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Fiscal Sustainability

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Tags: Economy, State Budget, Treasury, Housing

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - This has not been a particularly edifying debate so far, but I have quite enjoyed and been somewhat informed by Mr Winter's contribution. I was reflecting on a conversation I had on behalf of Dr Woodruff and I with Treasury and Finance towards the end of last year. It was quite a frank conversation with the Secretary of Treasury, Tony Ferrall, who I have a lot of time for. It was relating to the state's need to borrow to get us through the pandemic.

I do not want to verbal Mr Ferrall, but the conversation centred around capital funding needs and it was observed that it was very cheap to borrow money at the time of the borrowing. The Greens were arguing that Government should go into more debt to be able to provide a recovery out of COVID-19 that leaves Tasmania much more climate resilient while looking after its people and making sure everyone who needs a home has a home.

Unfortunately, in this Budget we see a delay in expending those capital funds in providing homes for people; but we are not going to argue against the state going into debt for the right reasons.

The question for the House is, what is the Government's plan to chart us through this? We are not ever reassured by bland statements from the Treasurer or the Minister for Finance that everything will be okay.

I make the observation, that it always a problem when the Premier holds the Treasury portfolio. This has been problem for us in the past and it is a problem for us now. You need to have that creative tension between the Premier and the Treasurer. However, Mr Gutwein has chosen to retain the Treasury portfolio so this debt will be his at the same time as he is trying to win hearts and minds across the Tasmanian community.

Young people today, are not talking about fiscal sustainability. It does not enter their thinking. What young people are talking about is their future in a climate constrained world, where they can see the natural environment being degraded day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. We have raised this with the Premier, who falsely accuses us of trying to scare children when we use terms like 'climate emergency'. Eleven thousand scientists signed onto a statement to declare a climate emergency. This is not alarmist language; these are the facts. If the Premier and the climate deniers on his side of the House do not want to hear the facts, that is a matter for them.

What really scares young people is a lack of leadership on climate. Young people are not scared by government going into debt for a period of time in order to be able to deliver services. Young people are scared by what they see as older people, who will die well before them, leaving them a planet which is in a state of distress.

I get these emails from kids quite often. I got one from a 10-year-old in Campbell Town last week who basically said, 'I am desperately worried. I have read the reports of what the scientists are saying. I don't want to ask an adult for help because I think you are part of the problem but I am asking for your help in what I can do, as a 10-year-old, living in Campbell Town'. They are the kind of emails that break my heart. It is what motivates Dr Woodruff and I in here every single day. This is a 10-year-old who is scared, not by the truth; who is scared by adults not listening and acting on her concerns.

What did young people tell the Commissioner for Children and Young People? I will again remind the House. The third rule that they want implemented now is an 'end to native forest logging'. Number four: they want 'emissions limits for big companies'.

This is the true sustainability debate we need to be having in this place - the sustainability of government policy for young people's future. They want no more coal, and they want more awareness about climate change, such as ads on television. There is one thing I agree about: we need to be very careful in the language we use when we are talking to young people about the state of the world's climate. We need to be talking about the actions we can take to mitigate global heating. Action equals hope; lack of action equals fear and anger. It is very straightforward.

The biggest issue raised through the consultation by Commissioner for Children and Young People ambassadors was that we need more action on climate change; and that the decisions we make today will determine our future. That is the sustainability matter we need to be addressing as a parliament. For all its talk of taking climate seriously, we do not believe this Government is really listening to the science. If you are really paying attention, if you read the IPCC report summary for policy makers and the detail around forests, you will understand it is the most perverse distortion of the science, for a premier to get up in here, like minister Barnett last week in Estimates, and pretend that logging, chipping and burning an old forest and then planting a new forest is somehow a climate positive.

There was a letter to the editor in the paper about it today. The science is very clear: if you log a coupe of old trees, it takes at least a century for the carbon that was stored in that patch of forest to be restored. We do not have a century; we have about 10 years. A scientist who came to brief us last week - and I certainly hope Dr Broad attended one of these briefings from the Climate Extremes Cooperative Research Centre - they have told us that temperatures will change in Tasmania. By 2050 Tasmania is projected to experience an increase of at least 1.5 degrees compared to historical temperatures even if a low emissions scenario is followed. In rainfall terms, we know from the science that the Spring rains will diminish and there will be more rain in the winter time. We need to talk about sustainability in a much more focused and systemic way for young people who are crying out for leadership.