Cassy O'Connor MP | Greens Health and Human Services spokesperson
The Hodgman Liberal Government is trying to deceive disadvantaged Tasmanians into believing there’s something of substance for them in this year’s State Budget. There isn’t.
The Tasmanian Greens share the concerns of the State’s peak welfare body, TasCOSS, that there is far too little spending in areas of high social need and that much of the ‘new’ money announced this year is simply the repackaging of Liberal election commitments.
The serious damage done to frontline services hasn’t been reversed, with Health and Housing hardest hit.
The extra $100million into frontline Health still leaves the Health budget in a worse position than it was when the Liberals took office then slashed $210 million from DHHS leading to 221 job losses and soaring social housing and elective surgery waiting lists.
Despite the Liberals’ rhetoric of the goal for Australia’s healthiest state by 2025, not a single extra dollar has gone into the prevention of chronic disease or health promotion, while the budget for Population Health has been halved.
The extra funding for Child and Adolescent Mental Health is significant, but it will not deal with the serious unmet need in mental health support for young Tasmanians.
We’re adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach to the new and internally sourced funding announced to tackle the drug ice. It is welcome but will fall well short of what is needed to prevent marginalised young people from taking up and becoming addicted to this insidious and dangerous drug.
Housing Tasmania is set to lose $127 million in funding over the next four years, with no new allocation of capital dollars to increase the supply of social and affordable housing across the state. There is no justification for continuing to leave Tasmanians needing a home out in the cold when the Treasurer has socked away $220 million for the Liberals’ pre-election pork-barrelling.
There is also no new money being invested into energy efficiency programs for low income households. In stark contrast, the Labor Green Government delivered 9500 energy efficiency upgrades to low income households, community groups and small businesses, leading to annual savings in the hundreds of dollars off power bills.
While the funding for a new youth homelessness facility in the North West is warmly welcomed, Human Services Minister, Jacquie Petrusma, failed to advocate strongly enough for disadvantaged Tasmanians. She failed to ensure desperately needed new capital dollars were injected into the Housing Fund which was set up by the Lennon Government and has significantly increased the supply of affordable housing.
Ms Petrusma also failed to secure ongoing funding for the Elder Abuse Prevention Strategy - established by the Labor Green Government – beyond June 2017. This failure leaves vulnerable older Tasmanians at greater risk of abuse in the future.
Meanwhile, the Budget commits to spending $728 million on roads and bridges over the next four years …
Similarly, Ms Petrusma failed to match her genuine passion for family violence prevention with substantial investment into a safer community. The $16 million trumpeted in the Budget is simply ongoing funding for Safe at Home. It is not new money.
In total, only $800 000 in new funding over four years will go towards new violence prevention programs. It may be a ‘down payment’ as the Treasurer said, but the fact remains that there is no meaningful allocation in the Budget to protection vulnerable women and children from family violence.
Similarly, the $300 million announced to help Tasmanians struggling to meet power, water and sewerage, rates and transport costs is not new money. These vital concession payments are the core business of government and are included in every State Budget. The only new money going in to concessions is the $9million annual allocation to cover the shortfall left by the Abbott Government’s abandonment of concessions’ funding in its first Budget.
Lack of Heart and Vision
There is also nothing in this Budget for Aboriginal Tasmanians, young Tasmanians, seniors or former humanitarian entrants.
All in all, this second Hodgman Budget continues in the best tradition of the Abbott Government in its first two Budgets. It lacks heart and a vision. It fails to recognise that an investment in the social wellbeing of people is the foundation of a strong economy.
We know, however, after his pronouncement in Parliament this week, that the Treasurer regards spending on recurrent community services is a waste of money. He would rather have $220 million* in the bank to try to secure the Liberals another term in office.
*Budget Paper 1, page 107