Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - Mr President, I first congratulate the Hodgman Government on its election. I acknowledge the fact Tasmania is now the first Australian state parliament to have more women members than men, and welcome those new members to the House of Assembly and the new member for Prosser, Jane Howlett, as well as congratulate Rob Valentine on his re-election.
The Government has announced it will focus on creating more full-time secure jobs and the method employed to do this will be reducing payroll taxes and creating a competitive tax regime for small business. This would provide welcome support for all those business owners who are struggling to make a living. If you take a walk through the streets of Launceston, the number of empty shopfronts is alarming. Any government incentive to fill these empty spaces with profitable businesses is much applauded.
Another issue that faces the people in the greater Launceston area is a lack of affordable housing. It will be interesting to see how the proposed affordable housing strategy will benefit our constituents in the northern half of the state and how many of the proposed 1500 homes will be built in and around Launceston.
It was refreshing to hear the Governor mention a focus on mental health in the state, both in schools and under the general Health portfolio. Mental health is often overlooked in society; although recent advertising campaigns are helping to break the stigma associated with these diseases, there is still often a hush-hush attitude towards sufferers. This is one area that not only affects the patient and their family, but can often have far-reaching effects in the community. The addition of more community mental health beds and support is very welcomed.
It is proposed $19.1 million will be spent over six years to fully staff and open eight additional beds on Ward 4K on completion of the redevelopment of the Launceston General Hospital, including specialist facilities for mental healthcare. This should allow the hospital to deliver better psychiatric services to young patients and their families and carers from across the north of Tasmania. It is hoped additional full-time equivalent staff will be recruited, including nurses, doctors and allied health staff.
While I am on the topic of health, the area of recruitment is one area the government really needs to focus on, as it appears we have difficulty luring accredited medical professionals to the state and keeping them here.
Much work needs to be done on the underlying issues everyone is aware of - the lack of beds, surgery backlogs and lack of staff to manage the infrastructure already in place. Of course, it is always important to spend money on upgrading and building facilities around the state, but if we do not have the staff resources to manage these buildings, it seems to be a waste of money. I acknowledge there has already been a focus on health over the last term of the government, and I look forward to seeing the fruits of that labour and a return to stability in the health system.
I note the Tasmanian Health Service Bill 2018 passed our House today and trust this will improve the situation. The plan to increase out-of-hospital services and in-home management of chronic disease should in time alleviate some of the pressure on hospital beds, but still much more needs to be done. The proposed establishment of urgent care centres in the Launceston area would see specialist general practitioners supported by hospital specialists provide care in the community. This would take pressure off the Launceston General Hospital Emergency Department and help people to be treated sooner and closer to where they live. A study would look at how such centres could work with the community rapid response service and local health centres.
On education: within the greater Launceston area, two public colleges provide for students through to years 11 and 12. While I agree in principle about extending high schools through to years 11 and 12, some consideration has to also be given to the colleges that have been supporting years 11 and 12 since their inception as chances are they could lose a large percentage of their senior student base. Newstead College already has quite low numbers compared with previously, and although I am not sure about the numbers at Launceston College, it stands to reason, if people stay at the high school, they are not going on to the colleges, and there could be some real problems there.
Tourism continues to be a major economic growth sector within Launceston. Approximately 33 per cent of people working in Launceston work in the hospitality or retail sectors, both of which are significantly affected by tourism.. With the Penny Royal having been rejuvenated two years ago and with Peppers Silo Hotel opening on 1 June this year, the city has recently had a few developments to aid in bringing tourists to the area. The City of Launceston Council is also giving the city a facelift by upgrading the Civic Square and Brisbane Street Mall areas. The additional promise of the Government to invest $875,000 in the Cataract Gorge lightshow will maximise the attraction of the gorge by opening up the area to night visits by tourists. I am sure all members here have been to our magnificent gorge, and it can certainly only improve with this lightshow.
The renovation and refurbishment of the CH Smith Building has also brought job opportunities to the area, and the added infrastructure should allow for more opportunities for business and development. The Government's plan to move 100 Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment employees to Launceston and Devonport will also help promote growth in the north of the state. The Government's intention to spend around $1 billion in new capital funding across the state could also greatly help the Launceston area, particularly if one of the new planned centres of excellence were to be based in Launceston.
The Governor announced many new additions to our policing and prison systems. The construction of a northern prison is a welcome and necessary addition to our Corrective Services structure and will lessen the burden on the current Risdon Prison. If the Government introduces its planned stronger by-laws and dangerous criminal laws, there will be a greater need for additional prison and detention cells. A northern prison will also make it much easier for northern family and friends of inmates to visit their loved ones in prison. We are all aware regular contact with family and friends plays a large part in any rehabilitation that is possible.
The additional 125 frontline police officers planned for the state should also help the fight on crime as long as they are stationed in those suburbs where crime rates are particularly high, some of which are in the greater Launceston area. With additional police officers on the beat, Tasmania Police needs to ramp up high visibility policing in shopping precincts, particularly the central business district.
No interest loans to small businesses that want to install good‑quality, high-definition digital recording cameras will provide further incentive and security to businesses trying to survive in central Launceston. That will enhance redevelopment of the mall in the Civic Centre.
The member for McIntyre touched on infrastructure, and I will mention infrastructure as well. On the issue of new road infrastructure I look forward to the roadwork on the Midland Highway being completed. Any work done to improve the flow of traffic is worthwhile as long as any private land that needs to be compulsorily acquired in the construction of these roads sees its owners fairly compensated.
Transport infrastructure in the Launceston and Tamar Valley region are of vital importance, not only for Launceston's ability to function and service the city centre but also to enable our increasing tourist trade easier and safer access. The $92.5 million traffic vision for Launceston, including upgrades to the West Tamar and the Batman highways and the new Tamar River crossing north of the city, are essential to traffic flow and future development in the areas.
Congestion issues at the Mowbray Connector intersection, Wellington and Bathurst streets and Charles Street Bridge are serious safety concerns. I look forward to the completion of the promised new bridge connecting the East and West Tamar highways from Riverside to Newnham, something that has been talked about for decades.
Mr Dean - They have to commit to funding.
Ms ARMITAGE - This proposed bridge across the Tamar River north of Cormiston Road will allow drivers to avoid the congested West Tamar Highway where it enters the city. You are quite right, member for Windermere, but it was an election promise.
Mr Dean - It will connect to one of the best electorates in the state, Windermere.
Ms ARMITAGE - I am sure the Government is aware it was an election promise and a very important promise to the people of Launceston. I am sure we all know people who live at Legana who go to university or the Institute of Sport - they have to drive the long way around when it is a very short trip across if they could access a bridge.
On 14 May 2017 it was reported that the notoriously dangerous intersection on the East Tamar Highway was set for a major upgrade, with $7 million allocated in the state budget. The Mowbray Connector and East Tamar Highway junction has previously been the topic of heated debate among the Launceston community, with 10 crashes at the site over the past five years, including a double fatality early in 2016.
Mr Dean - I got good answers to those questions yesterday.
Ms ARMITAGE - I appreciate that; I also had some similar questions.
Mr Dean - The way you are going I will not have to speak shortly because you are covering my electorate well.
Ms ARMITAGE - I am covering roads that lead everywhere. Both a roundabout and traffic lights were proposed for the intersection; however, the minister at the time, Rene Hidding, said a roundabout was the likely outcome. It is disappointing now from a safety and traffic point of view that traffic lights are proposed.
The continued planned investment into sporting and recreational facilities across the state is much needed in some areas. It is good to see that the current $2.26 million upgrade to the Silverdome has commenced. Hopefully the centre will continue to be supported as it is an important piece of community infrastructure in Launceston.
In many ways Tasmania is blessed and as the Governor mentioned is leading the nation in business confidence. It is hoped that this will continue and that Tasmania will be the place to start up or relocate business and that Bass Strait will not be an impediment as it has been in the past. It is important to look forward and I trust my region of Launceston will get its fair share of public service jobs as I believe moving jobs to the state's north would address the current imbalance.
As stated by Neil Grose from the Launceston Chamber of Commerce, in the year ending January southern Tasmania gained 6000 jobs on a 12-monthly average basis while northern Tasmania gained 2400. In February the Liberals promised to move 100 state public service jobs to the north and north-west if re-elected as a majority. The Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment department jobs included 65 positions in Launceston and 35 in Devonport.
Mr Grose said the government should play a role in accelerating Launceston's growth with employment and population both key factors. Mr Grose said -
The Chamber welcomes the decision to bring these jobs back where they belong in Tasmania ...
Launceston hasn't experienced the growth in population nor employment that Hobart has enjoyed and the government can and should act to redress the balance where common sense solutions are available.
The Chamber understands there is infrastructure available to relocate these jobs to Launceston, where it will make a significant positive impact on the local economy.
I echo the words of the chamber of commerce and look forward to a positive and successful year ahead for Launceston and our state as a whole.