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Investment in Infrastructure

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 28 September 2022

Tags: Housing Crisis, Infrastructure, Stadium

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, this is a classic Wednesday afternoon Government notice of motion for private members' time, often given to new members to test themselves a bit, with a speech that is invariably written for them.

There are parts of this motion that you could not argue with. Who could argue that it is important that we invest in infrastructure to stimulate economic growth and support jobs? Our issue, as Greens, is the type of infrastructure that government prioritises. We have had a government that has, for years, prioritised roads funding over houses and homes for people - and for the first three state budgets, because of that mind set, we had huge sums of capital money going into roads, road construction and repairs, and we had no new money going into social and affordable housing which is part of the reason we are in the housing crisis that we are in.

As an island we are not investing enough into mass transit. We have a rail corridor in Hobart which has never been activated which is waiting for a Government to understand that in the 21st century you need to get cars off the road for the climate and for the health of people. We have heard nothing from Government on the rail corridor, and the potential for that to activate that whole area in terms of housing and businesses. It would be wonderful if we had a Government that invested in light rail.

We have another motion that talks about the economy and infrastructure and says nothing about the climate, it says nothing about the fact that we have accelerating global heating impacts on this island. We are going to have sea level rise, storm surge, increased risk of bushfires and extreme weather events, and any infrastructure we are building or upgrading needs to be climate resilient.

I remember having this conversation with Mr Hidding in the early days, in 2014-15 when he was the new minister for transport and infrastructure. We asked him what kind of analysis he was doing about the climate readiness of the infrastructure we have, and what we have to change in order to build infrastructure that lasts. He made vague noises after slightly rolling his eyes at me and here we are eight years later and that thinking has not yet permeated Government. It has to. The climate is heating. What the scientists told us would be happening in the later part of this century is happening now. The conversations we used to have about the world our grandchildren will inherit, our kids are dealing with it. We need to sharpen up the way we think about, talk about and fund infrastructure. This minister is in a unique situation to do something about that.

Briefly, the Homes Tasmania Bill which the Greens also did not support is not the vehicle for delivering more social and affordable housing. Despite Mr Young's criticism when he described us as anti-development, during those years between 2010 and 2014 Housing Tasmania and the Housing Innovation Unit delivered more than 2000 social and affordable homes. They did not have to be a statutory authority to do that: two Common Ground facilities, Thyne House in Launceston, Trinity Hill in Hobart. You do not need to externalise your housing agency in order to build more social and affordable homes. If that was the answer surely Government would have done it when the housing crisis first became so painfully obvious. I refute the allegation or the assertion that the Labor/Green government drove this state into debt. I do not know how well-versed Mr Young is in the global financial crisis but all over the world economies were struggling. It was a global financial crisis.

The budget that we brought down in 2011, which took a lot of guts from then premier and treasurer Giddings and all of us who stood with her, was the budget that started to reset the economy here and the economy started turning around in 2013. We took our responsibility as economic managers very seriously and we helped to steer this state through pain and recession. We did it because it was the right thing to do. All the while we were doing our very best to buffer the state service from the impacts, trying to spread the impacts out as we made the savings that we know needed to be made. Nonetheless we were able to build more houses in those four years than the Government has built in eight because the Government only sees hard infrastructure as a priority and not social infrastructure.