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Section 19 of the Public Account Act 1986 - June Quarter 2018

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Tags: Treasury

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Speaker, I have come to understand that these section 19 June quarter returns that come before us are an example of how clever this Treasurer is at doing a sort of smoke-and-mirrors hiding of movement between agencies. He has developed a particularly clever form of language that is a catch-all that hides a whole lot of stuff he would like us to be silent and deaf about.

The Health and Human Services reallocation of agency overheads, so-called, has some very substantial movements from areas which we know are already underfunded relative to the express need that is continually not met by this Liberal Government's health priorities into other areas in the health system to plug gaps in the Minister for Health's attempt to deal with the devastating gouging of $210 million in 2014 of which only $100 million was returned. There has been a long-term $110 million deficit in the health system and we can see what that has led to in terms of health service delivery. We have seen the mismanagement of the health system under the Minister for Health and the huge cuts to preventive health. We have been standing still under this Liberal Government when it comes to preventive health. I would like the minister to explain how the public health services of the Department of Health has found $700 000 to transfer outside the health system. As I read it on page 5, the money has gone into either the Tasmanian health organisation in the north - $70 000 - or to housing services or to children's services system management. We have $ 700 000 moved out of public health services into other agencies. How is that possible given there is so much within the public health system that is being not funded?

Treasurer, why was $1.4 million taken from ambulance services last year? Why was it taken out of the ambulance service into either housing services or children's services system management?

On page 6, under the Justice output, $110 000 has been transferred from the Tasmanian Planning Commission to the Department of Justice. The Treasurer, as Planning minister in the previous government, eroded the independence of the Tasmanian Planning Commission. The Tasmanian planning scheme legislation has removed the independence of the Planning Commission and placed a lot of the final decisions with the minister, so it is not surprising that the Government has reduced the resources of the Tasmanian Planning Commission and brought more staff into the Department of Justice so they can be under the wing of the minister. About $110 000 was stripped from the Planning Commission under salary savings. What we know is there is one less person working at the Tasmanian Planning Commission.

Anyone who has anything to do with councils will know that the Tasmanian Planning Commission has a massive body of work to move through. In addition to its responsibilities as an independent planning arbiter on such things as Cambria Green, every council in Tasmania will be bringing or has already commenced bringing the state-wide planning provisions to the Planning Commission for public hearings and decisions. This will be going on for at least two years. Why have we moved yet another staff member out of the Planning Commission and also, on page 8, another $100 000, another person, from the Planning Commission has been transferred to the Magistrates Court to plug one of the gaps that the Government decided was necessary to plug in their constant underfunding of the Magistrates Court?

Can the minister explain salary savings of two positions at the Tasmanian Planning Commission when it has more work to do? It is a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul.

How can there be salary savings made in Community Corrections? Anyone who talks to the staff or understands what they do knows they are incredibly overworked. There was $250 000 removed from Community Corrections last year and transferred to the Supreme Court. Another $520 000 was removed under salary savings. So six or seven salaries, $770 000, was taken from the Community Corrections last financial year. Their total budget last year was $12.06 million. They have lost about 8 per cent or 9 per cent of their budget. How can savings be made in Community Corrections when under this Liberal Government more people are being criminalised and there are fewer opportunities for rehabilitation. Restorative justice is being underfunded. The movement of people to work and to employment and to housing outside of prison when they are released is underfunded or not funded at all. Recidivism has increased under Liberal corrections ministers over the past couple of years.

Finally I want to make a comment about the energy policy and advice - $ 885 000 is a very large amount of money. Why do we need to purchase independent legal advice? Do we not have the capacity within government to provide legal advice? Why does it need to be independent? Independent of whom? Given that it was advice to the energy security cabinet relating to Basslink I expect in relation to the contract for supply and the price we paid Basslink after the energy crisis, why does it have to be independent? Also, will we be claiming that under insurance or will it be covered in the negotiations with Basslink about the price adjustment for our rental agreement across the period during the energy crisis? Will that $885 000 be recouped?

The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery lost $641 000 from its budget in the last quarter and the Arts, industry development, lost $645 000 in that period. Those monies were moved, not into other areas of the Arts but into Transport, Forestry Policy and Reform and Mineral Resources. I need to make the point that this is a sector that is so underfunded it is a particular form of cruelty to take money from the weakest, most vulnerable and in many ways the productive part of our economy that has the least ability, by virtue of how the arts industry functions, to make a loud noise about this.

Arts industry and development in Tasmania is critical. It seems this Government is moving more and more to a centralised 'pick one big industry' approach to fish farming, to forestry and to tourism, and they are doing the same thing with the arts. We all love MONA and we know that MONA produces so much of value for Tasmania but anybody who understands how innovation works knows you have to fund organic groups, small groups, regional groups and schools. You cannot only fund the end result of years of creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship because it has not been done in a vacuum. We are reaping the benefits of a highly creative society which was, until the Liberals came in and made such devastating cuts to the community arts sector, a place that has welcomed and supported community arts. Unless we turn that back again and see a reinvestment into community art development, community groups, community-run and owned organisations and funding of theatre in Tasmania - the devastating cuts to theatre in Tasmania is so sad to expect -

Ms Archer - I have just announced more funding.

Dr WOODRUFF - Yes, minister you have announced more funding but it is impossible for anybody to want to apply to take that pathetically small amount of money. It is absolutely clear you will not get a high quality product so you are driving people in the community into smaller numbers.

Ms Archer - So $400 000 is a pittance, is it?

Dr WOODRUFF - It is sad to see you have given up on the Arts in Tasmania. That is effectively what has happened. You have decided to pick one winner and everyone else, if they want a career path in theatre in Tasmania, their career path is to get on a plane to Melbourne. That is really tragic.

Ms Archer - I don't think so. Get your facts straight.

Dr WOODRUFF - I have my facts straight, Ms Archer, and I have spoken and listened to people in the community. They cannot believe that you have done what you have done. Theatre in Tasmania is something we have all been proud of, yet people can only see an opportunity that is a ticket to Melbourne, Sydney or New York. That is not what we want for our creative arts industry. When you take $1.3 million out of the Arts and give it to Transport, it shows there is no vision for the future about sustaining the Arts in that area. I would appreciate the Treasurer explaining what the savings were in those two Arts areas.