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Budget Management

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Tags: State Budget, COVID-19

Ms O’CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Deputy Madam Speaker, I waited during Mr O'Byrne's contribution for a potential path forward, a proposal to parliament about how we might work together to get Tasmania through, not only the pandemic, but also the difficult financial circumstances we will be in.

Mr O’Byrne - Are you just giving a free pass for the last six years?

Ms O’CONNOR - I am not giving anyone a free pass, but as it is, each year when the alternative budget comes out, this parliament waits to hear from Labor what they would do differently.

Mr O’Byrne - You are using the Liberal alliance - good. Yes. Nice.

Ms O’CONNOR - I have raised the issue that Labor does not prepare an alternative budget, unlike the Greens. We have fewer than half your staff; we do put the work in and we take an alternative vision to the people. If you are going to have a matter of public importance debate about budget management, it would be constructive to help parliament understand how Labor would do things differently. I think that is a fair observation.

There is no question - we too had a briefing from Treasury - that Tasmania's finances are in a very difficult situation. There is no question we will have to borrow to get through this difficult period, and be able to respond with decency to the Tasmanian people's more difficult circumstances as a result of the pandemic.

Now we need to take stock and work together on recovery, and identify what recovery should look like. Unfortunately, it was really disheartening to receive the interim report of the Premier's Economic and Social Recovery Advisory Council - PESRAC - because while there were a number of good recommendations, there was no mention of climate, and the opportunity that is presented to us, as an island community, to deal with the twin crises humanity is facing - pandemic and climate - and to invest in green jobs.

Interestingly, business leaders around the country are increasingly calling on the Morrison Government to abandon its plans for a gas-fired recovery and to start focusing on the need to invest in renewables, skills and development.

The good recommendation from PESRAC, which should tie into future recovery, is that we provide free TasTAFE courses. Last week I went to TasTAFE's auto shop in Bathurst Street, and it was excellent to see that they were all young Tasmanian men - I did ask the question, a girl went through the auto course relatively recently - but they were there learning those skills. The issue is that the TasTAFE course is not equipped to teach auto mechanics in electric vehicles and the maintenance of cars that are essentially computers on wheels. There is real ambition within TasTAFE to be able to provide that learning opportunity for young people, and they are green jobs.

Through TasTAFE - that fantastic public education and training institution - we should be reorienting our economy towards green skills.

For example, jobs in aged and disability care are caring jobs, and we classify them as a green job. We have an opportunity here in Tasmania to become a caring centre of excellence for Australia. We can help to train people in aged and disability care so that we are not in a crisis situation again, like Victoria and New South Wales have been, where you have seen coronavirus run rampant through aged care facilities.

Let us invest in age and disability care workforce skill development and make ourselves a national leader. Let us invest in landscape restoration so we are reskilling our people out of those destructive industries like native forest logging, which are leading species to extinction, releasing vast amounts of carbon into the atmosphere in a time of climate breakdown.

Let us reorientate those incredibly skilled people, who now work in native forest logging, to help repair some of the damage that has been done to our landscape and make sure that we leave this beautiful island in better shape when we leave it as individuals than when we found it. Part of that should be investing in skills, in agriculture where we have an advantage because of the quality of our produce, helping our producers to become carbon farmers so that we are not only drawing down carbon out of the atmosphere, we are creating habitats for native species.

As a community, we need to turn our lemons into lemonade and we have an opportunity here - as difficult as the times are - to rethink the way we do business, to rethink the future we are offering our young people, to rethink our approach to budget management so investing much more in the skills and training, particularly young Tasmanians will need in the future.

We are a resilient and creative island community. We also have the advantage of having vast tracts of beautiful carbon-rich forest and wilderness that you will not find anywhere else in the world. We are a deeply connected community so it makes sense for us to be investing in skills in aged and disability care. That should absolutely be a priority investment for Government because we know and you know, Madam Deputy Speaker from your time as minister, that we are entering a period where we have a massive shortfall in the workforce that is needed in aged and disability care and that has been exposed on the mainland.

There are different ways of doing business and I hope we can do some of that together.