Rebecca White MP | Labor Member for Lyons
Labor Leader Rebecca White has welcomed the announcement of further details about the Make Yourself at Home travel voucher scheme but flagged concerns that some businesses in the visitor economy have been excluded.
“We applaud the intent of the scheme and encourage Tasmanians to get out and explore their own backyard.
“As one of the most important job creating industries in the state, supporting tourism operators who have been struggling with the impacts of the pandemic has never been more important or necessary.
Before COVID more than 13-percent of Tasmanians were directly or indirectly employed in the sector.
“The Australian Tourism Industry Council estimates we’re losing 51 of those jobs every day, with $28 million weekly lost to our state’s gross domestic product.
Tourism businesses suffered a $476 million hit in the two months April-May this year compared to 2019 according to Tourism Research Australia.
The travel voucher scheme to commence from 7 September will be welcome news for some.
But the $7.5 million program can only go a small way to recovering these losses.
“The way the scheme is designed will exclude many in the industry who would have hoped to benefit - cafes, restaurants and events such as comedy shows or theatre productions won’t qualify.
“The omission of these businesses by the government ignores the significant contribution the hospitality sector and creative industries make to the visitor economy.
“We also know from the Northern Territory experience that 26-thousand travel vouchers were snapped up online within 10 hours of launch.
Latest figures from TasCOSS show there are still 28 suburbs and towns across Tasmania where more than 20 percent of homes do not have internet access.
“The risk of people without a computer or reliable internet access missing out needs to be quickly addressed by the government before the scheme launches.
“The government must use the time between now and the program launch to consult with operators and venues to ensure that the eligibility criteria aren’t so narrow that they cause disappointment for businesses and customers alike.”
Labor Leader and Shadow Minister for Tourism Rebecca White has raised concern about a lack of communication with the East Coast community about the future of Visitor Information Centres.
“The decision of the Glamorgan Spring Bay Council to close the Centres at Bicheno, Swansea and Triabunna at the end of October was a shock to the community and particularly to the 10 people employed at the centres,” Ms White said.
“The Australian Services Union, which represents the Visitor Information Centre employees, the Triabunna/Orford Chamber of Commerce and the East Coast Regional Tourism Organisation all expressed their disappointment when the decision to close the centres was announced.
“The Department of State Growth undertook a survey to understand the impact of the closures on local businesses and tourism operators across the region.
“It’s been nearly two months since the survey closed, but there has been no communication to the industry or the Visitor Information Centre employees about what the survey found.
“I have spoken with some of the employees, who are passionate about providing high-quality services to people who travel to the east coast.
“They are very distressed about the way they have been treated, and are wondering how much longer they need to wait for the government to release the survey findings.”
Labor leader Rebecca White said the premier had failed to table in Parliament an update on progress on plans agreed to by National Cabinet on the 7th of August to assist the aged care sector manage COVID-19.
“National Cabinet agreed that states would conduct an audit of aged care emergency response capabilities and develop plans over the two weeks from the 7th August to manage infection control, the use of face marks and the establishment of Coordination centres, similar to the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre.
“Peter Gutwein has failed to provide an update about when and how we can expect to see Aged Care Response Centres up and operating in Tasmania.
“National Cabinet agreed on the 7th August that joint Commonwealth-State plans would be developed and that this would include identifying key staff who would be deployed to an Aged Care Response Centre.
“From the earliest stages of this pandemic we have seen the catastrophic impact of outbreaks in aged care homes and yet Peter Gutwein says Tasmania still needs more time to prepare.
“Our older Tasmanians and the workers who look after them need reassurance that the government has a plan and that that they will be protected if there are further outbreaks in aged care.”
Labor Leader Rebecca White has welcomed some good news for the tourism industry amid the coronavirus crisis, with the announcement of St Helens as the winner of Tassie’s Top Tourist Town.
“This is incredibly well deserved and I want to congratulate St Helens as well as the Break O’Day Council and the local Chamber of Commerce who collaborated on creating such a great entry.
“There’s no doubt about the impact COVID has had on the tourism industry which was one of the first and hardest hit sectors.
“The search for Tassie’s Top Tourist Town is a terrific initiative that’s brought people together to showcase all the things that are great about their local town and region.
“It’s been an uplifting and enthusiastic competition amongst some of Tasmania’s hottest destinations and I commend the Tourism Industry Council for helping to bring some cheer and positivity to what has otherwise been a very disrupted and in some cases, devastating year for operators in the tourism industry.”
Ahead of National Skills Week tomorrow, Labor is calling on the government to invest more into free skills training for areas in high demand and deliver these courses through TAFE.
Labor Leader Rebecca White said more needs to be done to address skills shortages across the state and get Tasmanians into jobs.
“We know that more than 20,000 people lost their jobs at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and while these numbers are beginning to improve, there are still thousands seeking employment.
“Recent media reports have highlighted the dire need to address workforce skills shortages in aged care, after the federal government’s admission about their lack of action
“Labor’s Free TAFE Policy, which formed part of our COVID-19 Recovery Package, would provide 5,000 students with qualifications in areas of high skill demand across the state’s economy, including in aged care and disability services, as well as hospitality, building and construction.
“The Premier’s Economic and Social Recovery Council interim report recommended the government do just this. The government says it has accepted all recommendations from the report, but where is its plan?
“The government needs to do more than hold media events about infrastructure projects it’s been planning to start for years, it needs to come up with a plan to create jobs, and adopt the measures Labor has proposed.
“Investing in TAFE courses and training Tasmanians for the jobs of the future, and areas of demand right now, is the right place to start.”
Peter Gutwein is failing to address a number of serious flaws in processes at our borders and home quarantine which are putting Tasmanians at risk.
Labor Leader, Rebecca White, said the Government needed to do a better job of upholding border measures, especially now restrictions had been extended until December.
“Labor is aware of multiple examples of people abiding by all home quarantine requirements but who were not visited at all during their quarantine period,” Ms White said.
“This is concerning because in Victoria, we have heard evidence that in one in four cases, people have not been in quarantine at home when they were meant to be.
“I am again calling on Peter Gutwein to ensure that everyone in home quarantine is visited at least once during their period of isolation and that they have access to testing.
“Peter Gutwein also needs to fix gaps in the essential worker exemption process because he is still allowing essential workers – including those from Victoria – to step straight off a plane and onto a worksite.
“Public Health advice requires all Tasmanians tested for Covid-19 to isolate until they get a test result but mainland workers flying here from Victoria and other hot spots don’t have to.
“The Government must immediately require all workers granted an exemption from quarantine to undertake a Covid-19 test and quarantine until they get a result to make sure we keep our community safe.
“Peter Gutwein must fix these serious flaws immediately to ensure the highest possible standards are in place to protect Tasmanians against another COVID-19 outbreak.”
Peter Gutwein must strengthen COVID-19 testing measures for those in hotel quarantine to better protect Tasmanians against the virus.
Labor Leader, Rebecca White, said in Question Time today, Peter Gutwein failed to commit to mandatory testing for everyone in hotel quarantine.
“We have seen in Victoria the catastrophic consequences of a breakdown of hotel quarantine arrangements,” Ms White said.
“The hotel quarantine inquiry in Victoria today revealed that 90% of cases can be traced back to one hotel so the consequences of getting this wrong can be disastrous.
“Tasmanians have made extraordinary sacrifices to get us to the good position we are in today and they deserve the strongest possible protections in place to prevent a second wave of infection.
“Unlike other states, Tasmania does not require everyone in hotel quarantine to be tested – either at the start or the end of their quarantine period.
“Today in Parliament, Peter Gutwein seemed oblivious to measures introduced in other states to protect citizens, including requiring people who refuse to get tested to stay longer in hotel quarantine.
“He was also dismissive of Labor’s calls to require everyone in hotel quarantine to be tested on day one and day 12 of hotel quarantine to give the staff working in those facilities and the community confidence the Government is doing everything possible to keep them safe.”
Labor Leader Rebecca White has congratulated the party’s newest MLC Bastian Seidel on his decisive win in the Legislative Council elections to represent the people of Huon.
Ms White said Dr Seidel will be a strong voice for the region, with excellent community connection and understanding.
“Bastian ran a strong campaign and has been rightly rewarded with a strong win,” Ms White said.
“Having practiced as a GP in the community for the past decade, Bastian has cared for thousands of people who have come through his practice, and formed a deep understanding of their concerns.
“He is the kind of representative the people of Huon deserve and I am delighted to see him take his place in the Tasmanian Parliament, where he will continue to serve his community by advocating on their behalf.
“I look forward to working with Bastian to improve infrastructure and essential services in the region, along with delivering jobs and education and lifting health outcomes.
“His defeat of the sitting member shows the people of Huon want better representation and Bastian will deliver.
“I would also like to congratulate the successful candidate for the Upper House seat of Rosevears.
“It was a tightly fought contest for the vacant seat and I congratulate Jo Palmer on her narrow win.
“Labor’s candidate Jess Greene fought a tough battle and, while it is disappointing that she didn’t come through in the end, I thank her for her hard work and commitment.”
Labor Leader Rebecca White has welcomed the release today of the T21 Visitor Economy Action Plan 2020-2022.
Ms White said a future focus is essential for the tourism industry, in the face of ongoing constraints due to COVID-19.
“Tourism operators and workers have faced significant upheaval over the past six months and continue to ride a roller coaster of uncertainty that will potentially continue for months to come.
“It’s vital that the industry is able to plan for a post-COVID future with some confidence. The Action Plan has been developed with significant input from the sector and will help to guide decision making over the next two years.
“It’s important that the government continues to work closely with the sector to implement the plan and support the industry through the current uncertainty.”
Ms White said tourism is an important part of Labor’s vision for Tasmania’s future.
“Tourism is a vital part of Tasmania’s economy, contributing 11% of Gross State Product and generating 17% of direct and indirect jobs in the state.
“Labor’s COVID-19 Recovery Package sets out a plan to get people back into jobs, support those hardest hit by COVID-19 and build a better and fairer Tasmania.
“Key components of that package are the systems and infrastructure the sector relies on, because Labor wants to see a future where our tourism industry not only survives, but thrives.”
Labor Leader Rebecca White is calling on the Government to introduce mandatory testing of all essential workers coming into the state who are granted an exemption from quarantine.
“Public health advice to the Government must raise significant concerns about the risk of the virus across the country and this means we need to take a more precautionary approach and test all essential workers coming into Tasmania who have been granted exemption from quarantine,” Ms White said.
“The Government has decided the risk from all states and territories is too great to ease border restrictions which means that no one should be allowed to come to Tasmania from anywhere across the country and be exempt from quarantine without first getting tested for COVID.
“The Government must immediately act to make sure that anyone granted an exemption from quarantine is tested on arrival and that they quarantine until a result from the test is determined.
“Currently only essential workers arriving from Victoria or hotspots are tested and worryingly, they aren’t required to quarantine while they wait for a result.
“The Government’s own website says that essential workers granted an exemption from quarantine need to get tested for COVID within 24 hours of arrival and that they can work prior to getting a test and while waiting for a result. This means they can be on the worksite and in our community for days before a result is known.
“With more than 20 thousand Tasmanians losing their jobs as a result of the virus, it is crucial we only take essential workers in exceptional circumstances where it is proven that a Tasmanian can’t do the job.
“Labor also wants the Government to introduce mandatory testing for all arrivals to Tasmania from Victoria and hotspots on the first day of their quarantine and then again on the 12th day.
“States like Western Australia and South Australia have introduced mandatory testing on arrival for anyone travelling from high risk areas and we should do the same.
“Tasmanians have done a great job in fighting the spread of COVID-19 in the community and the consequences of letting our guard down now are far too great to take risks.”