You are here

Housing and Other Essential Services

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 12 September 2023

Tags: Housing, Public Service

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Deputy Speaker, when the Liberals came to government in 2014, Australians knew and Tasmanians understood that the Liberal agenda would be one of driving down investment in the public sector, because it is a core Liberal belief that the private sector can do things better, so for years and years we have had ministers of the Crown managing taxpayers' money and making choices year on year to starve essential services, particularly in education, health, transport and especially child safety and detention, starve them of money and have no plan for recruiting and retaining essential services workers.

In 2014 we had a different situation in the housing market and were not in the situation we are in today, but the information that came through over the three or four years after that made it pretty clear to anyone who was concerned about the impacts on people who are renting, especially, but also people who have mortgages but especially people who are renting, that the situation was getting dire.

The warning bells were ringing in 2017 and the Liberals did nothing about it because they chose to make a narrow, ignorant decision that they would put all their effort into the tourism sector and getting accommodation for tourists coming to Tasmania, as though that would solve all the problems on the island, and while they did that they completely ignored the reality of people who are struggling to get housing. They allowed the short stay sector to go on a bonanza and they believed that would be the saviour of Tasmania - more tourists, more accommodation, everyone is winning in the long term.

What we see today is that the tourism sector has essentially been cannibalised by the short stay market that was meant to serve the interests of tourist operators and now in regional Tasmania there is nowhere for workers in hospitality or workers who are coming to pick food being produced around Tasmania to live. We have a desperate situation where places are shutting down because they cannot get staff in regional communities because there is nowhere for people to live. There is not even someone's back shed to live in because there are people who are living regionally who have nowhere to go and they are already in those places. They already have buses and caravans on people's properties everywhere they possibly can, or they are bunking in. That is the reality of living in regional Tasmania.

If you live in the cities it is no different. In Hobart we have the worst short-stay market figures in the country at 9.2 per cent. That means 9.2 homes out of every 100 in Hobart has been given over to the short stay market and the Liberals have done nothing about this situation except encourage it to continue. All the policy levers are there. They have all of that at their disposal. Other places around Australia like Bright and Ballina have made decisions not to take a piece by piece approach and leave it up to councils to make these hard decisions. They do not have the resources on the east coast to put the time and effort into trying to regulate short stay.

We need a statewide approach. It is a statewide issue affecting everyone, but the failure to regulate and the failure to plan for essential service workers means that we now have a situation where we cannot get nurses, teachers or bus drivers and we cannot encourage anyone to come here from the mainland to Tasmania because our wages and conditions have been kept far lower than mainland ones for a whole decade under the Liberals. They were warned and they have done nothing and we are in a desperate situation where we really do not have much to offer people from outside of Tasmania were there a will to put the resourcing in, which we do not see in the Liberals' budget.

There is not the money there to attract people from the mainland to work in these essential services because the investment has not been there for 10 years and you cannot play catch-up quickly but they are not even demonstrating that they are trying to do that. Instead, we have Minister Ferguson who is throttling Metro instead of giving them other resources they need to make sure there are buses there and provide a better standard of employment conditions and wages for Metro staff and provide support and training for them. To have free public transport, which in the COVID-19 era was done here in Tasmania, was such a success. It increased usage and reduced antisocial interactions on buses. It allows people who are without transport to be able to get to work and/or take their kids to school and that is what we need for minimum functioning standards in Tasmania.

I am really concerned that we have just heard from the minister today that instead of focusing the efforts of Homes Tasmania on constructing new houses, as they promised they would do, it seems they have gone into the real estate market and are not just buying empty houses, they are buying houses with people in them. Fine; I am so glad those people have a home, but they are buying those homes. It is not providing any new accommodation for people who are desperate. It is a false figure. Yes, it is increasing our housing stock for the long term, but it is not constructing anything. It is not fixing the problem. They are not fixing it with regulation, and they are not fixing it with construction, and they are not fixing it with a recruitment and retention plan for nurses and teachers. They are not putting the increased resourcing into child safety.

Where are we going to be with a commission of inquiry report when we start off like this with child safety so far behind? Child safety services are desperately underfunded. We are in a terrible situation of a chronic lack of interest in public services under the Liberal government.