Media Releases

Rebecca White MP | Labor Member for Lyons

The Liberal Government’s Minister responsible for the release of critical quarterly updates on the state of Tasmania’s public housing and child protection system must explain today why the latest reports are now weeks overdue.

Shadow Minister for Health and Human Services Rebecca White said Jacquie Petrusma needed to either today release the latest progress updates – which contain information up to the end of December last year – or explain what she has got to hide.

“Each quarter the Department of Health and Human Services releases information about how many people are waiting for housing and how many children are in the out of home care system,” Ms White said.

“Yet – like everything Mrs Petrusma has responsibility for – it appears they need to be dragged out of her office.

“The last update was provided in September 2015 and the December publication is now well overdue which begs the obvious question: Is there something in those reports that Mrs Petrusma does not want Tasmanians to know about?

“Minister Petrusma cannot hide from public scrutiny of her portfolio and must release this information as a matter of priority - today.  

“Tasmanians have a right to know whether the government has made improvements addressing the growing number of people waiting for public housing.

“They have a right to be provided with a clear picture of the state of our child protection system, particularly considering the rightfully high level of interest in Jacquie Petrusma’s handling of the child protection portfolio in recent months.

“This is the same Minister that was responsible for 151 child protection notifications being ignored in the north west and a youth in her care being made to live in a tent in the middle of winter.”

Shadow Health Minister Rebecca White said Labor has been raising concerns about the amount of overtime and double shifts performed by nursing staff for a number of months now.

“Rosters need to be appropriately staffed so that nurses aren’t required to do overtime and double shifts as regularly as they have been,” Ms White said.

“The announcement by the Government to cap overtime at four hours does mean that nurses will be leaving half way through an ordinary shift.

“If the Government does not properly resource the roster to make sure that there are enough nurses working each shift this could have terrible consequences for staff and patients if clinical needs aren’t met.

“It could also lead to more cancellations of surgery due to staff shortages.

“The Government needs to work collaboratively with the ANMF and all staff to ensure that staff and patient needs are met.”

Embattled Human Services Minister Jacquie Petrusma's plan to privatise public housing is coming unstuck. 

Shadow Minister Rebecca White said despite repeated questioning, Jacquie Petrusma has been unable to provide any evidence that her idea to give away 500 public housing properties will result in 150 new affordable housing properties being built.

“Labor understands that not all community housing providers agree that title transfer will help leverage funds for investment from the banking sector,” Ms White said.

“In fact, there is growing concern that this policy is ill-considered and rushed.

“The Tasmanian public should be concerned that Jacquie Petrusma is willing to give away public assets without any evidence it will increase the supply of affordable housing.

“If Jacquie Petrusma does have evidence or modelling for the policy she should release it.”

The Liberal Government has broken a key commitment when it comes to public housing.

Shadow Human Services Minister Rebecca White said the Liberals have missed a deadline.

“The Human Services Minister’s Affordable Housing Strategy commits the Government to releasing details about the transfer of public housing properties and call for expressions of interest by the end of October,”Ms White said.

“It is now November and the Tasmanian public is none the wiser about the Government’s intention to privatise public housing.

“The Minister has failed to provide any details about what evidence the Government is relying on to justify the decision to give away 500 public housing properties.

“The Minister has failed to provide any details about what modelling has been done to understand how 150 properties can be built if 500 public housing properties are given away.

The next quarterly progress chart measuring the outputs of the Department of Health is due soon.

In July, Labor called for the progress chart to offer better transparency and change how it measures and monitors the health of Tasmanians.

Shadow Health Minister Rebecca White said to improve how we prevent ill health we need to start measuring how prevalent common ailments are in the community so we can be more effective and accountable for tackling them.

“Labor has argued that the progress chart should include measures against preventable illness such as communicable diseases, tobacco, drug and alcohol-related diseases, avoidable deaths, avoidable hospitalisations and early detection of diseases,” Ms White said.

“It is important that targets are established that encourage early detection and hospital avoidance, shifting resources to this area and keeping people well, rather than spending the bulk of the health budget responding when someone is already unwell. 

“The benefits to the community from an improved investment in prevention include improved health and wellbeing including mental health, reduced or delayed chronic disease, reduced work absenteeism and improved workforce productivity.”

The Minister for Health has confirmed that the Healthy Tasmania Committee, tasked with developing a preventative health strategy for Tasmania, has been disbanded.

Shadow Minister Rebecca White said the committee was set up in February with the task to provide strategic advice and assistance to the Minister for Health on the future direction for good health and chronic disease prevention in Tasmania

“The Minister confirmed that the Healthy Tasmanian Committee reported to the Government on time but since then there has been no announcement from the Government about its work,” Ms White said.

One of Tasmania’s leading community housing providers has raised concerns over the Government’s plans to privatise public housing stock.

Colony 47 is the lead agency administering Housing Connect on behalf of the State Government.

Colony 47 Chief executive Therese Taylor has cast doubt on the Government’s claims that its privatisation plan has universal support in the community sector.

“There is not consensus across the community sector that the Government transferring title to the Better Housing Futures Providers is acceptable,” Ms Taylor said.

“Colony 47 would question the decision because public housing is a public asset and we believe this Government had a policy of not selling public assets.

“My concerns are that it doesn’t seem to be based on any particular business case and the need to give away titles­ as opposed to just the management, the case for that hasn’t been established.” (Therese Taylor, Colony 47)

“The Minister has failed to produce a single shred of research or evidence to support the privatisation of 500 properties,” Shadow Human Services Minister Rebecca White said.

“In the words of the Government’s own lead agency, the Minister needs to establish the case for title transfer.”

The Liberal Government has failed to provide any evidence to underpin the decision to give away 500 public housing properties to the private sector.

Shadow Human Services Minister Rebecca White said the Liberals are unable to explain why they are rushing into gifting $125 million worth of public assets.

“The Government has rushed head-on into a privatisation agenda without a mandate,” Ms White said.

“Jacquie Petrusma failed in Question Time to point to any evidence to back up her Government’s privatisation of public housing stocks.

“Labor’s concern is not with community housing providers’ ability to manage these properties, but with the Government’s handling of the issue.

“The Minister couldn’t even say if the decision had to be approved by Parliament, in line with the requirements of the Crown Lands Act.

“The Liberals promised not to privatise public assets, before and after the 2014 election.

“The Minister indicated in Estimates last year that the handover of title was not something up for consideration for five to ten years.”

“I am not saying it will ever happen but I am not going to rule it out.  We cannot say what the decision is going to be in five or 10 years' time, but because you are quite right that there are legitimate concerns, it will not be happening for quite a few years.” (Minister Jacquie Petrusma, Estimates, September 2014)

The Minister went on to say:

“At this stage because there are legitimate concerns I can say that unless we can be sure that tenants' rights will be protected and Housing stock will definitely 100 per cent remain affordable housing that complies with national community housing regulations et cetera, it will be ruled out.  There is a lot more work to be done before it will ever be ruled in but I am not going to 100 per cent rule out something which in five or 10 years in the future might have to be coming in.”

“Now they’re giving away 500 public housing properties without any clear supporting evidence, without consulting stakeholders, and they are failing to be transparent about the process,” Ms White said. 

The Minister for Human Services seems to think that the only stakeholder views relevant to the discussion about the transfer of 500 public housing properties are the community housing providers who are set to benefit from the decision.

Shadow Minister Rebecca White said the Minister today dismissed concerns raised by the CEO of Colony 47, Therese Taylor, about the move to give away 500 public housing properties because Colony 47 is not a community housing provider.

“Colony 47 is the lead agency for the operation of Housing Connect and has been operating in Tasmania for more than 40 years providing support to vulnerable Tasmanians,” Ms White said.  

The most recent progress chart shows there are more people on the public housing waiting list compared to the same time last year.

Shadow Human Services Minister Rebecca White said there were 2771 people were waiting for public housing at the end of June this year.

“There are more people on the public housing waiting list compared to the previous quarter,” Ms White said.

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