Rebecca White MP | Labor Member for Lyons
Tasmanian Labor is calling on the government to urgently address community sector concerns about the looming crisis in funding.
Labor Leader Rebecca White said that having carried the extra load of the coronavirus pandemic, vital community services such as Foodbank are now running on empty.
“Foodbank has literally run out of money and is now operating solely on donations and the efforts of volunteers,” Ms White said.
“They are understandably worried about what happens when JobKeeper and JobSeeker start winding back at the end of this month and demand for their services can be expected to spike – again.”
Labor Member for Franklin Alison Standen said Foodbank is a major provider supplying emergency relief centres with hampers of non-perishable food.
“Neighbourhood Houses, Red Cross, and community churches distribute this food to those most in need and have already been dealing with a doubling in demand during the pandemic.
“Foodbank put in a budget submission last December, but no state Budget in May has meant massive uncertainty.
“These vital services cannot wait for the November Budget.
“Foodbank desperately needs to secure longer term funding so it can assure these grassroots community groups they’ll have a reliable supply of food to distribute to those most in need.”
Peter Gutwein’s inability to say whether Treasury has done any modelling to understand the economic impacts of the Federal Government’s imminent cuts to JobKeeper and JobSeeker raises serious concerns about the government’s commitment to protecting Tasmanian jobs.
Labor Leader Rebecca White said the Premier, who is also the Treasurer, needs to outline a clear plan for jobs and the state’s economy.
“In evidence to the Public Accounts Committee last week the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said, without expansion of JobKeeper, Tasmania will face massive new job losses,” Ms White said.
“Not only that but tourism operators emphasised the importance of JobKeeper to the state’s economy and the need to extend and expand it.
“With 15,000 Tasmanian businesses in receipt of JobKeeper, tens of thousands of workers will be taking a pay cut in just a week, taking money out of their pockets and millions of dollars out of the economy.
“Despite his own acknowledgment that the economy is “fragile”, and the impact the wind back will have on workers and the state’s economy, the Premier has supported the Federal Liberal
Government’s decision to proceed with the cuts.
“Peter Gutwein is not prepared to stand up to Scott Morrison to protect Tasmanian jobs and he has no jobs plan to keep Tasmania’s economy afloat.
“The State Government needs to broaden its recovery approach from infrastructure and I again urge them to look to Labor’s COVID-19 Recovery Package, which sets out a plan to get Tasmanians back into jobs and help those hardest hit by the pandemic.
“Peter Gutwein owes it to Tasmanians to fight to save every job, and every business, rather than backing cuts to JobKeeper and JobSeeker.”
The government must explain how it intends to assist emergency food relief providers who are doing their best to meet huge demand ahead of looming JobKeeper and JobSeeker wind backs.
Labor Leader, Rebecca White, said concerns about food relief predate the pandemic and the government must act urgently to ensure Tasmanians don’t go hungry.
“The government does not have a plan in place to ensure essential services like emergency food relief can cope with an expected spike in demand when the JobKeeper and JobSeeker schemes are wound back next week,” Ms White said.
“For too long Tasmanian food relief services have been over-extended and Peter Gutwein’s failure to act now risks pushing these services to the brink.”
Labor Member for Franklin, Alison Standen, said the Clarendon Vale Neighbourhood House has raised concerns it will not be able to cope following the wind back of JobKeeper and JobSeeker at the end of month.
“The Clarendon Vale Neighbourhood House is already under enormous pressure, providing 300 or more meals a week to Tasmanians in need,” Ms Standen said.
“It is just one of many relief providers that has been stretched to support more people during pandemic, including many new clients.
“When the JobSeeker and JobKeeper schemes are wound back, food relief providers are expecting to get all their old clients back in addition to those who have been new through the doors during COVID.
“Food security is a basic human right - no Tasmanian should be without reliable access to affordable, nutritious food.
“Labor’s COVID-19 Recovery Package sets out a plan to get Tasmanians back into jobs, support those hardest hit by COVID and build a better, fairer Tasmania.”
Peter Gutwein’s forced apology to health professionals at the Launceston General Hospital has revealed the Premier’s true colours and given Tasmanians a glimpse of his vindictive streak.
Labor Leader Rebecca White said the Premier regularly attacks anyone who dares question his government.
“The Premier was forced into backtracking on his outrageous claim that doctors did not write a letter detailing unsafe conditions at the LGH,” Ms White said.
“The LGH doctors’ letter provided a devastating account of conditions at the LGH, and raised serious questions about the hospital’s ability to provide adequate care for members of the community.
Peter Gutwein cut $210 million dollars out of health in his first budget and independent analysis from KPMG revealed that health was underfunded by $100 million every year.
“And it took a global pandemic for the Liberals to reverse $450 million in cuts to essential services, including health.
“Health has been operating under huge pressure for the entire period of the Liberal Government and the cuts have taken a toll on staff morale and, tragically, resulted in unnecessary patient deaths.
“Instead of attacking our overworked health professionals for trying to protect and care for their patients, the Premier needs to listen to their concerns and address them with meaningful action before more patients die needlessly.”
The Premier’s self-confessed ignorance about the number of Tasmanians on JobKeeper defies belief and raises serious questions about the competence of the government.
Labor Leader Rebecca White said, with tens of thousands of Tasmanian workers expecting to have their income reduced in just two weeks, a comprehensive jobs plan is urgently needed.
“Peter Gutwein has admitted that the economy is “fragile”, yet he doesn’t even know how many Tasmanians are in receipt of JobKeeper,” Ms White said.
“Not only that, but he also supports the Federal Liberal government’s decision to scale it back, despite the dramatic impact this will have on workers and the state’s economy, with flow-on effects for consumer spending and business confidence.
“Information provided to the Senate Select Committee on COVID-19 by the Federal Treasury Department has revealed that, of the approximately 3.5 million Australians receiving JobKeeper in June, 1.8 per cent were Tasmanian.
“This equates to a massive 63,000 Tasmanians – a significant proportion of our total workforce – whose support will be cut dramatically in just a fortnight.
“These are basic facts that the Premier should know and it beggars belief that he does not.
“In the absence of any efforts by Peter Gutwein to convince the Federal Government to continue JobKeeper at the current rate, a comprehensive jobs plan is desperately needed to help keep Tasmania’s economy afloat.
“Labor’s COVID-19 Recovery Package outlines our plan to create jobs, including investing in TAFE and offering free training in areas where there are skills gaps, mandating apprentice numbers and investment in social housing.
“Tasmania remains the second worst affected state for jobs, behind locked-down Victoria. The government must develop a clear plan to boost confidence and get Tasmanians back into jobs.”
The Liberal Government has once again been exposed for its lack of a comprehensive jobs plan in response to COVID-19.
Labor Leader Rebecca White today welcomed Unions Tasmania’s survey of nearly 2000 workers.
“Tasmanian workers want investment in good quality services, they want secure work now and they want a government that has a plan for the jobs of the future,” Ms White said.
“The old normal of insecure work, stagnating wages and under-resourcing of skills and training is holding our state back.
“This research reflects many of the elements of Labor’s COVID-19 Recovery Package, including investing in TAFE and offering free training in areas where there are skills gaps.
“There are 63,000 Tasmanians and 15,000 Tasmanian businesses in receipt of JobKeeper.
“JobSeeker and JobKeeper will be wound back in just two weeks and yet Peter Gutwein still doesn’t have a comprehensive plan for jobs.
“Tasmanian workers have spoken and this government needs to listen.
“It can’t bury its head in the sand and pretend that everything will return to normal, because the old normal was failing too many Tasmanians.”
Tasmania’s exports suffered a sharp decline in July, down more than 20 per cent on the previous month.
Latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows Tasmania recorded the second worst result in the country after South Australia.
Labor Leader Rebecca White said it was also very worrying that the decline was more than triple the national figure and was mostly due to the drop off in exports to China.
“While we could never expect to escape the COVID-19 crisis without our exports being affected, this confirms just how damaging and far reaching the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic is for our state.
“Tasmania has become increasingly reliant on China as a market for our exports of agricultural products, seafood and tertiary education.
“This data unfortunately proves the point and serves to reinforce Labor’s calls to diversify our export markets and future proof these industries.
“Diversifying our export markets and supporting our key industries is one of the many job creating ideas in our COVID-19 Recovery Package so that the state can look to emerge from the crisis in better shape.”
A continued lack of inaction by the government to deliver on important infrastructure upgrades is causing traffic headaches for Launceston residents.
Labor Leader Rebecca White said the lack of progress on the government’s election commitment of upgrades to the Charles Street bridge is leading to increased traffic congestion in the area.
“Local councils and the RACT have looked into solutions to ease Launceston’s traffic congestion, but the Government has barely done a thing and have broken their 2018 election promise to start work on the Charles St bridge by now.
“This upgrade was promised to the electorate of Bass as an election commitment by the government who said ‘substantive’ construction would begin in the 2018-19 financial year – but there still isn’t a shovel in the ground.
“The community has expressed concern about the impact of the extended delay – the intersection with Lindsay Street is already one of Launceston’s worst crash sites and tragic congestion is only getting worse.
“We know from Australian Bureau of Statistics data released yesterday that Tasmania has the second worst public capital investment of any state or territory in Australia. With a significant underspend by the Government on infrastructure this comes as no surprise. The Liberal Government has promised to build Tasmania out of recession but Michael Ferguson has demonstrated an inability to build anything.
“Michael Ferguson’s track record of failing to deliver on key infrastructure projects is directly impacting his own electorate.
“Labor identified upgrades to the Charles Street Bridge as a project of regional importance in our COVID-19 Recovery Package, and the government needs to listen and commit to getting the job done.”
Labor is calling on the government to outline its plan to restore full services at the Mersey Community Hospital’s emergency department
Labor Leader Rebecca White said there is too much uncertainty in the community about the lack of action by the government, and residents and staff are calling for answers.
“The reduction in operating hours at the Mersey has caused significant disruption to healthcare services across the North and North West.
“Labor has heard from a number of local residents about their experiences and the difficulties they’ve faced as a result – including long wait periods to be treated at other hospitals and the challenge of needing to travel further in emergency situations.
“One resident, an older gentleman, waited hours for treatment at the Mersey while it was open – only to be transferred at 3am to the North West Regional Hospital for care. This gentleman now has permanent damage to his eyesight, but his family describes this as “lucky” given their experience.
“We’re also hearing from staff who are struggling under the pressure of increased demand for their services without a lack of additional resources and support.
“Along with members of the community, Labor has been campaigning for the government to restore the Emergency Department to full operation, with a petition launched calling for action.
“The government needs to be transparent and outline its plan to attract a permanent workforce and restore the hospital to full operating capacity.
“Every Tasmanian resident deserves access to the highest quality healthcare and emergency support where and when they need it, regardless of their location. The North West coast needs answers, and certainty as to when their services will be restored.”
Labor has again called on the government to introduce mandatory testing for all essential workers who are exempted from quarantine requirements.
Labor Leader Rebecca White welcomed Peter Gutwein’s announcement today that screening processes will be ramped up from the end of the month, but said the changes do not go far enough.
“Labor called for screening of arrivals months ago, and we welcome its introduction.
“But there’s still a very weak link in the chain.
“It makes no sense that we are still not testing everyone who has been granted a quarantine exemption and requiring them to isolate until their test result returns.
“The Premier says the safety of Tasmanians is his priority, yet he has failed to introduce a simple measure that would dramatically increase the protection of our community.”