State of the the State Address
**Check against delivery**
In January last year I was honoured to receive the support of my colleagues to become the State’s 46th Premier and shortly after that, around 12 months to the day, coronavirus found its way to the Australian mainland and unfortunately to our shores as well.
We were faced with the probability of a significant health crisis if action wasn’t taken swiftly to protect our community, that action meant limiting people’s movements and closing businesses where people congregated, and sadly the impact on our economy was severe.
We banned cruise ships, closed our borders and we stayed home to save lives.
There were hundreds of thousands of Tasmanians who did their bit. Fishing, camping and going to the shack were banned, we kept older Tasmanians safe by limiting visits to aged care homes and hospitals, and all the while our courageous frontline workers and our volunteers willingly worked with us to keep our community safe.
We will not forget the sacrifices that Tasmanians made, the cost borne by individuals, families and communities, nor will we ever forget that tragically there were 13 lives lost.
While this is not over yet, we are in a good place.
Tasmania is one of the safest places in this country and we are, without doubt, one of the safest places in the world – a world that is adding nearly 500,000 new cases a day to a total that has now reached more than 120 million cases, with sadly nearly 2.7 million deaths.
Today I want to acknowledge and importantly thank all Tasmanians for working together to ensure that we kept our State safe.
Over the last 12 months I have witnessed some incredible examples of self-sacrifice, courage and kindness, as Tasmanians regardless of race, religion, politics, background or circumstances, held out their hands to each other and helped each other, in the most extraordinary example of a common humanity that I have ever witnessed.
And as a result of those incredible efforts, Tasmania has not only managed on the one hand to conquer a health crisis, but has also turned around our economy, which is once again growing strongly and supporting Tasmanian jobs.
I want to acknowledge our first people, the Aboriginal People, and acknowledge elders, past present and emerging. Last week I committed to receive and consider proposals for further land return and I want to be clear this Government is committed to taking significant steps on our path to reconciliation, and also importantly to taking significant steps to ensure we improve the lives and circumstances of our first people.
Further, in terms of the rallies held yesterday around the country, and the hundreds of women who marched and rallied for a more inclusive, safe and fair society here in Tasmania - I see you, I hear you. This Government, this Parliament sees you and it hears you, and while action has been taken already, we know there is more to be done, and we will not shirk our responsibilities to ensure that everyone is safe, everyone is respected and everyone is supported.
Next week I will be meeting with the leaders of the other parties, Ms Ogilvie, yourself and the President of the upper house and Ms Webb, to work through and shape the independent review of practices and procedures for this work place, for Ministerial Parliamentary Services and for our electorate offices.
Today I want to provide for Tasmanians:
*An update on our economy;
*The Government’s response to the Premier’s Economic and Social Recovery Advisory Council final report, which I will be releasing in full today; and
*The steps we will take to grasp the bold opportunities ahead, which will secure Tasmania’s future.
The social and economic consequences of COVID-19 were felt far and wide, and for many they continue. Families remain separated by international borders, schooling was disrupted, business were closed and marriage plans set aside.
Some people had to deal with losing their job or having much less income, balancing this with home-schooling and decreased community connection.
In April last year retail trade fell, confidence dropped, and by May, nearly 20,000 jobs had been lost. I didn’t sugar coat the severity of the challenge we faced and in May we were the first jurisdiction to release an economic and fiscal update.
Treasury was forecasting an unemployment rate of around 12¼ percent by June, which would have meant around 34,000 Tasmanians out of work and an economy that was going backwards.
We were facing the dual threats of a health and economic crisis, and we knew we had to act decisively to deal with both. As a Government we put in place the largest economic and social support package in the history of our State, and the largest out of all of the states in terms of a share of our economy, at over $1 billion.
In June, we led the way with our Construction Blitz, bringing forward $70 million in public building maintenance, $24 million to bring forward 220 new social home builds, investments in training centres, schools, roads and irrigation, as well as stimulating the construction of thousands of houses, through the $45,000 Homebuilder package.
In July we released an Interim Trade Action Plan (ITAP) to support Tasmanian business to reclaim and grow trade in disrupted global marketplaces, and we accepted all initial recommendations of the Premier’s Economic and Social Recovery Council Interim Report.
In the November Budget, we continued to address both the health and social challenges, as well as addressing the economic challenge.
We invested where it mattered most – to help more Tasmanians with the essential services they need, including a record $9.8 billion into health over four years, and a record $7.5 billion into education.
And as part of our plan to support our economic recovery, we announced a landmark $5 billion infrastructure investment package, including importantly, $300 million into the largest ever program of social and affordable housing in the history of the State.
We expect this will support 25,000 jobs over the next four years, and provide a pipeline of projects to underpin confidence and demand across Tasmania for years to come.
Our Plan is working, confidence is up, our economy is growing again, we have the lowest unemployment rate of all of the states and job numbers are at pre-pandemic levels.
In fact, job vacancy ads in February led the nation, at 52.4 percent higher than the previous year, and more than double the national growth over the year. We have jobs available right now for skilled people - especially in our construction sector - which now has a full book of work in front of it.
And with confidence returning and businesses investing, retail trade, which is one of the best litmus tests you can have for your wider economy, grew one percent in January to be 9.3 percent higher than this time last year, while our merchandise exports were higher in 2020 than the year before, bucking the national trend.
Recent expert commentators reinforce that our economic recovery is in full swing.
Commsec has Tasmania placed as the best performing economy in the nation, for the fourth quarter in a row. ANZ rates our surging exports, and booming housing market. Deloitte notes our gangbuster budget.
And Sensis finds that our businesses are the most confident in the nation.
The COVID-19 vaccine roll-out program is underway with a plan to have our 14,000 strong priority front line health, quarantine, aged and disability workers, along with aged and disability care residents vaccinated by April, and all Tasmanians over the age of 18 vaccinated, should they choose, by October this year, subject to the supply of the vaccine arriving in Tasmania.
Phase 1B of the vaccination rollout plan commences this week, which will see an expanded group of people, including elderly Tasmanians aged over 70, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, as well as other health care and frontline workers, eligible to receive the vaccination.
The vaccine is safe, it is effective and it is free, and while it’s not a silver bullet, it is a key safeguard that will help to further suppress and contain the virus, and support our pathway back to a freer and more normal life.
A stronger economy strengthens our budget through increased GST receipts and own source revenues.
As shown in our Revised Estimates Report, compared to the November Budget, the Net Operating Balance this year is estimated to have improved by $157.3 million and Net Debt is also expected to improve and be around $150 million lower.
These results show the confidence and resilience of businesses in Tasmania – backed by a Government that supports them.
Small Business is the engine room of our State and that’s why we stepped up and delivered a nation leading Small Business Support package of $80 million, providing more than 20,000 grants to more than 14,000 businesses, and over 370 businesses have been supported by our $110 million low and no interest loan schemes.
We will continue to support our small business sector as we rebuild, across all sectors and regions, by providing access to specialist financial counselling through a new $1 million COVID-19 Small Business Financial Counselling Support Program over the next 12 months.
This Program will help eligible businesses, which need advice to support them to recover, transition or apply other strategies to address business impacts due to the pandemic.
The Program will run in parallel with existing programs and complement the financial support provided through grant and loan programs, which are being delivered by the Department of State Growth.
I will now provide an overview of the final report of the Premier’s Economic and Social Recovery Advisory Council.
On 30 April last year I announced that we would establish the Premier’s Economic and Social Recovery Advisory Council to provide advice on how best to support Tasmania’s short, medium and longer-term recovery from COVID-19.
The Council was chaired by well respected former Treasury Secretary, Don Challen AM, supported by a group of extraordinarily talented individuals that represent a broad cross-section of our community.
I want to recognise Mr Challen, along with:
·Professor Rufus Black;
·Dale Elphinstone AO;
·Paul Ranson; and
Thank you for your time and effort, and invaluable expertise.
Within two months the Council provided an Interim Report, containing a package of 64 recommendations aimed at our short and medium-term recovery.
We accepted all of these recommendations and provided funding where necessary in the Budget and continue to implement them.
I also tasked the Council with a second and more critically important task.
To look over the horizon to the medium and longer-term opportunities for our State, with a timeframe for implementation between two and five years.
The Council has taken a whole-of-state approach to identify the priority areas and consulted extensively, hearing from Tasmanians through the most comprehensive consultation program undertaken in two decades. Around 3500 people were involved and the report reflects their voices as much as it does the Council’s.
Tasmanians clearly articulated a vision for our future based on five key priority areas, namely:
*Jobs and Income;
*Health and housing;
*Community connectivity and engagement;
*Environment and sustainability; and
*Public sector capability.
These priorities are the priorities of Tasmanians, and they align strongly to the priorities and values of my Government.
Today I am making a commitment to the Tasmanian people. This report will not just be another report that will sit in someone’s desk drawer.
If we can close our borders, shut our businesses, support those most disadvantaged in a time of crisis, then we can seize this moment to adopt the future focused recommendations of PESRAC, informed by Tasmanians for Tasmanians.
Today we will make the PESRAC Final Report 2021 available to all Tasmanians. And today I am committing to accept, however challenging they may be, all of the Report’s 52 recommendations.
In this speech time doesn’t allow me to comment on all of the recommendations, but I will touch on each of the key priority areas contained in the report and some of the immediate steps that we will take in each priority area.
The PESRAC consultation identified that one of the most important concerns for Tasmanians was jobs and incomes, and especially skills and training.
When I became Premier I said that it was my vision for a Tasmania that no matter where you live, no matter what your background is, no matter what your circumstances are, opportunities will be there and if you want to grasp those opportunities, a better life will be within your reach.
And this Government has a strong and proud record of achievement in this regard.
There are now over 22,000 more Tasmanians employed since coming to Government in 2014, our economy is one of the strongest in the country and we have the lowest unemployment rate of any state in the country.
But, Madam Speaker, we can do better still.
PESRAC has recommended that the Government continues to support major investment to stimulate economic activity, create jobs and attract other investment, as well as building confidence and hope.
In line with PESRAC’s recommendations we will take the opportunity to support major investment, and realise projects that can make a real difference to our State. Projects such as the Macquarie Point development, which has the potential to rival South Bank and other landmark waterfront precincts.
While we have delivered the remediation works within budget, there is still more to do, and now is the time to accelerate this work and attract investment.
That’s why I am today announcing that we will provide an additional $77 million investment into the site for the Corporation to continue to advance the site development, including more than $6 million to be provided this financial year.
This certainty will get the next development stage to market sooner, over the next three years, providing the foundation for around half a billion dollars of investment to take place, so that this fantastic waterfront precinct can come alive for all Tasmanians to enjoy.
In the budget we have already announced a $10 million fund to support paused private sector projects that were shovel ready, and today we are building on that with the establishment of a $30 million Building Construction Support Loan Scheme, to provide loan finance to support paused commercial scale building and construction projects that create new, or improved building or associated infrastructure.
Under the Scheme, projects of $3 million or more will be able to apply for low-interest commercial loans through the Office of the Coordinator General.
A key recommendation of PESRAC is the creation of Jobs Tasmania Local Networks to strengthen the links to job opportunities to ensure more Tasmanians have the opportunity to live and work in the place they call home.
The Local Networks will be regional with local leadership, and they will complement the work of the Australian Government’s JobActive Networks.
Already we have taken steps down this path under our Strategic Growth portfolio, we are delivering Jobs Hubs in Sorell and Glenorchy, as well as initiatives to better connect skills and training provision directly with local industry and business, such as the regional growth projects underway in George Town.
We will, in line with this recommendation, establish Jobs Tasmania Local Networks that link to our existing hubs, however, there is no time to waste and businesses are telling us they need workers now.
Today we are announcing a two-year, $20.5 million package to help more Tasmanian workers into jobs.
Through this we will:
*Establish a Job Ready Fund of $2 million to help job seekers gain essential tools they need to get a job. Such as White Card licencing, working with vulnerable people checks, boots, protective clothing, equipment or a tool-box;
*Expand our Area Connect Service to get more people to work, training or education where no easy transport options exist. We will invest $3.2 million and expand the current transport services to 16 Local Government Areas, up from six;
*Fund a $400,000 Workers Connect Portal, providing Tasmanian business and jobseekers with information about local jobs, as well as the programs and the support services available;
*Deliver a Regional Jobs Show and Events program with $200,000 available to showcase local employment and industry opportunities in partnership with regional jobs hubs and community groups;
*Expand our successful Job Matching Service with an additional $2.4 million to place more jobseekers with local employer vacancies; and
*Introduce the Tasmanian Employer Bonus, incentivising employers to take on a long-term, unemployed job seeker. In coordination with Federal Government programs, we will invest $6.5 million over two years to help employers take on job seekers who have experience and skills but need a fair go, with a $6,500 incentive to those employers.
One of the fastest growing industries in Tasmania is the Aged Care and Disability Support sectors and we know that the skills pipeline for these sectors was disproportionately affected during COVID-19.
We will invest $3 million to fund an additional 600 training places in Certificate III in Individual Support, which is the crucial qualification staff need to work in these sectors.
The successful Skill Up initiative will also be extended for a further 12 months, with a $1 million investment to continue to provide fee-free training for those hardest hit by COVID-19, delivering more new entrants into the job market by upskilling job seekers or those wanting to retrain in key areas.
And to safeguard our disadvantaged youth from the ongoing fallout of COVID-19, we will invest $850,000 in the Youth Navigators project for the next 12 months. This will see a youth employment alliance formed between community organisations to deliver triaged services specifically tailored to young people, including one-on-one guided support to enter the job market.
Madam Speaker, I am also pleased to announce these projects will be managed by our new Jobs and Participation unit in Skills Tasmania, which will also oversee the establishment of the Jobs Tasmania local networks, helping to ensure Tasmanians can access opportunities in their local communities and that they are trained and ready for work.
The initiatives I have just outlined will remove some of the barriers especially in relation to cost and in terms of access to training and support.
While we have been focused on rebuilding TasTAFE since we came to Government, it is time to take the next steps of TasTAFE’s evolution.
TasTAFE is in a stronger position than when we came to Government.
However, one of the strongest themes PESRAC heard in its consultation with business is the need for our training provider TasTAFE to meet the needs of a generation of young people, and an influx of jobseekers who need to quickly upskill and reskill to move across sectors as we recover from the structural impacts of COVID-19.
We know that our construction sector has a pipeline of work in front of it that cannot be met by our existing workforce, and our plan is to deliver more apprentices and trainees, and more Tasmanian tradies, rather than relying on fly-in, fly-out interstaters.
Job vacancies, which are increasing across all industry sectors, but especially in relation to the trades and construction sector, are at record highs - yet the single largest risk, the greatest challenge that the state faces to rebuilding our State and delivering both public and private projects, whether that be building someone their first house or building a school or a bridge, is the fact that we need more skilled and trained people.
PESRAC points very strongly to the critical role of skills in building recovery, and TasTAFE’s central role in this, however, they are of the view that TasTAFE must be given the autonomy and workforce flexibility to continuously align its training offering with our evolving workforce needs.
I couldn’t agree more. We have the jobs that need filling, we have Tasmanians who want to work and who need to work, we have worked hard to improve the outcomes from TasTAFE and great steps have been made, but without further change, without further intervention, the single largest risk we face in terms of our recovery is the ability of our major training provider to train enough people quickly.
I don’t want our businesses to be employing people from interstate in the coming months and years because our training provider is not empowered to act as nimbly, as quickly and as flexibly as the businesses it seeks to serve.
The consultation by PESRAC tells us that there was overwhelming support for improving and investing in TasTAFE as the public provider, and creating the operational flexibility TasTAFE needs to match the needs of business.
Madam Speaker, across our business and industry sectors who are creating employment pathways and providing jobs for Tasmanians, the message was loud and the message was clear.
We need a public skills and training provider that is fit for purpose, that is industry-specific and that offers training specific to the outcomes required.
A provider that looks more like and operates more like the businesses it serves.
PESRAC heard that the employment conditions for TasTAFE trainers align more to a school than an industry environment, with restrictive maximum training loads and inflexible time-of-day training arrangements making it difficult to deliver to industry work patterns or for students’ out-of-hours needs.
No business or adult learner should reasonably expect training to be unavailable for 11 weeks of the year. Or for training to be undertaken during office hours only. Or for salaries that don’t incentivise new industry skilled trainers, especially in trades areas.
These restrictive practices do not happen across most TAFEs in Australia. Businesses expect TasTAFE to be able to recruit new staff quickly in response to industry demand.
That’s why we agree with PESRAC’s recommendation that TasTAFE must have the autonomy and the workforce flexibility it needs to continuously align its training offering with evolving workforce needs, and the financial capacity and flexibility to invest in and manage infrastructure best suited to deliver contemporary training.
PESRAC’s recommendation is that the most effective way of achieving the flexibility and agility required, is to make TasTAFE an independent government business, which has available to it all the tools and resources that other public trading enterprises have, including a modern and fit for purpose industrial relations framework.
Under this model of TasTAFE, the public would have a clear view of its charter, aligning to government priorities to address industry and business needs as they emerge.
We have a growing economy, and there are jobs to be had. We have emerging industries with new jobs on the horizon, and we must act now to make sure Tasmanians have the best access to industry-endorsed training that is fit for purpose.
And, Madam Speaker, to make sure that learning, skills and training is fully integrated, we support PESRAC’s recommendations in relation to implementing a range of training and education pathways, including school-age work experience, apprenticeships, cadetships and internships.
It’s time to take action and build a bolder, better TasTAFE with a smart approach to delivering hands-on training through courses that best equip Tasmanians to gain a job, removing material barriers, and enabling greater participation in skills, training and the workforce.
It is imperative that we do this, otherwise we will deny Tasmanians the opportunity to receive the skills and training that they need to achieve a better life, and secure Tasmania’s future.
Tasmanians told PESRAC that health is a priority, we need to keep investing in mental health, and that securing affordable housing close to work, family and friends, remains challenging.
There is no denying that COVID-19 has impacted on many, many people in ways never imagined and PESRAC has identified very clearly the challenge of mental health.
While we are rolling out a $120 million plan for new facilities, additional staff and more support for the community sector, we know there is more to do.
Over the next few years we will deliver significant reform arising from the Tasmanian Mental Health Reform Program and the Reform Agenda for the Alcohol and Other Drugs Sector in Tasmania.
In last year’s Budget we invested $4 million to commence Phase One of implementing the Government’s response to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services Review report and recommendations. Late last year we also released Tasmania’s strengthened mental health plan, Rethink 2020, which represents a shared approach to mental health service planning and delivery in Tasmania.
However, we understand that as a result of the impact of COVID-19 over the last 12 months, there is more to do.
I am pleased today to announce in line with the PESRAC recommendations, that we will invest a further $41.2 million over four years to fully fund phases one and two of the Government’s response to the CAMHS Review.
The review recommended large scale changes in the way CAMHS operates, including in its structure, practice and culture, to better support our children and adolescents, with particular emphasis on those most vulnerable and in need of support.
We have also prioritised mental health and wellbeing in our schools, delivering an extra 80 FTE professional support staff, including school psychologists, social workers, nurses, speech and language pathologists to support children and young people impacted by trauma, and we now have support and wellbeing teams established in every school.
Today I am announcing that we will further strengthen the supports already in place by upskilling all school health nurses with the latest Youth Mental Health First Aid Training, with school nurses given the opportunity to begin undertaking this specialised training later this year.
We will also fund the wellbeing Lead Teacher and Principal, in every Government school in Tasmania, to undertake online professional learning focused on student mental health and trauma-informed approaches.
Furthermore, we understand how alcohol and drug, and mental health services provided by Government can dovetail better with our long-standing community organisations, which is why we are providing $150,000 to the Salvation Army for a master plan to redevelop their ageing New Town site to a purpose built village, providing tailored care and supports for vulnerable Tasmanians, including alcohol and drug rehabilitation, crisis accommodation, parenting programs, new social affordable housing units, a community centre and garden, and extended family violence support.
Tasmanians deserve a health system they can be proud of. Since coming to Government we have grown our health budget to $9.8 billion – a 70% increase since the last Labor-Green budget, with 1500 additional FTE staff – over 800 new nurses; 230 more doctors; 170 more allied health professionals; and over 170 more FTE staff at Ambulance Tasmania.
Coming to Government we inherited significant legacy issues from underspend and under-investment, but brick by brick and service by service, we are building a better health system.
Whilst not specific PESRAC recommendations, there are a number of further health measures that I want to comment on today that we intend to implement.
We know pressure needs to be relieved from our Emergency Departments, so that those most at risk can get the care they need when they need it.
That’s why we will:
*Make it even easier for Tasmanians to access medical care close to home by working with the primary health sector with a $3 million support and encouragement program for primary health services and local GPs to provide after-hours services for their local communities. This will complement other initiatives, including Community Rapid Response and Secondary Triage, and subject to consultation with the primary care sector, we intend to have these incentives in place by the end of June this year; and
*We will build on our 50% increase in Ambulance Tasmania staff recruited since 2014, recruiting two new paramedic crews with an additional 12 FTEs each, and new vehicles, to support increased access to ambulance services in the greater Hobart and greater Launceston areas.
We also know that the oral health waiting list has increased over the last 12-months as a result of COVID-19, due to the inability for practitioners to conduct appointments and the reduced availability of dental students from interstate due to lockdowns and border closures.
To support more Tasmanians to get the care they need sooner, we will be providing a funding injection of $5 million, in addition to this financial year’s $1 million boost, with extra capacity sourced through the existing and very successful private dental sector Outsourcing Program.
This will deliver 20,000 additional dental appointments for public patients across emergency, general care and denture clinics.
We will work closely with private practices and organisations like the RFDS, to ensure that care can be received where it’s needed most.
We have also been considering improvements in access to Tasmania’s Controlled Access Scheme for medical cannabis, and I can confirm we will enable GPs in Tasmania to prescribe medical cannabis, subject to necessary approval from the Therapeutic Goods Association, with the commencement of the new scheme from 1 July this year.
We will also remove requirements that medical cannabis is only dispensed from Tasmania Health Service pharmacies, allowing other pharmacies to dispense throughout the State, and will continue to review the Controlled Access Scheme to ensure it continues to provide an appropriate specialist led pathway, alongside the new process of GP prescriptions.
Before we leave the health portfolio, I wanted to touch on the Voluntary Assisted Dying Choice legislation, which has passed through the lower house with amendments last sitting.
It is my view that through a conscience vote by the Liberal Party we have delivered more robust legislation, offering both choice and protection for Tasmania’s most vulnerable.
However, I am also committed to ensuring we have better palliative care for Tasmanians.
Our funding for palliative care has consistently increased since we came to Government, with over $12 million in state funding per annum for specialist palliative care services, as well as the refurbishment and delivery of new palliative care spaces in our hospitals, through the $10.5 million King Island redevelopment and the $35 million Mersey Community Hospital redevelopment.
However, we know there is more to be done and in the lead up to the August Budget we will work with peak palliative care and health bodies, and the community sector on the best approach for additional and expanded hospice at home services, and expansion of state-wide after hours palliative care support. This will be a substantial investment to ensure Tasmanians continue to have improved levels of care.
PESRAC clearly notes the challenges inherent in our housing market at this time, with Tasmanians saying that access to affordable housing was one of their concerns for the future.
This Government has set in place the most comprehensive affordable housing strategy focussing on social and affordable housing that any Government has attempted, especially supporting low income Tasmanians.
Yet, Tasmania is seeing unprecedented demand for housing, across all sectors, which is why we support the PESRAC recommendation to develop a broader housing policy framework that looks at the full array of housing market issues, across both the public and private sectors, to drive practical actions and deliver more sustainable housing market outcomes across Tasmania for all Tasmanians.
We will commission this work immediately, whilst we continue to take targeted actions to boost supply, support home ownership and put downward pressure on rents. As I have said on many occasions, we must build more houses and in regards to supply, Tasmania is building houses at a rate not seen in nearly a decade.
Homebuilder has delivered, with over 2,600 applications received and 1,763 applications already conditionally approved by the State Revenue Office and in total in the 12-months to January, there were 3,538 new dwellings approved – the most approved in a quarter of a century.
But we need to build more.
Currently there’s around 5000 hectares of privately-owned vacant residential zoned land across Tasmania, which could deliver around 60,000 lots for residential development across the State. However, for various reasons this land is not being developed. That’s why we will take immediate action to remove barriers and costs to encourage further land activation.
Land-owners who wish to activate residential zoned land that is not currently being developed will benefit from a $10 million Headworks Holiday for new residential subdivisions.
This includes up to $5,000 per residential lot for power, and up to $5,000 per residential lot delivered for water and sewerage infrastructure.
We also know that Tasmanians are seeking different types of housing, yet current planning settings do not cater well for infill developments in our cities and towns, where services and transport are already developed.
To address this need, we will finalise an Apartment Code to establish appropriate Permitted and Discretionary assessment pathways for medium-density residential development, to provide certainty, consistency and transparency for developers, councils and the community, to get these developments going sooner.
The Code will make it easier, faster and simpler to build in-fill, medium-density apartments to meet demand near existing transport routes and services.
Complementing this, we are also providing a ‘no permit required’ pathway for landowners to construct ancillary dwellings on their properties.
Ancillary dwellings are extra living quarters, with a floor area of less than 60 square metres, which are self-contained but additional to the primary home on a block, such as a granny flat.
Ancillary dwellings allow home owners to accommodate changing family needs, and they also add value to the family home.
And to help meet demand for rental properties, today I am announcing that the first 250 new ancillary dwellings that are made available for long-term rental for more than two years will receive a $10,000 payment.
These changes will make it easier, faster and simpler to build and meet demand, and put downward pressure on rents in Tasmania.
When it comes to social housing, we have added 1138 more long term homes and supported accommodation places for applicants on the social housing register since coming to Government.
And contracted right now in our pipeline, there are 552 new dwellings to be added to social housing and supported accommodation, and 103 more places in homeless accommodation.
As well as a further 764 social houses currently being contracted.
We will continue building on this ambitious pipeline.
We know that the HomeShare scheme opens the door to home ownership for those who have enough income to make the step, but just need a helping hand.
This is a fantastic program that enables the Government to co-invest with purchasers by taking an equity stake in the home of up to $100,000 or 30% of the home’s value, whichever is the lesser. There are income and asset limits to meet, however, they are very generous. For example, a couple with two children and an income of up to $133,242 and up to $100,000 in financial assets, would qualify for the program.
We want to help more Tasmanians to understand and access this program, and so we will ensure it is widely advertised during the course of this year and funding will be increased by up to another $10 million, meaning at least another 100 households can realise the dream of home ownership through the program.
Furthermore, given the strong growth in housing prices, we will provide further support to Tasmanians to buy their first home or pensioners to downsize, by increasing the conveyance duty concession threshold from $400,000 to $500,000 - to reflect current market conditions - providing relief of 50 percent, effective immediately.
We recognise that the private rental market remains challenging for many.
During COVID this Government has provided significant support to tenants and landlords, including $2.3 million to support tenants and $1 million to support landlords, helping to keep people in homes and helping to insulate landlords from financial liability.
We are currently waiving land tax for commercial land impacted by COVID-19, and to incentivise the availability of long-term rentals, providing land tax exemptions of three years for newly built housing, and one year for former short-stay accommodation.
While as a share of total state revenue, land tax in Tasmania is the lowest with Western Australia, of all the states, there remains a need to contemporise our land tax thresholds.
That’s why we will reset the land tax thresholds to reflect today’s strong property market:
*We will double the land value at which land tax becomes payable, from $25,000 to $50,000; and
*We will increase the maximum land value threshold by $50,000, from $350,000 to $400,000.
These changes will save around 70,000 Tasmanians up to $613 in their land tax bill. It will also mean an additional 4,100 landowners will now pay no land tax in the year ahead putting downward pressure on the need for rental increases to be passed on.
In addition we understand that the impacts of COVID, along with rising property values, have created challenges.
Currently, there are already a number of mechanisms to assist landlords to meet their land tax liabilities, but these need contemporising as well.
We will halve the premium rate of interest charged on unpaid tax, from 8 percent to 4 percent, and we will also allow for land tax bills over $500 to be paid by three instalments over the year.
We will introduce legislation for the land tax and conveyance duty measures before June this year.
The impacts of COVID-19 meant for many weeks we spent time isolating apart, at a time when we longed to be together.
The PESRAC report focused on the importance of place-based recovery strategies centred on improving and enhancing community outcomes, as well as the importance of digital inclusion and access.
The Tasmanian Government supports this recommendation to proactively seek out and fund additional initiatives that increase community connection, primary prevention and early intervention in areas such as family and community violence, and models that support new and innovative strategies to engage volunteers and support leadership development.
To ensure that our supports are ongoing, yesterday I wrote to our specialist family and sexual violence service providers, extending their funding at the increased level of COVID funding until 30 June 2022, so they can maintain their operational capacity to meet demand, and continue to support our communities.
The most recent Australian Digital Inclusion Index report shows that off the back of the Tasmanian Government’s Digital Ready for Daily Life program, our State has made progress with digital inclusion in our community, even factoring in the challenges presented by COVID-19, and the PESRAC report highlights the need to continue making improvements with digital inclusion and infrastructure.
We support the recommendation by PESRAC of a review into coverage gaps, future investment priorities and pursuing enhanced collaboration between the Federal Government, telecommunications carriers and other local providers, so that more Tasmanians can participate in an increasingly digital society.
The findings of this review, which will be conducted in coming months, will be used to inform the development of the August budget, where additional funding will be made available for digital infrastructure projects to close the digital divide and strengthen connectivity and access.
Many regions have events that help celebrate and define their identity and that enhance and bring their community together.
Tasmania’s events landscape has been hit hard through COVID-19, and while we have invested $4 million under our Events Attraction Fund to strengthen the regional events calendar, we know that as we recover further support is needed.
In line with the PESRAC recommendation to support community based events $1.5 million will be made available in a Regional Events Recovery Fund to support organisers to undertake activities that contribute to the sustainability of these rich events in regional areas.
In addition, we will provide support to our creative and cultural sector through a $1.5 million investment to aid the ongoing recovery efforts of this important industry. This package includes additional funding for arts organisations, along with assistance for performing arts production companies and venues to stage live events and performances in a 2021 COVID-safe environment.
And, as Tasmania continues to cement itself as a premium destination for creative screen productions, many of which are filmed on location in regional Tasmania, we will provide $3 million to attract and support the production and filming in Tasmania of works that showcase our State and build on our successful Tasmanian brand.
This Government recognises how critical a good education system is to strengthening and connecting communities, and we have been steadfast in our commitment to build a better education system to give our young people the best start to life.
Since 2014, 56 high schools have now been extended to years 11 and 12 - in all regions of Tasmania - and there are 35 new education infrastructure projects currently in planning, design or construction around Tasmania, including two new schools, four major school redevelopments, six new Child and Family Learning Centres and five new kindergartens.
We have boosted staff with 269 more FTE teachers and 250 more FTE teacher assistants.
Tasmania’s school expenditure per student is now above the national average, and our schools have a teacher-student ratio better than the national rate.
We are also aware of the need to decrease pressure on popular schools in some areas, such as Taroona High School, which is why we have taken the steps for Ogilvie and New Town to go co-educational in 2022.
While the full Master Planning process will get underway to assess the medium and longer-term capital spend required, we will provide $1.6 million immediately for essential projects, including co-educational toilet facilities and refurbished general learning areas. These works will be completed before the 2022 school year.
There is always more that can be done and I know it is often the little things that can make the most difference.
Last year a 14 year old student wrote to the Government asking for free sanitary items for girls in our schools, explaining that many students struggle to buy these products, and sometimes even miss school because of that.
We need to remove barriers to learning, and so I’m pleased to say we will make sanitary items freely available in all Government schools from Term 3 this year.
We have proven we can keep Tasmanians safe during the pandemic, and a major and continuing priority for our Government is to keep Tasmanians safe in our communities with a strong law and order program.
We are on track to deliver 258 more police officers since we came to Government, and we have recruited 200 more correctional officers since 2016.
And while we must ensure the safety of our correctional staff, as well as prisoners and detainees at our custodial facilities, we accept we must minimise as far as possible personal searches in these facilities.
That’s why we will be strengthening the Youth Justice Act to support this, and today I can announce we will invest $1.3 million in body scanning technology in the Hobart and Launceston reception prisons, Risdon Prison and the Ashley Youth Detention Centre.
We also want to work hard to stop the revolving door of prison, as our reoffending rate remains too high, and that’s why we are actively working on a plan to reduce the rate of reoffending, through an increased focus on rehabilitation and reintegration, and the Minister for Corrections will lead this body of work as a priority.
We will also extend Project Vigilance, Tasmania’s electronic monitoring of family violence perpetrators, following recent successful trials, where an evaluation demonstrated increased safety to victim-survivors with an overall 82 percent reduction in high risk incidents.
An additional $2.4 million over two years will be provided, which will allow for up to 100 devices to be fitted, while also providing for Police supervision and monitoring.
During COVID-19 we implemented a range of support measures to meet the needs of vulnerable children, young people and their families, including support for Informal Kinship Carers, who play a vital role in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of children who can't live with their parents.
Part of our response was to conduct a review of supports currently in place to understand where support can be enhanced. Today we have released the summary of the Review Report and we are providing $500,000 to immediately commence implementation of recommendations.
I am pleased to say we are also installing an informal Kinship Carer support and liaison officer in the north west, and opening up access to more concessions, training opportunities and an information portal, as well as respite and increased brokerage funds for families who need that support.
We will also invest $500,000 to begin the work needed for a new Tasmanian-based therapeutic residential care program for Tasmanian young people with exceptional needs, as an alternative to the Many Colours, One Direction program in the Northern Territory.
Underpinning all of the consultation that PESRAC undertook, was the need for our recovery to be sustainable, to not compromise our competitive strengths, and the importance of our environment to our well-being.
One of our greatest strengths right now is renewable energy. We are a global leader, and one of only a handful of jurisdictions in the world to achieve 100 percent self-sufficiency in clean, reliable and affordable renewable energy.
This has been a key Liberal Government commitment, and we’ve reached it through our nation-leading energy policies to attract investment and jobs, particularly in our regions. But we need to do more, to seize on our State’s immense potential. Which is why we have a bold plan: to double our renewable generation to 200 percent of our current needs by 2040.
We will deliver this by progressing the Marinus Link and Battery of the Nation projects, and our $50 million Tasmanian Renewable Hydrogen Industry Development Funding Program, to inject billions into our economy and create jobs.
The transition to net zero emissions is a global economic transition, and represents an economic, environmental and social opportunity for this State.
Thanks to our unique landscapes, renewable energy and our climate action to date, we are well placed to grasp this opportunity.
We have already achieved our net zero target by 2050, four years in a row, and our target and Climate Change Act are currently under independent review. We are also developing our next climate action plan to guide our actions over the next five years, which will be informed by the modelling we are undertaking to understand both the economic and the environmental implications of more ambitious goals.
However, it is my firm belief we hold a unique opportunity to raise our ambition and later this year I look forward to introducing to this House our new Climate Change Act, with bolder targets along with the release of a new comprehensive Climate Action Plan.
We already have a target to have the lowest rate of litter in the country by 2023, we will continue to support up to $30 million investment into waste management and recycling facilities state-wide, and we will introduce legislation for our Container Refund Scheme this year.
PESRAC has recommended that we develop a Sustainability Strategy for Tasmania with ambitious goals and actions. The Department of Premier and Cabinet will lead this work, in concert with other agencies, and will consult widely on the strategy later this year.
However, in the meantime one concrete action that we can take right now is to set a goal to phase out the use of single use plastics as a number of Local Governments, including the Launceston and Hobart councils, have already done.
The Government as a first step will consult with Local Government on the best way to implement and phase in the removal of single use plastics from Government and council facilities, and events held on publicly owned land across the State by 2023.
In terms of our environment one industry leading in this area is tourism. The industry, through the T21 Industry Recovery Action Plan released last year, identified a goal for Tasmania to become a Carbon Neutral Destination.
Today, I can announce that the industry has set a target to achieve this goal by 2025 – and to assist businesses to start the journey to carbon neutral, $1.5 million will be provided to support carbon audits and formulate a pathway for them to achieve a standard of operation that will be globally recognised.
This is a massive opportunity with more travellers than ever before proactively selecting climate positive destinations.
In addition, as this industry has been hardest hit by travel bans and restrictions we will provide the industry $8 million in innovation and development grants to continue to enhance Tasmania’s world-class experience reputation, and a further $500,000 to extend the business planning support program.
Additionally, we will also provide $4 million in direct financial support to tourism and hospitality businesses identified as critical to regional visitor attraction that remain in acute financial stress as a result of the restrictions on travel due to the COVID-19 response.
This will include grants of up to $100,000 per business, with a go-live date of April 4.
There is no doubt travel agents, which have been hard hit through COVID-19, will be instrumental in helping to drive demand, and we will also provide $1 million in grant funds to support Tasmanian travel agents, with a program to be rolled out through Business Tasmania from April 4.
The funding that remains unspent of around $5 million from the successful travel voucher scheme we ran last year, which underpinned nearly $30 million in additional spending will be used as I said it would - to support the industry and it will be rolled in to support these new grant programs.
In addition, along with further funding from Austrade’s Recovery for Regional Tourism initiative, Tourism Tasmania will invest $3.5 million to deliver our most aggressive winter season campaign ever.
Complementing the Australian Government’s $1.2 billion tourism recovery package announced last week, delivering discounted flights into regional areas, we anticipate Tasmania to be red hot this winter.
This activity, coupled with initiatives like the free vehicles program through the Bass Strait Passenger Vehicle Equalisation Scheme, will make a winter holiday in Tasmania more accessible and compelling than ever before and will contribute to the rebuilding of our very professional and resilient tourism industry.
We have a long-term plan to secure Tasmania’s future, for all Tasmanians, and to ensure that they receive the services that they need. But to continue to do so efficiently and effectively, we need the right governance and processes in place.
This is identified by PESRAC in its report, and we are moving ahead with the Review of the Tasmanian State Service to ensure we have a contemporary framework to enable the continuous improvement necessary to provide services to the Tasmanian community, which are fit for purpose in this rapidly changing world.
Dr Ian Watt AO is leading the review of our State Service, with a final report due at the end of May.
I want to thank Dr Watt for his work to date and also the Public sector unions for their engagement through this process.
While I am certain there will be differing views on the final report when it is available, I want to provide an assurance to the Public Service that I see this as an opportunity to ensure we have the best framework in place, supported by the best systems, so we can service Tasmanians effectively as we recover and rebuild from COVID.
I also want to thank our public servants for their outstanding work over the past 12 months as they have supported the Tasmanian community through this most challenging period. This Government will not forget your efforts and hard work.
PESRAC has also recommended that local Government reform should be considered.
They have recommended that the two houses of parliament work together to set terms of reference for a reform process that would run over an 18 month period.
However, they are of the view that local Government reform should not be used as a political football, and that unless there is agreement in this place, as well as the legislative council, that reform is needed and that a process should be established, there is no point considering it further.
I accept that advice and I have no interest in expending energy on a political bun-fight that ultimately doesn’t lead to improvements in the sector, and only leads to a divided Parliament and divided communities.
The position of the Government on this recommendation is that across this chamber we will establish a cross-party working group, as well as the member for Clark Ms Ogilvie, to discuss and decide on whether we wish to move collectively forward on this matter.
I will write to the leaders and to Ms Ogilvie in coming days to arrange our first discussion.
I want to thank PESRAC for their considered and comprehensive work, and assure the 3500 Tasmanians that were consulted through this process, that they have been heard and that we will take action.
Tasmania is in a great place.
We have emerged from the pandemic with a strong economy and business confidence leading the nation. Yet when we talk about our greatest assets – it’s not our infrastructure, our resources or our environment. It is our people. Our people who have shown great strength, great resilience, great courage and also and importantly great compassion and kindness.
This year the Government is firmly focused on delivering our plan to rebuild our state, to ensure that we learn from our shared experience and importantly that we secure our best future.
There is work to be done and with the PESRAC recommendations strengthening our resolve, this Government will continue to provide the decisive leadership that is needed to keep building a strong economy, to deliver the essential services Tasmanians need, to create jobs and to put in place the very best skills and training pathways, so more Tasmanians can benefit today and well into the future.
I said when I first became Premier that I would lead a Government of conviction, a Government of compassion and a Government that ensures that opportunity is there for our people.
I said that no matter where you live, no matter your circumstance or your background, this Government would help you grasp the opportunities this great State provides.
My resolve is firm, my commitment strong and this Government will deliver the plan that I have outlined today to secure every Tasmanian’s future.