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Labor Censure Motion - Minister for Health

21 March 2019

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, as a matter of 
principle the Greens support the suspension of the Standing Orders in 
order to have the substantive debate. I believe that is the first time I 
have heard the Minister for Health beg in this place. We had the minister 
there, who unarguably has made some intemperate remarks, beg Opposition 
members not to egg on the unions. 

Standing behind the Health Minister is the Treasurer, and if there is one 
person in this place who should be held responsible for the enormous and 
unproductive tension between public sector workers and government in 
Tasmania, it is the Treasurer, who for nine months dug in on the 2 per 
cent, told public sector workers it was 2 per cent or nothing - 'my way or 
the highway' Gutwein.

We have come to the point where the Minister for Health has apparently 
done his lolly on radio out of frustration, but it goes back many months 
to an attitude of arrogance towards public sector workers and their union 
representatives that has brought us to a place where we have fantastic 
nurses at the Mersey taking industrial action, bus drivers prepared to 
take industrial action, and teachers and other educators prepared to take 
industrial action because they are being treated unfairly. They are being 
underpaid and they are being dismissed. We have got to a point after nine 
months where the conflict between government and public sector workers has 
become so intense that we now have rolling industrial action across the 
state that was avoidable.

We had to cop in last year's state budget speech from this Treasurer, 'my 
way or the highway' Gutwein, that we are in a golden age. We had to 
listen to the Premier say in his incredibly poorly written and constructed 
state of the state speech, that this is Tasmania's time to shine. You 
cannot on the one hand say that we have entered the glory days, and on the 
other, say to your thousands of hardworking, loyal public sector workers, 
'When we said that we didn't mean you.' This is from a government that 
brought legislation into this place in the last term to give every one of 
us a pay rise substantially over 2 per cent, prepared to peg this 
parliament's salary at the wages price index, but says to public sector 
workers, 'No, you can stick on 2 per cent and we're not budging'. Then 
when finally there is some sign that they will be budging, we hear the 
public sector workers might be asked to give up their Easter Tuesday. 

It is all very well to censure the latest government minister who has been 
caught in this situation, but the malaise and the conflict goes back 
further than nine months. It goes back into the last term of the 
parliament where a culture was set by the Liberals when they came to 
government, and it is in the DNA of conservative parties to be 
antagonistic towards unions. So the culture was set. We saw hundreds of 
public sector workers lose their jobs across health, human services, 
education and biosecurity. It is unarguable that one of the first things 
that happened under this Liberal majority Government was an attack on the 
public service, so it set the dynamic which has remained toxic to this day.

The one thing I will agree with the Health minister about is that we need 
clear heads here because Tasmanians cannot afford to be caught in rolling 
industrial conflict. It impacts on public services and on the ability of 
our public servants to do their job. You cannot on the one side of your 
face say we are entering a golden age and on the other say to our public 
sector workers that you will not pay them properly and they will actually 
be further behind as a result of this wages policy over time, and then 
finally be dragged to the table kicking and screaming and offer the most 
miserly compromise. That is not the way good-faith negotiations work, 
Madam Speaker.