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Labor Matter of Public Importance - Budget Cuts and Budget Mismanagement

Parliamentary Activity - Tuesday, 15 October 2019


Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Deputy Speaker, now that one of the laziest, most dishonest Treasurers Tasmania has ever seen has taken his seat, I would like to deal with some of the mistruths he has laid on the parliamentary record.

It is a matter of fact that the forest industry was on its knees going back to the year 2006 and that it was shedding contractors by the dozens and then the hundreds between 2006, 2007 and 2008. Then, in 2009-10, the forest industry came to government on its knees and begged government for help to find a path through so that the industry had some certainty and a measure of sustainability about it.

It is completely dishonest for the Treasurer to try to rewrite history in that manner. This Treasurer has, since taking on this job, sat back, done no structural reforms, none whatsoever, watched the money roll in from Canberra and from mainland China, and wants us to think that he is the answer to this state's fiscal uncertainty in the future. This is a Treasurer who has done nothing to deliver real sustainability to Tasmania's budget. He has simply surfed the back of vast sums of money coming in from interstate and overseas and this fiscal output document exposes his laziness and his complacency as Treasurer.

It also exposes this Government's abject failure to acknowledge the state of the climate and the impact that will have on Tasmania's budget in the future, and the future is here. The scientists are telling us that we have a decade, 12 years, maybe, to turn this sorry ship around as a species and to have any prospect of delivering a safe climate to our children and grandchildren. We are already being told by scientists that it is too late for 1.5 degrees of warming. We have passed that point and the best that we can hope for now, apparently, if we do everything we can, is to have warming of 2 degrees, which means extreme weather events, sea level rise, storm surges, species extinction and massive impact on coastal communities, particularly in people living in low-lying areas and in developing nations.

This Tasmanian Government Fiscal Sustainability Report of 2019, while the good people in Treasury and the Secretary of Treasury, Mr Ferrall, have done their best within the information that they have and what they can project, contains nothing that acknowledges the impact of climate on the state's budget and it has already had an impact on our budget. There has already been a need for the budget to accommodate the bushfire emergency that happened last summer and the extra costs of that. We had, in recent years, tragic and devastating extreme floods of June 2016, and as we move through the next decade there will be extra costs on the Tasmanian budget and the people of Tasmania as a result of the climate.

What we know from what Treasury has written in its fiscal sustainability outlook is that the absence of a coherent policy to deal with global heating means that there is no capacity for Treasury to account for the extra financial impacts of global heating. Treasury says -

Natural disasters impact on the State’s fiscal sustainability partly from the immediate provision of assistance, as well as longer-term impacts from rebuilding infrastructure. Additionally, there are often indirect costs such as disruptions to production. Given the uncertainty of natural disasters, no attempt has been made to model natural disasters in the projection period. Similarly, no attempt has been made to model the impacts of climate change or governments’ policy responses to mitigate climate change impacts.

It is an epic fail on the part of this Government, damned by its own Treasury and Finance agency and exposed for having no plan to shepherd Tasmania through what is going to be a very, very difficult century. If we had a government that took its responsibilities to the people of Tasmania seriously, the Premier in question time this morning would have made an unequivocal statement that the thermal coal mine exploration, extraction and export industries in Tasmania have no future. They have no future globally and they should have no future in Tasmania. Our future is in clean and green.

Our future is in looking after farmers, our exporters, our tourism sector and our future is in telling children and young people who rallied on the lawns of Parliament on 20 September that we recognise their fear, we accept the science, we understand that humanity has a decade to turn this around, and as a state we, together, say no to new coal mines, but no, we did not hear that from the Premier this morning. We received a woeful, weak response to our questions, in denial of the situation that the world is in, in denial of the fact that there are young people right now who are informed and engaged on this issue and they are terrified.

They need to be getting the signal from government that governments take their concerns seriously and that we will, as a parliament, for example, make sure that Tasmania is doing nothing to contribute towards the extremes of global heating. What we are seeking to do, collectively as an island community, is make sure we are a climate-positive island, that we are protecting our farmlands and making sure that coal stays in the ground and we are protecting our forests. It is the same thing. Keep the carbon that is in the ground in the ground. Keep the coal that is in the ground in the ground. Keep the forests that are planted in the ground and reforest Tasmania. Make sure that we are a climate positive island and we are sending a message to young people that we care about their future and that we are prepared to act.