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Budget Lacking in Courage and Vision, Puts Environment Last

26 May 2016

Cassy O'Connor MP | Greens Leader and Treasury spokesperson

Built on the mirage of a very short term surplus, the Liberals' third State Budget lacks both courage and vision.  

It pays only tokenistic attention to investing in preventative health programs to keep people out of hospitals and does too little to repair the damage to public health caused by the first Abbott and Hodgman budgets.

While the investment in school infrastructure is welcome, there will still be about 130 fewer teachers in the public education system than there were when the Tasmanian Liberals took office.  

And of course, the environment is the big loser in this Budget, with the Parks and Wildlife Service copping a near $6M cut over the Forward Estimates, losing key staff with experience in fire management in our reserves.  After the devastating fires of the past Summer, this is a madness.

Instead of properly funding the Parks and Wildlife Service to manage our world class reserves, this government is bleeding it of funds while it pours money in to Minister Groom’s plan to exploit our Parks for the profit of a few.  

Funding is going in to the Freycinet National Park and the South Coast Track, two locations where private developers have bid for exclusive access in the EOI process.  

The State Budget confesses what our Premier and Treasurer won't; that almost 4 000 Tasmanians have lost their jobs since last September and the Budget papers predict only sluggish jobs growth.

The Liberals' "breakthrough Budget" is built on a mirage surplus.  If Commonwealth grants and the TT Line special dividend are removed, the underlying Net Operating Balance is in fact a deficit of $134M, which climbs to $147M in 2018-19.

The smoke and mirrors surplus is fleeting, and is propped up by TT Line dividend and Commonwealth roads funding.

The focus on the Net Operating Balance allows the Hodgman Government to claim to be disciplined while hiding their real debts.

Treasurer Gutwein claims to be ‘future proofing’ Tasmania, but there is no new money to tackle climate change while $500 000 is going towards burning wood for energy.

The only nod to climate action is the offer of energy efficiency loans and a study into fire in the TWWHA which is likely to tell the Liberals what they should already know about the threat.

One really bright spot in this Budget is proof that the Human Services Minister, Jacquie Petrusma, has found her voice at the Cabinet table and secured $60M in capital funding for affordable housing.

We’re also impressed that there is a plan to replace aging Metro buses, but we strongly urge the Transport Minister to make sure these vehicles are low emissions, electric vehicles as they have in other countries.

On Tuesday, we will deliver our Alternative Budget and a vision for a big-hearted, resilient and prosperous Tasmania.