Rebecca White MP | Labor Member for Lyons

  • Medicare jobs outsourced to labour hire firm
  • Morrison Government breaching commitment to deliver Medicare from within public service
  • Liberals determined to privatise Medicare

The Morrison Liberal Government has broken a major promise to Tasmanians by outsourcing Medicare jobs in Hobart to a labour hire company.

Shadow Minister for Federal State Relations Rebecca White said the move by the Prime Minister to outsource up to 12 Tasmanian jobs breaks the Federal Government’s commitment to deliver services from within the public service and was further evidence of the Liberal’s determination to privatise Medicare.

“This is a shocking breach of trust by Scott Morrison, especially considering the Liberal Government gave a definitive commitment that no area of Medicare would be privatised,” Ms White said.

“Malcolm Turnbull made what he called an unequivocal commitment in 2016 that every element of Medicare services would continue to be delivered by government.

“To do otherwise now is an extraordinary betrayal of Tasmanians and local jobs.

“If Mr Morrison is serious about that commitment to Medicare and is serious about supporting and keeping federal public service jobs in Tasmania, he will step in and stop this outsourcing.

“Tasmanians and Australians are proud of Medicare and they rely on this crucial service that should not be contracted out to private companies by the government.”

  • Premier – again – shows he is too weak to take real action
  • More questions than answers after Premier’s performance today
  • Full reports into Minister Courtney and department Secretary must be released

Premier Hodgman’s farcical response to the Sarah Courtney scandal has once again highlighted a weak leader who is totally unprepared to make tough decisions and act in the best interests of Tasmanians.

Labor Leader Rebecca White said the Premier’s failure to take action against a Minister - even in the face of a clear breach of the Ministerial Code of Conduct - proved his Cabinet members would not face reprisals for inappropriate behavior under his weak leadership.

“This is a desperately secretive Premier who is prepared to tolerate unacceptable behavior from the Liberal Members of Parliament who Tasmanians put their trust in to represent them and act with integrity,” Ms White said.

“Tasmanians are right to be questioning yet again this government’s lack of transparency and asking: What does a Minister actually have to do to get sacked by this Premier?

“Today it has been confirmed that Ms Courtney breached the Code of Conduct but despite this, the Premier has failed to remove her from his Cabinet, just as he has refused to move his failed Health Minister Michael Ferguson and just as he has refused to address other glaring problems with his government.

“The Premier must end the secrecy and release full, un-redacted copies of the reports he commissioned because right now there are more questions than answers. 

“Tasmanians are no clearer today on the pertinent question of when exactly the relationship between Ms Courtney and Dr John Whittington began which is extremely important because of the conflict of interest and because it raises serious questions about every decision she has made as a Minister.

“The investigation has found that Ms Courtney should have disclosed her relationship on September 13 but the Premier says she told him on October 14 – given the serious nature of this conflict, why did it take more than a month?

“The Premier says Ms Courtney has been counselled but does the same apply to Dr Whittington?

“Were staff from DPIPWE interviewed as part of this investigation or were their concerns ignored?

“Have these investigations looked at the potential misuse of taxpayer funds in the course of the relationship between Ms Courtney and Dr Whittington?

“The Premier has to answer these questions – and others – and not attempt to sweep yet another scandal in his government under the carpet.”

  • Premier has opportunity to listen where Michael Ferguson has failed
  • Immediate steps proposed by Labor will support doctors, nurses and patients
  • Premier must show he is prepared to work collaboratively to find solutions

Premier Hodgman has an opportunity to show Tasmanians he is prepared to step in and provide solutions to the health crisis rather than play politics on this critical issue.

Labor Leader Rebecca White said the Premier should agree to work toward implementing workable measures that could be put in place quickly to alleviate unprecedented pressure on doctors and nurses, other health professionals and patients.

“Labor has presented the Premier with a detailed list of actions which are readily available to the government to help ease the pressure on emergency departments, reduce waiting lists and give Tasmanians access to the health care they need,” Ms White said.

“The Premier today has the opportunity to show that he understands this issue is above politics. We must work together to ensure this crisis is addressed today, not in 12 or 18 month’s time.

“Tasmanians want leadership from Premier Hodgman. Tasmanians are rightly tired of the arrogance of Michael Ferguson who does not want to act and clearly has no intention of providing effective solutions.”

Ms White called on the Premier to work with Labor to: 

  • Release the full KPMG and Deloitte reports so health professionals and Tasmanians are fully informed about the current state of the health system.
  • Convene statewide roundtables with the relevant stakeholders, including the AMA, ANMF, HACSU and the RACGP, to listen to the views of professionals on the frontline.  These must be led by the Premier.
  • Immediately commit to addressing the structural deficit in health funding identified by KPMG.
  • Listen to solutions proposed by frontline staff to address bed block at the Launceston General Hospital, specifically the ANMF proposal to increase permanent capacity in wards 4D and 4K and open all currently closed beds in the Intensive Care Unit.
  • Work with staff to increase capacity at the Royal Hobart Hospital to meet demand by making provision for 7-day discharge by staffing pharmacy, radiology, medical imaging and allied health after hours and on weekends.
  • Dramatically ramp up preventative health measures and programs in the community.
  • Reveal the plan and timeline for proposed mental health beds at Mistral Place and the Peacock Centre.
  • Provide funding for capital works at Millbrook Rise to provide treatment to mental health patients as a step-down facility and provide more accommodation in communities.
  • Invest in 10 public mother and baby unit beds statewide to support parents with newborn babies.
  • Appoint permanent Psychiatric Emergency Nurses to help assess, care and treat mental health patients in conjunction with psychiatric support, at the LGH and the North West Regional Hospital in Burnie.
  • More than 50 patients wait an extraordinary 24 hours in ED for month of October
  • 90 per cent of admitted patients take almost 20 hours to get a bed
  • Ferguson’s Patients First initiative not working
Tasmanians are waiting for treatment in the state’s hospital emergency departments for longer periods than any time in the past five years under ineffective Health Minister Michael Ferguson.
Shadow Health and Preventative Care Minister Rebecca White said despite Mr Ferguson’s claims to the contrary, Tasmanians were waiting for unacceptable lengths of time according to data released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
Ms White said in addition, information obtained by Labor also shows the time it takes for 90 per cent of admitted patients to get a bed has increased to 19 hours.
“The information shows that last month alone, there were 54 patients who spent more than 24 hours waiting in the emergency department at the Royal Hobart Hospital,” Ms White said.
“That’s an increase of 300 per cent compared to October last year.
“What’s most worrying is that these figures were compiled during a period when the hospital has access to flex beds.
“With Mr Ferguson’s much-delayed redevelopment finally about to get underway, frontline emergency department staff have legitimate concerns about the reduction in the actual number of beds available, particularly when these figures indicate that the RHH does not have enough beds currently to meet the demand.
“Just today we saw an alarming situation at the RHH with 16 patients forced to wait for over 12 hours for a bed and another seven waiting over 20 hours.
“That is not only dangerous for patient care, it represents a real danger for staff who are doing the absolute best they can to cope with a situation that Mr Ferguson continually denies is happening.
“Mr Ferguson needs to admit the situation is dire and work toward finding an actual solution.
“He needs to provide a guarantee that patients presenting to our hospital emergency departments will get the care they need on time and have access to a bed when they need one.”

WHAT should have been a straightforward building project, pivotal to redevelopment of the Royal Hobart Hospital, has been in chaos for more than six months.

It is worrying and upsetting to Tasmanians that their major capital city hospital should be at the centre of a chain of haphazard and avoidable bungles.

Also worrying is that the Hodgman Government and Health Minister Michael Ferguson seem determined that none of us will understand the true extent of what is going on.

Mr Ferguson and the Government’s appalling secrecy surrounding the debacle in constructing a temporary demountable building at the RHH forecourt is astounding.

Tasmanians want to know what is happening at the Royal and how we reached a point where the Government has so badly botched a temporary demountable building costing $22 million. There are serious questions about the ability of the Government and the Minister to deliver on the bigger picture — the actual $659 million hospital redevelopment.

Dangerous mould infestations have been discovered on the site. Workers have been sent home because the site is unsafe.

The contracted builder has had to pull sections of the temporary building apart, demolishing entire floors and put it back together again.

Sections of roofing have needed to be replaced, along with external cladding.

Timelines around this redevelopment appear hopelessly blown.

Tasmania's child protection system has a problem. It is designed to intervene only when things get truly terrible for children and young people.

By taking this approach, insufficient emphasis is given to the cumulative harm children can endure over the course of their young lives.

We need to support children and young people sooner, rather than waiting until a threshold is broken or a crime is committed.

The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020 says it best — Australia needs to move from seeing “protecting children” merely as a response to abuse and neglect to one of promoting the safety and wellbeing of children.

The national framework clearly states that emphasis must be given to providing good universal services such as health, education and community services so that children can live in safe and supportive families and communities. Tasmania’s Child and Family Centres are perfect examples of places where all children and their families are welcome and where all Tasmanian parents and carers can access information and support from pregnancy onwards.

The early years are critical for the development of attachment and good social, emotional and physical health for all children.

There are many wonderful programs operating in our community to provide solid foundations for Tasmania’s children and their families, such as Pregnant and Young Parent Support, New Parent and Infant Network and Integrated Family Support. They really do change lives.

When you sack more than 260 staff across Tasmania’s state primary and high schools – nearly 160 of them teachers – you are not acting in the best interests of education, let alone in the best interests of our future generations.

Yet in 2014 that’s what the State and Federal Liberal Governments did – slashing more than $2.1 billion from Tasmania’s public health and education.

Across Tasmania this month students have returned to school, but unfortunately it’s not all good news. Class sizes have blown out, in some cases to more than 30 students. The Liberals cuts mean resources for literacy and numeracy support have decreased, as well as music, drama and language classes – important programs that ensure students remain engaged in learning.

It means our kids are missing out.

This month a Labor Government has committed to restoring the damage done by the Liberals. We’ve spoken to teachers, students and parents and they’ve all asked us to repair the damage done to our schools.

Labor will invest in education because doing so makes our state stronger and fairer and because Labor stands for accessible and quality life-long learning. Labor will make Tasmania the Education State, in order to this Labor will:

  1. Immediately restore teacher numbers to pre-Hodgman levels.
  2. Support our teachers through improved training.
  3. Invest in our students' future by reinstating pathway planning.
  4. Restore the damage done to TAFE by keeping training dollars in Tasmania.
  5. Make education a whole of life experience and encourage Tasmanians to reskill on the job via university or TAFE.

Public education should be valued and continually developed. Our schools and teachers are something to be safeguarded and enriched, not ripped apart.

You can read more about Tasmanian Labor’s policy at our website:

As we race towards the end of the year I have the pleasure of attending many end of year assemblies held at schools across Lyons. There I get to hear about all the wonderful achievements our young people have made in 2015 and celebrate their hard work.

However, many young Tasmanians also grow up with mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. I am reminded of Sophie, a young inspiring leader, who as well as completing year 12 was also involved in a number of community organisations. Sophie is just one of many young Tasmanians that experience mental ill-health at some stage during adolescence. Across Australia 14% of young people experience mental ill-health at some stage during adolescence; this is equivalent to 16,850 young people in Tasmania.

It’s time to ensure there is appropriate support in schools for students experiencing mental ill-health.

To ensure all young people get the chance to succeed and reach their full potential a Labor Government will provide compulsory age appropriate Social and Emotional Learning programs in primary and high schools to compliment work already being done in classrooms.

It is widely acknowledged that early intervention and prevention during childhood and adolescence is the most effective way to promote positive mental health.

Introducing programs into the classroom of every Tasmanian public school will help give all children and young people such as Sophie the opportunity to develop personal and social competence, manage their emotions and behaviours, perceive and understand other people’s emotions and viewpoints and form positive relationships.

Labor is committed to addressing the stigma associated with mental health and determined to improve the health and wellbeing of all Tasmanians.

The Labor party’s firm and unwavering view is that Government has the responsibility to look after those who are most vulnerable and this includes providing appropriate public housing.

The Liberal Government have other ideas having announced they will give away up to 500 public housing properties with title. The Minister has not produced a shred of evidence to support this sudden decision to begin giving away public assets. No cost benefit analysis, no modelling, certainly no independent advice. 

One of Labor’s concerns is that there has been a lack of transparency around the Government's intention to transfer these 500 titles. The Minister has stated that it was a policy taken to the 2014 election, but the election policy only says the Liberal Party will “examine” the possible transfer. It does not place a timeframe on that and certainly does not make a firm or clear commitment.

From any reasonable person's reading of the Government’s Affordable Housing Strategy and the Affordable Housing Action Plan, it would be safe to assume that the Government’s intention was to enable community housing providers to have the opportunity to manage additional properties and use this to further invest in public housing stock.  

However, we have now learnt that this is not the Government’s intention at all. What they actually meant is they intend to give away up to 500 public housing properties.

There is no process detailed for how the transfer of these 500 properties will happen and what safeguards will be put in place to ensure these homes will be maintained as affordable housing. There is no detail about what, if any, modelling exists for how the Government has identified 150 new properties can be built if the transfer of 500 titles occurs. There have been no details provided from this Minister about what, if any, work the Government has done to address the legitimate concerns that have been raised and acknowledged by the Minister herself about the transfer of title.

There are too many questions that remain unanswered about this rushed process and the Government should put the transfer on hold until the Tasmanian public has more information. 

The Tasmanian winter is in full swing and on a cold winter morning it can be difficult to get out of bed. One motivation might be the thought of hopping into a warm shower. But the cost to do this might be about to jump. This month Labor has launched a petition calling for TasNetworks to rule out drastically increasing the cost of hot water and heating.

TasNetworks is considering abolishing Tariff 41 from its energy pricing structure. Many households rely on Tariff 41 to run their hot water and heating. Tariff 41 applies to household type hot water supply systems with direct wired electric heating and permanently installed wired-in electric heaters.  Tariff 41 provides houses with hot water at a discounted rate of around 17 cents per day for the fixed cost, compared to the general Tariff 31 which costs around 90 cents a day. 

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Rebecca White

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