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2018-19 Budget Reply

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Tags: Alternative Budget, State Budget, Climate Change

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I am honoured to speak to the Greens' vision for Tasmania and our alternative budget, which the Leader of the Tasmanian Greens, Cassy O'Connor, presented earlier today. I will further add to the details of our alternative budget by focusing on the portfolio areas I have responsibility for.

The Greens' vision for Tasmania is for a state and a people within it who are resilient. It is based on an acceptance of the world as it actually is - the science, the human values we have inherited as culture, and an understanding that we rely on the ecosystems essentially for every aspect of human life, not only for food and the resources that we use to move through our lives but for spiritual sustenance. We also base our alternative budget on a belief in justice and inclusivity. We put communities first and we want to open Tasmania up to the reality of the new industries that will shape our future moving on from the second industrial revolution into one that accepts the reality of the changing climate as a result of global warming, the changing digital industries and the massive transition we are all living through.

In May this year the federal Senate Committee Inquiry into the Implications of Climate Change for Australia's National Security made a recommendation that climate change is a current and existential national security risk to Australia, one that could inflame regional conflicts over food, water and land, and even imperil life on Earth. They further said that the security risk of climate change was not a possible future threat but one that endangers Australia and its region. That is us in Tasmania as well. They further said that they define an existential threat as one that could:

... threaten the premature extinction of Earth-originating intelligent life or the permanent and drastic destruction of its potential for desirable future development.

The committee reported that climate change threatened the health of Australians, the viability of our communities, businesses and the economy. They said climate change is heightening the severity of natural hazards, increasing the spread of infectious diseases, increasing water insecurity and threatening agriculture. Sherri Goodman, who was a United States deputy under-secretary of defence in the Clinton administration, made the point that climate change is a threat multiplier, exacerbating existing conflict over water and resources and it poses a direct threat to the security of all Australians. Climate change is not a problem in the distant future, but it is one that is now.

In that context, the Greens reject the massive underinvestment in climate change in this Government's Budget for this year. Instead we will act to put the money where it is needed to make Tasmania climate-ready. We will put $8 million over four years into the Tasmanian Climate Office and re-establish the ministry of climate change. The operations and activities of all government bodies must become best practice with regard to reducing emissions and adapting to climate. There can be huge savings found in this area - we have estimated $18 million minimum over the forward Estimates. The Tasmanian Climate Action Council must be re-established, a very important advisory body which was cut.

The minister for climate change would work with stakeholders and community to strengthen a climate change state action act that would acknowledge that climate change is anthropogenic, acknowledge the responsibility of all Tasmanian governments to take decisive action towards reducing emissions, protecting carbon stocks, and increasing carbon sequestration across our landscape. It would also work on short-term economy-wide sectoral targets, emission reduction plans would be established and we would have annual reporting on Tasmania's total and sectoral emissions.

These are the sorts of measures the Greens would move immediately to do in this year. An essential part of recognising the reality of where we are in the world is that the Greens would end native forest logging. That would be a huge saving to the budget of $105 million over four years and would not only protect the biodiversity of our native forests and those beautiful plants and animals that live in Tasmania, some of them nowhere else on this planet, but it would also free us up from the divisive, old industrial style of forestry and move us into the potential for using the existing plantations we have and making something that is high value and low volume to export overseas.

The Greens have long advocated for a fair price for rooftop solar and we know that part of reducing our carbon emissions is for every person, as well as for us as a state, to take responsibility for doing what we can. There are many Tasmanians who have already made this leap and have rooftop solar systems. There are many opportunities for community solar farms and increasing the security of the electricity supply. If only they were supported with a fair price for the power that they produce.

The Greens would establish a fair solar tariff and we would also establish an independent wholesale electricity price. It is important that the electricity price is not fiddled with by politicians and is not made a political football. At the moment, we estimate $75 million to that would be a cost that we would bear through other savings in the Budget. We would find that money because we recognise the advantage to Tasmania and Tasmanians of making a decision to increase the production of renewable energy and to increase the savings that can be passed back to people on their electricity bill.

Mr Deputy Speaker, the environment has been another vastly under-funded area in this Budget. The Greens would move immediately to establish a department of the environment. Clearly, there is no place for a department of the environment within the Department of Primary Industry and Water. That mega department, for whatever reason, for whatever political imperatives, clearly has done nothing of value for the environment, relative to the work that must be done.

We have had a hugely underfunded Threatened Species Unit. The Greens would put the money where it is needed - $8.7 million over four years. This would not only restore the number of staff, which was thoroughly gutted under the last term of government. The minister was saying last week that there were 15 staff, down to, I think, 2.7 or 2.9. We would raise that back to where it was before they cut it, and then we would double the numbers. We cannot go back to the levels we had in 2014; we need twice the number of people we had then. The threats to our natural species are multiplying all the time; changes in climate, changes in feral species. We had a new species of shellfish, never before spotted in the southern hemisphere, identified only this week. The threats are real. We value our species and we will put the money into the department of the environment. We would make sure there is a state of the environment report that returns to Tasmania and to parliament every year. We would provide additional funding in the first year for baseline audits because that work is not being done.

Importantly, a central task would be to undertake and develop a zero waste strategy for Tasmania. We must move towards having zero waste. Every person, everywhere on the planet, must do this work. Some European countries are leading the way. We want Tasmania to be the state in Australia that has the best developed zero waste strategy. We acknowledge the work of the Greens' aldermen on the Hobart City Council who have driven a lot of the work of that council. They are doing fantastic work on plastics in the waste stream. We would use some money to establish a strategy, educational materials for people and, importantly, we would fund that work through a waste levy and container deposit scheme.

Despite that in the last term the Liberals voted down the container deposit scheme legislation which we moved, it had the support of many community groups, including the Scouts, who were here on the day. Six other states and territories in Australia have already adopted container deposit legislation. Despite that, the Government has wasted another whole year manufacturing a report that was never needed. It was never needed because the evidence was there; it was sitting on the shelf ready to pick up like other states. It was just another stalling tactic. The Greens are about action and we would get that container deposit legislation happening immediately.

Tasmanian salmon farming is operating at an industrial scale now. It is nothing like where it began 20 years ago. What began as a couple of small businesses is now three large corporations. Shareholders are their interest group. Most of them do not live in Tasmania. We essentially have three large corporations that are vying for pieces of Tasmanian marine, sea, coast and estuarine areas. We desperately need a government that will put in fair rules, an umpire to ensure not only that those corporations can act with fair competition and fair rules, but that the biosecurity of the operations of the fish farms are properly regulated for the marine environment and for the impact on other businesses. Most importantly, we need a fair set of rules. We need some independence in the management and the development of salmon farming in Tasmania.

Both the Labor and the Liberal parties are equally complicit in allowing the industry to write its own rules over the last couple of decades, and in allowing the industry to create its own development plans. Both the Labor and the Liberal parties have said absolutely nothing about the impacts on local communities, on other commercial stakeholders, and on the marine environment because of the huge expansion of the grow zone into Storm Bay and into north-western Tasmania around King Island and Circular Head.

A massive industry expansion is underway. We believe that, first, we have to protect our fragile marine environment and, second, make sure that every stakeholder has an opportunity to have a say about where fish farming occurs in our waters. We would establish a truly independent EPA. Regardless of how that association should be operating, the facts are there. They speak for themselves in Macquarie Harbour. We desperately need to shore up the true independence of the EPA. We would put money into restructuring the EPA into an independent and self-contained authority.

We would do the work to establish the bioregional plans for the state waters and, importantly, continue the work that was nearly there until Mr Llewellyn, the minister from the Labor Party, scuttled it. The marine protected areas, which we have seen be so successful in the tiny few that operate around Tasmanian waters, are incredibly biodiverse. They are a source of future stock of fish and a source of integral beauty just in themselves. We plan to continue that work and to identify how we can protect our marine environment so that it is there for all people in the future.

We have a suite of law reforms. These are small costs. These are fundamentally about a value shift. The Greens believe in fairness; we believe in sustainability. This is a small cost to the Budget with a big gain.

In 100 years we want our environment to be as beautiful and diverse as it is today. We know that in the last term of government, the Liberals rushed through the planning scheme. It was written by developers for development interests. It threatens our clean, green brand. We are already seeing developments coming to fruition, such as Cambria Green on the east coast, which is an affront to planning. The word 'planning' should not be used. That is a straight-out buy of Australian land to set up a specific area plan where there will be no planning within it. People have no say. It will be potentially owned by a foreign government and the planning rules have been written within it. This is not the Tasmania we want as a future.

We will put $4 million into developing state policies to guide long-term planning that protects the public interests. We will increase the money to the Resource Management Planning and Appeals Tribunal. They are under-resourced for their work. We will spend $1.24 million supporting the work of the Environmental Defender's Office. Hear, hear for the EDO because they are the only legal people who are there to provide advice and support for all those Tasmanians who are confronted with massive developments such as Rosny Hill or the export woodchip port that is proposed for Dover. Those are the communities that rely on the Environmental Defender's Office. There is no government agency to give them any support.

We would also review the Crown Lands Act. We would spend $9 million on transferring the Department of State Growth to the Department of State Planning and include an office of the chief engineer, a state architect and a state demographer. We need to revisit the laws that guide the planning scheme because they do not give people a say. In the same way as the marine farm development plan process is so corrupted when it comes to the development of new fish farms, so too is the Tasmanian Planning Scheme, now being written so developers get to have a say.

The situation happening on Rosny Hill with the Clarence City Council right now is a classic, textbook Liberal government approach to development. There has been a secretive planning proposal established in the Office of the Coordinator-General and that work has gone on for two or three years behind closed doors and the community only gets to hear about it four days before it goes to council for a vote. There is nothing fair about that process, nothing just and nothing good for the future of Tasmania to plan our public places, our parks, in that way. We will restore the proper process and defund the Office of the Coordinator-General and Infrastructure Tasmania and put that $14 million into making sure the planning scheme works for people and works for us for the future.

The justice system under the Liberals has been eroded by small changes which have largely left us in a situation where the architecture of integrity, justice and transparency is being constantly eroded. We have seen many mandatory minimum sentencing bills come through this House and they have been chucked out but this Government is having another go. To prevent that sort of erosion, the Greens would put $4 million into funding a human rights act and establishing a human rights commission. We would restore the integrity bodies of the Office of the Ombudsman and especially a health complaints commissioner. There are so many heart-wrenching stories of people who have suffered injustices in the health system and we need to have a special commissioner devoted to health complaints. They are a particular sort of complaint. People are often suffering anguish and they need to have professional and direct support on that issue. We would put $5 million over four years into restoring our integrity bodies.

We would restore the Liberals' cuts to Legal Aid. They have cut $6 million over the next forward Estimates - shame. This is for the poorest people who need legal access. There are whole lot of words you can use fiddling around stuff but the bottom line is that $6 million has gone out of Legal Aid and that is not small bickies.

We would also work on Breaking the Cycle because this Liberal Government has lost its way on that, despite the fact they have signed up to it. The late minister, Vanessa Goodwin, did an excellent job in that area but the Breaking the Cycle strategy has lost its way. We would restore funding integral to that for the Reintegration of Ex-Offenders program as well as more money into general literacy and numeracy support for people in prison and extra vocational education programs.

We could save $400 000 without blinking by not going any further in trying to weaken Tasmania's gun laws. That was not a policy the Liberals had any mandate on. It was a secretive policy and a secret deal. The only reason it ever came to light before the election was because of the Greens releasing it after we got that information presented to us by someone who had been a stakeholder in that very small select stakeholder group. We do not and have never supported any change to the National Firearms Agreement. The Greens are proud supporters of that agreement as we will continue to do that work and resist the Liberals' erosion of gun laws just so they can get an election vote out of it.

Animals are much loved by Tasmanians and the Greens understand that in order to really protect animal welfare in this state we need to have an independent animal welfare commission and an inspectorate within Tasmania Police. We have so many people around the state caring for dumped animals or animals that have been misused or are simply found wandering, as well our wildlife carers who look after animals that are run over on the side of the road, little babies, animals they find in pouches of mothers that have been killed by cars. We would put $2 million into grants for organisations and individuals that rescue, rehabilitate and rehome those animals with particular focus for organisations that care for injured wildlife.

We would find savings by ending the events and attractions that are cruel to animals so we would defund TasRacing. We would recoup the costs from defunding TasRacing and the Office of Racing Integrity and direct it towards animal care, not animal cruelty. Greyhounds are loved by anybody who has spent any time with those gentle animals. They are a particular sort of dog and one of the gentlest dogs if you spend time with greyhounds, as I have through other people who have rehomed them. We understand that Tasmanians want to do what they can to end that cruel racing so support for greyhound rehoming is an integral part of our animal welfare budget and we would put the money that is required, an estimated $1.75 million, into rehoming greyhounds.

The phase-out of poker machines is a central part of the Greens' health and wellbeing budget. We know that this election was bought by money from the gambling industry and there is now a possibility that Labor might try to slither out the back door of their commitment to end electronic gaming machines in this state. Sadly, this Government has used anything it can to stay in power, including the $4.8 million that was proffered by the gambling industry, by the Farrells, to make sure their destructive empire that causes so much damage to people's lives in the community is retained. We will forgo the revenue from poker machines in pubs and clubs. If it costs $44 million, we will find the money because the Greens will never back down on this issue, and we will use that money to put into population health. We will put $7.68 million into the population health unit because the Liberals have cut the guts out of that unit. We will put $2 million into regional allied health professionals because we know communities want allied health staff in their community. They do not want to have to drive to one of three places in the state. This Government is part of a Liberal approach to centralising those services. Both the federal and Tasmanian Liberals are all about cutting the guts out of public health and centralising services so they are harder and harder to access.

We can never have true health in the community if we do not support people's emotional and mental wellbeing. We would put $17 million extra over the next four years into improving mental health; improving the service gaps; increasing the funds to existing services; implementing the step model of care to integrate services across all the sectors; developing a mental health service guide for evidence-based recovery outcomes; and conducting a phased-in trial for safe and securer software systems for patient records in the area of suicide prevention as well as data reporting. We listen to the mental health sector. It is not hard. They did not ask for much. There is a lot more that could be spent in this area and $17 million would make a big difference.

We are outraged on behalf of Palliative Care Tasmania and that this Government only funded them for the next two years. What a disgrace. What a shame. They do such important work. It was mean. We would put in the tiny $940 000 over the forward Estimates to make sure those important services remain for Tasmanians.

We would put $11 million into decriminalising drugs, developing a legal framework for drug decriminalisation, producing public education materials and to provide funding for new rehabilitation services.

It can all be done if you have a will. You have to have a will to focus on the things you value and make choices. The Greens have made choices and we have decided to find the money to prioritise the things Tasmanians need to have a secure, resilient future, strong communities and an environment that underpins everything we do.