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Op-ed: Big-dollar budget for huge responsibility

Wednesday 22 June 2022, The Examiner

Six billion, nine hundred and ninety-three million, two hundred and eighty-six thousand dollars, ie $6,993,286,000. A lot of money in anyone’s mind. This is the money required by the government to run Tasmania for the next twelve months.

Every year following the budget we have “Estimate” hearings, an opportunity to question the government of the day on the year that was, and the coming year. For those interested, “Estimates” is broadcast live from the Parliament website and transcripts are available on Hansard.

Starting with good news, the Veteran Wellbeing Voucher Program is now open. This program is open to eligible Tasmanian veterans (someone who served in the Australian Defence Force) who can apply for a voucher of up to $100 to put towards the cost of registration or membership at participating gyms or sporting clubs.

If your club or gym isn’t on the list of providers, suggest to them to join as the program is open to all gyms and clubs throughout Tasmania. It is a great way of trying an activity without a huge cost.

An important area of Estimates is Aurora. All Tasmanians would be feeling the cost of living pressures and power is a major one with an 11.8% price rise from July 1 devastating for many who are only just keeping their heads above water now. When asked about the possibility of a power rise of around 10% Minister Barnett said “We will do everything in our power to ensure that we can respond appropriately to the cost of living pressures when it comes to electricity prices”. I look forward to hearing what that will be given the recent rise and will ask the question. While concession card holders deserve assistance, I want to see some measures for those who fall between the gaps – who just miss out. Too much to qualify but not enough to make ends meet.

The Aurora App, designed to help you keep control of your power bills allows you to see your power daily, top up your account on the go, know when it is the cheapest time to use power at home and save. With an annual bill for a residential customer rising between $200 and $227 annually, surely now is the time for the Aurora app to be provided free of charge to assist customers rather than the $40 charged currently. Please note you can only have the ‘app’ if you have an ‘advanced meter’ and currently while 133,000 have been installed there are a further 249,000 to be replaced which will hopefully be completed by 2024. This is done free of charge.

Accessing housing is difficult for many, and we were advised the government is opening up 11.05 hectares of land at Techno Park Launceston currently being rezoned from light industrial to housing. It is anticipated there will be around 110 blocks with 15% for public housing, 35% for affordable home purchase though the Tasmanian government shared equity purchase program (Homeshare) and the remainder for sale on the open market but targeting first home owners, owner occupiers or older people who might want to downsize.

This development is under Communities Tasmania and for anyone interested it is worth keeping an eye on their website for concept subdivision design and public information sessions. I have been assured there will be a media release advising of the information session and notifications in the local newspapers.

Still on accommodation if you have wondered what is happening at Thyne House in Launceston, while there are currently 30 units for ‘youth to independence’, there are a further 20 units being added. Run by Anglicare, it provides education, training and skills development to help people aged between 16 and 24 to move into independence.

A further housing initiative is the modular youth housing with a total of 24 units on four sites with 20 clients being housed, ie. six units per site with one for a youth worker, available 24/7. Young people can stay in these units for up to two years which would hopefully enable them to move to independence over that time.

An area of interest is always the Monetary Penalties Enforcement System. As at Tuesday June 7 the amount owing was $65,755,758.03. with amounts as high as $1.2m for a fisheries related matter owed by a person now residing overseas or others in the low hundreds. The MPES can suspend drivers licences and vehicle registrations, garnishee money or seize and sell assets. If people have problems with paying, they should discuss it with MPES as they advised their philosophy is to help people with instalment arrangements rather than be heavy handed.

If anyone wants any further information, please give me a call ph 0419 341178.

Rosemary Armitage MLC

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