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I acknowledge the Tasmanian Aboriginal people, Elders past and present and their continued connection to Country.
Being the 47th Premier of Tasmania is a great honour.
But it is an honour only bestowed on me by virtue of my position as leader of the Parliamentary Tasmanian Liberal Party.
I am under no illusions - I would not be Premier were it not for the Liberal Party, and all of you here today who believe passionately in our Party and who work tirelessly day in, day out to further our cause, and our shared values.
So, I want to take this opportunity today to thank each and every one of you for the work you do in support of the Party, both throughout the year, and also today as you present and debate ideas.
Can I also thank, sincerely, my Parliamentary colleagues for their hard work, dedication and friendship.
I thank my Deputy and Treasurer, Michael Ferguson. Michael, your support and counsel is invaluable.
I reckon after 16 years - yes 16 years! - as Deputy Liberal Leader, I know a thing or two about the job - and can I say Michael, you do a great job.
Sometimes, particularly when we are in government, it can seem that there is a gap between the members of a Party, and the Parliamentary wing.
So, I want to assure those of you here today that particularly over recent months, I and my team have been working hand in glove with our Party executive.
With our outgoing President, Chris Gatenby; with our State Director, Peter Coulson, and with the wider Liberal family.
Can I also acknowledge the work of former Premiers, Will Hodgman, and Peter Gutwein.
Will – thank you for leading us out of Opposition and to two election victories, and for your six years as Premier where we really did turn Tasmania around and set us on the right course.
And Peter for his extraordinary leadership during the once-in-a-century Covid pandemic.
And I also want to pay tribute to former colleague Paul Harriss, who sadly passed away during the past 12 months.
Paul was an extraordinary individual, who gave up his safe Upper House seat in order to contest in the Lower House to assist us to win Government in 2014.
That takes political courage.
For me, personally, Paul was a mentor.
He walked the talk of being a grassroots MP and was driven by the desire to serve his community.
As the last Liberal Government standing in this country, and myself as the last Liberal Premier, I understand what an extraordinary responsibility I have - that we as a Government have, that we all in this room have - as the standard-bearers of Liberals in this nation.
To demonstrate, in practice, how Liberal Governments are always the best choice.
And to do so while upholding our Liberal values:
Aspiration, and reward for effort.
Individual freedom, freedom of speech, and choice.
An acknowledgement in practice that it is not governments who ultimately drive economic growth and create jobs.
But, rather it is individuals and businesses, large and small, who put their own energy and effort, their blood, sweat and tears and personal financial capital on the line.
And of course, a belief in the family unit – however it’s made in this modern day and age - as the bedrock of our society.
These are our shared values, the values that guide us, every single day.
They are also the values that are the difference between us and the alternative Labor Green Government.
Our Liberal Government has delivered a strong economy, a surplus, the second lowest debt per capita in the country and creates jobs, some 56,000 of them since we came to Government.
While the last Labor-Green Government left net debt rising, no surplus in sight, they raided the superannuation barn, and 10,000 jobs were lost.
Our Liberal Government has kept power prices to among the lowest in the country.
The Labor-Green Government drove energy prices up by a massive 65 per cent.
Our Liberal Government invests a record $8 million every day in health and we’ve hired over 2,300 more health workers including more than 1,390 more nurses.
The Labor-Green Government cut health funding by $500 million and sacked a nurse a day for nine months, closed hospital wards and put beds in storage.
Our Liberal Government has extended every public high school to year 11 & 12, with over 1,100 students studying at these schools this year, who might not have stayed in school otherwise.
We’ve broken down barriers to education for students with disability, increased support for those with trauma, improved access to early learning and our school lunches trial is gaining national attention.
And I noticed that there’s a motion on today’s agenda which is supportive of Farm Schools, which we have invested heavily in and are such a great and essential part of our education system – and, as a farmer, I couldn’t agree more.
In contrast, the Labor-Green Government sacked 100 teachers, and tried to close 20 schools.
I could go on, but you get the picture - the contrast could not be clearer.
Tasmania does better when there is a Liberal Government, because we have long term plan that delivers what matters most for Tasmanians:
- Tackling the 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.
Friends, being in Government isn’t easy. But nor should it be.
Governing is not a game, it’s a serious business.
But as I have said – and, you know me, I’ll call a spade a spade - as a government, we’ve had a tough time of it lately.
We’ve been knocked off course by events.
There was the biggest unforeseen event of all, the Covid pandemic, which saw us as a Government have to take some unprecedented decisions to protect lives, and livelihoods.
The new Macquarie Point Stadium - and I’ll have a bit more to say about that in a minute - came to dominate political debate.
And of course, we had the defection of two of our former colleagues to the crossbench, an unprecedented action which brought uncertainty to our business and political environment.
So that’s why over the past few weeks I have taken action to get our government back on course.
We have listened and have ended the fear and uncertainty over local government reform.
There will be no forced amalgamations.
Communities and their councils will decide their own future.
The Local Government Review Board is continuing its important work, to help build a sustainable system of local government that is able to seize opportunities, rise to challenges and deliver services.
But, this will not result in forced amalgamations.
We have moved decisively to take the politics out of planning.
We’ve nearly completed the mammoth task of taking Tasmania’s 29 separate planning schemes and turning them into just one, a major improvement to our planning laws.
But unfortunately, there are still too many examples of much needed houses and developments being stymied because of parochial local politics.
Too many examples of Councillors voting against the expert advice of their own planners, or projects being prejudged by Councils even before a development application has been lodged.
So, we’ll introduce legislation to allow some planning decisions to be made by independent expert panels.
But, we need more homes and apartments, 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.
But what this will do is allow Councillors to separate their decision making and advocacy roles when they inevitably clash from time to time.
This is simply an alternative decision-making option, without the politics.
I also took action to make some small changes to the internal line up of our cabinet...To make sure my team is best able to do what matters most for all Tasmanians.
And, to send a loud and clear message that this Government backs economic growth and job creation.
After nine years of Liberal Government, Tasmania’s economy is leading the pack.
In recent weeks, CommSec again confirmed that Tasmania’s economy is the strongest in the nation.
The ABS confirmed that our unemployment rate is again at a record low of just 3.8 per cent.
And we’ve achieved this while still having the lowest debt in the nation, the second lowest debt per capita, and the lowest taxes of any state.
But, there are significant global and domestic economic headwinds, and Tasmania is not immune.
That’s why I made the decision to hand over the reins of health, to the very capable Minister Guy Barnett.
And for me to take direct responsibility for State Development, where the key economic drivers are.
We learned when we came to Government in 2014, and turned around the Labor-Green recession, that confidence is king.
Tasmanian businesses need confidence, and Tasmanians need certainty.
And, yesterday I announced our Tasmania First Energy Guarantee.
This is all about securing Tasmanian energy for Tasmanians, at Tasmanian prices.
The first step is securing the future of the Marinus Link Project on terms that put Tasmania first.
For the right price, Marinus Link is an important project for Tasmania, it will help to boost extra renewable energy development and support growth in business and industry.
The right price does not mean any price.
There is a line in the sand that Tasmania cannot afford to cross.
That’s why I have spoken with the Prime Minister about the significant cost increase for Marinus Link.
One that would create an extra cost burden on Tasmania.
I am confident; however, we will reach a good outcome for Tasmania soon.
We will be in the corner of Tasmanians first, and always.
Today, I’m pleased to announce the second step in our Tasmania First Energy Guarantee.
Tasmania already has the lowest or amongst the lowest power bills in the country, but we know that power bills are still a major cost for every Tasmanian.
So, we’re going to do more.
Our Government will deliver millions of dollars in energy bill relief to Tasmanians with our new Renewable Energy Dividend.
Hydro was built by Tasmanians, for Tasmanians, and now Tasmanians will rightly reap the rewards of this Tasmanian success story.
This Renewable Energy Dividend means when Hydro makes money, Tasmanians save money.
Just like shareholders receive a dividend when a business is making a profit, Tasmanians will now directly share in Hydro’s profits, when their dividends exceed $100 million.
For example, Tasmanians could expect a saving of around $100 off their power bill for the year, if Hydro delivered a dividend of around $160 million.
Hydro’s passed that $100 million threshold five times in the past 10 years. And, as our renewable energy production grows, so too will the number of times Tasmanians reap the benefits from their Hydro.
This is an innovative cost of living measure that will help every single Tasmanian household with their energy bills - that’s around 254,000 households, including those who receive concessions.
So, Tasmanians will receive a Renewable Energy Dividend credit on their bill, which means they will pay less, and save more.
Every dollar counts, and this action is just another way that our Government is delivering on what matters most to all Tasmanians, including cost of living relief.
Now… I mentioned the stadium earlier and as I have said, I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
But there is no doubt, it will be an economic enabler and gamechanger for our whole State, which will bring more visitors, investment, and new jobs to Tasmania.
And of course, it is the key to unlocking our very own AFL Team in 2028. No stadium, no team.
Let’s not forget, when we get the team, we get $360 million from the AFL that will flow through into grassroots footy and our communities.
Of course, as Liberals we’re about a strong economy and creating jobs. But we’re also about aspirations, and that means giving our young people that dream of running on to the field wearing an iconic Tasmanian jumper.
When Parliament resumes next week, we will debate a Bill that helps progress the Macquarie Point Stadium as a Project of State Significance.
And while I am very confident that this Bill will pass, this vote will also be the moment of truth for Ms White and the Labor Party.
For too long, Ms White and Labor have been sitting on the fence, trying to dodge hard questions, saying they oppose the stadium but refusing to say what they would do if - heaven forbid - they were elected to Government… most likely in minority with the Greens....
Let’s be clear about this.
The State Policies and Projects Amendment Bill is only being brought forward in order to facilitate the independent assessment of the Stadium proposal. It has no other purpose.
So, if Labor votes for this amendment Bill, they are effectively voting for the Stadium to proceed to the next stage, and to be independently assessed.
If they vote against it - well they are finally confirming that if elected they would rip up the AFL deal, tear up the dreams of thousands of young Tasmanians, cancel hundreds of millions of dollars of economic investment and jobs.
And confirm Labor’s place as honorary Vice-President in the Greens’ anti-everything, just say “no” club.
So, what will it be? There’s no in-between here.
Are Labor going to vote yes, or no?
And I say to Ms White, you can run, but you can’t hide.
Fellow Liberals, in closing,
Let me tell you, I know how hard and soul-destroying being in Opposition was, and I don’t want us to go back there any time soon.
Even today, of my 21 years in Parliament, I’ve spent more years in opposition than in Government.
In opposition you can only say what you think should happen. In government, you can actually get things done.
To grow the economy and help create jobs, build a better health system, tackle the cost of living, address the housing challenges and provide greater access to education.
To keep doing what matters and delivering our long-term plan.
So, while we’ve now got a challenging Parliament, I can assure you I don’t intend on calling an election before 2025.
And speaking of elections, while the next election is still 18 months away.
Can I say, I firmly believe that it is winnable for us, in majority.
25 or 35 seats, it makes no difference - if we get 50 percent of the vote we will win, just like we did in 2014, 2018, and 2021.
We will be looking for at least seven more Liberals to join our team in Parliament.
And I am absolutely confident that we can achieve that.
We have a strong record, a strong team, and a clear plan to keep on delivering what matters for all Tasmanians.
Tasmanians know what I stand for.
They know that when I say something, I mean it.
Tasmanians know what our Government stands for.
We stand for aspiration, and opportunity, and for strong essential services underpinned by a strong and growing economy.
And they know we will fight every single day for what we believe is in Tasmania’s best interests.
On election night in 2014 Will Hodgman said:
“We will be a government that seeks to improve the lives of all Tasmanians. We will be a Government that seeks to make a difference. We will be a Government that wants to change things and will change things for the better.”
In the past nine years I believe that we have delivered on Will’s pledge.
Tasmania is once again a leader state in our nation, and I believe that we have changed things for the better.
But the mission isn’t over.
There’s more to do.
We cannot risk going back to a Labor Green Government.
And, we won’t if we work together, stand together, and do what matters for all Tasmanians.