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State Budget: Address in Reply

Andrea Dawkins

Andrea Dawkins  -  Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Tags: State Budget, Tamar River, Water Quality, Arts, Primary Industries, Dairy Industry, Pokies, Forests, Lapoinya, Animal Welfare, Speech Pathology, Hemp, Climate Change

Ms DAWKINS (Bass) –

Mr Deputy Speaker, the Greens’ Alternative Budget is a statement of values.  It restores frontline funding to education and rightly includes the state Government's share of responsibility for crumbling sewerage and water infrastructure - two important issues for my seat of Bass and for the wider community.

TasWater has asked for $10 million over 10 years to assist with the much needed sewerage and water infrastructure upgrades.  Instead, the Government has continued to engage in a game of, this is not my problem, tit for tat with local government.  Will the next announcement for the federal election be funding the UTAS move or infrastructure to help clean up kanamaluka/River Tamar?  For my money, an extra 10 000 students targeted for the new, improved UTAS at Inveresk will not have their needs met if we do not join forces with local and federal governments to fund the long overdue sewerage treatment plan. 

Aquatic health and water quality are vital to sustainable water management.  The only reference to water quality in the State Budget was with regard to the data on flows for irrigation purposes.  Our most precious water resource must no longer be treated as an open sewer for industry but be protected and valued.  Annual water data publishing is not in the best interests of the community yet this is what Tasmanians are offered.  Of the 48 catchments in Tasmania, only 11 have adopted water management plans, leaving the department working without a sustainable plan when allocating water.

The Hodgman Liberal Government seized a decade-long water testing regime which was the best in the country, relegating Tasmanians to be kept in the dark regarding pesticides in our ground water.  The Greens will restore funding to this vital water monitoring regime and allow an educated population to decide for itself what it deems to be appropriate for our waterways.

We continue to miss opportunities for organic and artisan production in Tasmania.  Our cool climate delivers slow growing, intensely flavoured produce.  Tasmania has the perfect climate for produce.  We also have clean air and rich soils.  All produce could be sold as quality niche.  Investigation of opportunities for our struggling dairy farmers to move into the thriving organic market would be funded in the Greens’ Alternative Budget. 

Confidence in the agricultural sector has slumped to its lowest level since 2014.  The Mercury reported that the net confidence factor was down to 4% from 21%.  The severe cash shortages are hitting dairy farmers hard as they wear the result of the milk war which began in 2011.  Milk was chosen by the duopoly to fight their price war and it was no accident.  Milk is a readily identifiable commodity which people would easily remember and could alter purchase habits.  It seems the dairy industry has become a victim of this game.

Former Senator and Leader of the federal Greens, Christine Milne, and others spoke on the milk price wars in the Senate as far back as 2011, warning that statements made by Coles and Woolworths that profits would flow back into dairy producers were far from certain.  The ACCC made statements on the anti-competitive policy being played out as early as 2011 between primary producers, the processors and the supermarkets and expressed a need for prohibition against anti-competitive pricing, sighting Australian consumer laws as out of step with international terms.  The price wars were exacerbated by China stockpiling milk powder from 2013 after a brief period of scarcity, leading to a false economy and a false sense of demand.

There are only 12 artisan cheese makers in Tasmania.  There are no organic dairies operating in Tasmania.  The Greens will invest in exploring organic niche markets to add value to our existing agricultural sector.  The Greens will invest $820 000 over the forward Estimates in an innovation leaders network to promote online forums and community meetings which facilitate the sharing of innovation strategies.  There is scope for rewarding environmental stewardship and offering opportunities for farmers to share their knowledge on climate change mitigation strategies.

Poppy growers are facing a reduction of 50% of their crop next year and there is still no resolution for hemp growers or those who would grow hemp should the federal authorities ever get their act together enough to regulate hemp for food consumption.  Around 20 developed countries have changed their rules to allow for hemp for food production, but in Australia we are fixated on drug testing methods, even though low-THC hemp food products would not show up on those tests.

Typical, that a punitive legal mechanism is what is stopping Tasmanian farmers from being able to grow a potentially lucrative crop.  If we ever allowed it, it will not be the saviour to the current lack of confidence in the agricultural sector, but it could be the perfect add-on crop for the poppy industry currently facing a reduction in demand.  The poppy industry is safe, well regulated and has an opportunity to diversify into industrial hemp for food and fibre. 

This is the kind of innovation our agricultural sector demands.  As markets tighten new opportunities present themselves.  With no movement from FSANZ and indeed from letters requesting information, which have been sent from our office with no information forthcoming, a person may be forgiven for thinking the idea of innovation is more an election slogan than a call to arms.

We are living through a period of change, unparalleled in human history.  Globalism, climate change and the transition to the new economy are challenging our perceptions of how education can foster opportunity.  We do not have a clear grasp on the jobs of the future, but we know what kinds of skills are required to imagine them.

The Mitchell Study of 2015 evaluates readiness for school across five key areas:  physical health and wellbeing, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive skills, communication and general knowledge.  21% of Tasmanian children do not meet that important milestone based on current entry age requirements.  If the age for kindergarten is reduced to three years and six months it appears there will be a need to increase vital support staff to assist with speech pathology and other services.

Restoring teacher numbers now becomes an absolute minimum under the proposed changes to the Act.  The Greens will inject $62 million back into the education system over the forward Estimates to restore teacher numbers, increasing the participation at school for at risk students by increasing support staff and to restore funding to TasTAFE.  By increasing our outer regional and rural schools to years 11 and 12 we provide an opportunity for students to remain at home whilst continuing their education.  If we do this at the expense of our college system we err.

Tasmania's college system provides an outstanding pre-tertiary experience.  The ability for students to learn independently with a wide range of subjects available, and with a new expanded cohort of fellow students, is highly attractive.  Once years 11 and 12 move into our urban feeder schools as they are, colleges are under threat.  We must save Tasmania's college system and provide flexible options for Tasmanian students to have dual enrolments under the spoke and hub model.

Promises to fully fund Gonski are jeopardised by the federal government's attempts to relinquish control of education funding to states.  We know there are schools in Tasmania in which half the students have additional needs.  Under Gonski funding principles these funds must make it through the school gate to the individual classes, teachers and students.

All students need access to fresh, healthy food in order to absorb information and remain focused.  The Greens will facilitate fresh food networks through regional centres.  The Tasmanian local food supply project highlighted food deserts in Tasmania, citing a lack of opportunity and some of our low SES and remote communities for a healthy, well-balanced diet.  We will invest $820 000 in food hubs, adding infrastructure to existing community gardens to value add to extend fresh food availability into all Tasmanian suburbs.

The Greens' position on pokies is clear.  Pokies wreck lives and communities and they have to go.  It is simple.  Poker machine addiction drives up crime and suicide and ends up costing taxpayers and businesses far more in the long term than the paltry sum these machines generate in taxation revenue.  Greens policy supports a complete ban on poker machines in Tasmania.  Unfortunately we also must accept that this is not a realistic possibility while Labor and Liberal together hold a majority in Parliament. 

The Greens will fund a five-year transition to wind back poker machines into casinos with the sum of $9.5 million, significantly minimising the harm caused by these addictive machines.  Our funding will support the transition of pubs and clubs into healthier forms of recreation and entertainment, whilst easing government dependence on taxes from gambling profits.  We believe this will become cost-neutral, as less public money is required to tackle the multiple social costs caused by poker machines.

The Tasmanian arts industry continues to prove its social, cultural and economic importance but it has been hit hard by ongoing cuts.  We believe in the importance and transformative nature of the arts.  It ignites cities, encourages participation, improves health and engages with everyone in some way.  Tasmania has the largest number of artists pro rata in the country and has nationally and internationally acclaimed writers, painters, filmmakers, performers and musicians.  Theatre, literature, film, music and the visual arts are vehicles to express our culture and our stories, but art and creativity need support from a government that cares about regional artists who work with their communities and that is willing to invest in the future development of this exciting industry. 

Over the last few years the support and services provided through Arts Tasmania has been decimated to virtually a skeleton staff with a minimum of programs.  Funding to artists and organisations has been reduced.  This, coupled with funding hits to arts development organisations such as Tasmanian Regional Arts and Wide Angle Tasmania, has created gaps in this sector which need to be filled.  These advice and support services are needed by the arts community.  The advantage of investing in the arts is that they are already entrepreneurial, but there is a need for belief, real investment and support. 

A commitment of $1 million would be about skills development and practical support for individuals and organisations, audience development and building on the success of arts organisations and ventures that have proved to be highly successful.  While it is important to look for and celebrate the new, it is equally important to acknowledge the experience and skills that exist.  Our goal is to foster a fertile arts environment that is ready to launch new projects and engage with national and international initiatives when the opportunities present.

The recent clear felling of forests which have had great value to their local communities has highlighted the clash between the old industrial economy and Prime Minister Turnbull's feted new economy.  The Prime Minister derides Labor for being stuck in the old economy, but it appears that in Tasmania the Liberal Government is also stuck in the old ways of 'dig it up, cut it down' resource extraction.  We are doing so at the expense of biodiversity and local communities who value the natural world so dearly.  The clearfelling of Lapoinya forest, once a place where Thylacines roamed and up until earlier this year was the home of the endangered wedge-tailed eagle and the Tasmanian devil, has highlighted the failure of the forestry sector to make the transition.  There is no social licence in FT's practices and year after year this is entrenched.  Our native animals have had habitat threatened.  Their defences are down from the drought so they are out looking for water and vegetation and are being pushed out on to roads. 

The Greens will invest $100 000 in investigating virtual fencing alarm system hot-spot areas in Tasmania.  The Greens’ Alternative Budget recognises animals are sentient beings who deserve our care and respect.  Humans have a duty of care to minimise the physical and psychological suffering of animals resulting from human activity.  Strong animal welfare standards and laws are necessary.  We missed an opportunity to be national leaders in cruelty-free egg procurement and production and the Tasmanian Greens will initiate a cruelty-free egg policy for Tasmania.  We will transition out of greyhound racing over five years and fund an independent animal welfare inspectorate.  The total spend on animal welfare measures is over $6 million in the forward Estimates of the Greens’ Alternative Budget. 

The Greens look towards the migrant community in Tasmania to play a vital role in easing new Tasmanians into their new lives.  With lived experience, the existing migrant community is well positioned to offer a meaningful role in a strategy to extend settlement services to a fraction of the 60 million refugees worldwide.  We are still waiting for the 500 refugees we promised to help build better lives in Tasmania, but the slow pace of progress means that twice every year I will be asking the Premier what has happened.  The Greens will fund this additional service to just over $1 million over the forward Estimates, facilitating a peak body to act as an intermediary between existing services and in an advisory capacity.