Tasmania and Tasmanians deserve certainty. Our Liberal Government is the only Government that will do what is required to get that done. We are sticking to our long term plan and doing what matters for all Tasmanians, you and your family and friends.
We know we still have challenges, particularly relating to cost of living and housing availability, but over the past decade our state under the Liberal helm has gone from economic laggard to economic leader.
When we came to office in 2014 under Premier Will Hodgman, and I was Deputy Premier, Tasmania had just suffered a recession, and the unemployment rate had a seven in front of it.
The State’s finances were in dire straits, without a surplus in sight.
Our predecessors had even “raided the barn”, dipping into the more than $1.5 billion put aside for the future superannuation needs of our retired public servants, to prop up their own budgets.
We’re still paying for it today – to tune of some $350 million from our budget every year … and these funds could otherwise be spent on health, housing, education, or public safety.
In contrast, we had a clear plan and we stuck to it. That plan has worked and is continuing to work.
- Our economy is now one of the strongest in the nation.
- Our tourism sector has been breaking records, in visitor spend and Tasmanians employed.
- Our exports are at record highs.
- And as a farmer, our agri-food sector is one I am particularly proud of … we are on track to reach our target of $10 billion in value by 2050 which is no small feat.
- We’ve led the country for 11 out of the previous 13 quarters according to CommSec.
- More than 50,000 jobs have been created and we have a plan for 20,000 more over the next five years.
- Unemployment has fallen to record lows of just four per cent.
We repaired a crumbling budget and were debt free when COVID hit.
This meant that in 2020 Premier Peter Gutwein was able to act decisively, to close our borders and provide Tasmanians and businesses the financial support they needed.
Because of our strong economy, over the past decade our population has grown, bringing economic gains and opportunity for Tasmanians.
But with this growth has also come growing pains, and unprecedented pressure on our housing supply and infrastructure.
When Tasmanians have a key to their own home, they also unlock countless opportunities. But, put simply, we need more homes.
This is why we have a target of 10,000 new social and affordable homes by 2032.
- We’re making great strides, delivering almost 1,500 already and not to mention a mammoth 300 in June alone - that’s an average year’s worth of social homes in just one month.
- The great Australian dream of owning your own home should be as much a reality for this generation as it has been for mine.
- That’s what drives me - our next generation, what their future looks like and how we can make things better.
It’s why as Education Minister I was proud to lead the single biggest reform of education in this generation, and extended all government high schools to years 11 and 12.
- and this year, more than 1100 students are currently studying Year 11 and 12 at their high schools, right around the state…over a thousand students who may not have stayed in school otherwise.
- We are reforming the way we teach our children too, with the introduction of evidence-based structured literacy, including phonics in all primary schools by 2026.
We are building a better TasTAFE.
- putting students at the centre, investing in more trainers, and building new world class facilities with new technology.
- seven new jobs hubs covering every corner of the state because of our Jobs Tasmania Agenda that have already delivered over 3,000 jobs for Tasmanians.
We are investing almost $5 billion in infrastructure
- improving our road network including on the Midland Highway, Bass Highway, and Tasman Highway between Hobart and Sorell.
- delivering Tasmania’s largest chunk of public infrastructure, the Bridgewater Bridge and
- next year, the first of two brand new Spirit of Tasmania vessels will sail into the Mersey River in Devonport, better connecting Tasmanians to the rest of the country and boosting our freight and tourism industry – one of the engine rooms of our economy.
Tasmania’s renewable energy future is bright.
- We have a target of being 200 per cent renewable by 2040 and
- we are well positioned to capture the many benefits of this once in a lifetime energy transition, including Marinus.
We said our vision was to make Tasmania the gateway to the Antarctic, and it is.
- Our reputation precedes us, and that was clear when I visited Japan and the Republic of Korea this year.
- There are now live discussions about supplying the new Korean icebreaker and a new ice core storage facility too.
We know that during the past 12 months high inflation and increasing interest rates have put Tasmanian households under huge strain.
- We are acting to support Tasmanian households with almost $400 million in concessions and rebates.
- There’s the $500 per household energy rebate, and around 90 concessions and discounts to assist with the cost of living from housing and education, to licenses and transport.
- We will continue to provide practical cost of living support where we can.
But what I really want to talk about today is what’s next.
About how our Government is getting back on track, sticking to our long-term plan and doing what matters for all Tasmanians.
I’m the first to admit, over the past six months in particular our Government has faced some unexpected challenges.
Every day we have continued to work hard for Tasmanians.
But, we’ve been knocked off course by events.
The defection of two members of our Team to the cross-bench has brought uncertainty to our political and business environment.
The political debate has become mired in an argument about just one project – the Macquarie Point Stadium – at the expense of everything else.
And of course, as a Government, just like everyone else, we are still recovering from COVID, which required more than $1.5 billion in critical support.
So today I want to talk to you about how our Government is getting back on course.
We are sticking to our long-term plan and focussing on what matters to all Tasmanians.
These matters have long been at the heart of our long-term plan, which has served our State well over the past nine years.
When Premier Hodgman won office in 2014 he said: “We will be a Government that seeks to improve the lives of all Tasmanians”.
I want to repeat this commitment today, and restate what I’ve never lost sight of and never will, and that is our core values and exactly what my Government is focussed on:
- Tackling cost of living;
- Supporting more Tasmanians into their own homes;
- Ensuring Tasmanians get the healthcare system they deserve;
- Keeping our economy strong, creating jobs, and improving education; and
- Making Tasmania the best place to live, work and raise a family.
There are so many individual policies and projects that make up each of these commitments.
And, yes, the stadium is one of those. But I want to emphasise this point – the stadium is an important part of our plan, but it is only one part of our plan.
- I know a multi-purpose stadium is not everyone’s cup of tea, but it is an important part of our long-term plan for Tasmania’s future.
- It will be an economic gamechanger for our whole State.
- And of course, it is the key to unlocking our very own AFL Team in 2028. No stadium, no team.
I have mums and dads stop me in the supermarket to tell me how their sons and daughters are pumped to play for Tassie.
- This is their dream, and I won’t let them down.
- Subject to the approval of the Parliament - and I’m confident that it will get that approval, despite the posturing of our political opponents – this project will be independently assessed and progressed through the rigorous Projects of State Significance process.
I do recognise that whether people are for or against the project, they want to be assured that their government is delivering on what matters most to them.
That’s why it’s been important to get back on track.
You’ve already seen over the past week some of the actions we’ve taken.
First, council amalgamations….
- I have listened and I have ended the fear and uncertainty.
There will be no forced amalgamations.
- Communities and their councils will decide their own future.
- The Local Government Review Board is continuing their important work, to help build a system of local government that seizes opportunities and rises to challenges but, this will not result in forced amalgamations.
- We need more houses, and don’t want to see decisions delayed for the wrong reasons.
- This legislation will not change Tasmania’s planning rules.
- Councils will still undertake assessments and the community will still have their say.
- This is simply a second decision-making option, without the politics.
- We are taking the politics out of planning.
- We’ll introduce legislation to allow some planning decisions to be made by independent expert panels.
And over the next few weeks, I will be making some further changes to make sure that this Liberal Government is best able to do what matters for all Tasmanians.
The Third change…
- In a few days’ time I will be announcing some changes to our internal line-up, to ensure that the talented members of our team are best aligned to the important tasks ahead.
- I won’t be changing the people within Cabinet, just making some small changes to the roles they are doing.
- As part of that, I will retain mental health, but I will hand over the reins of the health portfolio to another capable member of my team, and instead take on new responsibilities.
- I will have an increased focus on driving Tasmania’s economic growth and creating more jobs for Tasmanians.
- I’ve chosen to announce this ahead of any other changes, because I don’t want this to be just one change among others.
- I want to take this opportunity to tell our nurses, doctors, allied health professionals and all the support team across our health system that it has been a privilege to be your Minister.
- The work you do is as hard as it can be rewarding.
- You give everything, emotionally and physically, to help us.
- I appreciate you, and I thank you.
- I also want to take an extra moment to explain why I’m handing over the responsibility now.
- This is a decision I have not taken lightly.
I can make this decision because, despite the increasing demand, our health system is in the best place it’s been for a long time,.
Our health system and our health professionals have been through hell and back over the past three years with COVID – they put their lives on the line for Tasmanians.
Impressively, despite these challenges, we were the only jurisdiction to actually decrease elective surgery waiting lists during COVID.
In fact, because of our record investment and commitment to drive down elective surgery waiting lists, we have reduced them by 30 per cent since 2021, and we’re operating on more elective surgery patients per capita than anywhere else.
We’ve made so many strategic and innovative investments across the system, and they are working.
- Our Continued Dispensing initiative, or no script no stress, is nation leading and helping hundreds of Tasmanians every day access their medication while easing pressure on GPs.
- Our allied health scholarship program is the most generous in the nation with a $25,000 incentive for 10 professions to fill shortages.
- Our Mental Health Emergency Response has already supported over 1,800 Tasmanians, with 76 per cent of those people avoiding going to hospital.
- Our $475 million Digital Health Strategy is the single biggest change in healthcare this century.
- We are about to trial a Single Employer model of employment for GPs in training which is aimed at boosting the number of doctors in rural areas.
- In fact, since being elected, we have added 231 beds, over 2,300 more health workers, including 1,390 more nurses.
- We now invest more than $8 million in health every single day.
I could go on…. But, yes, the job is far from done, but now is the right time to hand health over to someone else on my team.
Before I conclude, and I want to be blunt about this
I will not be calling an early election.
We were elected in 2014 with a majority mandate and a clear plan to deliver a brighter future for all Tasmanians.
That mandate was confirmed in 2018, and again just over two years ago in 2021 when we were re-elected in majority.
As I have outlined today, that plan is working and I intend to continue to deliver on it.
The only way there will be an early election will be if Labor and the Greens decide to once again team up and put their own political self-interest ahead of the interests of the state.
And can I say at this point – I have no personal beef with Mr Tucker and Ms Alexander
I am grateful that they have both committed in writing to provide us with supply and confidence.
But - and I believe this is a very important point - neither were elected as an independent.
Rather, they were elected as Liberals on our policy platform and plan, and of providing a stable majority Government.
And, in my view, they retain an obligation to Tasmanians to continue to provide that stability and certainty until May 2025.
And to finish
Our state has come a long way and written a story of strength and resilience. But we have further to go.
Recognising that we have been thrown off track by recent events isn’t easy. Admitting it is even harder. And changing it and getting back on track will take a lot of work.
But that is exactly what I am determined to do.
My Government will not be defined by one issue, and two individuals.
My passion for health does not prevent me from attending to many other important tasks.
We will not stand for Parliament debate that is simply driven by political games and speculation of what political trick might be tried next, at the cost of what matters to all Tasmanians.
Tasmanians deserve certainty, and a Liberal Government that is focussed on sticking to their long-term plan and doing what matters for all Tasmanians.