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Unemployment and Jobs

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Tags: Tasmanian Forest Agreement, Native Forest Logging

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Treasurer, I do not have a handkerchief big enough to mop up the crocodile tears you just shed for the children of forest workers. You obviously regard children from different families with different levels of sympathy because, as we know, there are children who have been left out on the street because their parents are poker machine addicts. This is happening in regional communities, it is happening in rural communities, and it is happening in our poorest communities. We will not sit here and cop faux concern from the Treasurer without exposing his hypocrisy. You cannot express sympathy for the children of forest workers and not understand that you are responsible for a policy that will harm children for the next 25 years. It is not as if the children of gambling addicts can have the same hope for the future as the children of skilled forest workers can have. We are not going to cop that. It is absolute hypocrisy.

I also wanted to highlight that you cannot talk about the wellbeing of children and not be serious about climate. I am 52 years old. I rarely cry when I watch the news but I shed a tear last night in the dining room when I was looking at Matt Canavan talking about his upcoming trip to India to solicit more coal mines for Australia - consigning our children to a hot coffin in the future, and Labor is as culpable. Labor is now part of the Parliamentary Friends for Coal Exports. Joel Fitzgibbon and Craig Kelly - talk about linking arms. You have the old parties linking arms to give effect to policies that will harm children. Labor is still a massive cheerleader for the Adani coal mine and the level of hypocrisy and cognitive dissonance we have to cop in this place is scandalous, as it is when people wring their hands and say they are worried about the children. Dr Woodruff and I have had enough of it, so have young people and so have parents who love them and are deeply worried about the future.

There are a couple of things the Treasurer, before he sat down to mop up his crocodile tears, said about the Tasmanian Forest Agreement. The Treasurer accuses the Greens in government as being part of a process that demolished jobs in regional areas. The Treasurer has selectively reached back into history and ignored that you can tell from the decline in jobs in the forest industry that this decline began before 2006. The number of contractors who were working in the native forest logging industry started crashing from 2006. Any objective observer of Tasmania's history would recognise that it was the Labor and Liberal parties working to prop up an unsustainable industry producing an unsustainable product that was going to be increasingly rejected by global markets. They were funnelling money into Gunns and enabling Forestry Tasmania to look after its monopoly timber giant and forget the need to diversify the forest industry to make sure we are making that transition into plantation forestry.

I remember talking to forestry workers at the time the Tasmanian Forest Agreement went through. Of course, they understood that the world was changing and that the industry had to adapt. With that Tasmanian Forest Agreement came a substantial investment from Commonwealth and state governments in just transitions for forest workers and their communities, rural and regional communities. We are not going to have historical revisionism happening in here without challenging it.

As to the motion that has been brought on by Ms O'Byrne, points one to eight are unarguable. This is the statistical truth of it. When the Treasurer stands up in here and crows about the growing economy and the golden age he is wilfully ignoring the fact that we have the highest unemployment in the country. There is a whole generation of young people who are stressed to their back teeth about the future, not just because the planet is cooking but because the robots are coming. Artificial intelligence and mechanisation are taking jobs now. We do not have any plan from the Treasurer, or indeed from the Labor Opposition, about how we make sure our young people are critical thinkers, are nimble and adaptive and are able to aspire to and take the jobs that robots cannot. That is where we should be investing a significant amount of policy grunt and funding. As Ms O'Byrne says, we should be reinvesting in TasTAFE but we need to rethink the kinds of programs we are offering young people. The jobs they will have in the future are jobs we have not even thought about. I think everyone in this space, when they are not playing politics, understands that.

Madam Speaker, earlier when Ms O'Byrne was talking, Mr O'Byrne was heckling across the Chamber when we circulated our amendment saying that Labor is just interested in 'getting stuff done'. There is no evidence in the 18 months since the last election that Labor is interested in being even slightly constructive or cooperative in this place. They spend all day in here bashing up the Government without putting forward alternatives and then when an opportunity comes to support good policy, like pill testing, or to agree that we are in a climate emergency, they backpedal frantically. That is why there is a view forming in the community that Labor stands for nothing. We all wish it was not true because a healthy democracy needs a good strong, committed opposition, and here in parliament right now we do not have it. You cannot say you want to get stuff done in here when you walked away from the signature policy that you took to the last state election and rolled over. You have made no statement about why you are moving away from that policy position. Is it because the truth is that the gambling industry won? That is the truth, Madam Speaker.

I said this in the House last week and I am going to say it again. There are stakeholders in the community who are alarmed because Labor members have told them they will not be supporting anything that the Greens bring forward or that we want to work with Labor on. It raises huge question marks over the capacity of this very finely balanced parliament to deliver good progressive policy. It puts a question mark over significant human rights reforms such as dying with dignity. It puts a question mark over a human rights act for Tasmania. We have seen the big question mark hanging over Labor's policy on pill testing.

Ms O'BYRNE - Point of order, Madam Speaker. I have been sitting very quietly because I am very conscious of the rules that apply to me, but if the member could actually address the motion before the House that would be a good thing for the parliament. I have not interjected on her as she did on me but I ask that she address the motion before the House.

Madam SPEAKER - Was that a point of order going to relevance?

Ms O'Byrne - Yes, it was.

Madam SPEAKER - Unfortunately I have to rule against it but I think the member heard your request.

Ms O'CONNOR - I certainly heard it. I was just laying out the preamble for our amendment to the motion.

I move the following amendment -

That paragraph 9 be amended by omitting 'policy for' and inserting instead 'only policy'.

Labor might like to accuse us of playing games but as Whoopi Goldberg, the famous actress, said a couple of weeks ago in relation to American politics, 'Whatever happened to consequences?'. There needs to be consequences in a civil and just society for a party that went to an election on a particular platform moving away from every part of that platform.

Mr Jaensch - Like mandatory minimum sentences.

Ms O'CONNOR - I do not think your point is well made, Mr Jaensch, but anyway, carry on.

This motion contains information that everyone in this House should be deeply aware of and seek to improve the situation for the 6.7 per cent of Tasmanians who are jobless, for the growing number of women in part-time and insecure employment and for young people who are aspiring to meaningful full-time work. One of the great untruths contained in the last state Budget is that the Liberals have made a commitment to creating 10 000 new jobs, and then in the back pages of the budget paper in the State Growth section we find out that 6000 of those jobs will be imported through skilled visas. Really the Government can only claim to be creating 4000 new jobs and certainly for young people that is a much smaller pool of available employment than the Government would have us believe.

In our fully costed alternative budget we have restored funding to TasTAFE through establishing a centre of excellence in aged and disability care. I note that Ms O'Byrne's motion acknowledges the skills shortage in disability and aged care. For making sure we are dealing with the reality of global heating and the urgent necessity to keep the carbon that is in the ground in the ground and to sequester more carbon, we would establish a landscape restoration skills unit within TasTAFE. We would provide free TasTAFE for regional students and invest substantially in renewing TasTAFE. That is a total funding allocation over the forward Estimates of $37 million.

We certainly agree with points 1 to 8 of this motion but we want to amend the end of it so that it is really clear that this is one policy Labor is sticking to. We have not heard any other policies coming out of Labor since the election. We have seen them walk away from the policy to remove poker machines from pubs and clubs. We have seen them walk away from their stated concern about climate. There are all the indications that they are walking away from other progressive policies like dying with dignity, the Human Rights Act and pill testing.

Let us be honest about this. Labor at the moment is struggling to define a narrative and that is resonating in the community. People wonder at a federal and state level what Labor today stands for. It is a tragedy for the nation and our democracy that we have a neoliberal quisling Opposition that dodges away from policies as soon as the heat is on and often is in absolute lockstep with the government of the day. Labor has formed the view that we will be in an election in a short space of time and therefore the time they think they have in the forty-sixth parliament is best spent trying to tear the Government down and making sure they are nowhere near any good policy that the Greens bring forward. I believe that is what is happening in Labor's hive mind and that is a sad indictment on them. We are in this place in real terms for the blink of an eye. We are all just passing through and would you not rather that you came into this place every day wanting to give effect to good legislation, good policy outcomes, to work cooperatively where you can to get those outcomes? That is the driving motivation for Dr Woodruff and myself, and we think that should be the motivation for every person who has the great privilege and responsibility of being elected to the Tasmanian Parliament.