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Labor Matter of Public Importance - Net Debt

28 May 2019

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Deputy Speaker, I thank the member for Franklin for bringing this matter of net debt on for the MPI debate today. Any state budget, and we have said this before, is a statement of values. It tells us everything we need to know about what the government of the day values and what it is prepared to prioritise.

What we know is not only this budget, but every budget prior to this going back to 2014-15, has placed a higher priority on roads and bridges than it is has on providing homes for Tasmanians, the best quality public health and education systems in the country and properly funded public services. We have had to listen to the offensive and galling claims of this Treasurer over a number of years now that 'the budget is back on track and back in the black. That we are entering the golden age'. The golden age lasted about five minutes and this state budget is the 'emperor's got no clothes' budget.

This state budget lays bare the lack of vision and lack of strategic forward planning of this government over the past five years. Under five years of Liberal government not only have we gone progressively backwards economically, but socially Tasmania is in a far worse situation than it was in 2014. When you have a look at some of the metrics that TasCOSS put out last Thursday - and unfortunately, I did not see any members of the Government there excepting for the Housing minister, Mr Jaensch, who struggled to cobble together a coherent narrative for the TasCOSS stakeholders - but this is the table they put out.

The number of Tasmanians on energy concessions has gone from 88 430 four years ago to 92 863 this year.

The Department of Emergency Medicine, people who are seen within four hours at the RHH Emergency Department has gone from 60.3 per cent to 54 per cent. The elective surgery waiting list from 7438 four years ago to 9043 now.

TasTAFE VET enrolments - and one of the great tragedies of this term of the parliament as well as the last term, has been the degrading of TasTAFE. Even when you look in the budget papers, they are short-term, grant injections to TasTAFE which over the longer period, continues to go into nearly terminal decline under this Government. TasTAFE vet enrolments 63 400 five years ago, 54 000 this year.

The number of unemployed, 18 900 when we left office, 17 500 at this year's state Budget time. That is not the 13 000 jobs that this lot crow about every opportunity that they get and yet under-employment is worsening in Tasmania.

The number of people on the housing register - 2054 when we left office - after building 2200 new affordable energy efficient homes, and now we have 3233 people on the housing waiting list as at March, and they are waiting longer. It has gone from 19 weeks to a year.

The number of children in out-of-home care has also increased.

We have a Treasurer who continually says, 'We make no apologies'. Well he should. He should apologise to those Tasmanians who are living on the margins; those Tasmanians who are looking at advertisements to rent a bed in a hallway for $75 a week. This Treasurer and the Premier should apologise to them.

Tasmania has not been in net debt since the 2007-08 financial year. We managed to keep the state out of net debt in a recession and not degrade public services. This year, Tasmania is projected to go into $284 million worth of net debt, escalating rapidly to $1.1 billion in 2022-23.

Infrastructure investment in 2018-19 was $719 million; this year it is $723 million, decreasing across the forward Estimates in real terms. This year's infrastructure investment is smaller than last year's investment. The last budget projected infrastructure expenditure of $731 million. This year's infrastructure expenditure if $8.3 million lower than last year's budget allocated to this financial year. That is a fall in infrastructure spending.

This Government has spun the truth by claiming that they have chosen to invest in infrastructure in order not to go into net debt. The reality is that they have cut their infrastructure investment program and going into net debt was not a deliberate choice.

It is also not solely because of falling revenue, as the Treasurer would have us believe. Projected revenue for 2018-19 in the 2018-19 Budget was $6.21 billion; the actual outcome was significantly higher at $6.38 billion. Likewise, the previous budget projected revenue of $6.24 billion for this financial year, whereas this Budget is projecting $6.5 billion worth of revenue for this financial year and borrowings are increasing from $671 billion in 2018-19 to $1 billion in 2019-20. Borrowings will escalate to $1.8 billion in 2023.

At its worst, during the global financial crisis, under the Labor-Greens government, borrowings were $1.1 billion in 2013-14.

To top it all off, within this Budget are savage cuts to the public service. This is a budget without heart and which puts the state in a precarious financial position in the forward Estimates.