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Labor Matter of Public Importance - Budget Cuts

7 August 2019

 

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Deputy Speaker, what an interesting discussion it has been this morning. Unfortunately for the Treasurer, there is a lack of trust about anything he says in relation to the budget because of the Treasurer's track record of not telling the truth or concealing the truth and not being open about some of the most basic questions like who is on the expenditure review committee of Cabinet. I point out to the House that we have now been compelled to put a question on notice for one of the most basic questions: who is on the expenditure review committee of Cabinet? We do not care that the Treasurer chairs it. That is not the question. The question is which ministers make up arguably the most powerful subcommittee of Cabinet that makes the decision about where savings are to be found? We expect that question on notice to be answered honestly and in full.

I wanted to talk today about what is not in the state Budget and what is not in any position that Labor has put in relation to the state's finances, and that is the lack of action on responding to global heating. We have a state budget and a Labor Opposition whose vision for the future extends only as far as the next election or, in the case of the Treasurer, as far as the forward Estimates. Did you know, Madam Speaker, that on 31 July and 1 August this year, 22.5 billion tonnes of ice melted off the Greenland ice sheet? That is enough, according to the scientists, to cover all of Florida in five centimetres of water. The climate emergency is here. It is the most important issue that this parliament should be dealing with. There is no sound adaptation planning in the state Budget.

There is lip service paid to the need to bring our economy into a zero emissions economy but nowhere can you find any mention in the Budget of a coherent policy and legislative and funding response to the need to prepare our people for the future, because the future is here. We saw it in the 2016 summer bushfires where the south-west of Tasmania was ablaze. We saw it again in the 2018 and 2019 summer bushfires. Climate change is here and we need to rethink the way we frame up budgets. Every government does and every parliament should be looking at its budget through this lens.

We need to make sure we are assisting landowners and farmers to become carbon farmers and do as some of our outstanding primary producers are doing right now, people such as Roderick O'Connor, who is investing time, resources and skills into biodiverse carbon plantings. They should be working to restore landscapes to make sure we are keeping the carbon that is in the ground in the ground, to make sure that we are not clear-felling forests that are some of the most outstanding carbon stores there are and to make sure we have excellent adaptation planning for our communities.

We have more scientists per capita here than any other Australian state or territory, right here on our door step in Hobart, and this Government should prioritise in its budget planning pulling together all the best climate brains we have in Tasmania, seeking expertise from the mainland and overseas if necessary, and developing the best climate adaptation plan in the country.

That is what a responsible government does. That is what a responsible opposition advocates for and that is why the Greens are in this place - to remind this parliament daily that when you engage in political games, trivialities and superficialities, when all you are about is political point-scoring, you are neglecting your responsibility to the people of Tasmania. As legislators and policy-makers we need to recognise that we have a huge responsibility to get our people ready for the future. This touches on every single portfolio in government.

Our health system will be impacted by global heating. We will see more diseases that have never been seen in Tasmania arrive here. You will see more people presenting at our emergency departments because of extreme heat or bushfire events that are impacting on their capacity to breathe. There will be an impact on the Housing portfolio. We cannot keep building houses that put people in hot boxes in summer and ice boxes in winter. We need to build housing that will prepare people for the climate emergency and a hotter world.

Every single area of the budget should be looked at through the lens of the future that is here now. We should be investing in landscape restoration skills through TasTAFE, for example. We should be investing into making sure that our young people think critically and we are equipping them for a world that is very different from the world we grew up in. There is artificial intelligence coming that is taking the jobs of young people. We need to equip our young people to be able to take the jobs that robots cannot and be able to prosper and thrive in a planet that is heating.

I am very happy to participate in this debate on behalf of the Tasmanian Greens. I again recommend our fully costed alternative budget to the House and point out to Labor that it is a bit hard to stomach when you come in here and start talking about budget cuts when we have not heard anything from you about what you would do differently. It is your responsibility as the Opposition to do that. A responsible opposition does not take a four-year holiday when it is in opposition, spend its entire time bashing up the Government and not telling us what it would do differently. The Greens in this place recognise that.

Mr Bacon - You don't think we should find out which services are going to be cut? You don't think that is important?

Ms O'CONNOR - Of course we should, but we should also be able to hear from the alternative government what services you would cut or not cut, or where you would restore funding.