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Budget Reply

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 2 June 2022

Tags: State Budget, Treasury, Climate Change, Environment

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Speaker, I acknowledge and pay my respects to the First Peoples of this island, lutruwita Tasmania, the palawa pakana. For tens of thousands of years they have lived with wisdom and in harmony on this land, land that has never been ceded and I commit to truth telling, treaty and justice.

Our natural world is the source of all life. Our wild forests and grasslands, rivers and oceans are home to an extraordinary biodiversity. They provide clean drinking water, they pollinate our crops, and they make our soils and crops abundant. Nature provides us, for free, an extraordinary stable, abundant and liveable island. The Greens listen to and respect the wisdom of indigenous knowledge and we understand we cannot take nature for granted. It is our priority to cherish, protect and restore the functioning of these natural systems.

The influence of young people was palpable this federal election. They used their voice to demand a government that will take urgent strong action on the climate emergency and on integrity and inequality. The Greens listened and the increase in our vote nationally and in Tasmania shows that. The voices of young school strikers for a safe climate, our 16-year-old leaders of the near future, pulled no punches in describing the calamity that faces us all from global heating. We know the solastalgia and climate anxiety that grips young people. We see the mental health impacts among them when they look with intelligent clarity at their probable future. Theirs is a resounding call for politicians to listen to the science and take strong and rapid action. When it comes to the impacts of extreme climate change, every day matters, every tiny fraction of a degree matters and every tonne of carbon dioxide that continues to be emitted into the atmosphere matters. The Greens will back young people all the way in their pursuit for a safe climate future.

We elevate the responsibility for climate action to the Department of Premier and Cabinet and provide additional funding to develop and monitor compliance with the emissions abatement provisions of a new safe climate act. We fund guidelines and programs for farmers, including the meat and dairy industries, to transition to low emissions. Businesses that proactively employ climate-friendly practices will receive government support.

Our alternative budget invests in a Tasmanian carbon bank project, a finance model to encourage carbon sequestration. To back this we establish an ongoing soil carbon monitoring program and develop targets and incentives for farmers to restore the level of soil carbon on agricultural land. We will turbocharge electric vehicle uptake and infrastructure by requiring new government car purchases to be electric, as well as waiving registration fees for all electric vehicles that are sold before 2030. We will reduce the registration cost for the life cycle of electric trucks and provide grants for companies to trial electric truck technology.

Tasmania's rooftop solar rollout has languished under the past eight years of the Liberals in government. We will increase the current annual rate of new [?? 3:03:28] system connections to over 4000 every year by mandating that 6-kilowatt systems must be placed on new public housing properties and by progressively retrofitting existing public housing stock and will subsidise low-income households and rental properties so that they have cheap power through renewable rooftop solar.

The sixth IPCC update from global scientists of the climate emergency is crystal clear. The most pressing duty of governments for their citizens is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Deforestation on the planet must end.

In Tasmania we will end the logging of native forests. This will keep our existing forest carbon dioxide stores intact and will also importantly reduce bushfire risk to neighbouring communities. The science is in. Intact native forests are a lower bushfire risk than plantation or regrowth forests for local communities. The extreme floods in New South Wales and Queensland and the 2020 Black Summer bushfires across mainland Australia, which caused such loss of life and mass destruction of homes, can no longer be called unprecedented. They are just a taste of what the future holds if we do not immediately cut our emissions and adapt to our changing climate as best we can.

It is critical that we keep abreast with the impacts of our fast-changing climate, and we need the best minds and the cleverest communication and modelling tools working to minimise the damage to lives, wild places, infrastructure and housing and supply systems from natural disasters. That is why we fund a comprehensive state climate adaptation plan and provide advice and support to councils as they urgently develop their own climate adaptation plans for their communities.

We respect the wisdom of the bushfire royal commission and the scientists who tell us nowhere will be safe from increasingly extreme natural disasters, with the climate heat that is locked in already. They tell us that the safest place to live in Australia in our changing climate is where there is the strongest community.

Tasmania is a great place to start. We fund $20 million into community resilience hubs across regional Tasmania to improve community connectivity and response capacity for all types of natural disasters. We will support people who put their lives on the line to defend us from dangerous fires and who are there to save us from floods and storm damage. We recruit 30 extra rapid response remote area firefighters. This will help better protect our parks and reserves in a warming climate and reduce the risk of bushfire spread.

We also support the training and wellbeing of SES and TFS volunteers with extra funding and provide $10 million to upgrade critical emergency infrastructure for volunteer brigades. We will end the political and unscientific prescribed burning targets that are now totally out of date. We will make sure the necessary fuel reduction burning takes account of the evidence from recent bushfire royal commissions and considers the protection of life and the ecological integrity of identified areas.

There has never been a more urgent need to revive damaged ecosystems than we have now. In this UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, we stand with the scientists, conservationists and indigenous communities in our collective aim to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of all our life-supporting systems. In a century of great climate challenges Tasmania needs to aim higher to conserve and enhance nature. That is why our alternative budget commits $2 million towards developing a biodiversity strategy for Tasmania, with the critical biodiversity maps and monitoring that will be needed to back it. This significant body of work will involve widespread consultation with Tasmanians and employ the Job Guarantee workforce and citizen scientists to assist with data collection.

In the meantime, hundreds of Tasmanian animals and plants are hanging on by beak and claw, perilously close to extinction. Forestry Tasmania and mining corporates like MMG smash up irreplaceable habitats and our planning scheme has been written to allow developments to slice and dice landscape connectivity. Global heating, with the onslaught of feral species that out-compete or predate on Tasmanian native species, adds to these pressures. None of this is news to hardworking conservationist Landcare volunteers, ecologists, and Threatened Species Unit staff. It has been the Liberals' program of sometimes casual and sometimes wilful destruction of our environment which is best epitomised by its failure to produce a legislated state of the environment report.

Ms O'Connor - Shame.

Dr WOODRUFF - We fund the work that they refuse to do so that we can take stock of the challenges ahead of us and develop a plan to help. We will further elevate the central importance of functioning natural systems through the creation of a standalone environment department and fund an annual program of grants for ecosystem restoration. We commit $8 million to restore funding to the Threatened Species Unit's important work that was slashed by the Liberals and we include advanced recovery plans for all at-risk Tasmanian species.

We will give more money to support the vital conservation work of Wildcare, Coastcare and Landcare volunteers. To help relieve the daily killing of native birds, reptiles and mammals by cats, we will bring in mandatory cat confinement laws that the Liberals squibbed on at the last minute and we will resource community education and council enforcement activities.

We reject the Government's failure to regulate our bloated salmon industry and its expansion plans int the north-east and north-west waters. These are yet more untouched marine jewels, unprotected sanctuaries for marine and birdlife. We stand with coastal communities who see the dramatic loss of marine diversity that has come from Big Salmon dumping swimming pools of fish waste everyday into drinking water catchments and inshore waterways. With them, we are outraged that the Government has rolled over and welcomed the arrival of JBS to exploit our public waterways.

The Brazilian butchers are convicted of crimes against the environment, failure to pay tax, and gross workplace harms. They are on the record confessing to bribing Brazilian politicians to raise the money that they used to buy our cheap marine real estate. It is our failed regulatory system that greenlights environmental harm. The Labor and Liberal unity ticket hobbles the Environment Protection Authority, and focuses it on smoothing the waters for big industry instead of working after our natural places.

Instead of protecting the environment, decades of inaction from the EPA has irreparably damaged wonderlands in the D'Entrecasteaux Channel, Macquarie Harbour, Long Bay and the Huon River. It has given us mass seal deaths, frightening levels of plastic pollution and green slime. We call the latest attempt to spin the EPA as being been independent for what it is - a lie. The Greens will do a proper job. We fund a new statutory authority that removes the EPA.

Mr ELLIS - Mr Speaker, a point of order. The use of that word is unparliamentary. I ask the member to withdraw it.

Dr WOODRUFF - I was not accusing anyone of lying. I was talking about the attempt to spin it. I am not calling anyone a liar.

Mr SPEAKER - It is not a prohibited word. In order to prevent confusion, it is always best, and I am sure, everybody has the capability of wording such statements in a different way so as not to call on the Speaker to adjudicate on whether it should or should not be used. And so, you cannot accuse anybody of presenting a lie, or lying.

Dr WOODRUFF - I did not, but I take that in mind for future. I actually did not. But, thank you Mr Speaker.

The Greens will do a proper job. We fund a new statutory authority that removes the EPA from Government and industry influence, and increases its core responsibilities to monitor and enforce compliance with the rules. All new fish farm will be closed-looped and land based. We fund a review of stocking levels and environmental licence conditions and enforce strong compliance against plastic pollution and wildlife harm. In order that damaged marine diversity has the best chance to recover from overfishing and feral species, and to increase resilience in warming waters, we fund a minimum target of 10 per cent of Tasmanian waters becoming no- take marine protected area reserves.

Mr Speaker, the Greens for many decades campaigned with communities to bring beverage corporations to heel for their packaging waste and its environmental harm. We welcomed the Liberal's belated environmental awareness about drink container waste, and we support the container recycling scheme. But we know there is so much more to do. We are running out of time to deal with our waste. It is over flowing from landfill sites. Birds and fish are riven with microplastics. Plastic ocean guiders threaten shipping traffic and whale migration, and every one of us, is now a walking microplastic petri dish.

Plastics are insidious in our environment, but they need not be as ubiquitous as they are now. We can turn this around, and for Tasmania that starts with our bill to ban single use plastics. Removing single use plastics from the waste stream would save the lives of tens of thousands, even millions, of invertebrates, fish, and bird life. By extension, it would prevent the flow poisoning by plastic of all species throughout the food chain, including humans.

We fund the education and support that is needed to implement a ban on single-use plastics. It extends on Hobart City Council's successful ban on single use take away plastic packaging, and makes it a state wide one. In Hobart alone, the Council expects it to remove 600 tonnes a year of waste from landfill. It is past time we have a circular economy, and legislation like this helps reset community expectations about resource use.

Along with our unique wild places, our Aboriginal and built heritage, the bush and character of our cities, towns and rural places are what makes lutruwita Tasmania a place of wonder for all of us who are lucky enough to live here, or to visit. Communities are passionate about defending our place, but under the Liberals, they are pitted in an unfair battle against developers with deep pockets. We need an even playing field.

In our alternative Budget, the Greens fund a Queensland-style tribunal appeals process for planning decisions. It is informal, makes decisions in plain English and prohibits legal representation unless exceptional circumstances exist or both parties agree to waive that right. The Liberals' statewide planning scheme has gutted meaningful community engagement in resource management and planning. It gives a red carpet to big developers and is a recipe for protracted, bitter disputes.

We will amend the act to make planning decisions independent of a minister, to protect local character and to enshrine real community consultation on developments instead of the current cynical box-ticking exercise. Tasmanians want confidence that the final decisions made about planning, that can have consequences for the places they love forever, will be independent and fair. We return full decision and policy making powers to the Tasmanian Planning Commission and we resource them to perform their vital functions.

We will update existing state policies and develop six new essential items to guide planning decisions about climate change, settlements, transport and infrastructure, the management of biodiversity, public consultation processes, health and wellbeing and our cultural preservation.

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally reshaped the way of life for people all over the planet. Our systems of supply, communication, travel, business, the supply of goods, food production and health services, have been fractured or disabled. What will never return, are the lives that have been lost from COVID-19, and what cannot be undone are the potential infections that have occurred. Although most people recover from COVID-19 acute symptoms, we do not yet fully understand the long-term impacts of COVID-19 infection on the body.

What the research tells us is that some people will suffer long-term, disabling and life shortening effects. The jury is in. Avoiding infection in the first place and being fully vaccinated, is the only way to avoid the potential for this virus to damage organs, our mental capacity and immune system. Instead of doubling down with public health protections that matched the extra risk of Omicron contagion, COVID-19 disease and death, Australian Governments went weak during the federal election. Since our borders opened, more than twice as many Tasmanians have been infected - 144 000 so far - than the Government's modelled maximum of 70 000.

Tasmania now has a world high COVID-19 infection rate and the virus is the number one leading cause of death in Australia. OzSAGE, the independent public health experts and epidemiologists, are ringing alarm bells at the failure of governments to protect citizens during this wave, or to prepare for future variants, reinfections and the burden of long-COVID-19.

The Government's lack of leadership and confused messaging about the importance of COVID-19 protections since our borders opened, has spawned misinformation and unfounded concerns in the community. It has led to a reduction in the minimal protections like mask wearing, that should be employed. There has been an utter failure of leadership from the Premier in this regard.

Parents and people who are immune-compromised or living with a disability want the risks of COVID-19 infection to be treated seriously and the government to reinstate a collective responsibility for essential protections, like mask wearing and ventilation.

Our Budget reflects the science and our alternative Budget takes concrete steps to keep people as safe as possible in the evolving global pandemic. We have put additional resourcing into COVID-19 at home and research into long-term COVID-19 complications to inform our health system responses now and into the future.

Ms O'Connor - Hear, hear.

Dr WOODRUFF - The Government's Budget has dealt a serious blow to nurses and ambulance workers. They were holding out hope a new Premier and Minister for Health minister would invest more in people instead of focusing on new buildings. They were cruelly disappointed. It is hard to overstate the low morale of paramedics and ambulance operational staff who face unfilled weekend shifts and all-night ramping. Knowing there are dangerously ill people who cannot get an ambulance when they need it, damages the mental health of ambulance staff.

We have seen the deadly result for patients. The Government's too little too late health investments in nursing and midwifery recruitment cannot keep pace with the loss of staff to retirement or to the mainland for better pay and conditions. The health data confirms what staff and patients waiting to get a bed know, that Tasmania is the bottom of the nation in timely access to care and elective surgeries.

The goodwill of nurses and paramedics has too long been taken for granted and we respond with the respect that these champion carers deserve. We address the nursing shortage by adding extra $140 million to employ 600 new graduate nurses, 120 permanent pool staff nurses and midwives, and 10 more psychiatric emergency nurses. Recruiting new graduates is not enough if you do not provide ongoing support and training. We fund 25 clinical educators and 50 clinical coaches and bring back the important role of the statewide executive director of nursing and midwifery. Instead of putting new paramedic graduates onto casual contracts without security of employment and moving them around like pawns on a chessboard, we will fund an additional 224 full-time staff into Ambulance Tasmania on top of the Government's paltry spend, including into non-operational staff and a standalone rostering unit.

Despite the 2019 ambulance review in Tasmania that recommended new ambulances and stations, the Government has repeatedly failed to prioritise spending on this. On their watch, things have become dire. Our budget provides 34 new ambulances or light vehicles and new stations at Rokeby, the Channel, Ouse and Legana. The signature health policy when the Liberals came to government in 2014 was to have been that we had the nation's best health by 2050. That chimera has long been dumped, but what we have not lost sight of is the need for preventative health services and the impact of addiction and trauma on Tasmania's health and wellbeing.

The need for more support to recover from alcohol and drugs is extreme. Our alternative budget invests $16 million in new public alcohol and drug treatment facilities, establishes an alcohol, tobacco and other drugs unit, increases the beds for withdrawal management to 23 and establishes 40 new public rehabilitation beds. To keep young Tasmanians safe from harm when they party, they need information and education. We continue to fund targeted pill-testing services at events and festivals and everyday testing in main population centres.

The mental health pressures on the poorest Tasmanians facing housing and security, the cost of living debts and unaffordable, unavailable health care has become even more severe. Young people face additional anxiety, depression and eating disorder risks from the uncertain job and climate futures. We welcome the Government's investments into mental health but we must do so much more. There is nothing like the number of expert mental health staff to meet the demand. We fund an additional $5 million every year into staffing recruitment and retention initiatives.

Quality and equal access to the justice system are core principles of the Greens and at the moment the Government is failing to ensure everyone, regardless of wealth, can access legal representation when they need it. We increase funds for all seven community legal centres including the Environmental Defenders Office by an additional $400 000 a year. In recognition of the massive unmet need for women leaving abusive relationships, we fund the Women's Legal Service an extra $400 000 on top of that. Legal Aid's critical services are also supported with a baseline funding increase of $2 million every year.

The current evidence from the overflowing Risdon Prison, with increasing prison assaults and criminal reoffending, shows just how bad this Government's approach to justice is serving us. To have a safer and more humane society we need to pivot to restorative justice programs that help inmates successfully integrate into the community and not reoffend. We have a number of initiatives including a bail hostel and restorative justice programs and policies divisions to implement that.

During the last two years of the pandemic, it was the creative arts industries that united us, made us laugh and took our minds to lighter places, but the federal Liberals gave them nothing when events, productions and retail collapsed, and the current Budget has been another harsh demonstration that this Government wants the arts industries to keep the after-dark economy alive but will not invest in them or nurture our island's creative culture. We restore the $26 million of vicious cuts that the Liberals make to arts development and screen funding in their budget. In addition, we will establish an emerging artists grant program to encourage a new generation of artists and a program for small and medium community arts organisations. We recognise the richness and critical importance of fostering Tasmanian voices telling Tasmanian stories. Our stories bind us together as people, so we support Wide Angle Tasmania to produce and market films each year and employ trainees.

Mr Speaker, our alternative budget shows how the Greens would prioritise spending Tasmanians' hard-earned taxes. We fund what the overwhelming majority of people say they want from their government - strong action on climate, an ambulance and a hospital bed when it is needed, an affordable secure home and protection for the character and wild places that make lutruwita/Tasmania special in the world. We show what is possible with the limited resources our state has.

There is no doubt the challenges of the present are enormous and those ahead can seem insurmountable, but collective action is the antidote to loneliness, anxiety and hopelessness. Our alternative budget fundamentally aims to strengthen communities and to promote respect and inclusion. In a rapidly changing climate and a sometimes frightening world, when the cost of living is spiralling out of control for many, strong communities are our greatest resource. I am proud to represent the people of Franklin and to continue my work on the collective life-affirming vision articulated in our fully costed Greens alternative budget.

Ms O'Connor - Hear, hear.