Rebecca White MP | Labor Member for Lyons
Tasmanian Labor will deliver a fully costed jobs plan to get Tasmanians back to work and deliver what small businesses need to get back on track.
Labor Leader Rebecca White said the package aims to strengthen the state’s economy and create jobs.
“Tasmania’s biggest economic challenge before COVID-19 was job creation, which has only been compounded by the pandemic,” Ms White said.
“At the height of the pandemic, more than 20,000 Tasmanians lost their jobs and, despite early hope that they were returning, there are now worrying signs that the recovery has stalled, with 2,600 jobs lost in the past month.
“Labor’s number one priority is to create jobs and get more people into secure and stable jobs, while giving small businesses the skills they need to keep going.
“We will be releasing a fully costed jobs plan in response to the State Budget, which will build on initiatives in our COVID-19 Recovery Package and detail what a future Labor Government will do to strengthen our economy and create jobs.
“The plan will also detail initiatives to help small businesses, including measures to encourage buying local, and reducing the cost of red tape compliance for small and medium businesses.
“Labor’s Free TAFE policy will also address the gaps in our skills and training system, to break down the cost barrier and provide the skilled workforce needed by Tasmanian businesses.
“Labor is committed to rebuilding TAFE from the ground up and we will be announcing further details in response to the budget.
"COVID-19 has forced all of us to reflect on what is truly important – health, family, freedom and jobs. And we need to ensure those priorities are reflected in our policies so that we rebuild a better and fairer Tasmania.”
Peter Gutwein must meet the standards expected of his government by the community, and release information on the taxpayer-funded $26 million Small Business Hardship scheme.
Labor Leader Rebecca White said the Premier’s refusal to do so puts a spotlight on his aversion to accountability and transparency.
“Labor supports measures taken by the government to assist businesses that have suffered financially because of the impact of COVID.
“The hardship they have faced is well understood by the Tasmanian community. Nobody is going to judge those businesses for seeking help while they are struggling during a global pandemic.
“There is no shame in any Tasmanian business accepting support from government to keep the doors open and workers employed.
“COVID aside, governments across the country do not enjoy high levels of public trust, and one of the main reasons is a lack of transparency, particularly around how public funds are spent.
“There were legitimate concerns with the administration of the Small Business Hardship scheme and that is one reason the scheme is being scrutinised by the Public Accounts Committee.
“Peter Gutwein says he is ‘annoyed’ by questions about the scheme, which demonstrates his resistance to public scrutiny and his failure to be accountable to Tasmanians.
“Tasmanians have a right to know how public funds are being spent. It’s time for Peter Gutwein to take seriously the expectations of the community.”
Labor Leader Rebecca White has welcomed the opening of Tasmania’s border to safe states today but reminded Tasmanians of the need to remain vigilant to the risks of COVID-19.
“It will come as a huge relief to hundreds of Tasmanians who’ve been separated from family and friends during the pandemic, some for many months,” Ms White said.
“It will also bring a welcome boost for the tourism sector and the hundreds of tourist operators and other businesses that rely on the visitor economy including those in accommodation, hospitality and retail.
“It’s been an extremely tough time for our tourism operators and workers in the sector, particularly given Tasmania is the most tourism dependent economy in the country.
“While a large influx of visitors will be a positive thing for the state in many regards, we must remember how deadly COVID-19 can be and remind ourselves to remain alert to the risks posed by the border opening.
“Labor has sought twice to be updated by the Government on preparations and plans that it’s put in place to deal with the border opening, and especially what happens in the event of another COVID outbreak. But twice Peter Gutwein’s office has refused.
“It’s disturbing that as Tasmania takes the next major step towards its COVID recovery, the Gutwein Government has taken this negative positon on keeping the State Opposition informed.”
As Tasmania’s border re-opens to safe states we can be hopeful of the opportunity for the state to begin its recovery from the recession.
As we know, Tasmania’s economic fortunes are very much tied to tourism and our state is more reliant on the tourist dollar than any other in the country.
But Labor Leader Rebecca White said we cannot take the recovery for granted.
“Premier Peter Gutwein’s claims that the economy has already turned around are premature at best, and at worst they are utterly misleading,“ Ms White said.
“Peter Gutwein cannot ignore the reality of dramatic job losses that are continuing across many key industries and sectors including agriculture, forestry and fisheries.
“2,200 Tasmanian workers who’ve lost their jobs since August would have a different view on the state of the economy than Peter Gutwein.
“Any reading of the unemployment data shows that the hard work of creating more jobs for Tasmania has not yet begun, with the unemployment rate climbing a full percentage point in the past month to 7.4%.
“We are not out of the woods yet and Peter Gutwein would do well to start thinking about how he will create jobs for the future rather than talking about what’s happened in the past.”
Labor is pleased the government has listened to community concerns and launched an independent investigation into historic sexual abuse allegations involving a nurse at the Launceston General Hospital.
Labor Leader, Rebecca White, said an independent investigation was the only way to address these serious allegations.
“While it took some time for the government to launch an independent inquiry, we are pleased it has now put this in place as this really is the only way this matter can be dealt with appropriately,” Ms White said.
“We hope a robust framework will be established to ensure children, parents and people who worked with this person are supported through what will be a traumatic time.
“These allegations are shocking and the government needs to do all it can to thoroughly investigate these incidents and commit to implementing any recommendations from the inquiry to ensure this never happens again.”
With one week to go before Tasmania opens its borders to most other states and territories, the Director of Public Health says we need to lift the level of COVID testing by more than 100 people a day.
Labor Leader Rebecca White said it’s astonishing that the Government hasn’t been running a massive public information campaign to encourage more testing in light of the heightened risks associated with border restrictions easing.
“Labor called for the closure of our borders back in March to help protect Tasmanians and to give our state time to prepare, however months later it seems every day there’s more questions about our level of preparedness,” Ms White said.
“It is concerning that so few Tasmanians are getting COVID-19 tests and it will become even more important to increase our testing rates once borders reopen.
“Worryingly it seems Peter Gutwein is just crossing his fingers and hoping that the level of testing has miraculously increased by then.
“Our borders have kept us safe, the protocols the Government adopts for opening them are too important to get wrong.
“There is still no detail about who will be responsible for staffing the health screening at Tasmania’s ports of entry or whether the Government has recruited and trained staff for this important responsibility.
“All Tasmanians, and in particular workers in our aged, disability and health care sectors, deserve to know more about what Peter Gutwein’s plan is.
Peter Gutwein has displayed an appalling lack of integrity by failing to ensure his Ministers face consequences for lying to Tasmanians.
Labor Leader Rebecca White said the outcome of today’s no confidence motion in Roger Jaensch reflects poorly on the Premier, his government and independent Madeleine Ogilvie.
“Peter Gutwein has today failed in his duty to ensure his Ministers display the highest standards of honesty and integrity,” Ms White said.
“If Ministers can’t be trusted to tell the truth in Parliament, how can Tasmanians have confidence in anything they say?
“You would have expected the Premier to have learned from Adam Brooks’ resignation from Parliament last year after lying to the Tasmanian Parliament.
“Instead, the Premier’s actions today just shows the Tasmanian public that he condones lying.
“Roger Jaensch should have done the right thing weeks ago and resigned. It is now the Premier’s responsibility to uphold the Ministerial Code of Conduct by sacking his lying minister.”
Labor is calling for Peter Gutwein to intervene to bring six at-risk Tasmanian children home from the Northern Territory.
Labor Leader Rebecca White said the Premier has a responsibility to the six children who remain with the Brahminy program and needs to step in.
“The Premier was given a clear opportunity in Parliament today to do the right thing and intervene to bring these children home,” Ms White said.
“Instead, he again defended his inept and dishonest Minister, Roger Jaensch, and claimed that these children are safe and well.
“But the parent of one child still in the Brahminy program is begging for them to be brought home.
“The Government is ultimately responsible for the safety of these children and to leave them in the care of a program that is under review and the subject of serious allegations of mistreatment is not acceptable.
“The allegations that Allan Brahminy is not who he says he is undermine the entire foundation upon which the program has been based, yet the Government continues to pay $5,000 a week per child to this program.
“It is time for the Premier to listen to former participants and the families of current participants, and show the compassion needed to bring these kids home.”
The Premier’s ignorance of current apprenticeship ratios on government infrastructure projects underlines his lack of a plan to get Tasmanians back into jobs.
Labor Leader Rebecca White said Labor’s policy of mandated apprentice numbers on public works would help give Tasmanians the pathway they need to secure jobs, as well as addressing critical skills shortages facing industry.
“Peter Gutwein claims to have accepted all the recommendations of his Economic and Social Recovery Advisory Council, including mandating apprentice ratios on all government contracts,” Ms White said.
“But the Premier demonstrated in Parliament this morning that he doesn’t even know the current number of apprentices on government infrastructure projects.
“If the wellbeing and future of Tasmanians mattered to this Premier, he would regularly be measuring compliance against this important policy.
“The Liberals have promised to build Tasmania out of recession, but the building and construction sector is already experiencing critical skills shortages while people are desperately
looking for jobs.
“More than 20,000 Tasmanians lost their jobs at the height of the pandemic and, sadly, around 11,000 people remain out of work, with young people particularly hard hit.
“And, the latest ABS jobs data shows Tasmania’s jobs recovery has stalled, with around 800 more Tasmanians losing their jobs since last month’s figures were announced.
“As Labor’s COVID-19 Recovery Package points out, a 20 per cent quota of apprentices and trainees on all public works, including civil construction, would help people get a foot in the door to a job.
“By adopting this and Labor’s Free TAFE policy, we can provide the training young people need, as well as retraining for people who have lost jobs as a result of the pandemic, and ensure everyone is taken along in recovery.”
It’s pleasing to see Peter Gutwein has finally responded to PESRAC’s calls for a plan to manage future outbreaks of COVID-19.
Labor Leader Rebecca White said it is disappointing the Premier took so long to respond particularly when Tasmania is so close to reopening its borders.
“With Tasmania’s borders set to reopen in just over two weeks, the Premier should have outlined his plan for if and when COVID returns to our state long before today,” Ms White said.
“Tasmanians need to have confidence that arrangements are in place to keep them and their families safe and this drip feed of information doesn’t help.
“The easing of our border restrictions is good news for tourism operators and families separated by the pandemic. It’s been a difficult time and we can now look forward with confidence.
“It’s important Tasmanians remain vigilant and heed the public health messages to continue to get tested.”