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Budget Reply

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Tags: Alternative Budget, State Budget, Climate Change, Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Budget Reply, Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP, 18 November 2020


Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Speaker, I am very proud to provide some more details on the Greens' alternative budget following on from the presentation earlier by the Greens Leader, Cassy O'Connor.

The global community is facing multiple crises. Right now we are seeing and feeling the impact of job losses and the huge disruptions to our lives from our efforts to curb the highly infectious and deadly COVID 19 pandemic. In Tasmania we have been buffered from the worst of it relative to most other places in the world, but our state is certainly feeling the impacts on many levels and will continue to do so for years to come.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change special report on global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius has put the world on notice. If we do not make large, unparalleled changes by 2030 we will face extreme problems. Earth's environment and climate has been pushed to breaking point by the current economic paradigm. The extraction and discarding of resource use is not, and never has been, a sustainable way of life. Responding to the culture, to the climate and biodiversity crises requires a significant recalibration of the way that we as a species interact with other fellow species on this planet and how we conceptualise our economy.

As an island community with unique advantages we need to tackle all these challenges at once - the current COVID 19 crisis and the ongoing and evolving climate and biodiversity crises. We have to make sure we keep our eye to the future and the things that we do not experience in a physical, tangible way at the moment but that scientists tell us are something we should never take our focus away from.

The Greens recognise that reducing emissions and adapting to the changing climate must be a priority of any responsible government. In 2010 a Greens climate minister delivered Climate Futures, which was an unprecedented and detailed analysis of Tasmania's climate vulnerability and opportunities then. Today, our Climate Futures 2030 budget is a continuation of that work and sets Tasmania on a new course for 2030 to match the time line for action that has been given to is by the global scientific community. We fund the architecture that we need for our state to undertake the planning and serious action necessary for responding to the climate emergency. We have to be guided by the expert scientists and do everything we can to limit our emissions.

Climate Futures 2030 is underpinned by the Greens' flagship Safe Climate Bill 2020. That bill provides an attainable jobs-rich and carbon-neutral transition pathway for Tasmania. The bill establishes binding 1 per cent annual reduction targets for each sector in our economy. It delivers adaptation and carbon storage plans and has robust analysis, oversight and reporting provisions to make sure these things happen. We will fund a chief scientist to oversee all government policy, ensuring the Government's response to the climate emergency is grounded in the latest evidence.

We would establish the Safe Climate Commission to provide advice to government on policy and to ensure that there is compliance with the Safe Climate Bill 2020. To make sure there is the capacity for parliamentary oversight and leadership on the climate emergency, the Greens would establish a climate change joint standing committee of parliament. We will fund a unit in this budget to develop and monitor the programs and make sure our state meets legislated emissions abatement obligations. We will also fund the work to develop and maintain Tasmania's state climate adaptation plan to provide councils with advice as they develop their own municipal level climate adaptation plans.

Maintaining and growing our carbon stores is more essential than ever in a climate emergency. We fund a carbon store plan and provision of ongoing advice to landowners and Government about new carbon sequestration opportunities. We will protect lutruwita/ Tasmania's carbon stores by ending native forest logging and providing for reskilling workers so that they can undertake landscape restoration and rewild to protect the carbon that is already in the landscape and draw down even more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

This island's forests are part of our shared island heritage and a carbon bank for the world and our children's future. In a time of climate emergency, governments must reduce emissions wherever and however possible through the levers at its disposal. In 2017, cars made up 54 per cent of the carbon emissions from transport in Tasmania and accounted for nearly 10 per cent of our state's total emissions. The Tasmanian Government can play a critical role in making hybrid or electric vehicles accessible and cost-effective for as many Tasmanians as possible. By harnessing our state's renewable energy advantages, we can electrify the vehicle fleet by 2030 and reduce power costs and drive down emissions from transport. The Greens will also fund the transition to low-emissions farming and a sustainable waste management system that will power Tasmania's transition to the circular economy.

The recent Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO State of the Climate 2020 for Australia is grim reading. It says that 2019 was a year of intensifying drought over eastern Australia with high temperature records and we know about the devastating bushfires. 2019 set a record for the Australian average annual temperature, but that report tells us that 2019 was the sort of year we might expect in an average year if the world reaches 1.5 degrees Celsius warming.

Our scientists tell us that Australia has already warmed on average 1.44 degrees. We have a wafer-thin amount of time before last year becomes an average year. COVID-19 and the pandemic only marginally slowed the current rate of carbon dioxide accumulation across the planet. Emissions declined over the first three months of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019, but only by a piffling 8 per cent and, even so, emissions overall are still climbing.

Madam Speaker, the science is clear - the world will continue heating for decades to come. We have a grave responsibility to protect lives and to safeguard community assets and our priceless wilderness values from the increasing threat of extreme weather events, especially bushfires in Tasmania, but also extreme winds and floods. That means governments are responsible for planning and resourcing to prepare communities.

The final report of the National Bushfire and Climate Summit 2020 from the 33 ex-chief firefighters and other expert climate leaders, recommended that every state in Australia should set up regional hubs to provide accessible bushfire information and assist communities in disaster response planning. We have committed $5 million a year to establish community emergency hubs in Tasmania's 10 fire management areas.

The reviews of the recent major bushfires in Tasmania, and the review of the Black Summer fires in eastern Australia, all recommend early response to fire. In Tasmania, fire will mostly be coming from lightning strikes in the future. Fully trained and resourced remote area firefighters are key to successful firefighting efforts in remote areas. We will fund 20 additional full-time equivalent remote area firefighters. We will also fund the outfitting of aircraft with thermal imaging cameras and night vision fire spotting and flight capabilities.

When disaster strikes it is often volunteers who are on the ground first and who stay last to protect us and keep our roads and towns safe. SES and TFS volunteers are the essential backbone of our emergency response in Tasmania and we are so grateful for everything they do for us. We will provide funding for resources and staff to improve volunteer training and wellbeing for SES and TFS volunteers.

The establishment of volunteer remote area firefighters will build on the manifest skills and the willingness of people in the community to contribute to putting out fires in remote wilderness areas. We have a vast storehouse of very expert wilderness walkers and scientists who are willing and able to do that work. So far, their enthusiasm and expertise has been stymied by a lack of commitment from this government and also by a lack of training opportunities. We commit funds and resources in this budget to that essential volunteer training.

Water security will be a growing issue as the planet continues to heat. We will fund an ongoing program of hydrological modelling, to monitor water use and to maintain environmental flows for inland rivers and streams and the life that they support. As temperatures rise, so does the risk of people dying during heatwaves, especially in our major cities.

Greening cities with vegetation provides evaporative cooling, protects people during heatwaves and creates flood basins to protect against flooding events. It also, importantly, improves mental health and wellbeing. That is why we funded a substantial matched pool for councils to invest in green spaces around Tasmania.

Madam Speaker, lutruwita/Tasmania's iconic wilderness is a relic of the super continent, Gondwana, that was shaped over millions of years. The Tasmanian wilderness world heritage area meets seven of the 10 criteria for listing on the UN world heritage list, and it is the only property on that list with the word, 'wilderness', in its name. It truly is a gem. This island's wilderness and national parks draw visitors to the state from across the globe. They also underpin Tasmania's clean, green and natural brand. They are the natural home for incredible biodiversity.

Globally, one million species are currently facing extinction. Humans have reduced animal populations by 60 per cent since just 1970. We are one of seven nations that are responsible for some 60 per cent of the world's biodiversity losses. In 2017, Australia was the second worst offender behind Indonesia in the amount of biodiversity that we caused to disappear. We humans are directly responsible for what scientists have referred to as the sixth mass extinction that our planet has ever faced. That is a terrible record, but it also means that this is the only mass extinction that provides us with the position and the ability to do something about it and to change our approach.

In a time of climate emergency and biodiversity crises, Tasmania can show the world how to protect and how to restore large areas of natural habitat, both terrestrial and marine. Now more than ever before, our Government has a solemn responsibility to ensure that wild places remain just that, safe from privatisation and exploitation. The Government also has a key role in supporting the restoration of ecosystems across the island. Tasmania trades globally on its brand - clean, green and natural Tasmania. This is what the world wants and this gives us privileged access to markets. But our island's clean air and water and environmental integrity have to be protected by strong legislation and policy to keep them authentic and enduring.

Preserving waterways, securing sustainable food production and protecting native wildlife and habitats should be at the heart of the Government's plan and it is at the heart of the Greens' alternative budget. We will restructure the utterly conflicted Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and the Environment. Instead, we will create the Department of Environment and Parks. Our funding includes the establishment of the coastal adaptation unit for additional water monitoring and for proper staffing of the threatened species unit, which has so much work to do and so few people to do it.

Conservation of our native wildlife, especially protecting rare, threatened and endangered species is critical to maintaining our high functioning ecosystems. Renewable energy is necessary for a rapid transition away from coal, oil and gas. But we must plan where our large wind farms and transmission line routes are developed to make sure they do not threaten birds such as eagles or migratory, endangered or rare birds, or forest communities. They also must not damage local communities. Our budget funds are planned for large energy infrastructure and the mapping of suitable zones in consultation with local communities, and with the expertise of environmental specialists.

We know that feral and stray cats kill wildlife in their thousands every year. They also have a serious impact on Tasmania's primary producers and pose a threat to human health. We have provided an additional half a million dollars a year for community education and to support enforcement activities for cat confinement.

The Environmental Protection Agency is currently beholden to ministerial directions and Government policy. This is having a devastating impact on protecting wildlife from developments across the state. We will remove the interference of Government policy, which currently directs the EPA to prioritise industry productivity over the environment. This is the core reason for our decision to fund a truly independent EPA. As well as funding the EPA to become independent under legislation, we also fund it to become a structurally self-contained authority, making sure it is far from ministerial influence and is focused on protecting the environment first.

Marine biodiversity is currently under threat from warming waters, invasive species, over-fishing and over-farming. Our marine environment also needs robust protections. We will fund a marine protection taskforce to develop marine protected areas around our coast and an overdue update of Tasmania's marine environmental laws to make sure they put science, independence and consultation at the centre of decision-making.

The planet's two global seed banks, the Kew Millennium Seed Bank in England and the Global Seed Bank in the Arctic Svalbard Archipelago, are based in the northern hemisphere and face potential threats from climate heating and other factors. We have directed $60 million in this budget to constructing a state-of-the-art global seed bank for the southern hemisphere in Tasmania to help safeguard the world's plant life biodiversity and our own precious Tasmanian seed heritage.

At the last estimate, roughly 600 000 tonnes of waste go to landfill every year in Tasmania and diverting waste from landfill is the most effective means to address our state's waste emissions. We fund an options paper for transitioning our state away from landfill. We will also establish infrastructure grants over the next two years for the speedier rollout of container deposit machines to reduce litter in our waterways and marine environment.

We would extend the Hobart City Council's ban on single-use takeaway plastics statewide and fund an education campaign to support businesses and the broader community in this transition.

Our state's hospitals are struggling to cope with rising and continuing demand. Our funding focus must be to prevent people from needing to go to hospital in the first place. Individual health and wellness are the heart of a flourishing community. Tackling the rising demand for emergency services begins with properly resourced preventative health services and with more allied health services in communities to help keep people well for longer. We fund an additional 50 allied health professionals in community health centres across Tasmania and a white paper for preventative health reform in Tasmania that will move us towards 5 per cent of the Health budget being spent on preventative health.

Drug education and rehabilitation and investing the population's health helps ensure that people do not fall through service cracks and can have quality and meaningful healthcare across their lifetime. We know that criminalising personal drug use leads to poor health outcomes for individuals and can lead to an avoidable cycle of crime. We allocate funding to decriminalise personal drug use, provide more drug education programs, drug rehabilitation staffing and also new drug rehabilitation facilities across the state.

Active transport is critical for health, happiness and also for reducing the carbon emissions from driving. We fund $10 million a year into an ongoing matching pool for councils to invest in active transport options including cycling and pedestrian infrastructure.

The Greens believe that young people and children in lutruwita/Tasmania should feel and be safe and we will make sure government services are fully scrutinised so that children and their parents can be confident that they will always be protected from abuse, sexual or any other type. We commit funding in this budget to a commission of inquiry into the allegations of the behaviour of a former LGH employee who may also have worked at other government services.

The implosion in the corrections system is a by-product of the Government's ineffectual tough-on-crime policies. It is a negative feedback loop of hopelessness and crime and is certainly not making communities safer. The Greens know it will take a serious policy reform to turn the corner so we have invested in an ambitious program of restorative justice and diversion programs to improve recidivism rates, bring down the prison population and improve safety. We will fund a restorative justice policy and programs unit because the current correctional facilities are not able to deliver enough rehabilitative programs and that is one of the reasons recidivism rates are rising increasingly and our prisons are bursting at the seams.

We will also fund an alcohol and drug court to help reduce reoffending and to provide many wider social benefits and cost savings to the court and prison system. We will fund an extension to the drug diversion program that exists at the moment so that alcohol-related offending, which is substantial and has hugely damaging community costs, would be included in that program to address the causes of offending and save public money and reduce crime.

Importantly, the Greens would fund a refurbishment of the northern remand centre which is not fit for purpose and an unjust place for people to be housed. That funding is provided for significant refurbishments of the northern remand centre. As we have been on record saying before, some of the savings we make in this budget will come from not funding the northern prison, so we have secured money from not building a northern prison towards safer and more just rehabilitative processes to reduce crime and to make sure that the lives for people who leave our prison system are not just safer but healthier and have more possibility for engagement with the wider community.

The global transitions that have occurred as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic and the climate and biodiversity crises are already acting upon our state and will continue to affect our way of life into the future. We also have a growing population and that will probably increase as a result not just of the climate crisis. The bushfires last year certainly motivated many people to move from the mainland down to Tasmania, but our situation in Tasmania as an island state and how well we have weathered the COVID 19 pandemic so far has also lent people an eye to the great benefits of living in Tasmania.

We understand and accept that settlement and land use patterns will change and that is why we will actively plan and map out a strategy for how we can retain the qualities we all love about Tasmania that make us a beacon of naturalness in the world. Our state's planning decisions must reflect the demands of the climate emergency and this post-COVID migration. Planning has to also prioritise environmental protection, public participation and it has to value shared public places and a sense of character and community for the people who live in different regions.

Robust planning policies protect our island's values and do not exploit them. Maintaining the quality and integrity of our democratic institutions is also an essential part of safeguarding good future decision-making. We would change the name of Department of State Growth to the Department of State Planning and fund the employment of a chief engineer, a state architect and a state demographer as well as a local area strategic development unit.

We would also undertake a process of state policy planning, development of state policies. We would develop six state policies over four years - namely, climate change, settlement, transport and infrastructure, biodiversity management, public consultation, health and wellbeing and cultural preservation.

We make savings in the planning area from other areas, but in particular by defunding the office of the Coordinator General. That office has been a beacon of secrecy and has caused much grief to communities around Tasmania. Arrangements have been negotiated far away from the sunlight of local communities. Those communities have had to experience developments popping up that have been negotiated behind closed doors, such as the potential Cambria Green development on the east coast and the definite Shandong Chambroad Kangaroo Bay development, as well as many others. This is not the process that Tasmania needs to take us into the future. We need to have a free and independent process that provides true consultation opportunities for communities.

Responding to the climate and biodiversity crisis requires a significant recalibration of social and environmental policies, as well as an economic restructuring, to ensure our economy works for the people and the planet - not the other way around, as it is at the moment. Tasmania is transitioning from an extractive economy to one that relies on the island's brand and our high value niche products. As an island we have so much to be proud of and so many advantages to leverage. Our Greens' budget builds on our advantages. Our budget capitalises on what Tasmanians are proud of, and introduces reforms and a pathway to transition the state's economy into as prosperous and safe climate future.