Appropriation (Supplementary Appropriation for 2021-22) Bill 2022 (No 14)
Wednesday 25 May 2022, Second Reading Speech
Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - As has been said, $441 739 000 is an awful lot of money, particularly on top of the previous budget. I note this funding, it is money that was obviously unknown budget government commitments, or, as we have been told, unavoidable costs at the time the previous budget was brought down, such as the $12 million for the redress scheme and the $8 million Prison Service pressures, as well as additional infrastructure.
While I am mentioning the Prison Service, and other members have asked questions about the demand pressures, and maybe the Leader might be able to in her summing up, is it all overtime, or is some of that money for people coming in when others are on workers compensation for stress leave? How many people might be, perhaps, on stress leave? My understanding is that the prison services is one of the really high areas for people going off on stress leave. Is it all overtime? Or is part of that for people replacing people who may be on extended stress leave? How do those figures measure up?
Obviously, this is a lot of extra money. Supplementary just before the next budget. I appreciate that COVID-19 has been a challenging time for the government, for the businesses and the community alike. Like other members, I believe the Government's response in recovery has been commendable. I do not believe anyone could criticise the funding for this response and recovery. The then premier, Mr Gutwein, his government, his ministers, his Treasury team, and not to forget the wonderful state health team have done an excellent job in keeping us safe as we can be. Of course, everything comes at a cost. I was also interested in the questions by other members and I will be interested in the answers to those.
I have a couple of queries about accelerated costs. It always interests me. I notice that the Department of Education has $1.5 million for additional expenditure to accelerate the new Kinder to 12 Penguin District School project and $850 000 to accelerate the works at the Southern Support School. The Department of State Growth has been allocated $2.15 million to accelerate existing road projects. I accept it is good to have these things done more quickly. Is this money not about costing any more for those projects but it is coming out of the forward Estimates? Clearly, you might do something quicker, you might have more people on the job and you might start it earlier. However, I would assume that this money is coming now rather than in the future. It is still the same money, rather than being in the future. To confirm, it is not costing more to accelerate. I would not expect it to, but I have learnt never to guess that might be the case.
Looking at some of the other areas, I agree the member for Hobart mentioned the $1.2 million implementation of the wellbeing support program for the Tasmania Prison Service. I do not think anyone would disagree that if we can help recidivism and help to keep people stay out of prison, any money we can provide to do that is certainly worthwhile, because the cost of crime is considerable.
The member for McIntyre mentioned the Department of Premier and Cabinet, and the $1.75 million which included $500 000 to the Hillcrest Primary School incident. A most dreadful incident and certainly nothing that could be foreseen. Our hearts go out to those people and I am sure many are continuing to suffer. It does not matter how much money you give, no one would criticise there.
The Port Safety Legislative Review. Like the member for Hobart, I looked this up on the Department of State Growth website to find out more about it. I am only assuming that it was brought forward now in order to provide work for people in that department to get it started. I could not see any real reason for any rush unless it was something to do with Devonport. However, I understand that probably was not anything to do with the port; it was to do with an unfortunate incident with Goliath Cement. I would not like to say what happened. It was quite interesting to watch the video of those tugs going under. A lot of money is involved there.
Mr Valentine - Hit the accelerator instead of the brake, maybe.
Ms ARMITAGE - We had our boat down there previously, not where the tugs were and I was pleased that we have moved to the Seaport in Devonport. It may be much safer, even though you are jammed in the mud.
I want clarification on a few other areas. The interstate hotel quarantine costs was interesting. I believe that members have asked for a little more of a breakdown in those costs and the $8.46 million allocation. The Department of Health has the biggest allocation, $125 million. I want information about the COVID-19 hospital in the hotel, and whether it is still operational. I have had a lot of involvement in the one in Launceston and I was told weeks ago that it was about to close, but I notice it is still operational. I wonder whether that includes those costs and how those costs are going with that hospital hotel area.
I want a breakdown on the costs of the airport and the amount of money that is being spent on upgrades. I can remember flying into Hobart. Launceston was not so bad and I am not being parochial, I am being quite honest here.
Mr PRESIDENT - The Hobart air is thicker and rougher.
Ms ARMITAGE - There were possibly more people and more planes coming in at the one time. When I have flown into Hobart there have been a lot of complaints from people, that they were waiting on the tarmac for a long time. There might have been two or three planes all there at the one time. I am not sure if this relates to more people to be able to manage those. There were quite a few concerns and people were getting quite hot under the collar standing there in the cold waiting, some with little children saying that they needed to go to the bathroom. They needed to move on and no one was allowed to go anywhere.
Looking at all of this with regard to the G2Gs and the airport, the assistance we have had from Tasmania Police has been absolutely amazing, and needs to be mentioned. I do not know how much money has gone into those areas with the G2Gs but the commissioner's department and Inspector Jim Semmons who many of us have had dealings with has been nothing short of incredible.
Sitting suspended from 1 p.m. to 2.30 p.m.
Resumed from above.
Ms ARMITAGE - Mr President, I believe I was speaking about the G2Gs and the Tas Traveller Management System at the time.
I was praising Jim and the commissioner's office, because they have been extremely helpful for my constituents and I am sure for many constituents of members in this place. However, my question to the Leader is about the cost of hotel quarantine. I recall many constituents had to pay, unless they were able to get an exemption. How much is outstanding? Are those outstanding amounts going to be written off, or are they going to go to MPS. A lot of people paid that money and it would seem unfair to them if people that did not get an exemption, or were not entitled to an exemption, then had it written off if they did not pay. Will it go to MPS? How much is it? Or it will it simply be written off as too difficult?
Mrs Hiscutt - This is the hotel quarantine?
Ms ARMITAGE - Yes, when people were coming back later on and had to pay themselves. I know it applied to quite a few people. Most of those that I dealt with got an exemption. I am assuming that there are some where the accounts may not have been paid.
I thank the Leader for the briefings this morning. It was interesting to hear about some of the areas, such as the Tasmanian Risk Management Fund and the $105 million, but also that the cost of psychological claims is six times as much as the physical claims. It is certainly not something that I had appreciated in the past. I note the appropriation bill. I note that it has already been paid so we cannot be taking any money from it or making any changes to it.