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Speech - Reply to the Governor's opening of the 51st Parliament

Tuesday 21 May 2024

[3.37 p.m.]

Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - Mr President, I rise today to observe the Governor's Address, having represented this wonderful electorate in the Legislative Council since 2011. Having commenced this new parliamentary term, I am filled with optimism and also mindful of the challenges we all face together as Tasmanians, and the ones which are specifically affecting people in my electorate.


First, I commend the government on its re-election. I congratulate the ministers in this place on their appointment and again welcome the Legislative Councillors for the electorates of Prosser, Hobart and Elwick on being elected and trust they feel embraced and supported as they join us in representing their communities.


I note in Her Excellency's Address that the government has many initiatives they are promoting in the weeks and months ahead for our families, our children and our young people. I know how especially important it is to keep our young Tasmanians engaged in their education and to provide access to healthy food for lunches and breakfasts.


Education is the cornerstone of growing up, and nourishing our youth, both academically and physically, is essential for their development. The commencement of the Healthy School Lunch Initiative and the continuation of breakfast clubs in schools across the state will give many families much-needed cost of living relief and ensures that children have access to healthy options that will help them to grow and succeed at school.


Providing support to people who work with our children is just as important. I am pleased to see the government's plans to provide scholarships and incentives to attract and retain early childhood workers, speech pathologists and psychologists to work and live in Tasmania. I know this will help our young families feel supported as they move through the formative stages of life.


I also recognise the importance of attracting visitors from the mainland and overseas to our beautiful island. By offering enticing opportunities for work, study and family life, we can invigorate our economy and foster a sense of community that extends beyond our shores. Indeed, the north of Tasmania boasts its own unique charms from our relaxed way of life to our pristine natural environment.


We are not only a few hours' drive from pretty much every area in the state, we're only an hour's flight away from the mainland. To this end, we need to ensure that we are providing people with safe, affordable and reliable options to get around our cities and around our state, and this includes reliable and affordable access to things like buses.


I was disappointed to learn recently that the shuttle bus between Launceston and our Launceston airport was no longer operating. I understand it was a private service and I believe that the owners had tried to sell, but were looking to retire. I have taken this on and made an approach to Kinetic. I am very pleased to say that Kinetic is looking into the issue of a shuttle bus and will be meeting next week with management from Launceston airport. I am pleased to see that, with just a phone call to them, they are looking at providing a service. Whether they do or not, it will come down to a few different areas.


Ms Rattray - I wonder if Mr Bruce Potter has free time.


Ms ARMITAGE - I do not think he has enough time to drive a shuttle bus regularly, but I have noted and I did mention to a very nice gentleman from Kinetic, who I have been dealing with and speaking with, that Hobart has a wonderful bus service to the airport running every 30 minutes with two buses. I hope that the other end of the state could be similarly served. It would be very good. It was really pleasing to say that they took my call, they phoned me back, and I have been in communication with them. They have taken the step to meet with Launceston Airport next week to discuss it. I am pleased to see that something is at least being looked at.


I might also add, I have spoken with the Minister for Transport who did not feel that it came under the purview of the state government. I am about to write to the Premier as the Minister for Tourism, because I believe that something like a shuttle bus from an airport to a city when not everyone has the availability of getting a hire car, or family and there are not that many taxis and Ubers in the north of the state at this time. We will just see how it goes.


Housing affordability and rental accessibility remain persistent issues as they do in many regional communities across the country. Meeting the ever‑growing demand for housing supply is not going to be an issue that will be fixed any time soon. It will take ongoing effort, likely over many years, to get families into affordable homes and to keep our construction sector able to provide services to people who pay for them.


In addition to these challenges, we must also focus on providing cost‑of‑living relief to our constituents. No individual should have to choose between basic necessities such as heating or eating. It will take ongoing cooperation across the local, state and federal government sectors, and a strong determination, to weather challenging economic conditions and sensible policy decisions to keep the momentum going strong. It is our responsibility to alleviate financial burdens wherever possible. I note that several policy initiatives are being implemented to get more homes built and to get more existing dwellings into things like the rental market, through incentivising owners to shift from having short‑stay accommodation to longer‑term rental properties.


Tasmania's property market invariably requires a mix of homes for purchase, homes for rent, short‑stay, social housing and a myriad of other types of living arrangements to make sure that residents have plenty of options when it comes to finding a place to live. I am looking forward to finding genuine solutions to the issues people are facing in today's property market and hope that we can find positive outcomes soon.


Additionally, attracting and retaining essential professionals such as teachers, doctors and social workers is crucial for the wellbeing of our communities. We must create settings that are conducive to their success and fulfilment, ensuring that they feel valued and supported in their roles. I know the government has a number of policies to address this, but the sooner we get more talented professionals into the state and working with Tasmanians, the better.


The health sector is particularly important in this regard. A high reliance on agency nurses, locums and interstate specialists not only costs significant amounts of money, but means that Tasmanians have fewer options when it comes to choosing how to manage their health.


I acknowledge the terrific work that is being done in the Launceston community to service the northern region, including the Launceston Health Hub, which continues to expand and provide more services and options to its patients. The Bubble, a woman's and mother's service speciality, which recently won the Business of the Year in the Launceston Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards, continues to find better and more innovative ways to treat mums and bubs to give families the best possible starts in life.


I am also pleased to see the recruitment blitz for paramedics hopefully is recruiting 78 new paramedics and 51 new full-time paramedics over two years, and 27 community paramedics over the next four years. It has been said, and it is true, that paramedics are the real‑life heroes and can be the difference between life and death. They are the first person who is called.  Transferring patients within 60 minutes into the ED, while I understand the need for that and how it takes the pressure off the paramedics, I also see how it puts extra pressure on the nurses in the ED. We are just going to have to wait and see how it goes because obviously, there is a reason that people have been ramped in ambulances because of the stress and the pressure in the EDS and whether the nurses are available and there to actually cope.


It is also important to encourage young people and families to settle in Launceston. It is crucial to create incentives for those born here to remain. The challenge of retaining younger residents has intensified over recent decades, highlighting the necessity of offering compelling opportunities for work, education, investment and family life within our region.


Losing our brightest talents would be a significant loss, especially when we have abundant opportunities available right here. One thing which Tasmania has and few other places can boast is our precious, pristine and world renowned environment. Tasmania's environment is a treasure trove of natural wonders characterised by vast wilderness areas, unique flora and fauna, and UNESCO World Heritage listed sites. From rugged mountain ranges to pristine coastal habitats, Tasmania's diverse landscapes captivate visitors and residents alike.


Recognition of Visitors


Mr PRESIDENT - Honourable members, while you are captivating visitors, we have some visitors captive in our Chamber. I welcome to the gallery today the University of Tasmania International Pathway students. Welcome to the Legislative Council.


We are currently noting the Governor's Address. We have recently had the Opening of Parliament and that is attended by the Governor, who gives an Address.  Members in the Legislative Council then give their reply to that Address. At the moment the member for Launceston is giving her contribution. 


On behalf of all members, welcome you to the Legislative Council today and hope you enjoy your tour of the parliament.


Ms ARMITAGE - Mr President, preserving our natural environment and enhancing our infrastructure is therefore paramount. We must prioritise the cleanliness of our urban areas and enhance the acceptability of our roads, ensuring all members of our community can navigate our region safely and efficiently. Cleaning up the Kanamaluka/Tamar River and giving our residents a chance to enjoy our recreational areas is also integral to having pride in where we live.


I also hope to gain a better understanding of how the government is planning to manage the construction of a new bridge across the Tamar River. I understand $80 million has been promised, which the Liberals have promised at the previous two elections. I am keen to hear more details on what exactly this $80 million is slated for. Is this going towards more studies, feasibility papers or more consultancy? The need is very much there for a second bridge and constituents ask me about it often.


We know a second bridge will better service northern communities, transportation and provide better connection to both sides of the Kanamaluka/Tamar River.


A bit less focus on consultancy and a bit more on consultation would also be highly welcomed, particularly where bridge height and placement are concerned. The government would be well served to consult with river users, boat organisations and associations. While the second bridge will provide enormous benefits, there really is there really is only one chance to get it right and I would urge ongoing discussions with river users as the business case for the bridge progresses.


At the end of the day, the longer we leave it, the harder it will be to actually get off the ground. I implore the government to follow through on their promises and avoid spending too much time and money on studies and consultancies and actually make a start taking particular note of the opinions of the river operators and sailors in the process. The northern economy community and road and river users will be so thankful.


As representatives of our communities, we must uphold the values of transparency, accountability and responsibility in our governance. We must always prioritise the needs of our constituents, above all else, advocating for their rights and interests, even if it means being a voice in minority or dissent. Keeping our public services, agencies, utilities, councils and government open and accountable is a priority for every member in this place. Looking after my constituents is one of the most satisfying things about my job, and standing up for them and their rights against those who are more powerful, better resourced is one of the reasons why I am here.


We must also celebrate the diversity of our communities and strive to create a welcoming environment for all, particularly new Australians and those without family support. By supporting civic events and initiatives, we can foster connections and promote inclusivity within our communities without necessarily reflecting on the other place. I note the importance of having independent, unaffiliated members in our parliament. Being chosen by one's electorate is both a huge honour and a huge responsibility to bear. One must remember that you serve not only those who voted for you, but those who did not. Everyone deserves a voice in Tasmania and it's up to us to speak for all those in our electorates.


It is a privilege to serve in this place. We owe our constituents and each other, the obligation to work collaboratively, to make lives better for Tasmanians, to disagree and compromise when we need to, and to ensure that we live up to the high expectations our community has of us.


I note the Governor's Address and I look forward to our new parliamentary term.


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