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Thank you, Jeremy, for that generous and kind introduction.
And thank you for your support over the last 12 months it has been much appreciated.
Although we met as a Cabinet almost every week last year, during the most difficult and challenging times we faced Jeremy would call me, sometimes daily, to ask if there was anything he or the team could do to help or assist but more importantly he would always check on me and ask if I was doing ok.
Thanks for those calls and as I said then, yes I am doing ok, but now more importantly- Covid is under control, our economy is growing, the jobs that were lost are back and this beautiful state is now doing ok as well!
To the rest of my Team – one and all, each of you has been unwaveringly steadfast during what has been a most extraordinary year.
And to those candidates seeking to join our team – who make up the strongest group of candidates we have ever had running with us - thank you for putting your hand up to help secure Tasmania’s future.
Can I also thank the State President, Rod Scurrah, the State Executive, and State Director Stuart Smith for your strong support and hard work.
Finally, to the members of the Liberal Party, and all of our campaign volunteers.
You are the blue army, unpaid, hardworking and loyal, and I thank you for all that you do.
And before I go on, can I just take a moment to acknowledge the funeral today of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, and to pass on Tasmania’s condolences to her majesty the Queen and the Royal family.
Well, what a campaign so far!
And what a year!
The world has certainly changed for all of us in the past 12 months.
For me, it’s changed twice.
When Will spoke with me in January last year – pre-COVID - to say he was going to retire from politics- at first I thought he was joking and then I did my best to talk him out of it but after 18 years in public life his mind was made up.
He led us out of Opposition and into Government.
He led us as we rebuilt our State from the Labor-Green disaster.
Without his service, we would not be where we are today.
So can I take this opportunity to thank Will and his family for their service to the Liberal Party, and to our State.
As you would all know, I was first elected into Parliament in 2002 along with Will, and also Jeremy.
Back in 2002, Mandy and I had only been married for three years.
Our children, Millie and Finn (who can’t be here today because he is a better footballer than his dad and playing this morning in Launceston) weren’t even born.
But, we were planning to raise a family here in Tasmania, and like every Tasmanian, I wanted to make the best possible life for them.
That’s the reason I ran for Parliament back in 2002.
I wanted to make a difference and I am so thankful that Amanda has supported me every step of the way.
You have raised two beautiful children in my absence who are now becoming young adults in their own right and you have done an outstanding job – I am so very proud of you. Thank you.
From day one I have wanted to make Tasmania a better place, for everyone who lives here.
A place where everyone has the opportunity to get a good job and raise a family if they wish here in Tasmania.
As I said last year, when I was elected Leader of the Liberal Party - I would lead a Government of conviction, of compassion and most importantly, of opportunity for all.
What drives me night and day is my vision for Tasmania.
A Tasmania that no matter who you are, no matter where you live, your circumstance or background I want you to be able to grasp the opportunities that present themselves here in Tasmania.
And that’s what our Plan to Secure Tasmania’s Future is all about.
We faced massive challenges when we came to government some 7 years ago.
For the first 6 years, we worked very hard. We fixed our finances, we rebuilt confidence, attracted investment, grew our economy and we created jobs for Tasmanians.
In the last 12 months we have all worked even harder.
Since early last year Tasmania has had to deal with a pandemic which meant we had to deal with firstly a health crisis and then as a result of the measures we took to keep people safe, an economic one as well.
To keep people safe we closed our borders and we shut businesses and all of you here along with your friends and families I know, were affected.
And thankfully Tasmanians did as I asked - they stayed home to save lives.
We laid out a clear plan, which firstly kept people safe and then secondly began the rebuilding of our economy.
By the middle of last year Tasmania was one of the safest places in the country however Treasury were forecasting an economy in recession and unemployment peaking at 12 ¼ per cent.
We used our strong balance sheet to rollout record levels of social and economic support.
That plan on any measure has worked.
Tasmania is now one of the safest places on the planet, our economy is growing again and jobs have returned to pre-pandemic levels.
Respected commentators have stated that “Tasmania’s economy navigated 2020 better than any other state.”
And Treasury have recently confirmed that both our economy and jobs outlook are much, much, stronger than anticipated.
In fact, our single largest economic challenge and also our single largest opportunity right now is finding enough trained and skilled workers to do the work that is on offer.
This is why we will invest more into TasTAFE and provide 100 more teachers and importantly give it the flexibility it needs in Government hands so more Tasmanians can get the training that they need.
We have a strong pipeline of work, in front of us - not just for next year but for years to come.
Keeping our economy strong underpins our plan because a strong economy is critical to generating the revenues needed to invest more into health, education and other essential services.
And don’t believe what others say about health – because we have had a strong economy we’ve invested massively over the 7 years and will continue to do so.
Today we are spending $4 billion more than Labor and the Greens did in their last budget, an increased investment of around 70 per cent and we have recruited around 1500 more staff.
And talking of Labor mistruths, can I take this opportunity to once again firmly put on the record – we are not going to privatise TasTAFE. We are not going to privatise the Hydro. It simply will not happen.
Over the period we’ve also transformed our education system for the better, by extending High Schools to year 12 giving more of our kids the chance of a better education regardless of where they live – something that to be frank should have been done decades ago.
As a State, we are in a good place, but there’s still a way to go.
Now more than ever Tasmania needs strong, stable majority Government, with a clear Plan, and the track record to deliver it.
And that’s why we have a clear Plan to Secure Tasmania’s Future.
That plan ensures that:
- We will continue to make the decisions necessary to continue keeping Tasmanians safe and secure from COVID-19;
- It will deliver a more diverse and resilient Tasmanian economy to create jobs and help protect against future challenges;
- Importantly it focuses on securing the essential services all Tasmanians rely on; and
- It will ensure young Tasmanians get the training, apprenticeships and the jobs to support their future, right here in Tasmania.
Last year, when I provided the first of our financial updates in May which painted a very grim picture of our economy and the State’s finances I said that I wouldn’t sugar coat the challenges we faced.
And I didn’t.
However I was confident we could rebuild, we’d fixed things once before and I knew that we would be able to do it again.
And whilst there is always more to be done – on almost every measure we have done just that.
Tasmania is now one of the safest places on the planet and confidence is high, our economy is booming and record numbers of Tasmanians are back in work.
However, I firmly believe that this isn’t as good as it gets.
Getting back what we lost last year was our first goal and we have rebuilt and rebuilt quickly - but my ambitions stretch much further than that.
During COVID Tasmania demonstrated that it could respond to challenges as good as, if not better than anywhere in this country.
And that very clearly Tasmanians can respond as well, if not better, than anyone on this planet.
Tasmanians demonstrated that they are brave, they are resilient and they are smart and I could not be prouder right now to be a Tasmanian.
However, it’s what we do next that is important.
It’s how we build on the strong foundation we have and the opportunity that 7 years of stable majority government along with the best COVID response in the country has provided us with.
We now need to harness those skills, that energy to lift our gaze from the horizon and take this opportunity to look beyond it.
As I have said my vision for Tasmania is one where no matter who you are, no matter where you live, your circumstance or background I want you to be able to grasp the opportunities we have here so that you can achieve your full potential and live a richer more fulfilling life.
Tasmania is populated with world-leading entrepreneurs, business, industry and community leaders.
They in many cases excel at what they do, and I want the jobs of the future that are being created right now in our strong economy to be for our Tasmanian kids of the future.
That’s why I am determined to ensure that we can provide the skills and training to Tasmanians wherever they live and whatever their background or circumstance.
That’s why we will invest more, put on more teachers and deliver a TasTAFE that is nimble, fit for purpose and unlike those mistruths that are being told will be kept in Government hands.
We know that we have an older and more vulnerable community than other jurisdictions.
That’s why throughout this campaign we have been announcing policies and will continue to do so that invest more into health and wellbeing and other essential services to meet the growing demand that is being presented.
It's why over the last 7 years we have used our strong budget position to invest more every year to support those who need it most, and its why any Government I lead will continue to do so into the future.
Over the rest of this campaign, we will be announcing more policies that will build on the safe position that we’ve created, the strong economic position that our clear plan has delivered.
Policies that will ensure we have a strong and diverse economy, policies that will deliver the services that Tasmanians need and indeed deserve.
Policies that will secure Tasmania’s future.
My colleagues and friends,
Throughout the last 12 months and especially during the early part of last year, like you all I had doubts and I had fears.
Like you all early last year I was worried for my family, I was concerned about what the future held.
But what worried me most was the fact that we had an older more vulnerable population and that if this virus got loose on our shore, the consequences would be devastating.
There’s no doubt, the past 12 months has been the most extraordinary and difficult time that most of us have had to endure in our lifetimes.
The things that I have asked Tasmanians to do as Premier have been among the hardest things I have ever had to do.
Closing businesses, restricting movements, telling loved ones they had to stay apart at the very time they longed to be together, affected me deeply.
Much was made of when I shed a tear in Parliament after shutting down thousands of businesses and putting tens of thousands of people out of work.
I am not a person who wears their emotions on their sleeve.
I cannot cry on command.
The enormity of those decisions was not lost on me and nor will they ever be.
We closed two hospitals, confined our staff and their families in their homes, effectively cancelled last Easter, stopped people from using their shacks and policed our community’s movements with helicopters.
We closed our borders – and kept them closed for eight months, despite pressure to open them, including from the Leader of the Labor Party.
Having to tell people they couldn’t travel back to Tasmania for the funeral of a family member was quite simply, gut-wrenching.
There are phone conversations I have had with people that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
Believe me, the tears I shed in Parliament were not the only ones I shed last year.
But those decisions, no matter how hard, were necessary to keep us safe.
As difficult as this was at times, to keep Tasmania safe I’d do it all again in a heartbeat if I had to.
I know our response hasn’t been perfect every single time.
But I assure you, that each and every decision that we made as a Government – and each and every decision I have made as Premier, was and will continue to be made through the lens first and foremost of:
“Will this help keep Tasmanians safe?”
In two weeks, we will all cast our votes.
So I say to Tasmanians, when you decide who you’ll be voting for, please consider the following question:
Who do you want sitting in the Premier’s chair when the next big challenge comes?
The truth is, the challenges we have had to face and the rebuilding we have undertaken over the past year could not have been done by a divided minority government.
Only a majority Liberal Government can provide Tasmanians with the certainty and stability we need.
We’ve already seen this campaign how instability affects decision-making.
The Labor Party is at war with itself.
The President is suing the Leader.
And the Leader says the President is not fit for office!
The unions are pulling the strings.
Who’s in charge? Well that’s a fair question.
Labor are in chaos and an internal civil war is raging!
If they can’t govern themselves, how can they possibly govern the state?
Not only that, Labor’s election spendathon is totally unaffordable and quite frankly, unbelievable.
Labor’s has already promised to spend more than twice as much as us in this campaign
They would add at least $1 billion to state debt.
When I become Premier, I purposely stayed on as Treasurer, because I know how important it is to manage our state’s finances responsibly.
It means we can pay for our well thought through Plan.
And as I’ve also said before, the way a Party behaves in an election campaign is a great indicator of how they will perform in government.
And on that score alone, Labor does not deserve to win.
Friends, don’t be misled, Tasmanian elections are always hard-fought.
As history has shown, our unique Hare-Clark system makes it very difficult for us to win the majority Government Tasmania needs.
Every vote counts, from Dover to King Island, from Strahan to St Helens, and everywhere in between.
So please remember, if you want certainty and stability.
If you want responsible economic and financial management.
If you want firm, decisive leadership.
If you want a united team.
If you want a long-term Plan to Secure Tasmania’s Future.
If you want me to stay in the Premier’s Chair.
Then the only way to deliver that is with a strong, stable majority Gutwein Liberal Government.
So I ask you on May 1st, to please vote for your local Liberal Team.