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Address in Reply

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 29 June 2021

Tags: Parliament

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Exceptional timing, Mr Tucker.

Mr Speaker, I acknowledge the first peoples of this island lutruwita/Tasmania the palawa pakana. For many tens of thousands of years, they walked and tended this place and to the uneducated they have left few obvious marks of their long living but to the palawa today and to those of us who listen and learn, the very shape of the landscape its vegetation type and pattern and the location of plants and animals clearly reflect the loving and respectful management of Aboriginal peoples across this island.

The ancient coastal middens, the grasslands and the half-woody hills were formed by eating preferences or hunting preparation. Season by season, weather condition by weather condition, tree type by tree type, cool burning has shaped this land and provided for an protected the people within it.

We have so much to learn from the wisdom developed over thousands of years and about how to live in harmony with this beautiful island. The Greens are committed to truth telling and to justice including through a treaty and the return of lands. We commend the Government on the announcement of the treaty committee and are committed to listening and learning from Aboriginal people throughout this process.

Before going any further, I will take a moment to recognise the new members in this place. Ms Johnstone, the first Independent elected to the House of Assembly since its reduction in size, which is quite an achievement. As a Green, I understand how hard it can be campaigning without all the resources of the major parties and so Ms Johnstone has certainly earned her place here. Congratulations and welcome.

Ms Finlay, you came so close to being elected last year and it must have taken courage to put your name forward again. I am looking forward to seeing that same courage on display here in parliament. Welcome.

Mr Winter, it has been a wild ride to get here. The people of Franklin deserve strong advocates in this parliament. I know Mr Winter's passion for our community is very real, so welcome too.

A well-functioning natural system and a habitable climate are the foundations of stable systems that have evolved over millions of years to support all life on earth, including the lucky people who call this island home today. On the land and in the sea, the variety and quality of animals and plants influences how much carbon we have stored in soils and plants and dictate when clouds and dust form. Living organisms are the main factors in our global carbon cycle. They are the basis of our food our clean water and air. They keep our global and Tasmanian climate friendly for human life. That is why protecting biodiversity and avoiding dangerous climate change are key goals of the Greens.

We are in excellent company. These are also the goals of global bodies such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, the United National Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the UN Sustainable Development goals. Along with the Greens, these international bodies recognise the challenges of biodiversity decline, climate change and human wellbeing are all intertwined. If we do not address these issues today we threaten people's good quality of life now and increasingly as the years progress. When I say addressing the crises, I am not talking about gazing at a distant time horizon. The Liberals' policies today in government and every day are directly contributing to climate change now and the loss of biodiversity. We need to apply a laser focus to stop state-sanctioned native habitat loss and to protect our globally important carbon stores. We need to disarm the harmful influence of corporate interests on government decision-making because this influence is at the heart of our failure to, for example, protect native forests from the deforestation that is adding to climate heating or to protect our marine waters from intensive salmon farming that has been so damaging to the environment, or to protect prime agricultural land the country's largest dairy farm from gross pollution and animal welfare abuses.

If we are complacent about the threats to our democracy if we think we are immune from the same forces that are acting so corrosively on the US government we are in for a bleak and unjust future, which is exactly why we need to harness the shared vision that many Tasmanians have in common. People of all ages, work types, political persuasion and spiritual belief in Tasmania share a deep love for this island home. We want to preserve what makes our home unique and special. There are things that need to change is we are going to have a kinder, fairer and more sustainable community. We need to listen to the school students and the scientists and do what we can to ensure we have a safe climate future. We value the environment for its intrinsic beauty and spiritual delight. As the Premier's Economic and Social Recovery Advisory Council report found, they said, 'Tasmanians see the environment as essential for health, wellbeing and prosperity'.

We want a health system that provides the care that people need when they need it no matter where they live. Everyone should have a stable, secure and affordable home. We should all be treated to a high-quality education no matter what our income is. Anyone who wants a job should have that opportunity. We humans are social animals and transport and digital communication are essential for a functioning community so we need them to be universally accessible and affordable. Our community should be safe and inclusive no matter where you were born, your gender, your sexuality or your ability.

Our democracy should be strong and open with everyone getting a real say about decisions that affect them and with our laws fairly enforced, including for powerful corporations. When you look at this vision and compare it to where we are today, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the change that is required. For example, if we look at the health system, at the moment getting to see a GP has become extremely difficult for most people. Ambulance response times are the worst in the country, emergency department waiting times and ambulance ramping are out of control. The elective surgery waiting list is at record highs with people waiting in pain for years.

Mental Health Services are in such desperate straits that specialists have called for an inquiry. People in regional areas often do not have the basis of primary health services. Preventative health is significantly underfunded and our entire health system is understaffed with doctors, nurses, psychologists, allied health workers and others and there is a constant battle to recruit and retain healthcare professionals.

If we look at the situation with the environment, we have a climate that is heating at a rapid rate and more extreme weather events including bushfires we have suffered under. Floods and coastal erosion are impacting communities. Native forests with critical habitat are being logged and burned. More and more wildlife is being pushed to the brinks of extinction with damaging developments still being approved. Our waterways are being polluted and native animals are killed by a salmon farming industry that is being encouraged right now to ramp up expansion even while they are underregulated, under monitored and breaches are not being enforced. Wilderness and public protected areas are being privatised and developed apace for the profit of private companies. Mining companies treat the natural world as a resource to plunder and choose to destroy significant environment even when alternative options exist. Protected native animals and birds continue to be hunted and culled, yet, feral animals are left to flourish.

In housing we know we are short 11 000 social and affordable homes. The public housing waiting list has ballooned; rents and mortgages have skyrocketed. The average Tasmanian is in financial distress due to their housing situation. Airbnb and short-stay accommodation are dominating most rental markets in the state. Homelessness services are struggling to keep up with demand and too many tenants in public housing and private rentals have poor living conditions as a result of a neglected property and insecure tenancy laws.

This is our reality in Tasmania today. Most people I speak to are despondent about the possibility of meaningful change in any of those areas, let alone all of them. The enormity of the task involved and the glacial pace of improvements that this Government has brought about, if they ever happen, are why so many Tasmanians feel apathetic, even cynical about politics. This is a dangerous place for society to be in.

Why is it that the community cares so much about these issues which affect hundreds of thousands of people, but nothing is ever prioritised in the Liberals budget or policies to make an effective real difference? Why do successive Liberal and Labor Governments continue to engage in practices that are not supported by the majority of the population?

It is not because humans are inherently selfish or competitive. Those are myths that have been comprehensively debunked. In fact, the opposite of them is true. When Tasmanians are confronted with terrible situations, we reach out and help each other in droves. We have consistently proven that throughout recent bushfires and floods, during the COVID restrictions and through community fundraising. Tasmanians will do and give whatever we can for people who are suffering, have lost everything they own, or have been unlucky in life.

Stepping back, these issues that I have been talking about, climate change inaction, attacks on biodiversity and the failure of government to provide even a safety net of social services, are symptoms of the same root problem.

We do not get the change we all want and could have because politics has become stacked in the favour of money and interests of big corporations and the super wealthy. They donate millions or billions at the federal level of dollars to the Liberal and Labor parties every year and they do not do this for charity. They want and expect outcomes through favourable business decisions and the major parties want this money to fund their election campaigns.

It is totally reasonable to ask how can this be legal. It is because the same parties that benefit from this dirty contract have kept working in complicity together, to keep donation and Liberal and election laws weak in Tasmania. In Tasmania we do not even get to find out who has donated to a political party until 18 months later. The Greens are focusing on what can be done to help Tasmanians instead of serving the interests of secret corporate donors. That is because we declare all of our donations in real time and we serve the Tasmanian community.

Most public services right now are being underfunded relative to the need they should be meeting. As a state, however, we are far from penniless. We can raise the money we need for the public services that we all collectively expect. COVID has shown us that spending on government services massively ramps up the jobs and it makes sure that people are not left out and have to deal with hard times on their own. The fact is, we could continue to afford to do this, as a state and as a nation, but it would mean that corporations that profit are Tasmanian people and Tasmania's natural assets would have to pay for their privilege of doing so.

At the moment, the public are not getting a fair return from mining, gambling and fish farm companies which operate under exclusive business licences, set up by either the Liberal or Labor governments of the day. Developers are making a motza from simply planning rezoning decisions, bringing them profits before they have even spent a cent on construction.

For example, in Tasmania, mining companies pay royalties to the Tasmanian state just at the national average and not above that. This would have equated to more than half a billion dollars to spend on public services over the last 10 years. That is a lot of money in Tasmania.

What we have today, is Liberal and Labor parties, successive governments, giving special business deals to big corporate donors that benefit the shareholders of these companies, instead of having them pay their fair share, which is what other states do, and putting that money into quality public services. The money is, instead, is leaving the state.

Instead of legislating for environmental protection and keeping public reserves from being privatised, the interests of donor companies such as Tassal and Huon in the case of salmon, means that laws are not enforced, for example, with salmon farming. The recent RTI shows us that the barbaric treatment of seals which ought to have been investigated did not happen, or it means that laws are rewritten in the favour of companies, such as the cable car company and the kunanyi bill that was written with the support of both parties.

At the moment the Liberals are actively saying no to hundreds of millions of dollars, a potential investment that should be going into health, housing, education, public transport and other government services. We could be having more ambulance staff and centres. We could be having more school social workers. We could be having more staff working in the Public Guardian to check out fair processes. We could be having more money going into drug rehabilitation and education for inmates instead of putting it into a northern prison.

The Greens would increase the mining and salmon farming royalties and rents for profits that are made from public resources. We would follow the lead of other places that make some of the profits from windfall property gain come to the public purse. That creates a lot of money in the budget to spend on the things Tasmanians want the most.

Mr Speaker, during COVID restrictions last year corporate interests were temporarily sidelined and the Greens worked in a tripartisan, cooperative, constructive and effective manner. Collectively, we demonstrated across the parties what is possible when a company’s interests are not muddying the waters. We recognise the challenges I have outlined that we face as a state are all connected. We cannot deal with these issues one by one. If we want to leave an enduring and positive legacy for Tasmania's children - and I genuinely believe that everyone in this Chamber, everyone who stands for parliament genuinely wants to leave a positive legacy for the children of Tasmania - then we have to seize this opportunity post COVID, whenever that might be, to reshape our state's future for the better. There are options to do things differently.

The Greens reject the idea that things cannot change and that this distorted underinvestment in public services is normal. It is not humane and we do have choices. That is why we took to the election a comprehensive plan, a Green new deal. If it was implemented, the Green new deal would deliver a greener and fairer future for Tasmania that joins us all up together and gives us all a chance for a life well lived.

We would invest in more community and preventative health; develop a statewide strategy for emergency departments; increase the capacity of the Royal Hobart Hospital and the Launceston General Hospital; progress the establishment of urgent care centres; recruit and retain the nurses, midwives, doctors and allied health workers to meet the shortfall statewide; hire 224 more paramedics; and establish an inquiry into mental health services to make sure the real issues for Tasmanians today, young people and old people dealing with the challenges of a rapidly changing world, can be responded to in a compassionate way when needed.

We would amend the law to make sure that planning decisions remain independent from the minister and empower communities to have meaningful input into decision making. We would also establish a new tribunal for appeals which would follow the Queensland example in being more accessible for everyday people by delivering planning decisions in plain language and prohibiting legal representation.

We would also make the Environment Protection Agency properly independent and resource it so it can properly undertake monitoring and enforcement activities. We would set a target of 10 per cent of Tasmanian waters to become no take marine reserves and require all new fish farms to operate as closed loop, land based farms and transition the ones that are in the sea onto land.

We recognise that the Liberals tough-on-crime approach to justice has failed and we would establish an evidence based approach to justice which put more emphasis on restorative programs, rehabilitation and education. This is the model that is working so well in countries overseas, which are seeing a reduction in crime, an increase in public safety and a more humane way of dealing with prisoners. We would provide the funding that community legal centres need and establish a bail hostel to prevent people without access to stable housing from being jailed unnecessarily.

The arts sector has kept us going through COVID. They are always there with people creatively exploring ways to help us to understand the changing situation we are in and help us to find a humorous outlet, a spiritual outlet, a deep reflection and an opportunity to collectively be together as a community and share awareness of the path that other people are travelling along with us at the same time. We know the arts sector is important and would provide far more funding to particular parts of the sector and overall $1.5 million to nurture regional and community groups.

We have a comprehensive plan for climate action that would bring down emissions in every sector of the economy. We have tabled our Safe Climate Bill that would establish annual emissions targets and create a safe climate commission to oversee climate action in Tasmania. We would support the key industries to meet targets, fund new technologies, create more renewables and facilitate investment in the decarbonisation process of our economy. Most importantly, we would work with local governments to have local adaptation plans developed and also at the state level for state adaptation plans.

We do not underestimate and we cannot underscore the importance of preparing for the rapidly changing climate, both by supporting volunteer firefighters and emergency workers and preparing communities for inevitable extreme weather and the coastal erosion, which is already taking away properties and threatening infrastructure and roads around many parts of regional Tasmania.

We know that well-functioning natural systems and habitable climate is how life on Earth evolved. Our island's biodiverse plants and animals help keep our climate stable and bring us clean air and water. Without these, our lives would be bleak and our future would be insecure. The Government's policies today are increasing climate heating and destroying precious biodiversity. They are draining money from our most important public services. We need to remove the harmful influence of corporate interests on government decision-making and budget priorities.

The influence of secret political donations is corrosive to our democracy. This is why the Government continually fails to make any progress on the things that Tasmanians care about. We should be able to have quality health services when we need them and homes for everyone. We should be acting on climate change and keeping our carbon stored and restored, and we should be looking after our public lands rather than flogging them off for private gain. We need independent government bodies that put the interests of our collective community for a healthy environment and democracy ahead of short-term private businesses.

Tasmanians are very passionate about this island and the Government has a choice. Both parties can walk together with Tasmanians and try to find collective problems for these massive crises that face us, or accept that people will continue to peacefully stand up and defend the places they love and their right to humane, basic services every Tasmanian has a right to. People will not stop standing up for the places they love. People understand that there is no other way of replacing them, so they will do everything they can to protect the places they love, whether it be kunanyi, the Brush Rivulet reserve, the glorious temperate rainforests in the Tarkine or Rosny Hill, all of these places around Tasmania.

Tasmanians understand that if governments will not protect them, if laws are overlooked, if laws are rewritten to further the interests of private companies, nothing else remains except to work together collectively and stand up against injustice. Or we could choose to work together, and that is what the Greens propose. We propose a Green new deal that is a compact for the future, that builds a fairer, greener Tasmania, that listens to and respects the wisdom of the palawa pakana.

This will be the work of the Tasmanian Greens in this term of government. I give that work my whole heart and energy on behalf of the people of Franklin and for all Tasmanians.