producers were not getting the full benefits of positive trade conditions while Will Hodgman sat on his hands.
“Tasmania is an island state and we rely heavily on trade to grow jobs in Tasmania and support our economy,” Ms White said.
“It’s unforgiveable that in the Liberals so-called Golden Age and with the Australian dollar at an 11 year low, these export numbers are going backwards.
“Will Hodgman and the Liberal have no plan for the economy besides savage budget cuts.
“Tasmanian exporters do an incredible job but the fact is the Government has not helped them and the data shows Tasmania exported less product overseas than last year.
“Tasmanian businesses deserve better than this laziness and inaction from Will Hodgman.”
Will Hodgman continues to fail hardworking paramedics by refusing to fix Tasmania’s ambulance crisis.
Local ambulance services were chaotic last night, particularly in the north, with the ambulance from Deloraine sent to Latrobe while the ambulance from George Town was sent to Perth.
Labor Leader Rebecca White said local communities were continually left vulnerable when their local ambulance was ramped at the hospital or sent to other jobs out of area.
“People’s lives are being put at risk by a Government that just does not care about regional communities,” Ms White said.
“Will Hodgman is about to cut more money out of the health budget while ambulances are ramped at the hospital or being sent from one end of the state to another because there aren’t enough staff to fill the roster.
“Paramedics just want to be able to do their jobs and help their local communities but instead are under enormous pressure and stress and Will Hodgman is about to cut more funding from their budget.
“We know that Ambulance Tasmania staff have been told to brace themselves for $5.7 million in cuts as part of Will Hodgman’s cruel $450 million slash and burn agenda.
“A $5.7 million cut is equivalent to sacking 37 full time paramedics at a time Tasmanians cannot cope with more cuts.
“Will Hodgman is putting lives at risk just to pay for his Government’s poor financial management.
“He must come clean on these cruel cuts and the impact they will have on Tasmanian jobs and services.”
Damning correspondence released today shows Departments were told how in June how much Will Hodgman and Peter Gutwein would be cutting from their budgets.
The correspondence also shows Department heads were given just seven days to find the $450 million of cuts. The heads of the Health and Communities Departments asked for an extension of time to identify where the cuts would be made, but were rebuffed by Treasury.
Correspondence from the head of DPIPWE shows Minister Gutwein was not even consulted before the plan for cuts from that Agency was submitted.
Shadow Treasurer David O’Byrne said Will Hodgman needs to finally admit to Tasmanians where the cuts will be coming from.
“Will Hodgman has known exactly how much will be cut from each Department since June,” Mr O’Byrne said.
“It was Will Hodgman’s reckless election spending and his Treasurer’s hopeless budget mismanagement that have us hurtling beyond $1 billion of debt. To refuse to level with the Tasmanian people now is just completely gutless.
“Will Hodgman needs to own up to his mistakes and start being honest with the Tasmanian public.
Labor Leader Rebecca White said it was clear Will Hodgman’s chaotic cuts would hurt Tasmanians.
“The heads of the Health and Communities Departments told Will Hodgman they would struggle to find the significant savings in just seven days,” she said.
“Despite promises from Will Hodgman that frontline services will not be affected, the head of Department of Communities said that she needed ‘the time to carefully consider the definition of frontline services and test this with Ministers’.
“The end result of all this dysfunction will be that Tasmanians will have services cut.
“Will Hodgman’s rush to cover up his Budget mismanagement with savage cuts means Tasmanians are languishing on surgery waiting lists, are unable to rely on an ambulance being available when they need one, and can’t get a job because infrastructure projects have been delayed.”
Labor has continued its work to advance Tasmania’s key economic sectors at today’s Tourism, Hospitality, Festivals, Heritage and the Arts Industry Advisory Council meeting.
The IAC is one of several established by Labor in key industry areas to provide stakeholders with direct input into the development of policy and funding decisions.
Today’s meeting was held at TAFE’s Drysdale College campus in Hobart and focused on skills shortages and training as well as strategies to sustainably grow visitation to our state and leverage the benefits for more Tasmanians.
Labor Leader and Shadow Minister for Tourism, Hospitality and Events, Rebecca White, said the meeting was a success.
“Labor has listened to industry experts and we know that under the Hodgman Liberal Government our education and training system is not well linked to the skills needs of industry,” Ms White said.
“Labor’s $10 million free TAFE policy will provide 5000 students the qualifications they need to find jobs in our fastest growing industries with skill shortages – including tourism and hospitality.
“Tasmania has the highest unemployment rate in the nation and the Government must take seriously the responsibility to train Tasmanians otherwise they will leave to get a job elsewhere.
“The infrastructure needs of the visitor economy over the coming decade must also be addressed to make sure Tasmanians and visitors alike can continue to enjoy our beautiful state.
“Labor will continue to work constructively from opposition to advance initiatives that will support sustainable growth in our key economic sectors.”