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CONSOLIDATED FUND APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1 ) 2013 (No. 33) CONSOLIDATED FUND APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 2) 2013 (No. 34) Noting of Budget Papers

May 28, 2013

Mrs ARMITAGE ( Launceston ) - Mr President, I rise to speak on this budget, the budget you have when you do not have any money to spend. There is nothing to get excited about, as it appears to be all show and no substance. There is very little new money. The budget was an interesting read with much of the funding being in forward estimates and not occurring during the current term of this government. It is disappointing to again note the fact sheets appear to be deliberately misleading and that they continue to list the budgeted funding amount which is spread over several years rather than the actual figure for that year. An example of this is the $22.5 million for the Launceston integrated care centre which is already completed and operating; and $40 million for the LGH acute management surgical unit, again already underway with an actual of $13 960 this financial year. It looks good on paper to keep regurgitating these figures.


If I compare some figures for Launceston , the results are far from gratifying and quite frightening. Gross revenue in Launceston has dropped $139 million from 2006 to 2011; wages and salaries have dropped $99 million in the same period; and regional exports in Launceston have dropped a huge $245 million in 2011 compared to 2006. We are confronted every day by significant challenges made harder by the lack of freight equalisation and the cost of doing business in Tasmania.


Industry of employment by place of work data for the period 2006 to 2011 shows a jobs loss in Launceston of 431 jobs across a variety of industries and a slight improvement for the Meander Valley area, part of which falls within the Launceston electorate, with an increase of 45 jobs for the same period.


Robert Dobrzynski, the general manager of the Launceston City Council, provided the REM plan industry sector performance 2006 to 2011 which was delivered in March 2013, which measures real changes in the Launceston city and northern Tasmania economies over the period 2006 to 2011 measured at constant 2008-09 prices. It stated that overall the analysis showed that the Launceston city economy is treading water, with marginal real losses in the range of 0.7 per cent to 3.7 per cent for changes in output, regional imports and value added over the five-year period. Wages fell in real terms by 5.7 per cent, given that the population has grown by about 3.5 per cent over the five-year period and exports fell in real terms by about 10 per cent.


The area of employment is of particular concern as we regularly hear of young people, including families, moving away in search of employment. Of our six sons, four are working in Western Australia. Two have bought homes and two are considering buying homes. Only one of those four has indicated a possibility of returning to Tasmania. With the mass exodus of workers leaving Tasmania we have become even more a state of retirees, putting many areas at risk including our schools as families have a different need to an ageing population.


This leads me to health care. The Launceston General Hospital is a major employer in my electorate and caters to over 51 per cent of the state. There has been immense public concern regarding major cuts to health funding within Tasmania and the impact of these cuts has been significant, particularly on clinical care, repeated cancellation of elective surgery and patient care. Unfortunately the government has again failed to demonstrate a commitment to improve health outcomes for Tasmanians in this budget.
We are fast becoming an ageing population and it is essential that we provide an adequately resourced and accessible healthcare system to all. While it is too early to make assumptions at this stage it is hoped that the three hospital networks will assist in regional decision-making and savings in purchasing and other areas. I am sure it will be clear after the estimates process next week as to whether these THOs are meeting community expectations.


Some members have spoken of the costs associated with three THOs and purchasing savings that could be achieved with one THO but there is no reason that they would not be working together at times to cut costs in areas such as purchasing. I believe that one THO would be a retrograde step that would ultimately result in the Department of Health and Human Services morphing into one Hobart-centric THO.


Palliative care is also an area where we are extremely short on beds and the few that are available are invariably full. As was mentioned by the member for Windermere, we both attended a hospice support rally on Friday 24 May where a commitment was sought for the building of a dedicated palliative care building, possibly on a site near the LGH in Howick Street. Hopefully our state and federal governments can work together to ensure that people who are suffering can have a pleasant and peaceful place to spend their last days.


It was wonderful to attend the opening of the Northern Cancer Support Centre, which aims to enable those affected by cancer to access practical and emotional support when they need it most. This $4.3 million project was funded by Cancer Council Tasmania and the Australian and Tasmanian governments as part of the regional cancer centre projects supported by the federal Health and Hospitals Fund.


On regional funding, my electorate of 52.63 square kilometres encompasses two local government areas and contains many regional facilities including the wonderful Princess Theatre, a state-of-the art aquatic centre, and world-class Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, which runs at a significant loss to the local council and their ratepayers. Funding is provided also to major regional events including the Junction Arts Festival, Festivale and Symphony under the Stars, to name a few. These annual events bring interstate, intrastate and locals into the city, which assists businesses to remain viable and provides entertainment to many thousands of people. Symphony under the Stars offers everyone the opportunity to enjoy this amazing music free of charge in Launceston's picturesque and historic City Park.


Launceston is considered a major regional city and is expected to provide a high standard of facilities and services that are essential and of great value to the region. Unfortunately many of the smaller councils with their smaller rate bases are unable to contribute to these costs and it therefore follows that the state government should recognise these challenges and ensure that adequate regional funding is provided. It is all very well to provide, for example, $ 1 million for extension of the sea port boardwalk but what about ongoing maintenance costs? On that particular funding, it was very interesting to see items that were allocated funding in the 2012-13 budget taking up room in this year's budget papers, including items such as the $ 1 million for the Aurora stadium lighting upgrade, $800 000 for the Hollybank Mountain Bike Park, and the $400 000 for DairyTas. How many times does the government take credit for this funding?


We all have to cut our cloth to suit. Whether it be a single person, a family, a business or a government, it comes back to simple accounting. If you do not have the money, you cannot spend it. You cannot live or borrow beyond your means. It is not appropriate for the Tasmanian government to set a budget and then continually ask for more money - that is not setting a budget. It has been said to me that we should refuse supplementary appropriation bills and I certainly do not mean the money for the bushfires which could not have been foreseen and no-one would refuse. But it is inappropriate in the extreme to ask a House of review to support a bill for moneys that have already been spent and, to add insult to injury, are now being mentioned again in the 2013-14 budget.


In 2013-14, the budget deficit is estimated to be $266.9 million and we now face a general government net debt until at least 2016-17. This state is hurting and you only have to walk down the street, look at the empty shops during the day and empty restaurants in the evening to see that. I reiterate the comments of the honourable member for Western Tiers regarding penalty rates. While I appreciate that penalty rates are important for many people on limited working hours and lower hourly pay rates, they may also be the difference between businesses taking on more employees as in many cases, particularly in hospitality, they simple cannot afford to do so because of these rates.


The capital investment program is also interesting. For example, I note that $2 150 000 has been allocated to Kings Meadows High School redevelopment. However, this funding does not commence until 2014-15 and in the case of Parklands High School redevelopment and an additional classroom for the north-west special school, funding does not commence until 2015-16. I appreciate the need for forward estimates but why is there nothing in this year's budget while it still falls within government's remit to commit this money? In other instances, we see that a token amount of the allocated funding has been committed in the 2013-14 budget to begin a project but the majority of the funding is not available until the 2014-15 budget. If there is a change in government in March, are there any guarantees that funding promised in forward estimates for next year's budget will be made available? Only time will tell.


It was positive to see some incentives being provided to the bigger business sector with payroll discounts up to $12 000 available and 130 businesses being spared this additional red tape and taxation burden. Hopefully these businesses will reinvest these savings into employing more people.


I also accept that the first home builders grant will be of assistance but these wins should not have been made at the expense of the first home owners grant. Many first home owners simply cannot afford to build a new home. The first home owners grant provided people with the opportunity to own their own home. I am sure there have been some families that have avoided becoming a burden on the public housing system as a result of attaining this assistance to buy their own home. Therefore, I believe we should be continuing to support this grants program. I agree, we cannot continue to take from Peter to pay Paul but some funding programs are simply more positive than negative and this is one of those.


Ms Forrest - You don't think it is inflationary with the housing prices? A lot of the commentators say it is.


Mrs ARMITAGE - Having worked in real estate I would doubt that.


I see very little joy in the budget for the average taxpayer and I agree with other speakers that hope is simply not enough.


One of the areas where I would like to see the government make some changes is Service Tasmania. Daily I see a line going out the door at the Launceston shopfront at Henty House and feel for both the customers and the officers as it must be extremely stressful for all. Often, I see people leave as their lunch hour runs out before they get served, or alternatively hear from people that they have no way of getting into Service Tasmania as they do not work in the city, they start work before the agency is open, do not have a long enough lunch break to get into the city and finish work after Service Tasmania is closed. It is hoped that in a future budget operating a Service Tasmania shopfront in the northern suburbs could be looked at, perhaps by sharing premises with Centrelink or another provider in an effort to help people already disadvantaged.


[11.15 a.m.]


The Premier mentions her government's focus is on creating jobs, caring for people and generating new opportunities for the next generation of Tasmanians.


Mr Valentine - Get them to open on Saturday morning.


Mrs ARMITAGE - It would be wonderful if they were open on Saturday mornings but they have cut the hours back.


Mr Valentine - I know. For those who cannot make it during the week, there need to be some other opportunities.


Mrs ARMITAGE - There do. Not everyone has a credit card or is able to make payments over the internet or phone, particularly the disadvantaged.


It is great to hear that the Premier's focus is on creating jobs and caring for people and generating new opportunities because in my electorate of Launceston , we are confronted by significant increases in cost of living pressures as a result of the downturn in the state's economic performance. The state of the state is not looking good and I imagine that the Premier will be well relieved if her government were to lose the next election. I note the budget.

 

 

 

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