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Ministerial statement - Update of Government COVID-19 Response

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 30 April 2020

Tags: COVID-19

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, these are really dark days that we are living through as Tasmanians. We are witnessing the most profound social and economic shock I believe that this island has experienced since the Great Depression. But in that darkness, there are these sparkles of light. It is the way we relate to each other and it is in our daily interactions with Tasmanians when we go out for essential travel. It is the going to the local IGA and talking to Leanne down there who goes in there every day. That is an essential job.

Two very significant things have come out of this situation. One is it has brought us much closer together as Tasmanians and citizens of this beautiful island. It has also made us rethink what is valuable work. The people who are holding our economy and our community together now are Leanne at the local IGA, Mary at the top shop, Roger the postie, the lady who serves the takeaways at the local café. I take the opportunity when I am interacting with these people to say thanks for coming to work. It is a brave thing to do. I know it is an economic necessity for people, but it also takes courage in the middle of a pandemic to go into the service sector and work every day.

I hope that one of the things that comes out of this pandemic is that we all have a renewed appreciation for what work is, who essential workers are, and learning to value people who go out there on the frontline of our society and economy in jobs that maybe governments have not in the past considered to be of great value. They are. They are holding us together. Just as our health workers are holding our response to this pandemic together. I thank the Director of Public Health Mr Veitch, who is doing an outstanding job, just as Tasmania Police is keeping order, keeping us safe. Again I thank Commissioner Darren Hine. I sincerely thank our teachers who are going into school environments - most of them are still in school environments. In some ways they now have an expanded work role, which is to supervise children who are coming to school and also to conduct online learning. What a fantastic contribution they are making to our community. They deserve our heartfelt thanks.

We welcome the establishment of the Recovery Council. It is important that we have some of our best brains working together on ways to kickstart our economy. But it should not all be about business. One thing that this pandemic has made clear to us is that government has a key role, not only in the delivery of services but in times of trouble business cannot do it and especially if it is on its knees. We have seen even conservative governments in Australia step up and do what has to be done, not only to keep people safe but also to provide a measure of income so that people are able to keep food on the table, to put a freeze on evictions; to put a freeze on rent increases. Government has a key role in making sure we have strong public services.

For decades public services in Australia have been run down by successive conservative governments and now we see how enormously valuable and central our public service is to community wellbeing.

The Recovery Council is very much focused on the business side of things. We would like to see not only union representation; we would like to see a strong social lens put on it. I accept that Kim Goodes is on the council as well as Rufus Black. We also want to see some science at the table. There is one thing we know: we can't go back to normal because normal was not working. Normal was seeing enormous rises in emissions nationally normal was seeing soaring inequality where people were left at the bottom of the social heap, shut out, where the gap between was getting wider and wider. That is what normal was before this pandemic.

We should use this point in time to reimagine our future, not in a way that means you have business leaders advising multiple shortcuts, subversion of good process, undermining of the planning system in order to 'get things done'. Let's do it differently here. Let's make every Tasmanian part of the conversation about the future we want for this island and its people. What are we saying to young people out of this pandemic? They are so stressed. They have the double fear of accelerating global heating and now we are in the middle of a pandemic. They are losing jobs. They are not able to go to college and school in person. They are having to change their life plans and they will be saddled with the billions in debt that are necessarily being spent in order to get mainland Australia and Tasmania out of this crisis.

Let's rethink the future in a way that makes not only a stronger Tasmania but a fairer, greener Tasmania; a more democratic Tasmania; a Tasmania where human rights are respected and protected. A cruelty-free Tasmania. It would be such a shame if we came out of this pandemic and everything went back to the way it was before. We have an opportunity here to remake our future. These are dark days but there are certainly sunnier days ahead. Like everyone in this place I am so proud to be a Tasmanian and to see the way Tasmanians have responded in this emergency.

I am very impressed with the Premier's response to this crisis. I believe he could possibly be a little more inclusive in some of the scrutiny mechanisms. Premier, you are to be commended, as is everyone you are working with, on helping us to get through this crisis. The actions you have taken as premier have made Tasmanians feel safer and that is a good thing.