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Cost of Living

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 25 May 2022

Tags: Cost of Living, State Budget

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Speaker, I want to make some points about what the minister just said in relation to the value of an alternative budget. Obviously, the Greens strongly believe in nailing your colours to the mast and being propositional. There is an opportunity to both scrutinise the Government's Budget and be propositional about what the Government should be doing instead; an opportunity the Greens make the most of every single year and have done for a long time now. It is really unfortunate that Labor does not take that opportunity because it sells them very short amongst people in the electorate.

Mr Winter interjecting.

Mr SPEAKER - Order.

Dr WOODRUFF - It makes it very clear that they do not have a plan for what should be done differently in Tasmania.

Mr Winter interjecting.

Mr SPEAKER - Order, Member for Franklin.

Dr WOODRUFF - It is fundamentally important for any opposition or crossbench party or Independent to represent your people and the views of what they think should change. It is not good enough throwing rocks from the sideline. You have to come up with some views about how things should be done differently. I will just dispatch that. It does make it difficult for the Labor Party in Opposition when they are continually coming up with problems and not presenting solutions. People expect more and in that vacuum the Greens will certainly provide that.

Politics aside, we can all agree that listening to people matters and listening to our constituents really matters. The Premier made some really good points about that in his comments on the restoration of the House motion that the Greens put forward earlier today, which was wonderfully approved and agreed to by all members. He made the point that one of the benefits of restoring the numbers in the House would be so that we could have a better functioning committee system. He talked about the importance of the committee work in parliament; the background work that is undertaken to give people in the community a real space and an opportunity to be heard.

As a member of the Greens, I have only been able to be on one committee. I was on the gun inquiry, of which you were also a member, Mr Speaker, for most of that period of the committee. You chaired that for most of the time of the committee. I found that a very fortunate opportunity to really hear that cross-section of views in the community. On that particular issue, there was no doubt that the overwhelming majority of Tasmanians really do want to keep our world's best strong gun laws.

Indeed, what we came up with as a committee was an agreement, a tripartite agreement, to strengthening even further our state's gun laws, which was really important. I do not think we would have got to that point if the Liberals before the 2018 election had not provided some secretive agreements with the Shooters Party that initiated the whole process. That aside, a couple of decades after those laws were first made, it gave us an opportunity to have a really good look. We made some important changes and I acknowledge the work of the minister for Police in making sure there has been follow through in some of those important areas with firearm services agreement.

But back to the cost of living, minister Street said that the Government is doing a lot of work in this area. The programs that he pointed out that the Government is funding are very welcome. However, no one could argue that not nearly enough money is being put into supporting people in Tasmania who are having a very hard time every single day with managing two basic bills, and in being able to get food on their table.

What we need is an opportunity to hear from people to understand how government services need to be better targeted so that members of the Government, members of the Opposition, the Greens and Independent members can really understand what the most critical issues are for attention in Tasmania. We all want to represent people in our electorate as best as we can, and there is definitely a strong argument to sit at a committee table to hear the voice of our constituents.

This is one of the most important issues facing the Tasmanian community at the moment: climate change and the cost of living. Both are critical issues. The intersection of the two has been shown very closely in northern New South Wales. People who were living in in some of the poorest areas are the most flood-prone areas. They are often the most bushfire-risk areas. They are often the areas that other richer people vacate and leave to people living in low-lying areas, and they move to higher ground. There is an intersection between climate change and cost of living.

Fundamentally, just at the moment with the world economy being dominated by the changes with war, the invasion of Ukraine, a peaceful nation, by Russia, we have a situation where the European community has made it very clear that they are not going to buy Russian oil. That has put an enormous pressure on the whole of the world's oil supply and it seems petrol prices will continue to increase. European countries are buying into the south Asian oil market. That is a new thing and that is increasing the prices where Australia would normally source our oil from.

In addition to that, we have the Australian dollar which is running at the moment at only 71 cents US. That is an 8 per cent drop over the last year. We were at 75 cents; we are now down to 71 cents. I understand the projections for 2023 are that it will run down to 68 cents US. As a country we are able to buy less with our dollar when things like oil are traded in US dollars. That affects everyone. It affects the price of our food, the price of petrol at the pump, and that flows through to every part of our society.

These are new changes. They are having really complex flow-on effects on people in Tasmania and to businesses. There is definitely a place for us to understand the impact of cost of living pressures and the adequacy of the Government's measures to reduce them. So, we support Labor's motion.

The minister made some comments about what he believes was the ineffectualness of a previous Labor cost-of-living committee. I cannot make any comment about that; I was not there, except that the make-up of these committee with two government members, two opposition members and one member of the Greens would mean that if there were to be ineffectual members, there could be outnumbered by those who would be more effectual, and one of the Greens would take up a role on that committee with a great deal of seriousness. So, I will leave it there to give other members an opportunity to speak.

There is no doubt that wages in Tasmania have stalled. They are already one of the problems for us as a state, being lower than in any other state in Australia.

We have graduate paramedics who are looking at working for Ambulance Tasmania and the pressures there, and realising that much as they would love to stay in Tasmania, they could move to Victoria and get tens of thousands of dollars in pay rises just by crossing Bass Strait and working less chaotic, crisis-ridden conditions. We have nurses, teachers, people in many different sectors who are being paid less than on the mainland. Once that used to be fine, because you could move to Tasmania and the cost of housing was cheap - but we now have one of the highest costs of housing in the country, and our relative cost of housing in terms of liveability is the worst in the country.

Things have changed, and they have changed very fast for Tasmanians and businesses - for food and goods supply and costs. It is an important issue. That is why the Greens will support this motion.