Mr. Speaker, this afternoon I rise to reply to the state of the state address. In doing so, I reflect on my feeling of the state of this state and remind myself that it is not yet a year that I have been in this place.
The election was just 10 months ago. I was sworn in to this Chamber just nine months ago almost to the day, so I feel I am well placed to provide fresh eyes on my reflection of where I feel this state is and, having heard a state of the state address in the Chamber for the first time, well placed to provide fresh eyes in response to that also. I remind myself of the commitments I made when I was successful to be part of the privilege of being in parliament.
I have always believed that in a state the size of Tasmania it has to be possible that every Tasmanian can feel loved, connected and safe; that they have secure, stable accommodation and a safe place to call home; that they feel loved and are able to express love; that they feel they have a way to contribute to the lives of Tasmanians and contribute to themselves and their family's lives; and that they believe in possibility, the possibility of a clever, courageous, bold, kind and caring Tasmania.
I know that for the Tasmania that I and we see for ourselves here in this place, that takes determination to achieve.
I committed to myself that I would always act with courage and compassion and always say what needed to be said - so here we go. I want to outline this afternoon by reflecting on the state of the state and our position and care for the Tasmanian community, our understanding of the position that many Tasmanians find themselves in right now.
I want to share the disappointment, the frustration, and voice on behalf of Tasmanians who have spoken to me the anger, the complete disbelief of the out of touch lack of compassion they are feeling from the lack of leadership by the Government right now for Tasmanians.
When coming to prepare for this for the first time, I reflected on things I have accepted, taken on board, heard and learned over my lifetime. I am a very goal-driven person and I am all about making sure things can be better, making sure that we do things to improve, making sure that I am always in action.
Action is so very important, because one thing that I remind myself of all the time is that a goal without a plan is just a daydream. I want to respond to what has seemingly been the centrepiece of the state of the state - the floating stadium - in a moment, but I will reflect on some of the behaviours I have seen in this place when things get difficult. One of the things that I have learned - and it was required of me growing up - was that when things get hard, you stand up, you take it, and you move on.
You accept things, you do not just run away or hide, you do not dig yourself into a hole. When in recent weeks I saw the Government, the Premier, go, 'Nothing to see here. Oh, we're going to apply for the Commonwealth Games', it was just disbelief.
When questioned within 24 hours, the cities of Launceston and Hobart, in fact the only department that would have been able to deliver the Commonwealth Games, there were crickets - no-one had heard about it. A goal without a plan is just a daydream, and when you are in trouble and you dig a hole, do not distract because you will get called out.
Do you seriously think the people of Tasmania are that stupid? To respond directly to the state of the state, and what has been presented as the centrepiece, this floating stadium, I want to talk a little bit about the change of language I have heard recently; the change of position the Government must be feeling deeply that they can no longer describe themselves as a stable government, but they want to be aspirational.
I did hear someone today say that they wanted to have aspiration - and I think it was in fact from the member who has now left the Chamber.
I will caution the member who always has these little lines to learn a new line, because when he used the word 'aspiration' repeatedly today, that does not go down very well.
Right now in the Tasmanian community there are so many things day on day, week on week and month on month that are not going down very well and are hard to swallow. I think okay, if you cannot be aspirational, what do you want to be? Sometimes I go to the dictionary - that is the old thing that you do - and 'aspiration', in fact, is interesting because it does not speak to care of community.
Aspiration is actually about social prestige. It is about material success. Where we say we have a government that cares for, understands, and has compassion for community, but is about prestige and material success, again I would caution that you do another rewrite on that one.
We might think about vision, being visionary. I think of the people in my past who I have felt have been completely visionary about planning for the future with wisdom.
I think of the great Jim Bacon, a person when I was elected as mayor of Launceston was the Premier at the time and I was grateful for his warmth, encouragement and support. I was too young to really develop to the point that he was able to drive and lead this state, but I always watched to learn the way he operated, and I loved that at the same time he was laying down his incredible vision for Tasmania - for infrastructure, growth, development, opportunity - he was also equally caring for our community.
I quote Jim Bacon back in 2003, when he said: Our people are our greatest asset. We must encourage them, invest in them, care for them and educate them, train them and ensure they have a good quality of life. That is a man who cares for community; that is vision and wisdom. The centrepiece of the state of the state is the floating stadium.
Care, compassion for community, the big shiny object. Perhaps it is not a distraction because I acknowledge, having been with the City of Launceston for many years, this is probably at the end of a pathway. However, on that pathway many commitments were made along the way, commitments to people across Tasmania, particularly to north and north western Tasmania and to the people of Bass and Launceston.
This morning, the Premier proudly referred to the editorial in the Mercury. I am not sure if he had read the editorial in the Examiner, which put a counterpoint that perhaps promising funding to build a stadium will not help win seats. It may cost the votes of those who believe the money would be better spent on hospitals. In our community so many people are struggling in so many areas in their life, perhaps people who have never experienced struggle before.
They may have had a little tricky time, but have never been confronted with having to sell their house to survive; never worried if their car is going to get to the petrol station and does $10 still get them out of the petrol station like it used to.
When we are on this pathway towards this big, shiny object, I ask the Government and the Premier not to forget the people of northern Tasmania.
The Premier while in opposition, back in 2003 I think, supported a motion that said AFL for the entire state, which recognised that a venue in the north made it most accessible for our decentralised regions.
What we want to know in northern Tasmania is when you are investing in such a significant piece of infrastructure, when there are so many other investments that could be made, where you have made commitments that marquee gains would be delivered in the north for economic benefit as well as social and supporting benefit, that you maintain that commitment to the people of the north and the north-west coast.
Although a team might want to be housed, if ever there is a team, in the south, we know that the economic benefits, the social and the sporting benefits to all Tasmanians happens in the heart, and the heart is in Bass. Bright shiny objects, big distractions, big announcements, we are in trouble, we are digging ourselves deeper and deeper.
What can we do? This is not a new behaviour. We talk about the north. Let us talk about the Tamar bridge. Will it be $400 million, $600 million, $800 million to deliver a Tamar bridge? It is a promise you know you never intend to deliver, that just moves the deckchairs and congestion around from one side to the other. Why promise just before an election time and again a big, shiny object to make yourselves look good with no intention to ever deliver?
At a very different scale, just before an election, the commitment to dredge. In a community where families struggle to know if they will be able to feed themselves, that $4 million sounds like so much money and by dredging then the Tamar will be magically fixed 65 Thursday 3 March 2022 forever. As anyone who takes their kids to the beach knows, when you build a sand castle with the channel to the water, the water comes in and the sand castle has water all around. Then the big waves come and it is all back to normal. Dredging, if you can get the approvals, which are questionable, will be like that channel in the sand. The water returns and it is gone. To present this as a solution is thinking that the community is not clever enough to figure it out.
Do you seriously think the people of Tasmania are that stupid? When you are out of touch, when you lack leadership, you look for these distractions. It is not good enough. Tasmanians deserve a state where they can demonstrate how clever, how amazing, how much they can do not only in their own communities, whether it be a regional or urban community, but in Tasmania, Australia and around the world. We have some of the best people in the world right here.
They should have opportunities but they need to be treated with respect and told the real information when challenges present. Half the time the Government is in a bubble. It has no idea what is going on. The other half of the time it puts a bubble around itself so it cannot know what is going on.
The community gets it. One day you are going to come out from the bubble and you are going to know that everything is falling down around you. There is creating a bubble and there is only acting under pressure. When I arrived in the Chamber last year, we put relentless pressure on the Small Business minister because what was being offered was not good enough. The people who had been hit hard by COVID-19 had had their revenues drop so much that they did not receive enough revenue to meet your $50 000 threshold.
Under pressure it was dropped to $25 000, thanks to the great Labor team. Over summer when the borders re-opened, the Government said, 'If we need to, we will'. It is such a great line. Under the pressure of the Labor team they announced some grants. Under further pressure, knowing that the grants did not go very far, they doubled down. Do not live in a bubble.
Tasmanians deserve better. If you are going to survive your three years in Government, I want you to know that Tasmanians deserve better. Get out of the bubble, stop creating bubbles, and act before you are put under pressure. Our team and our side of the Chamber are in a great place at the moment. It is really exciting. There is so much talent, there is so much energy. We have a deep sense of purpose.
We know how to face the challenges and we are not afraid to work on them. We know how to take opportunity, how to do the work, stay grounded, stay connected and work on behalf of our community. We also know that the key to a great future in Tasmania is through our children. Investing in our children will ensure that the future of Tasmania is in good hands. We have a community in great need right now.
We know that the basics for many are unattainable. We know that getting the basics right seems unattainable for the Government. The Government should be addressing the rising cost of living, addressing declining real wages, deteriorating levels of home ownership. People are struggling with the price of petrol, with power costs, particularly coming into winter.
People are making choices about how much energy they use to heat based on how much money they may or may not have in their budget to pay for that through winter. We know that the cost of living right now is crippling. I want to talk about some constituents who have been into my office.
If the Government wants to make the next three years then I want you to have this information so you can act and support people in our community. Someone came in to speak to me about a private rental property that they live in with their children.
They were terrified about doing something about the condition of their property knowing that they could not afford private rental. They and their children would be homeless if they did anything about it. We have people talking about the importance of education, about supporting kids, about opportunity, about big, shiny objects.
Does the Government understand that if a kid does not have a safe roof over their head, if they do not have stable accommodation, if they are struggling to have enough food to sustain themselves, it is hard to get to school, it is hard to feel like getting to school?
Some of the people I have been talking about have children who are embarrassed to go to school because they do not have lunch for their lunch box. Some of them do not have parents who are functioning well enough, despite all their best efforts, to make sure they have clean uniforms or appropriate clothes to attend school in.
You cannot have a good start in life if you cannot have the start of education. We want the Government that is so disconnected at the moment to reconnect with our community, to provide the support that is required and to support people. This is not just people we would otherwise usually have felt may have been described as homeless or sleeping rough.
This is people in our community, middle-class people, who are finding for the first time they are one major event away from completely overwhelming their life, an inability to continue to live how they have known. Tasmanians deserve better and they deserve good leadership, and we are going to provide that.
As to the area of small business, in the minutes I have left I want to share some of the stories we heard as we moved around the Tasmanian community as a team, led by Rebecca White with the economic team and supported by all members in their electorates. We connected with businesses right across Tasmania.
We heard stories of people who would otherwise have been great supporters of the Government but are completely furious at the lack of attention, care and connection.
When you have done something once and it was reasonable, then to keep using that despite the fact that things have changed is grotesque for people, it is disrespectful. To say you have invested $160 million into small business when I think the figure was $1 million or so just recently, to those people who are losing their livelihoods, their homes and their businesses, it is just disrespectful.
What we know is that of the nearly 40 000 businesses in Tasmania that employ around 100 000 Tasmanians, of the grants you actually ended up offering, after pressure, actually are announced and promoted as though there is $5000, which to a lot of people who have no money sounds like a lot of money, while $10 000 to a lot of people who are struggling sounds like a lot of money.
If you have been in a generational business handed down from your parents, you have been in business for 20 to 30 years and you are really good at it, the hurt you have felt since 15 December has been far worse than any of the actual lockdowns and has drained your reserves to the point where you are contemplating having to sell your primary home, you do not want to know about a $5000 or $10 000 grant.
In fact, what you really want to know is that only three-quarters of Tasmanian businesses - so 30 000 of the 40 000 businesses in Tasmania - are actually only eligible for $1000 or up to $2000. So let us not call it a $5000 or a $10 000 grant. Let us not get excited and feel proud about that. One of my colleagues, Dean Winter, mentioned someone who we spoke to who spent $500 to get a $2000 grant.
That is just ridiculous when people are under pressure. Labor went out, Labor listened and, despite all the suggestions of the members on the other side of the House, put together a package. We presented that package, we have tabled that package. We know it will go some way to make a difference.
People who have been in business - and there are many in this Chamber on both sides who have been in business - know that cashflow is king and deferred responsibilities like tax and payroll tax really hit hard if you have not had the ability to make provisions for those. In a normally operating world where you are really good at what you do, you provide for that.
However, in a really hard time, where you are just making it every week and perhaps not making it every week, and then the tax bill and the payroll tax bill comes, that is when it all goes pear-shaped. So we put a package together.
We wanted to recognise that the Government did some things but it did not go far enough, that it was overwhelming and complicated for a business owner. They are often the person who does the work and then does the administration.
They are doing it at night-time and weekends, and become totally overwhelmed, totally exhausted, and totally fearful. We have had people speak to us in tears, not just about their own wellbeing and livelihoods, because if you cannot pay your business bills you cannot pay your home bills, but for the families they employ, the 100 000 Tasmanians who are employed in small businesses.
Many of you employ people or have employed people. The responsibility you take on for them and their families is heavy. You love it when it is going well but it is really hard and keeps you up at night when its going badly.
We had a package that focused on payroll support, a request to extend the payroll tax waiver. We had support for cash flow, for some of those fixed charges which are really easy to rebate, like the network charges for a power bill, the fixed charges for a water bill and the land tax. They are really simple things that the Government could be doing and could be doing now. We had payroll relief up to $5000 in the month of February.
It seems like a bit of a get out of jail free card at the moment. Again, I do not think it is fair, but there has been a bit of an uptick. With the COVID-19 numbers in schools we know that a lot of parents are staying home.
They will often also be sole traders, sole operators or business owners themselves. So, there is a little bit of a challenge at the moment but, generally, it feels like there is a bit of an uptick.
Again, as anyone who has been in business will know the time it takes to trade out of a challenge - just because you earn a dollar, does not mean you make a dollar. If you have been going backwards, you have got to double down to make that back.
Businesses are going to be challenged through winter and through the next trading month, but many of these iconic Tasmanian businesses that are equally struggling need the ongoing support to make it to the next chapter.
If we believe, as the Government often says, they are the backbone of the economy, they are the engine room of the economy, they need to be respected and understood.
I know we have made the opportunity to say that we will sit down and talk about this, but as the new shadow small business minister, I implore you to connect deeply with a whole range of businesses across a whole range of sectors across all of Tasmania to make sure that we support them and their families.
We support workers and owners to get through this really tricky time. One of the other responsibilities I have that we do not hear much about is startups. In terms of a great, bright, exciting future for Tasmania, there is nothing more - there are a lot of industries.
We have heard the Minister for Primary Industries and Water talk about the benefits of agriculture, of fisheries, of aquaculture to Tasmania but there are so many great opportunities in Tasmania, incredible people who can leverage great investment here and bring in such big income to Tasmania through pure startups - not a new business but a scaled business that is a startup.
We have enterprises in Tasmania, that do a great job. I am going to touch on fisheries and aquaculture in a minute.
I know our Leader talked about the opportunities that were leaving the state, but we have other opportunities right here under our nose. They are being created here and then they are choosing to go away because they are not getting support here.
I do not know how many people in this place have heard about Seedlab Australia.
Just in the last year, about 100 participants, 62 new jobs were provided in Tasmania. Incredible investment, incredible leverage on the investment here, returns to Tasmania.
Great ideas of intelligent people doing incredible things but the ideas have been picked up and invested on the mainland and now others, not Tasmanians, are benefitting from that. So, I ask that in the government of Tasmania, we look at being real about the investments and support that we make to people in startup world.
Not just in the ideation space that say, 'enterprise does so well' - and I know we have got some accelerators and things going on - but deep, real investment to create the best outcomes that we can in Tasmania for Tasmanians on the island.
I want to speak about - and the minister has already done so - primary industries, fisheries, aquaculture and agriculture. Things are going well across a number of sectors. There are real challenges with input costs; there are real challenges with freight.
They are things that we are going to have to get on top of. As we know, from world events at the moment, it is only going to get harder. Of all the things that we are good at, we know that our Tassie produce, the things that we do here on island are revered around the world.
It really leads in and supports Brand Tasmania, So, although things can go well, they also need the support to continue. I want to just touch on two things: one is in fisheries. The minister talked about the rec fishing plan and he talked about some wild fisheries.
What I want to share is, and what I have always committed to while I have been here is that I do not want to waste these three years we are in opposition before we get in government. I want to do what I can to support Tasmanians through that process. I said right at the beginning that you have to have the courage to say what is important. The minister has a great vision.
The Government has a great vision - $10 billion by 2050 - but sometimes you have to get out of the way. Sometimes you have to act. I get feedback that I want to shift. We deserve and our people in the sector deserve, particularly with the investments around irrigation, that we have to not be all about all show, no go. We have to get in there and address the tricky issues.
So, how about a 10-year integrated wild fisheries plan that dealt with both the recreational fishers and the wild fishers? How about it looked at all fisheries for a 10-year plan? Yes, there is a 10-year salmon plan, but there is a moratorium. They talk about being the greatest supporters of the aquaculture industry; I think we are the greatest industry of the aquaculture industry.
They talk about investment here and growth, but as our leader said in the last couple of days, Tassal has taken in a huge investment and opportunity that could have otherwise been here, and is now being celebrated off the island. I will finish on some great things that are happening outside this place. Talking about bubbles, we should not stay in our own bubble either. There are some great things happening in Tasmania.
I want to reflect on the City of Launceston and the area of Bass. I have been very excited and proud to meet with people in Bass and to see what is going on in the areas that I have not otherwise connected with for so much in my past.
I am proud that Launceston was recently awarded the best Aussie town in Australia. There are so many great things going on in Launceston; there are so many great things going on in the Tamar Valley and in northern Tasmania.
Achieving the designation from UNESCO of a City of Gastronomy will tie together innovation, creativity, our producers, our farmers, our chefs, and also food security. It ties in supporting our community to have access to food, to be nourished so that they can engage in education and be the leaders of our future.
There are many things going on that are amazing across Tasmania. That should be celebrated and those things should continue to be supported by all in this place. I am excited about where we are at. I am excited about the work we are doing.
When we talk about fisheries or we talk about aquaculture or farming, they are also small businesses, and I talk about small businesses a lot. I am concerned for the state of our people at the moment, and about the lack of support, how out of touch this community is, how lacking in leadership they have been, to get out and do the hard work, to hear what is really going on.
I encourage everyone in this place to face it when things get hard; take a deep breath and accept the things that have gone wrong so that you can get out of the hole, stop being distracted, and get back to the good work.
In a state the size of Tasmania, it is possible for every single person to feel connected, to feel safe, to feel loved; that they can give and receive love, that they have secure, stable accommodation and a safe place to call home. They should have a way that they can contribute and believe in the possibility of a clever, courageous, bold, kind, and caring Tasmania.
That is the Tasmania I want to set up for my kids. I do not want to live in a place where we throw pots against each other. I want to work together to make sure that Tasmanians are supported in the next three years, and the next state of the state report does not just have big, shiny object.
3rd March 2022 - 3:53pm