Mrs ARMITAGE ( Launceston ) - Madam President, I will not comment overly on the Budget as much has already been said, but I do consider it a hard budget for most. I do not know how many saw the ABC news last night about the Picasso in the cupboard at Sydney University selling for $20 million. It would be nice if there is a picture around here somewhere - we all look up - so that maybe the Government could find a few dollars.
Madam PRESIDENT - I am not sure that our Heritage Act would allow it, as we all look up.
Mrs ARMITAGE - Let us not look there, but there may be one somewhere else around Parliament House that we have not discovered that is worth perhaps $20 million.
The Premier's comments that the Government find themselves in this difficult situation should not come as any surprise to them having been in power for quite some time and being responsible for the position we are now in. However, I do agree that hard decisions will need to be made to bring our economy back on track and put us back on a stable footing.
Madam President, I agree with the comments made by the honourable member for Windermere this morning regarding the V8s. It certainly is a sizeable outlay, $500 000, but with an income of around $4 million and the comments from the honourable member regarding the TT-Line, perhaps they could consider urgently looking at this.
Ms Forrest - I suggested that when the announcement was made about the football.
Mrs ARMITAGE - Obviously cars are more likely to come on the TT-Line than footballers are.
Ms Forrest - They cannot come on an aeroplane.
Mrs ARMITAGE - Perhaps the Premier could find her way clear to speak with TT-Line on their behalf; maybe she could find another way.
Ms Rattray - Or Aurora or Transend or TOTE.
Mrs ARMITAGE - The cars do need to get here and I am quite sure they are already using the TT-Line.
Ms Forrest - It would make much more sense than giving a free kick to your airline competitors.
Mrs ARMITAGE - I think it is very unlikely that once we lose them they will come back, and we do need to realise that. I do congratulate the Government on keeping their commitment to three local hospital networks and I look forward to further information regarding the set-up and the details. However, I still have some fears regarding this, as it is no secret that the Department of Health and Human Services strongly favour centralisation.
It is accepted that there can be some savings by not duplicating areas, such as IT, but I worry that in 2011-12 the department will be implementing strategies to achieve savings of $100 million increasing to $150 million by 2014-15. This really is frightening, as costs usually increase certainly not decrease, particularly with people's health. We do have the worst health outcomes in the nation in Tasmania. Locum employment is certainly a high cost at the hospitals and I think we all know that if a hospital is seeking several specialists it makes it much easier to attract them if you have already three as opposed to if you have only one and you need four, it is very hard to get the extra three because no-one wants to be that one on call. If you already have three and you are looking for one it is certainly a much simpler situation. Employment of locums is a high cost to us and we must be very careful to ensure that we spend our money wisely and hopefully get the specialists there as opposed to paying high cost for locums.
Ms Forrest - That is the major problem with the Mersey hospital.
Mrs ARMITAGE - It really is a huge bill. As you will appreciate, if you want four specialists, you are coming down to be on call every night. It is much easier if you already have the three there and you are only looking for one, rather than looking for three or four.
Ms Forrest - That's what I'm saying the problem with the Mersey is, that they have to use locums there all the time because of John Howard's intervention a few years ago.
Mrs ARMITAGE - Yes, political intervention at election time.
Ms Forrest - Yes, it was a political, populist decision that had no benefit to the health services of the north-west coast.
Mrs ARMITAGE - Which happens so often. Perhaps the Government will be looking to cut some of the senior executive staff in DHHS, which seems to have substantially grown over the years, rather than cut front-line hospital staff. We have a temporary budgetary shortfall and it is imperative that we do not make decisions that will have permanent detrimental effects to many areas in our State.
While I am talking on the hospital I will mention the parking. Madam President, you mentioned yesterday the issue with hospital parking and also, to bring in the honourable member for Windermere regarding the Tiger bus, in Launceston our Tiger bus goes up to the LGH and we would be very appreciative if Minister Nick McKim could look at providing some funding, which will assist not only in parking around the LGH but certainly with parking generally in the Launceston area. More and more people are using the Tiger bus, but it takes a while for people to get the hang of actually parking their car somewhere else and getting onto a bus. Even with parking of a morning we find that more people are using the parking at the QVMAG and the free parking there to do with the park and walk, but people take a long time to get out of the habit that they have and form a new habit. We would really appreciate it if some consideration could be given to providing some funding for this, not only to help with the parking around the city but also for transport to our hospital. This would alleviate some of the concerns, particularly for those who live around the hospital, who take their children to school, come back and find there is nowhere to park their car, which is very difficult. They cannot be expected to park a few hundred kilometres away with groceries or whatever they have and try to get home. There are real difficulties there that we need to look at.
Mr Dean - I might just say, the original position taken by the minister that it didn't fit the criteria, is not right. It does fit the criteria that the Government has set for the support of these services and we have looked at that closely.
Mrs ARMITAGE - It is all in the way you read it.
If you ask people to comment on what is important to them, they come up with different issues depending on their age. If they are young it is often employment or, unfortunately, unemployment, and this carries on from education. To even consider closing any schools - and I will not go on about this greatly because it has been mentioned a lot - but particularly rural or regional schools, without serious discussion with each of these communities, business leaders and local councils, is to disregard the future of our young people and the viability of these regional areas.
Government should prove the need to close the school, not ask the school to provide the reason for them to stay open. As the member for Apsley so aptly put it, employment in an area is often dependent on good facilities including schooling. The fact that both the Premier and Education minister are now singing from different hymn books regarding school closure shows this matter has not been properly assessed. On the one hand there may be some savings, but on the other hand what are the real costs to families, communities and, ultimately, Tasmania as a whole? I do not have any schools in my area that are currently closing -
Ms Rattray - Yet.
Mrs ARMITAGE - As I said, 'currently closing'.
Ms Forrest - They're not currently closing but that is still open for debate, if you believe what the minister says.
Mrs ARMITAGE - We will wait and see, but I certainly support my fellow members in their areas where schools that are under threat.
Ms Rattray - Thank you.
Mrs ARMITAGE - Recently we received a letter, and I am sure we all received it, from a small business owner from one of those affected areas who has 14 permanent employees. The company has been in business for 90 years employing local people with families who rely on the local school to educate their children. It was mentioned that many new families from other States have settled in the area for the lifestyle. No school in that area will be a serious consideration for new settlers.
Safety is another area often raised, and much has been mentioned about the mall in my electorate of Launceston . Everyone has the right to feel safe, whether in their homes, on the streets, on public transport, in the parks or in the city. The elderly, particularly, are vulnerable and it is essential that we provide for these people who have provided for us in the past and given us our future. But here we are cutting not only police numbers but also future recruitment. It is acknowledged that Tasmania has a great record currently with regard to police outcomes and you have to wonder whether this course of action in the long run will be a backward step needing significant increases in police numbers in the future to recover.
I am pleased to see that they are continuing to invest in community safety infrastructure including the continuation of the $20 million four-year construction of new facilities at Risdon Prison, as they no doubt will be needed with the cut in police numbers, as well as the redevelopment and refurbishment of police headquarters in Devonport and Glenorchy. All too often we see capital works - and I do not really want to be cynical - but perhaps it is because you can open a building and there is no personnel or recurrent funding that goes with these capital works. I think that really is the case with the current police situation.
What of these young people who are already to train as police officers? Do they put their lives on hold? Do they take another course for a year or two? Their dreams have been dashed. There will undoubtedly be many young people - and perhaps they are not all young, there are older people, too - who have decided to be a police officer and changed their course of employment and their future. These people will now have to follow other courses, which will be a great loss to our police force.
What about the police, as mentioned yesterday by the honourable member for Windermere as well, who were promised to be taken out of the courts in Launceston? Yet another broken promise. In the State election there was a promise to increase the service by 30 officers. Prevention is better than cure. Somewhere along the line people need to realise what a promise is. It is a commitment and one of the reasons they were elected. No wonder the public thinks so highly of politicians.
There are so many issues I could comment on: the availability of natural gas; the cost of power; in fact the cost of living. I agree we must cut our cloth to suit but we must be very careful when we cut essential services. Sometimes a quick cut can have disastrous outcomes taking a very long time to recover, if ever.
The honourable member for Apsley also mentioned freight roads and bypasses. The eastern bypass ring road for Launceston is something that there is obviously no money for currently, but it should be a long-term vision. We talk about road safety and the considerable amount of money spent, plus the cost to society of every accident, death and injury. To be able to take heavy traffic off our highly-used roads has to improve safety.
Also, the question is raised about these children from closing schools that will have to travel up to 45 minutes often on less than ideal roads. Have they considered the safety aspect of that? It has to come into road safety.
Speaking on jobs and job cuts in the public service; I have actually had several calls, as I am sure everybody has, from public servants fearing for their jobs. One employer in particular told me that, in their organisation, several senior management positions are not expected to be affected; however, there were several divisions and departments of that organisation, each with their own management team, a duplicated function. As they said, the frontline is looking to go but there are so many senior areas in very similar departments that are overlapping and they are not looking to go. So it is more chiefs and less Indians, which is really not very fair. If we are looking to cut public service numbers, let us ensure that duplication is removed first, along with excessive costly red tape.
Mention was made yesterday by the honourable member for Windermere, and I really cannot let it go because he did say that the pulp mill was going to be the great panacea for our State. While I am not going to go on about it greatly, I just fear - I need to make -
Ms Forrest - And foxes.
Mrs ARMITAGE - Well, probably foxes too, but the pulp mill according to our honourable member is going to cure every ill that we have got. I will not say a lot but I do recall standing with the member on the banks of the landfall property at the recent heritage launch when young Frank Archer, I believe a third-generation farmer from that property, spoke from his heart about the area. I did not hear any comments disagreeing with him from the honourable member of Windermere. He spoke of workers employed in the area of farms and agriculture including organic farming, viticulture and others as well and about the clean air and clean, green image of the area. Looking across the river - and I am sure even the honourable member would agree - it was a beautiful day; the air was clear, pristine, crisp and it was really wonderful.
Mr Dean - How will a pulp mill impact on that?
Mrs ARMITAGE - I am not here to answer fast questions, Alderman Dean, I am here to speak on the Budget .
Mrs Taylor - He is the honourable member today, not Alderman Dean.
Mrs ARMITAGE - Oh, sorry, it is habit. The honourable member. Habits die hard, as I pointed out with the bus and the driving.
Mr Archer spoke about us being caretakers of the area and how we should look after it.
The member spoke of employment. What of the employment lost; what of the clean green image lost; the loss of tourism? The workers for the pulp mill - will they fly in and fly out or will they live in the area? How many are going to live there? How many are going to be there once it is up and running? How many will we lose in other areas? Then there are the log trucks. There is not only the cost of damage to our roads, but there is the issue of road safety again with the extra number of trucks on our roads.
Mr Dean - No more trucks - there will be fewer trucks on the road.
Madam PRESIDENT - Order.
Mrs ARMITAGE - There is an obvious risk of accidents, particularly when we think that more schoolchildren will be on our rural roads. In the light of school closures, this is certainly another road-safety risk.
I could go on about water, the height of the smokestacks, the fugitive emissions, and the list goes on, but I will not. All I will say is that I do not agree that a pulp mill will be the great panacea.
I agree that we all have to tighten our belts; we all have to see what we can do. It is interesting, reading in the Premier's book on the Budget where it says the Government is committed to supporting Tasmanian families facing financial hardship through rising rents, higher energy and water bills, or unforseen expenses, as basic as replacing a broken washing machine. I would like to remind the Premier that I think this is most families. Most families now have great difficulty and are in need. It is not just some. There are some that are obviously a lot more in need, but all Tasmanian families have difficulties. While I support the Budget, or support noting of the Budget, I do realise that it has not been an easy budget, as mentioned, and we will all have to look to the future to try to ensure that the State does get on a better track.