Media Releases

Rebecca White MP | Labor Member for Lyons

  • Sue Hickey joins calls for embattled Ferguson to go
  • Minority Liberal Government desperate to avoid testing its numbers
  • Michael Ferguson can’t run from scrutiny forever

The Minority Liberal Government has gagged debate in the Parliament to protect its embattled Health Minister from a vote of no confidence.

Liberal Member for Clark Sue Hickey has declared her position that the Minister should be removed, joining Labor, health professionals and more than 3000 Tasmanians who signed a petition this year for his removal.

“If I was Premier, I would say it’s time to give Michael … I would give him something else to do.”

“I think it’s time for Michael to consider his position.  He’s lost the faith of the doctors. He’s lost the faith of the nurses. There’s not a lot of faith in the Parliament.  He just stands up every day and says thanks for this report… He can’t keep glossing over this. This is a serious issue. And it probably just needs fresh blood.”

– Sue Hickey, Mornings with Leon Compton, 12 June 2019

Labor Leader Rebecca White said this meant Mr Ferguson would be unlikely to survive a no confidence motion.

“The Liberals will do anything to avoid a vote in the Parliament, because they know that they will lose and Minister Ferguson will have to go,” Ms White said.

“If the Liberals had confidence in Michael Ferguson they would allow a proper debate and vote.

“Tasmanians have lost confidence in Michael Ferguson, health professionals and patients have lost confidence in Michael Ferguson and it is only a desperate and divided minority Liberal Government which is preventing the Parliament from formally declaring it too has no confidence in Michael Ferguson.

“Michael Ferguson can’t run from scrutiny forever.”

  • Minister Ferguson misleading Tasmanians about adolescent mental health
  • Young people suffer while the Minister fails to act
  • Minister must set the record straight

Health Minister Michael Ferguson is failing vulnerable young people by blatantly misleading Tasmanians about the development of so called ‘dedicated’ adolescent mental health units in Launceston and Hobart.

In a Media Release dated 30 May, the Health Minister stated:

“To be clear - the K block facility is designed and built as a dedicated Adolescent Mental Health Unit, and the Ward 4K Redevelopment will provide a new 36-bed contemporary facility, which will include Tasmania’s first dedicated Adolescent Mental Health Unit.”

However, the Minister has now admitted that not all of the beds in these ‘dedicated’ adolescent mental health units would be exclusively for mental health patients.

Labor Leader Rebecca White said it was clear the Minister would say anything in order to save his political skin.

“The truth is that Launceston and Hobart will not have dedicated adolescent mental health units and MinisterFerguson has been caught out deliberately misleading Tasmanians,” Ms White said.

“The Minister now needs to set the record straight and be honest to those young people in urgent need of mental health care.

“We are calling on the Minister to reveal exactly how many of the 16 adolescent beds at the RHH and eight at the LGH will be available for mental health and when they will be open.”

  • Liberals failing to deliver on skills and training commitments
  • Rockliff must tell Tasmanians why work at Claremont College has not started
  • Government not acting while hospitality enrolments remain in freefall

The Hodgman Liberal Government and Education and Training Minister Jeremy Rockliff are failing on a key election promise to deliver desperately needed infrastructure to train future generations of Tasmanian tourism and hospitality workers.

Labor Leader Rebecca White said at the same time less than half of the students who enrolled in hospitality at TasTAFE last year completed their courses,  Mr Rockliff must explain why a promised commitment to extend the Drysdale training facility into Claremont College this year had not yet started.

“Work on this critical project was to have started last year and be completed by 2020,” Ms White said.

“But with no progress made whatsoever so far on the $3.5m commitment, Mr Rockliff needs to explain when work will start and if it will be completed on time.

“It’s unacceptable that work has not commenced at the same time this Minister has overseen a shocking decline in the numbers of students enrolling and completing courses by failing to invest in training a workforce to help the state’s tourism and hospitality industry grow.

“Data released just last month showed that while 434 students were enrolled in hospitality courses in 2018, only 202 successfully completed the course.

“Mr Rockliff cannot explain this dramatic decline at the same time the Hodgman Government has set its own target to increase training capacity to reach 50,000 tourism and hospitality jobs by 2020.

“Tasmania needs to be offering training in Hobart’s northern suburbs to allow opportunities for people to get the qualifications to get work in the industry.

“Labor is actively talking to industry and business and our Industry Advisory Councils - including the Tourism, Hospitality, Festivals, Heritage and the Arts IAC – are focused on the long-term challenges and opportunities facing Tasmania’s economy and our people, including education and training.”

  • Grants program will help businesses upgrade trade waste infrastructure
  • Business and community organisations not receiving help from government
  • Up front trade waste costs putting business at risk

Labor will launch a grants program to assist businesses upgrade their trade waste infrastructure and prevent them closing down.

Labor Leader Rebecca White said the $5 million grants program would prevent businesses and jobs throughout Tasmanian going down the drain.

“Small businesses employ tens of thousands of Tasmanians but many of them are facing up-front costs of up to $30,000 to comply with new trade waste requirements,” Ms White said.

“At the same time community groups and sports clubs, most of which are staffed by volunteers, have no idea where they will source money for the compulsory installation of grease traps.

“This is simply unaffordable for too many of them.

“A number of small business owners are so concerned they say they are considering walking away rather than taking out loans to pay for new equipment.

“The effect on mum and dad businesses is so serious the Chair of TasWater recently wrote to Labor asking for our help to find an urgent solution.”

“It is important to note that the expense of complying with environmental regulations also jeopardises the viability of many smaller commercial operations like local bakeries, cafes or hairdressers who, though small, collectively employ just as many people in Tasmania, especially in our regions.”

Letter from TasWater Chair Dr Stephen Gumley

“It’s been two years since the Treasurer Peter Gutwein promised to fix the issue when the State Government took over TasWater but nothing has been done,” Ms White said.

“Two years ago the Treasurer said the trade waste issue was having a ‘devastating impact’ and forcing small businesses to close but since then there has been no action.”

Ms White said any registered business in Tasmania, including those connected to community groups and sports clubs, would be eligible for grants.

The grants will be competitive and the funding provided based on greatest need and will cover up to half the cost of meeting a business’s trade waste requirements.  

  • Labor to rebuild TAFE to be engine room of the economy
  • Free TAFE policy for 5000 Tasmanians
  • Liberal inaction has seen 2000 apprenticeships vanish

Labor’s Free TAFE Policy will mean more jobs for Tasmanians, where we need them.

It is a disgraceful fact that under the Liberals 2000 apprenticeships have been lost.

Labor’s $10 million free TAFE policy will provide 5000 students the qualifications they need to find jobs in our fastest growing industries.

Labor Leader Rebecca White said Tasmania’s TAFE system should be the training engine room of the economy, driving qualifications and employment.

“Labor will rebuild TAFE,” Ms White said.

“TAFE training has the capacity to be delivered in our regions as well as our cities and should be working seamlessly with industry to identify skills gaps and tailor training to meet the need.

“When Tasmanians hear stories about tradies flying in from the mainland or overseas to work at the Royal Hobart Hospital they ask why they couldn’t get that job.”

Labor will provide free TAFE courses across the building and construction, hospitality, aged care and disability services sectors.

“This means jobs for Tasmanians and a boost for our businesses,” Ms White said.

Labor will also mandate that apprentices and trainees undertake at least 20 per cent of labour on government building and construction contracts.

This policy will also apply to the civil construction industry. 

Ms White said we should maximise the return on government projects for all Tasmanians.

“Tasmanians looking for work should get the first chance at an apprenticeship or traineeship,” Ms White said.

Labor Leader Rebecca White has called on Health Minister Michael Ferguson to come clean on whether he received the damning Auditor-General’s report into Tasmania’s health crisis before this year’s Budget.

Minister Ferguson refused to answer the question in Parliament today and needs to confess immediately.

The Health Minister’s refusal to answer comes as it was reported that the health budget could be cut by up to $160 million.

“If Michael Ferguson was aware of the report before the Budget and still accepted cuts to health spending, then he is an even worse Health Minister than we thought he was,” Ms White said.

“The Auditor-General has called for urgent action which must be implemented.

“The Auditor-General has reinforced what Labor has been saying for years – Tasmania has a health crisis.”

The Liberals have used their numbers to prevent debate of Parliament’s confidence in the Health Minister.

The Auditor-General’s damning report into the health crisis has laid bare the collapse of health services under Michael Ferguson.

For a motion of no confidence to be debated, it must be agreed to by a two-thirds majority of Parliament, which the Liberals did not allow because they cannot guarantee Michael Ferguson will survive the vote.

“This is chaotic minority government in action,” Labor Leader Rebecca White said.

“The Liberals finally know that Michael Ferguson is a lost cause and are now running a protection racket to avoid a vote on the floor of the house.

“If the Liberals had any confidence in this failed Health Minister they would have argued their defence of him in Parliament. Instead they used their numbers to avoid the debate.

“The fact is Michael Ferguson needs to be sacked by the Premier but Will Hodgman is too weak to act.”

  • Liberals voted unanimously to hold health roundtables
  • Six months on there has been no action as pledge abandoned
  • Liberals not listening, slashing budget as health crisis gets worse
The Hodgman Government has walked away from its commitment to work with all sides of politics, health professionals, unions and other stakeholders to work on solutions to the health crisis.
Labor’s motion in Parliament last October passed with Liberal support. The Parliament then reaffirmed its support in another motion in November. It required the Government to convene roundtables with key players in health and all political parties – yet six months on, there has been no action.
“What should have been a positive step forward for health professionals and patients has instead become a reminder of the Liberals’ complete inability to solve the health crisis,” Labor Leader Rebecca White said.
“Everyone knows there’s a health crisis in Tasmania but the Government blunders on and refuses any offer to help solve the challenges our health system is being put under.
“Those voices are being ignored by Premier Hodgman and Minister Ferguson.”
Last year Ms White wrote to Premier Hodgman offering to work constructively to solve the health crisis, putting forward 10 suggestions including:
  • Staffing pharmacy, radiology, medical imaging and allied health after hours and on weekends to improve discharge processes and free up beds
  • Listening to the solutions proposed by workers at the LGH to solve bed block
  • Immediately addressing the annual $100 million black hole in health identified in the Government’s own report
  • Releasing crucial reports into the health system by KPMG and Deloitte
  • Dramatically ramping up preventative health measures and programs
  • Invest in 10 mother and baby unit beds statewide
  • Provide funding for capital works at Millbrook Rise to provide a step-down mental health facility
  • Appoint permanent psychiatric emergency nurses statewide
“The Liberals’ health crisis has only gotten worse over the past 12 months,” Ms White said.
“The 2018-19 Budget contained $111 million less for health and hospitals than was spent in the previous financial year.
“Premier Hodgman and Minister Ferguson are not listening and continue to underfund health – and it is Tasmanian patients and their families who are suffering.”
  • 12 months on, the Hodgman Liberal Government is failing Tasmanians
  • Not all Tasmanians are sharing in the ‘Golden Age’
  • Labor’s vision will ensure nobody gets left behind
Twelve months since the election, the Hodgman Liberal Government has failed to make the lives of Tasmanians better.
In her State of the State Reply in Parliament today, Labor Leader, Rebecca White, detailed her vision for Tasmania.
“I see so much potential being squandered by this do-nothing government,” Ms White said.
“For many Tasmanians, this is not the ‘Golden Age’ they were promised. Looking back over the past 12 months people will struggle to find examples of what the government actually achieved to make the lives of Tasmanians better.
“My vision is for a Tasmania that is prosperous enough to provide opportunities for all and small enough that no one gets left behind.
“Tasmania deserves a Government and a future where growing inequality is tackled thoughtfully and meaningfully.
“A future where underemployment and insecure work is acknowledged and Government, business and community can come together to find solutions.
“A future where essential public services are available for everyone, where ideas and innovation are encouraged and celebrated and our economy can provide enough employment for each person seeking a job and they are paid appropriately in recognition of their value.
“Labor is determined to deliver a fairness agenda; better access to hospitals and health care; training pathways to employment; investment in infrastructure to support housing and transport; action on climate change and investment in renewable energy and a balanced budget that gives confidence to business and supports sustainable economic development.
“We are fired up and ready because we know there is no more important job than looking after our state, our community and our children’s future.
“We are going to hold this tired Liberal Government to account every day, because Tasmanians cannot afford another year of failure.
“Tasmanians demands and expect better than this and the Labor party is ready to step up and deliver.”
  • A strategic approach will ensure the viability of the tourism industry
  • Tourists should make a greater contribution to protect Tasmania’s unique places
The Hodgman Liberal Government must be more strategic in managing growth in tourism to ensure the viability of the industry and Tasmania’s natural environment.
Labor Leader, Rebecca White, said anticipated growth in visitor numbers would place increasing pressure on Tasmania’s existing visitor services and our ageing tourism infrastructure.
“Tasmania’s reputation as a ‘must see’ visitor destination continues to gain global recognition and by 2020 our state can expect to welcome 1.5 million visitors."
“We need to ensure we are ready for this growth and Labor’s long-term Regional Tourism Strategy is a solid framework for the future."
“To that end, I would encourage the Government to adopt Labor’s policy to restructure entry fees to our iconic national parks and reserves to ensure the cost matches the true value of the experience."
“Labor wants to see visitors make a greater contribution to protect the things that make our state unique and special."
“This should include investigation of a tiered fee structure for our three most popular parks, with higher fees during times of peak demand, along with a reduction in the price of an annual entry pass for all Tasmanians."
“The proceeds should be reinvested to protect our biosecurity defences and upgrade visitor infrastructure.”
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