So much has changed since the Tasmanian Greens handed down our last evidence-based and fully costed Alternative Budget late last year.
While the planet isn’t getting any cooler yet, the political temperature has changed for the better.
We’ve had two Ministers and a Premier step down. There has been a change of Premier at the State level – one we’ll hold to his promise to lead a kind, accountable government – and, of course, blessed relief for our national character, there has been a change of government in Canberra.
The election on 21 May was indeed a watershed moment for our great country. Climate and integrity are now front and centre in the national debate, and not before time.
There is new hope in the air.
With the election of the Albanese Labor government and a swathe of new Greens’ MPs and Senators, as well as climate-focused independents, there is cause for optimism that this country will be able to hold its head high again on the international stage. We’ve been a coal-kissing pariah for too long.
With these changes come new opportunities for our island.
Ours is an Alternative Budget that reflects and responds to the imperatives of the times we live in.
I acknowledge we stand on Aboriginal land, lutruwita; country that was never ceded, and I recommit the Greens to working constructively with Tasmanian Aboriginal people, and across the Parliament, to deliver the truth telling and Treaty so necessary for us to move forward as a community. We have much good, important work to do together.
The Premier has done the right thing, and announced this Parliament will be restored to 35 seats. In the committee inquiry in to the Greens’ restoration bill which this Parliament established and I chaired, there were only two recommendations.
To restore the numbers to strengthen representation and democracy, and to start the process of delivering Aboriginal seats in Parliament.
The Greens want to see this happen. It’s the right thing to do. Again, we will work cooperatively to ensure Aboriginal Tasmanians are represented in Tasmania’s Parliament, as they should be.
Tasmania’s enviable status as the only State or territory in the country to sequester more CO2 than it emits is being brought in to sharper focus. It’s a natural and competitive advantage we can’t afford to squander.
Having stood with the conservation movement and civil society to deliver wilderness and forest protections, the Greens won’t stand by and allow our natural beauty and wealth, or our carbon stores, to be squandered.
We will work tirelessly every day to ensure the carbon wealth banked in our forests stays in that bank, and that more opportunities for carbon banking are available.
Key to maintaining our strength as a national climate leader is protecting this island’s vast, life-giving carbon banks. They are our gift to the world, our gift of carbon sequestration and oxygen to the planet.
Instead of introducing or supporting legislation that cracks down on peaceful protests in order to increase corporate profits under the lie of workplace safety, we respect the will of young people, and increasingly people across the generations, that there be courage in politics, leaders who see something is wrong, and are moved to do the right thing.
Protecting Tasmania’s forests, the carbon they keep safe, and the complex web of life they sustain is the right thing to do.
The Greens listen to the scientists and young people, and we know this to be true – the only sane, scientific and moral response to the climate emergency is to take urgent action, and we have to protect this island’s carbon banks.
We fund start up work to establish the Tasmanian Carbon Bank, to not only protect our forests but to ensure those not currently within a reserve are valued beyond woodchips that are shipped to China, but generate revenue in evolving carbon markets.
This is work that started under the Labor Green government, then abandoned by the Liberals. We want to see it rejuvenated to benefit Nature, and increase the wealth of the Tasmanian people.
Our Alternative Budget invests in accelerating the transition to electric vehicles, emissions abatement planning and expertise, and strengthens adaptation planning so that people, the natural and built environment, and infrastructure are resilient in the face of a rapidly heating atmosphere.
There is an urgency to this work which we recognise and respond to in our Alternative Budget.
We invest in greening up our cities and towns, to increase healthier transport options, provide refuge from the growing heat, as well as homes and buildings that are designed, or refurbished, to withstand extreme events.
The scientists will tell us, the safest place in the world to be in an accelerating climate emergency is where there are the strongest communities. Communities where we are resilient, adaptive, connected, supported by governments, informed, and where we look out for each other.
In this, Tasmania also has a unique advantage.
Our Alternative Budget invests $20 million over four years in establishing community resilience hubs in every municipality to provide connections and advice to help our people withstand the inevitable climate shocks barreling towards this island.
We invest in our volunteer fire brigades and more remote area firefighters to defend people, Nature and the built environment.
We’ll also help farmers reduce emissions from the meat and dairy sector, and fund the development of low emissions farming guidelines coupled with Treasurers’ Instructions to support agricultural businesses that employ climate-positive practices.
We should always be looking for ways to reward good behavior.
All of this work will be guided by the Safe Climate Commission, a statutory, scientific body tasked with advising government, parliament and industry, and the wider community on sustained, effective climate action.
A Covid-safe Tasmania
The changing climate is a moral imperative of our times, as is the pandemic.
This island’s Covid-free status which we enjoyed for two years is now a distant memory, with almost one in three Tasmanians infected since the border was reopened.
The protections that kept us safe have been abandoned and we are now told we just have to live with a rapidly mutating, dangerous virus.
Tragically, 76 Tasmanians to date did not live with Covid, they died with it. 63 since 15 December last year.
For the disabled and immunocompromised, living with Covid means living a half life, many staying at home and in fear.
How far we have fallen as a society that once cared about the marginalized.
Now we are apparently prepared to accept that ‘living with Covid’ is a nightmare for plenty of our fellow Tasmanians. We’re prepared to accept a staggering level of mass infection – more than double what the Kirby Institute forecast in its work for the Tasmanian Government.
As a society, we are apparently prepared to accept a high death rate, with no sign government is listening to the science or independent experts, or is prepared to prioritise public health over the economy.
The current numbers in the Weekly Surveillance Report are nothing short of alarming. They point to a staggering Public Health failure, and a weak Opposition that has stayed silent as cases and deaths continue to climb.
Since the border was reopened, with no child under 12 vaccinated, around 165 000 Tasmanians have been infected with a novel coronavirus.
Since unvaccinated primary school students were sent in to poorly ventilated classrooms to start the school year, almost 9000 have been infected – about 1 in 3. Almost 50 000 children and young people under the age of 19 have had Covid.
While overseas, Public Health authorities are becoming increasingly alarmed about the likely link between a new spate of severe childhood hepatitis and prior Covid infection, here, it seems the plan is to infect as many children as possible as fast as possible with a virus that research tells us can shrink the brain, enlarge the heart, attack the liver and every other organ in our body.
Our Alternative Budget heeds the independent health experts who are clear much more can and must be done to prevent mass infection, disablement and death.
We would reinstate indoor mask protections, and invest in local Long Covid research as well as ventilation upgrades to assist small to medium businesses and community organisations make sure the air the people, who work in and visit those spaces, breathe, is safe.
This is a workplace safety issue too. As I understand it, a significant number of the Hansard staff is out with Covid, and yet still we have people swanning around this building unmasked.
It’s both disrespectful and unscientific. Anyone who actively invites a virus that accelerates biological ageing in to their body is not thinking clearly. Anyone who thinks you only catch Covid once is not paying attention.
Not that governments are being honest with you, but you can most certainly be infected repeatedly, and each time, the virus does more damage.
We can and must do better to prevent this unfolding public health failure.
We strongly urge the Premier to start paying attention to the evidence, and to advocate federally for every Tasmanian to have access to the anti-viral medications which are freely available in other countries, but rationed out here, for no good reason and at untold cost to human health.
Since this time last year, more Tasmanians have been cast out in to the cold as the housing crisis deepens. This year’s Tasmanian State Budget allocates more than half the infrastructure spend to roads and bridges, and woefully underspends on building more homes for Tasmanians who need them.
A cruel lie is at the heart of Michael Ferguson’s first Budget as Treasurer.
It exposes eight years of neglect, broken promises and false hopes for Tasmanians looking for a secure, affordable home.
Eight years of promising to build thousands of new homes and delivering less than 600 as the housing crisis rages, driving Tasmanians closer and closer to homelessness.
Over the past eight years the Liberals have promised thousands of homes, but Productivity Commission data show only 578 additional properties have been delivered.
The State Budget continues the con. The Government’s big pre-budget announcement was for $1.1 billion over ten years into housing, but the actual budget delivers only $35 million, or 3%, of the big spending promised in the billion dollar headline.
No new money is allocated next financial year.
This is just the latest housing funding spin in the Liberals’ history of gaslighting Tasmanians to cover their inaction on housing.
In 2016-17, the Liberal Treasurer claimed the budget would construct “941 new homes” across the forward estimates, but the Productivity Commission confirms only 186 were added over this period.
In the following budget, Peter Gutwein said the Liberals were “already delivering on its commitment to build over 900 new homes”, when the data show Tasmanians suffered a net loss of 212 public and community homes.
In 2018-19, the Liberals said they would build 1,500 new homes, but so far there is only 697 reported – less than half of what was promised.
In the past four years, the number of liveable public homes, has decreased by 34 down to 6,944. And over this time, while the housing waiting list grows, the number of new households helped each year has also declined by nearly half, down from 759 to 401.
The Liberals’ housing promises are cynical trickery. Tasmanians without stable homes are suffering, and many people who have stable homes are struggling to afford them.
Housing is a human right, we have a crisis, and real people are suffering. It is not good enough to treat housing as a false good news story budget announceable, and to forget about actually delivering on your promises.
Our Alternative Budget recognises the urgency of the housing crisis. It allocates $850 million across the forward estimates to deliver the secure, affordable homes so many Tasmanians so desperately need.
It establishes a Housing First program, similar to those in places like Wales, that recognises when someone is homeless and in distress, the first thing a government need to do is to find them a home, then wrap whatever supports are needed around that person.
This approach turns lives around. It provides security, support and new opportunities.
We also meet immediate unmet needs through a $15million allocation this year towards crisis accommodation.
We reprioritise a portion of this bloated roads budget towards essential social infrastructure; more affordable, energy efficient homes for Tasmanians.
We recognise countless Tasmanian tenants live in fear of rent increases and eviction. We will again move to rein in short-stay accommodation and soaring rents, and we have legislation on the table to strengthen tenants’ rights which we’ll bring on for debate this year.
The real estate agents won’t like this, but our Alternative Budget recognises the housing affordability crisis is, at least in part, on agents who continually bump up asking prices in order to increase their commissions.
We’ll move to regulate and prohibit commission-based fee structures for property agents, removing the incentive for them to inflate rental rates and house prices.
The gouging has to stop.
Children and Young People
As always, the wellbeing of children and young people is a central focus of our Alternative Budget, as they should be.
We want every Tasmanian child, no matter the circumstances of their birth, their cultural background, family dynamic, gender identity and level of ability, to feel safe, loved and wanted.
We want to ensure they are given every opportunity to find their own unique gifts and passions, and to be able to harness them for a happy life.
We want them to be hopeful about the future, and in so many ways, that’s about what we do, the laws we make, the ambitions we share for them, in this Parliament.
That’s one reason Dr Woodruff and I are so determined that this Parliament and this government treats the moral imperative to act on climate as the most serious and urgent of our work.
The kids deserve nothing less.
Tasmanians now know that over generations, not all children have been safe in our schools, hospitals and other institutional settings.
They know that, as a society, we have failed children.
The previous and current Tasmanian Premiers are to be warmly commended for establishing and supporting the Commission of Inquiry.
Even in a few short weeks of evidence, the Inquiry has laid bare the structural and cultural weaknesses that have caused lifelong harm to children who become victim survivors.
Our Alternative Budget commits funding to full implementation of recommendations from the Royal Commission in to Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, with funding allocated to accelerate the delivery of Child Safe Organisations framework and Reportable Conduct Scheme.
The Inquiry heard this work could take up to three more years.
Not good enough. Either we’re serious about protecting children, or we’re not, and every day of delay is another day where children are not safe enough.
We also invest $97 million over four years into more school social workers and psychologists, $41 million in to quality guarantee in education, and critically, we have reprioritized funding to allocate $120 million towards more child safety officers.
This investment will keep children safer, save lives and futures, and support the vital work of our overstretched, under-resourced child safety workers.
We strongly support the closure of that century old child torture chamber that is Ashley Youth Detention Centre, an outcome we fought for, for years, and the Budget allocation to deliver two new therapeutic facilities, north and south.
This is Greens’ policy which we are so very glad a Liberal Government has adopted.
The Working with Vulnerable People Registration system which I worked to introduce as Minister for Human Services clearly needs tightening up to prevent predators from being registered to work with children, but it also needs extending to protect all cohorts of vulnerability in our community as it was always intended to do, but from which the Liberals on coming to government walked away.
We allocate $4.5 million over four years to extend the Working with Vulnerable People registration system to better protect vulnerability in all its human forms.
And, to make sure the services that deliver support across the community are high quality and accountable, we fund a Community Services Commission with $4.5 million to provide recourse for those let down, and oversight of services that receive taxpayer funds to meet community needs.
Dr Woodruff will outline in more detail the attention and investment our Alternative Budget gives to the Health and Mental Health budget.
We recognise this government has made a record investment in Health, but every government does as our population increases and ages.
Whatever happened to this government’s goal of the healthiest state in the nation by 2025? Talk about over-promising and under-delivering!
Too little, over eight years, in to health system improvement. Too little in to the people who, every day, hold up our health system, and almost nothing invested in that time in preventative health.
Our Alternative Budget prioritises the health of Tasmanians, through preventative health funding, and it invests in the people who deliver quality health care every day, who work so hard to be there for them in times of crisis.
We fund more nurses, more paramedics and more Ambulance Tasmania staff.
We understand the urgency of the need to recruit more paramedics and ambulance staff, and fund an extra 224 full time staff into Ambulance Tasmania.
It is simply unacceptable and heartbreaking that a man in acute distress dies alone in his home seven hours after calling for an ambulance.
That’s not on Ambulance Tasmania staff, that’s on the government.
We have to do better. When Tasmanians call for an ambulance, they need to know it will be there for them.
We so often overlook the suffering of creatures great and small. It would be so positive for our clean, green, but continually threatened Brand, for us to become a cruelty-free State.
Instead, this government pours twice as much money in to subsidizing the cruel racing industries than it does in to environmental management.
The promised second tranche of reforms to the Animal Welfare Act 1993 have still not been delivered.
Battery hen farms and sow stalls have been reinstated after the Labor Green government moved to modernize, and make more humane, the farming of animals for food.
To oversee our evolution towards being a cruelty-free State, we establish an Animal Welfare Commission with $5.5 million over four years.
We can do this. It just takes political will, and the recognition that animals are sentient beings deserving of respect and a good life.
The Greens will always be the strongest, clearest voices in this place for the voiceless.
Our Alternative Budget funds a ban on greyhound racing and battery hen farming, as well as a phase out of all factory farming. It establishes animal welfare standards and compliance measures through reform of the Animal Welfare Act.
It also supports that outstanding, manifestly under-funded organisation, the RSPCA, to strengthen their inspectorate, animal shelters and community engagement capacity.
Human Rights and Democracy
The rights of citizens are poorly protected in Tasmania. We are a national laggard in strengthening these rights.
The Greens’ Alternative Budget funds the development of a Human Rights Act for Tasmania, and establishes the Human Rights Commission and Unit.
A healthy democracy, with an engaged, respected and protected citizenry, is something to which we should all be aspiring. The Greens will never give up on our sworn duty to advance the human rights of everyone who calls this island home.
We also better fund our outstanding Community Legal Centres to expand access to justice, and we deliver genuine donations and electoral reform, unlike the self-interested Bill tabled by the Attorney General in this place on Tuesday. It’s a bill that will still leave Tasmania with the weakest electoral laws in the country.
What a wasted opportunity to clean up democracy. As ever, the Greens will show the way with electoral reform, real time disclosure and a Political Advertising Commissioner to curb some of the rubbish and deception we get from the major parties during election campaigns.
Environment and Water
Instead of slashing funding to environmental management as the Treasurer’s first budget does, we increase it, and we make sure the Environment Protection Authority is there to protect this island’s natural environment and competitive advantage, not bend over backwards to enable corporate profits as it has for too long.
Our Alternative Budget reprioritizes funding towards forest protection and the restoration of degraded landscapes, delivering much needed environmental repair and jobs to this beautiful island we share.
It is the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, and we sure have some projects ready to go here in Tasmania as a result of poor, misguided land management in the past and to this day.
We will establish a standalone Environment Department in recognition of the natural environment’s central place in Tasmania’s way of life, health and its economy.
We fund ecosystem restoration grants for community organisations such as Landcare and Coastcare to continue their outstanding work, with $11 million across the forward estimates.
We also fund the phase out of single use plastics which are choking our island and its waterways, and we invest in mapping and better managing Tasmania’s extraordinary biodiversity, the richness and uniqueness of its flora and fauna.
We reverse the Liberals’ shameful cuts to the Threatened Species Unit, with $8.4 million over four years to restore management plans and programs that reverse the march of our rare and endangered species towards extinction.
We end the shameful neglect of this government’s statutory obligation to deliver State of the Environment reporting, with $800 000 allocated over the forward estimates to restart this vital public benefit science work.
And, to better protect and value this island’s amazing marine environment, we fund the restart of critical work to establish a network of Marine Protected Areas in Tasmanian waters.
The evidence is clear, MPAs deliver more adaptive marine ecosystems and ensure fish for the future. It’s a win-win, for the environment, for recreational fishers, and the economy. That’s why, in New Zealand, the fisher folk are the fiercest defenders of no-take marine reserves.
Members will know, the Greens join anglers, farmers, oyster growers, scientists and recreational users of Tasmania’s beautiful rivers in being extremely worried about water management under the Liberals.
We are thankful there’s a new, less divisive and hopefully more straight up and down Minister on the case.
Water is life.
Without access to clean, healthy water, we are in deep trouble.
The unscientific free for all has to end. Our rivers need better management and protection.
Our Alternative Budget funds integrated catchment management to end the arbitrary separation between different water users.
It funds the restoration of riverbanks and removal of invasive species. It funds the reinstatement of water management plans to address the sorry fact that only 34% of the State’s water entitlements are covered by statutory plans, compared to 100% on the mainland.
We also refuse to ignore the water scientists as this government has done repeatedly, ensuring continued decline in the health of our rivers over the past eight years.
Our Alternative Budget allocates $4million towards the science of river health. The funding is for assessment, monitoring and reporting on the health and condition of the State’s freshwater resources. This is long overdue.
So too is the need to monitor and meter all water allocations to primary producers. The current situation, where those on Tas Irrigation licenses are metered, and those licensed by the Department are not, is both inequitable and unacceptable.
We will also continue to advocate for Parliament to have a thorough examination of water management in Tasmania, to ensure we are looking after those Tasmanians who will need it in the future.
Revenue and Savings
To fund our Budget policies, we unashamedly take the axe to a number of the Liberals spending priorities.
We cut funding to the Office of the Coordinator General, which is overseeing dodgy visa recommendations, selling out the State and facilitating the Liberals’ Expressions of Interest (EOI) process for development in public protected areas.
We end the public subsidy to the cruel racing industry.
And, we end the free ride given to big mining, fish farming, logging and developers, who pay the lowest royalty and license fees in the country as they exploit the shared wealth of Tasmanians.
We show how it is possible to generate around $580 million in revenue and savings each year, to put towards public good infrastructure and public benefit programs. In total, we generate $2.3 billion over the forward estimates.
Key to this is making corporations pay their fair share. If Tasmanian royalties had been set at even the average of other states and territories over the past decade, the Budget bottom line would be around half a billion dollars better off than it is today.
Tasmanians have the lowest royalty and license fees in the country. This is ripping off Tasmanians.
We are all the poorer for giving entities like the Brazilian butcher, JBS, access at bargain basement lease prices to exploit our near pristine, public waters.
We are robbed, when a Chinese State-owned mining company pays a pittance for its Rosebery mine, and gets permission to smash down and drown in toxic waste a rainforest ecosystem you won’t find anywhere else on Earth.
Over the past decade, Tasmania has charged 60% less in royalties on mining company profits than the rest of the country. In our Alternative Budget we raise mining royalties by 150% to bring them in to line with the rest of the country, an increase of the current about 4% of mining gross profits to 10%.
We are ripped off when the Federal Group, which has corrupted our democracy for generations, gets a sneakily negotiated and dishonestly sold tax rate on pokies in casinos which is pegged to a casino in far north Queensland.
And, when developers seeking to cash in on the housing crisis make windfall gains when land is rezoned to become residential, without making any improvement to that land, we are also dudded.
These windfall gains for developers enable corruption.
We all know there’s an unhealthy nexus between governments, developers and property industry more broadly. These are the same people who under the weak electoral law amendments tabled yesterday will still be able to pour cash in to the coffers of major parties in the justified hope of increasing their profits.
Our Alternative Budget introduces a 75% betterment tax on any increase in the value of land that results from a rezoning decision by planning bodies.
These revenue generating measures are reasonable, sensible and responsive to a budget situation where revenue is a major challenge.
They will end the free ride to corporations who profit from our shared wealth.
We invest heavily in real climate action to give young Tasmanians real hope for the future. We invest in emissions reduction, landscape restoration and community resilience.
We end the subsidies to Forestry Tasmania and TasRacing to invest in housing, health and education to lift Tasmanians out of disadvantage and ensure every Tasmanian has access to the services and supports they need.
We show how genuine cost of living relief can be delivered through energy efficiency programs, school fee and levy relief, free bus travel and TasTAFE courses, and an increase in the too low concessions budget.
Every measure in our Alternative Budget, we regard as sensible and possible. It is, as always, brimming with good policies and ideas that, like so much of our work, in time will become mainstream.
We are proud to present it to the Parliament, to people who believe in us, and recognise what we’re about, with a promise to work hard towards these goals every single day as we always do.