Rebecca White MP | Labor Member for Lyons
Earlier this month I gave my budget reply speech, I highlighted Labor’s commitment to health, education and jobs. Unfortunately the Liberal governments lack of vision means that this year’s budget is a lost opportunity for Tasmania.
The Hodgman Liberal government’s only budget priority is the next election. Unlike the Liberals, Labor is committed to delivering a vision for Tasmania that extends beyond the next election cycle.
A Labor government would take a leadership role in promoting preventive health policies, investing in early years education and supporting a smart future for Tasmania.
Labor strongly believes in grass roots preventative health programs that actively engage communities in their own health and wellbeing. In keeping with this belief, Labor has announced two new preventative health policies focussing on providing healthy alternatives to sugary drinks and regulating electronic cigarettes.
The Liberal Government is embarking on a dramatic change to the way health services are delivered in Tasmania. Some of the changes outlined in the White Paper are well intentioned to limit duplication and provide safer and more efficient services. But there are challenges too, like requiring patients to travel further for complex care.
The Minister’s approach to health reform has focussed heavily on what our main hospitals offer and doesn’t give thoughtful consideration to the way health services are delivered in our regions. The way we can make significant improvements to health outcomes across the state is to invest resources early and focus on reducing avoidable hospitalisations.
As we await the publication of the ‘white paper draft exposure’ on health reform we have been told by the Minister for Health, Michael Ferguson, that there will be news in the white paper that some people won’t like.
Change is difficult at the best of times but health reform in Tasmania is happening at the same time the Liberal Government is slashing $210 million from the health system, shutting beds and removing staff from key services.
The power of community advocacy has once again been demonstrated after growing concern that Tasmanians living on the East Coast would miss out on a visit from the BreastScreen Mobile Unit. The mobile unit provides free vital breast cancer screening services to women across the state.
Over the last few months the East Coast community, the Council and I have put pressure on the Minister for Health to request that the BreastScreen Mobile Unit visit St Marys & Bicheno. Minister Ferguson recently announced in parliament that the Liberal Government had a change of heart and the unit’s visit to St Marys and Bicheno would be restored. This is great outcome for the community and once again demonstrates the power of a community working together to achieve a common goal.
Recently 29 women in St Marys have been treated for breast cancer and there is clear evidence that shows that early detection will save lives. Women in regional Tasmania should not miss out on these vital services.
The Breast Screen Mobile Unit will now visit Swansea (13th - 17th April), Bicheno (20th – 24th April), St Helens (11th May – 26th May) and St Marys (27th – 29th May). To make a booking call 13 20 50.
Students across the state are back at school. This time of year has been made no easier by the Liberal government’s cuts to schools and education. Across the state teachers jobs were in limbo until the last possible moment and 266 teachers have been cut from classrooms. There are also a concerning number of principals in temporary roles and school chaplains have missed the start of the school year after a contract delay. This has left students and parents alike in the dark as to who will be teaching some classes.
The Liberal Government must urgently explain how it’s going to cut 700 jobs in less than nine months.
Treasurer Peter Gutwein has revealed that all 500 new jobs on the chopping block will be gone by the end of June 2015.
Mr Gutwein told the ABC’s 7.30 Tasmania program:
“The 500 positions we now have to consider will need to be worked through over this financial year.”
(7.30 Tasmania, ABC 26/9/2014)
Labor Leader Bryan Green says 200 of the Liberals’ original 700 job cuts were also coming in this financial year.
This year Anti-Poverty Week (12-18th October) gives us all a good opportunity to pause and reflect on those around the world and in Tasmania living on or below the poverty line. For us to tackle poverty we need to better understand the causes and consequences of hardship.
The Royal Hobart Hospital redevelopment was put on hold by the Minister for Health, Michael Ferguson, when he came to Government. He established a taskforce to provide advice to Government and indicated that it could take up to six months and $1 million before he would be able to decide how to proceed with the project.
Right to Information documents obtained by Labor show that in the period March to June 2014, $1.3 million has been paid by the Liberal Government to contractors with no work actually being done.