Rebecca White MP | Labor Member for Lyons
Today’s announcement to keep Tasmania’s borders closed until at least the end of the month is understandable given the alarming situation unfolding intestate.
Labor Leader Rebecca White said she respects the public health advice and the desire to keep the community safe but also understands the impact today’s announcement will have on struggling businesses and families who were looking forward to seeing one another.
“Tasmania currently sits in a good position compared to other states across Australia when it comes to fighting the spread of COVID-19 in the community and we want it to remain that way,” Ms White said.
“We only need to look at the developing situation in Victoria to see how rapidly this virus spreads and how fast conditions can change.
“Keeping our state’s borders shut until at least the end of the month is an understandable decision, however support needs to be provided to local businesses and workers that will struggle as a result.
“I’ve been speaking with many local business owners during the period of this pandemic and understand the significant impact ongoing restrictions are having on their trade and employment, especially in hard hit industries like tourism and hospitality.
“The government needs to consider providing more assistance to affected businesses and their staff so they are able to stay afloat during this extended period of uncertainty.
“It’s also critical we maintain a robust system at our borders and we are again calling on the Government to introduce mandatory testing for everyone arriving from Victoria.
“We also need to ensure clear processes are in place for exemptions granted for essential workers and apply those standards to all workers who are granted exemptions, not just those from hot spots or Victoria.
“This is the best way we can continue to support Tasmanians through this pandemic and keep our state safe.”
Tasmanian parents who need support with new babies are missing out because of inadequate services outside of Hobart.
Labor Leader Rebecca White said with only one public mother and baby unit in the state, new parents are left to struggle.
“Supporting new parents is vital to ensure babies get the best start in life.
“Parents facing difficulties with a new baby should be able to get the help they need, regardless of where they live in Tasmania. Families should not have to compete for access to support after the birth of a child.
“Last year alone there were more than https://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/3101.0Main%20Features3Dec%202019?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=3101.0&issue=Dec%202019&num=&view=" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">5,500 babies born in Tasmania, so it’s clear that one public mother and baby unit is not enough.”
“There are private services available for families who can afford it, but more public resources are essential to supporting parents struggling with issues like feeding and sleeping difficulties and mental health conditions.
“A proposal for additional mother and baby units is part of Labor’s COVID-19 Recovery Package, which calls out the importance of supporting social recovery as well as economic recovery.
“As well as getting children off to the best start in life by supporting their families, building additional mother and baby units will create jobs in the construction and health sectors, creating opportunities to get more Tasmanians into jobs.”
Tasmanian Labor is calling for the government to act on key recommendations from the Premier’s Economic and Social Recovery Advisory Council (PESRAC).
Labor Leader Rebecca White said the government’s failure to respond to PESRAC’s recommendations is leaving Tasmanians in the dark and causing more economic uncertainty.
“The government has had PESRAC’s interim report for more than a week now,” Ms White said.
“And yet, even though it contains a number of urgent initiatives to get Tasmanians back into jobs and restore confidence in the economy, we still have no indication from the Premier of when or even if he plans to act on the recommendations.
“Priority actions include recommendations for the government to explain to the community its future COVID-19 management strategy, including how any future outbreaks will be managed, and immediate measures to promote buying local, and supporting local jobs.
“The Premier’s silence on these urgent recommendations is concerning, particularly in light of the latest jobs data showing 2,300 jobs were lost in Tasmania in the past fortnight alone.
“We know we have a long road ahead to recovery and that’s why Labor’s COVID-19 Recovery Package contains numerous measures to create jobs in industries needing it most, including free TAFE courses to upskill workers.
“But we need to take the right measures now to ensure our recovery leads to better social and economic outcomes for everyone.
“If the Premier is going to act on PESRAC’s recommendations, he needs to do it now. And if he is not, he needs to explain why he is ignoring the first recommendations of his own advisory council.”
Tasmanian Labor is calling for the fast-tracking of West Tamar Highway upgrades to improve community safety and commute times.
Labor Leader Rebecca White said the highway upgrade is a critical part of Tasmania’s COVID-19 recovery and must be completed as soon as possible.
“The state of the West Tamar Highway has long been a matter of concern for local residents and the West Tamar Council,” Ms White said.
“Even though the government has recently announced upgrades to the highway, these are not due for completion for another year.
“Not only that, but the West Tamar Council also has concerns about a section of road not included in the upgrade plans – between the roundabout at Acropolis Drive, Legana and Freshwater Point Road, Legana.
“The council has a priority of works for the duplication of that part of the highway, which would upgrade the existing roundabout at Acropolis Drive and include a controlled junction at Freshwater Point Road.
“As Labor points out in our COVID-19 Recovery Package, the duplication of the West Tamar Highway is one of a number of road upgrades around the state that can play a critical role in Tasmania’s recovery from the pandemic.
“When Labor was in government, we recognised the importance of this work and funded crucial upgrades to the West Tamar Highway.
“The highway upgrade has already been delayed by the Liberal government and the West Tamar community is sick of waiting.
“I urge the government to fast-track this project ensure everyone gets home safely to their families.”
Tasmanian Labor says the government must act on the recommendations in the interim report from the Premier’s Economic and Social Recovery Advisory Council (PESRAC) to achieve the best results for all Tasmanians.
Labor Leader Rebecca White said areas of concern highlighted in the report must be resolved to achieve a genuine and sustained economic and social recovery.
“The report contains a number of positive initiatives to help us on the road to recovery, including several proposals from Labor’s COVID-19 Recovery Package, which is designed to build a better and fairer Tasmania,” Ms White said.
“The focus on buying local, along with recommendations to provide free TAFE courses in key jobs areas and apprenticeship requirements on government projects, are positive measures that Labor has been arguing for to get Tasmanians back into jobs.
“But it is disappointing that PESRAC has had to push the government to implement some measures that are already supposed to be government policy, such as the Buy Local policy, the apprenticeship quota and affordable housing construction.
“The report also highlights the government’s failure to act on issues Labor has been raising for years, including the high proportion of part-time and casual jobs in Tasmania, the state’s poor health and education outcomes and the alarmingly high youth unemployment rate.
“It is now up to the government to act on these recommendations to build a better state for all Tasmanians – and it must ensure that recommendations are picked up in the November budget to not only deliver economic outcomes but also social outcomes.
“I look forward to the second phase recommendations from PESRAC, which will guide our state’s medium to long-term recovery.
“Labor’s recovery package includes numerous projects that can contribute to longer term recovery, including the Hobart Showground Renewal and the Burnie Port Master Plan.
“We need big thinking and bold ideas to achieve long-term economic and social recovery. We need to buy local, build local and employ local so that no one is left behind in recovery.”
Tasmanian Labor is again calling for mandatory testing for COVID-19 for all arrivals from Victoria following confirmation of the first Tasmanian case in more than two months.
Labor Leader Rebecca White said Tasmanians have made it clear that they want mandatory testing for all arrivals from Victoria and the government must act to implement that.
“The alarming developments in Victoria over the past few weeks have caused increasing anxiety in the community,” Ms White said.
“Now, confirmation of this new case after 66 days of being COVID free shows we cannot become complacent about the pandemic returning to our state.
“The Premier’s announcement today that testing will remain voluntary for arrivals to the state from Victoria is not good enough and means the risk remains that COVID-19 could get back into the Tasmanian community.
“There is no logical reason for the Tasmanian government not to implement the same requirement. It’s a quick and simple test that would provide an additional layer of protection for the Tasmanian community.”
Tasmanians have made it clear they want all arrivals from Victoria to be tested for COVID-19, and the government must act to implement that.
Labor Leader Rebecca White said the level of anxiety in the Tasmanian community continues to grow as the situation in Victoria worsens.
“It will be mandatory from this week for Victorians to wear masks while outside their homes undertaking essential activities.
“If it’s good enough for the government in that state to take steps to protect people from potentially infectious Victorians, it should be good enough for the Tasmanian government too.
“There is no logical argument the Tasmanian government can make for why they are not implementing the same requirement. It’s a quick and simple test that would provide an additional layer of protection for the Tasmanian community.”
Ms White said it was not good enough for the government to hide behind public health advice.
“The government has been scornful of Labor’s calls for mandatory testing, but public health should not be used as a political football.
“Our public health officials have done an amazing job during this period, and their advice has supported key decisions made to protect Tasmanians.
“But the government needs to look at the experience in other jurisdictions. The decisions taken in the past week in South Australia and Western Australia are presumably based on public health advice in those states, and are designed to protect the community and the economy.
“This is clearly not a matter of politics – this is a situation where governments are acting in the best interests of people as a worrying situation unfolds.
“We’ve seen how damaging the second wave has been on to the Victorian economy and community and we do not want to see that happen here.”
Labor has called on the State Government to follow the lead of other states and implement mandatory COVID-19 testing for all people entering Tasmania from Victoria.
Labor Leader Rebecca White said the measure is necessary to protect Tasmanians from the risk of importing COVID-19.
“Tasmanians are very concerned about the disturbing situation that continues to unfold with the second wave of COVID-19 in Victoria.
“People quite rightly expect the government to take every step possible to protect the health and safety of Tasmanians. We’ve already seen governments in South Australia and Western Australia act to protect their citizens, by requiring everyone arriving from Victoria to have a COVID-19 test.
“There is no logical argument the Tasmanian government can make for why they are not implementing the same requirement.
“We’ve seen how damaging the second wave has been on to the Victorian economy and community and we do not want to see that happen here.”
Ms White said as well as protecting the health of Tasmanians, the government must take all steps possible to protect the jobs of Tasmanians.
“Labor supports genuinely essential workers providing support to our state at this time. But what we don’t want to see is an increased health risk through inadequate health requirements on workers who are exempted from quarantine.
“And with thousands of people out of work, we should be giving locals the first chance at getting a job.
“The Government needs to strengthen the requirement for employers to prove the work can’t be done by a Tasmanian.
“The Liberals have a responsibility to do whatever it takes to keep as many Tasmanian workers employed as possible.”
Tasmanian Labor is again calling on the Liberal government to release its Channel Highway Corridor Improvement Plan and set out its plan to relieve local traffic problems.
Labor Leader Rebecca White said Kingborough residents have been waiting more than a year to find out the results of the government’s consultation process and deserve answers now.
“It was a 2018 Liberal election promise to look at how the Channel Highway meets the current and future needs of the area,” Ms White said.
“The community was asked for feedback in April last year to help identify opportunities for improvement, and highlight safety concerns.
“More than a year later, they are still waiting for the results of that consultation process and an update on the project. That’s despite the government saying the plan would be finalised early in 2020.
“The government must explain whether it intends to deliver the project as promised, to help fix existing congestion issues, as well as alleviating problems with forecast extra traffic from the proposed Huntingfield development.
“The government has a poor record for delivery of important infrastructure projects like this one. Residents deserve reassurance that this project will not go the way of others that have failed to materialise.
“As Labor’s COVID-19 Recovery Package points out, we need to progress infrastructure that’s been left in the too-hard basket for too long and help build a better Tasmania.”
Peter Gutwein must guarantee ongoing support for the hospitality and tourism sector impacted by the decision to defer opening Tasmania’s borders.
Labor Leader, Rebecca White, said there would be mixed feelings in the community about today’s announcement.
“Labor respects the public health advice and the desire to keep the community safe,” Ms White said.
“However, many businesses and workers were hoping for news of a travel bubble established with safe states so they could begin welcoming tourists back.
“With 17 per cent of Tasmania’s workforce relying on the tourism sector, today’s announcement has left many wondering what this will mean for the survival of their business or their ongoing employment.
“The tourism and hospitality industry will be hardest hit by this decision and the Government must work closer with this sector to ensure businesses are supported and can keep people in jobs. This decision highlights the need for JobKeeper to be extended beyond September.
“Labor is also calling on Peter Gutwein to give more detail about the scope of a review into quarantine exemptions granted for essential workers.
“We want the government to immediately require all essential workers coming into the state to demonstrate they are COVID-19 free before they are granted an exemption from quarantine and to prove that those jobs can’t be done by a Tasmanian.”