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Financial Management (Further Consequential Amendments) Bill 2020


Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Tags: Legislation, State Budget

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, we will be supporting the Financial Management (Further Consequential Amendments) Bill 2020 as we supported the first financial management act that went through here four years ago. This is a tidy-up bill, it is making sure that there is consistency in the terminology and the language in relation to changes that were made in the legislation four years ago. I am not going to spend very long speaking on this bill because there are two other significant pieces of legislation that we need to get through this afternoon.

Mr O'Byrne, I listened to your contribution and it raised the question in my mind, which always comes up: what would you do differently? I listened to your rewriting of the Lennon/Aird years with great interest. When Paul Lennon was premier and Michael Aird was treasurer, and David Crean before that, there were veritable waterfalls of gold coming in from Canberra from GST receipts. The national economy before the 2008 financial crisis was going gangbusters and the Lennon government spent money like drunken sailors. By the time the election rolled around in 2010, there was not very much left. While Mr O'Byrne might like to describe the years between 2010 and 2014 as a Labor government, they were not. It does not matter how many times you try to rewrite history, it was a Labor-Greens government, and in 2011 we delivered one of the most difficult budgets, I believe, that has been handed down in this century in the Tasmanian parliament. We grinned and gritted our teeth and we bore it.

That makes it even more galling to have a former member of that government come in here and try to pretend it was a Labor government when there were two Greens ministers in Cabinet, holding firm, as difficult as it was, with the premier of the day, despite some termite problems in the Cabinet room.

Mr O'Byrne, I still look forward to hearing how you would do things differently if you want to be the treasurer of Tasmania. I understand you have learned all the terminology, but I did not hear anything from you about how a Labor government would do it differently. I believe that is what the people of Tasmania are entitled to hear.

The state budget will be delivered in November, and the Greens will again deliver a fully costed, alternative budget which will lay out our vision for Tasmania's future. Again, undoubtedly, we will have carping from the Labor benches but no documentation or laying out of a vision that they could be held to. That is distressing.

We are going to have to start thinking as a state and as a parliament about making sure that there are structural changes embedded in our society and our economy that are basically compelled on us by having to respond to a pandemic, and all the social and economic distress that that causes as well as transitioning our economy into a very rugged, resilient economy in the face of increasing global shocks and uncertainty. We are going to have to do things differently here in Tasmania, in Australia, and around the world.

My heart broke for the children this morning when I read the national news from the Prime Minister. While California, Oregon and Washington are aflame in the same way that the eastern seaboard of Australia was late last year and early this year, you have the Prime Minister of Australia saying we will have a gas-led recovery. I know how that affects young people. They find it distressing because they know that gas is a fossil fuel and a gas-led recovery will increase Australia's emissions. We are already one of the worst performers on the planet for our contribution to global emissions through the amount of coal that we dig up and export, and burn here. You have the Prime Minister of this country saying our recovery will be gas-fired. It is bordering on criminal negligence to inflict that kind of economic model on this country in a time of climate crisis when, at the same time, you have a mental health crisis, among young people particularly, in response to the pandemic and climate.

Young people are already being shafted by the system. In Tasmania, last time I checked, we are edging up to 20 per cent youth unemployment. We have a housing crisis and young people who have no hope in their hearts of owning their own home. We have young people telling their parents they cannot really see the point in studying because the planet is stuffed anyway. They do not have time.

We went down to the Denison Valley behind Geeveston last Thursday where Forestry Tasmania does log giant trees; we filmed one. There was a young bloke there, Jack, who works with the Forestry Watch scientists. He is very bright and engaging, and he is passionate about tackling climate. He is passionate about protecting the forests. I said to him, 'Jack, you have this great brain, what are you going to do with it? Are you going to go to university?' He said, 'I do not have time. I have thought about it. I could have got into university. I do not have time. There's too much to do'.

So we have a whole generation of young people here who are in a state of high distress, who are being shafted by the system. They were, of course, the first ones to lose their jobs in tourism and hospitality when the pandemic hit. They are looking at what is happening on the west coast of America with the heaviest of hearts. They see the Arctic is burning, as is the Amazon, as is the Congo. Then they hear from their Prime Minister that he really does not care about their future. That is the only message thinking young people will take out of the economic plan that has been laid out by Prime Minister Scott Morrison after he got his cabal of fossil fuel interests together to formulate a COVID-19 recovery.

I hope that somewhere along the road to Damascus, the Prime Minister, Mr Morrison, turns around and looks at his own two beautiful daughters and has another good, hard think about it. By committing this country to more fossil fuels and a gas-fired recovery, we are consigning young people to the bleakest of futures. We can do better. We can certainly do better in Tasmania.

Despite the fact that the interim report of the Premier's Economic and Social Recovery Advisory Council did not mention climate action, I have some hope that we will do things differently here. We are living in a financially constrained set of circumstances at the moment. What Tasmanians have seen is that if the Government has a crisis to deal with and it has people's wellbeing at heart, it will respond. The Tasmanian Government has responded to people's needs. Then you have, at a federal level, the Prime Minister winding back the coronavirus supplement out of JobSeeker and cutting JobKeeper.

Again, it is negligent. It is all about priorities. It is not about balancing the budget. If the Prime Minister can threaten to build a new gas-fired power station to replace Liddell coal-fired power station, you can certainly afford to give young people more hope for the future and make sure there is more money in people's pockets during a pandemic emergency.

I did the holiday at home thing with the kids and took them to the west coast. It was really uplifting to see so many Tasmanians -

Mr Gutwein - They are out and about.

Ms O'CONNOR - They are. It was amazing. We pulled up at Montezuma Falls. As we were driving in I thought we might have the place to ourselves as it was a Saturday and I thought it would be quiet. There were 16 cars in the carpark. They were all locals because they all had local number plates. Obviously no one is here travelling.

We need to make sure that JobSeeker and JobKeeper are retained at the higher rate, because to a significant extent I posit that money is helping to keep Tasmania's economy alive. Tasmanians holidaying at home and making that extra effort to spend in small businesses is actually an act of love as Tasmanians. We want to see these businesses not only survive but flourish. I fear that the Tasmanian Government is going to be nobbled in its endeavours to make sure that there is enough stimulus in the economy by the actions of the Morrison government.

I hope that the Premier, when he is at that National Cabinet table, is advocating for retaining JobSeeker and JobKeeper at their current rate in order to look after Tasmanians and to look after Tasmanian businesses.

I also hope, given Mr Gutwein is the Minister for Climate Change, that when he is talking to Scott Morrison, even if you could get him out of the space of other people who might use the information against him, get in his ear about this stuff. Over the course of the past six months you have probably developed relationships and respect at a national level. There has to be a better way forward than what we are being presented with.

Young people need to know that their governments are reshaping the future in a way that works for them and not for their political donors. I will not go onto donations right now because I really want you to have this conversation with the Prime Minister and think about the kids.

While I veered off track a bit, it all relates to the way we manage money. This year's state budget is going to be a hard one. It is going to be quite politically challenging because there will be decisions that may need to be made and we are not that far from a state election if it is held in 2022. There is a lot of talk about it being held earlier.

If the Government makes sure it is investing in wellbeing, is serious about a housing-led recovery and is protecting those public services and investing money in people, I think in the main Tasmanians will accept a hard budget because everyone in the community to some extent or another is paying a price through this pandemic. Most young people I know have lost their jobs. I have been encouraging them to go and pick fruit this summer. I think it is a fantastic work opportunity for young people. I hope there is a communications module going out to encourage particularly young Tasmanians to get out there and help make sure we get the fruit off the vines and the trees. That is very important. This completely uninspiring but important bill has the Greens' support.