Good morning everyone. And what a delight it is to be in the greatest electorate in the country, a little closer to home, and to welcome you all here to beautiful Blundstone Arena and to be with members of the greatest political party in the world.
And can I firstly acknowledge the first Tasmanians, the Mouheneener people, who are the original owners and custodians of the land and the sea that surround us and pay my respects to them.
Now, they say that a week in politics is a long time, so I imagine what happened 32 weeks ago would seem like a political lifetime ago, but we should remember what we achieved in March this year, because that was a great moment for our party, when for only the second time in our state's history the Liberal Party earned the trust and the confidence of the Tasmanian people to again govern our state and to do so in Majority, and that was to continue the job that we'd started, to make sure that we deliver that brighter future for Tasmanians that we've promised, and in fact to take Tasmania to the next level.
Now, I do have the very great honour, the fortune to be the Leader of what is a very great team. And we are so strongly supported by the many faithful members of our party, the volunteers. And, of course, they strongly support us, but they believe in us and they believe in what we stand for.
I want to thank and acknowledge our State President and members of the State Executive and State Director Sam McQuestin, the team at Party HQ, who have overseen a most excellent administration of our party, very strong membership engagement, excellent financial management. And they have been a critical part of the re-election of a Tasmanian Government.
But to my team, to those committed Members of the Majority Liberal Government, and that includes all 25 who contested the election and were part of the team that delivered Majority Government and now to my PLP, that provide me each and every day with such amazing support and unswerving commitment to our common sense of purpose, and that is to being the very best Government that we can. And we are stirred by the memory of Vanessa Goodwin in that mission. And to my greatest support of all, to Nicky, to Will, to James and to Lily. They have undertaken a course, a journey with me that's not an easy one, and I want to thank you sincerely very much for what you provide to me. I wouldn't be here without them and the faith that they place in me, and I want to thank them for allowing me to do this.
So, at this State Conference, why not, let's celebrate a little of what was a great election result and one that we should all be very proud of. But that's as much about the election as I'm going to talk today. Today I'm not gonna talk about the election anymore, I'm not gonna talk about the Opposition at all, I'm not gonna talk about the past, because most Tasmanians aren't interested in that. They are more concerned about the future. They want to know about where we are going, not where we've been, what we're gonna do, not what we've done, and that's exactly what I'm going to talk about today. I'm gonna talk about what are some of the key elements of the second term of a Majority Liberal Government, our second term agenda.
And firstly, as Peter has said, and rightly so, we will continue, as we have to keep our economy and our budget strong. We've worked bloody hard to get our economy into such strong shape and our budget similarly to get it back into surplus. We’re the only state in the country that's net debt-free, and we have one of the strongest performing economies in our country. And it's because our budget’s so strong that we are able to do more to provide the essential services that Tasmanians need, and to do so with greater scale and urgency where we're able, so that we can improve the lives of Tasmanians. That does mean better healthcare, better education results, better services to support those most vulnerable in our community and an ability to invest in our competitive strengths and the infrastructure that our growing state needs.
But I want to say very clearly from the outset that despite how well our state's economy is performing now and how strong our budget position is, we don't think it’s job done. I've always said it's job just begun. There is so much more for us to do. We don't believe this is anywhere near as good as it gets. There's a lot more to do, and that includes particularly in health services for Tasmanians.
It is absolutely a top priority for this Government. And it is this Government that is investing more in health than any Government before it, into improving healthcare for Tasmanians right across their state. We haven't cut staff, we haven't closed beds, we haven't closed facilities for Tasmanians or reduced support. In fact, under this Government, under this Liberal Government, we've employed over 100 more doctors, over 500 more nurses, 70 more allied health professionals. And 200 of these additional health professionals have been employed since this year's election, just six months ago. We are escalating our effort and the priority that we place on better healthcare for Tasmanians, and what we are going to do is employ an additional 1,300 staff in our health system to treat patients in our hospitals over the next six years.
In this year's budget, we've put an additional $465 million into health, $400 million more is being spent on health this year than when we came into Government. We're spending more than 30% of the state's budget on health. That's the highest proportion that any state, of any state budget across the country bar one, is investing into health. That shows how important better healthcare is to this Government. But we do understand why would people then ask, why are Tasmanians on waiting lists, why is there ambulance ramping? The truth is that demand for services is also escalating, and it's outstripping supply, the physical capacity in our hospitals and our health facilities.
Since 2016, demand at our Emergency Departments has risen by more than 7,000 patients a year. 12 years ago, at the Royal, in the ED, they treated on average 108 patients a day. We now need a hospital that can treat 222 patients each day. So, we do have a very real challenge of meeting today's demand in yesterday's hospital, but we are up for that, and we are in fact the Government that will actually deliver the new Royal Hobart Hospital.
And it will happen in this term of Government, our second term, that the Royal will be open with around 250 more beds. And that will relieve pressure right across our health system, our statewide health network, and alongside investments in other hospitals and health facilities right across the state in each of our regions.
In our second-term agenda we are continuing with priority and urgency to reform a health system that was disconnected and dysfunctional. We know it's not good enough. It's a challenge we accept responsibility for, and we will respond to the additional demand where we can.
For instance, we've opened a new Ward at the Repat, 22 more beds relieving pressure and allowing 1,300 more people to get treatment each year. We've injected more funding into our Emergency Departments to respond to those peaks in demand. We've just delivered a $7.2 million package to provide targeted procedures for women. Around 900 more procedures will be available for women who have been waiting the longest on waiting lists. We're commencing recruitment of a new $5.6 million Community Rapid Response Hospital in the Home program in the southern Tasmanian and North Western Tasmania. We've already established such a thing in the North. It will provide about 15,000 services in our community and extend that successful program we started.
And I can announce that this week we're also commencing training for the new team that will operate Tasmania's first integrated medical and search rescue helicopter service with dedicated flight paramedics and specialist retrieval doctors, which our experts have told us will save lives. So, with the addition of helipads at the Mersey, and at the Royal, for the first time, all of our major hospitals will be connected for the first time to an integrated aeromedical service.
These are just some of the additional services and supports that we are establishing to improve healthcare for Tasmanians, and I repeat, if anyone questions the priority and the urgency that we are putting into improving health services, then look at those facts. It will continue under this Government and under this Minister, because we are committed to doing so much more, and we're getting on with the job.
And as it was in our first term, it will be in our second. Education is at the heart of this Government.
We know that staying in education and completing at least Year 12 or an equivalent in training will give every Tasmanian kid the best possible shot in life and allow them to be their best. Our second-term agenda will aggressively pursue the target of reaching the national average, where we should be, for the retention of students to Year 12 and to have that 75% of our students complete their TCE by 2022. And we're on track to achieve this. Under our second term we will have extended all schools right across our state by 2022 to provide Years 11 and 12. We've got 38 schools already on the program and five ready to go next year. And it is actually making a real difference. The apparent retention rate of students to Year 12 is now at 74%, up almost 6% when we came into office. The direct retention rate of students is the highest on record, and Year 12 attainment is also the highest on record. That's up 10% since we came into Government.
And in this second term, under our second-term agenda, the minimum age that students are required to complete Year 12 or a Cert 3 will increase to 18 from 2020. So, this means that students who are currently in Year 10 or below will be able to participate in education and training for longer and achieve the higher qualification that they need. And also, because education in the early years is so important, so critical to a student's development, we will enable our students to fully engage with school from the early years with free preschool to eligible three-year-olds be available by 2020.
250 more teachers into our schools over the next six years, and we will deliver the biggest infrastructure investment into our schools, into our TAFE, into our training in 20 years. Education does remain a key to our state's prosperity, and we're getting on with the job of ensuring that every Tasmanian kid and Tasmanians of all ages have the best opportunity to be their best.
Our second-term agenda also includes very important actions, too many to mention today, that go to supporting those most vulnerable in our community, to give them the support they need, a roof over their head that they need and to protect those who are at risk.
For example, and significantly, we were the Government that delivered Tasmania's first Family Violence Action Plan, and in doing so we have brought from out behind closed doors the true extent of this terrible social ill that afflicts our community, as every other. More victims are now bravely coming forward, and they have more support than they've ever had before. And because we've got such a strong budget position, we are able to continue this important work under our plan and to deliver next year and over the course of the coming three-and-a-half years in Government the second stage of our plan to eliminate family violence.
And as well as investing in important social infrastructure, we are also in the second term of our Government going to be characterised, I believe, for what is a massive investment in build infrastructure. And, as our state grows, we are surely feeling some pressure points right across our community, so we need to keep pace, and we literally need to build Tasmania's future. So, this is an unprecedented investment that we will make into Tasmania’s infrastructure, and we've set down a $2.6 billion infrastructure program to support the ongoing growth in our economy and the growth in our state. It's also job-creating infrastructure, and this is into schools, into hospitals, into roads, into rail, into our ports, into ambulance stations, into fire services and into more housing. That's the infrastructure we are talking about.
And we've just designed, for the first time ever in Tasmania, an infrastructure pipeline, and that maps out what will be a record spending and how we need to achieve it. State, Federal Governments working together, and the private sector who are an important part of this task over the next 10 years. An infrastructure investment, as I say, will be a major facilitator of our state's progress to get people safely to work and then back home again, to deliver more efficient public services across our state, to welcome visitors and to get our products from port to the world. So, a key part, the centrepiece of a second-term agenda of a Majority Liberal Government is to build the infrastructure our growing state needs and to drive further economic growth off the back of it, more jobs for Tasmanians and providing better services for them too, and to improve the liveability and the productivity of our state.
And as we've been saying over the course of this weekend, and indeed for many months, there's perhaps no bigger infrastructure opportunity available for Tasmania than in renewable energy. And it is this Government, working very closely with our federal colleagues, that is driving this agenda. And it's a piece of national infrastructure indeed. It is our next generation of Hydro. It captures one of our great natural advantages. It seizes our well-developed expertise and the opportunity to make Tasmania our nation's renewable energy powerhouse and its battery, securing Tasmania's energy supply, putting renewable energy into an unstable and unreliable National Grid, it'll deliver billions of dollars of investment and create thousands of jobs in Tasmania and it will keep power prices down.
And it is such an extraordinary opportunity for our state, but I have noticed that some naysayers are starting to talk it down. But it's a vision and an opportunity that this Government and the Coalition Government will not let pass. We will grab this opportunity. And work is, of course, well underway to build our state's new wind farms, to identify the best opportunities for pumped hydro and to build a second interconnector to export our precious and valuable renewable energy. And in our second-term agenda, this work is at the top of it.
And, in this second term of a Liberal Government, we will make Tasmania 100% renewable energy self-sufficient by 2022.
And, as I said yesterday, we do have a very strong and collaborative approach and a constructive one that's delivered results for our state by working collaboratively with our Coalition Government, our federal colleagues. Tasmanians elected us to just get on with things and to deliver, not squabble or indulge in political point-scoring, but to just get on and do things. And we will always stand up for Tasmania's interests. Every single day, everywhere we go, we will always stand up for Tasmania's best interests. And yes, that includes on the GST. But where we can work in Tasmania’s interests to deliver better outcomes for the people who elected us, to make our state an even better place, of course we will do so. That's what Tasmanians expect of us.
So, we will continue to work very constructively with the Federal Government, and the record shows across our state investments that we have made are indeed improving the lives of Tasmanians. And I hope it is a Coalition Government that we can continue to work with over the second term of our Government, because the current one’s done a lot, and as our Prime Minister, ScoMo, said, he's got a lot planned to keep our state heading in the right direction by working with us.
So, Ladies and Gentlemen, Tasmania’s economic and social growth is now quite spectacular. As we all know, it's driven very much by a buoyant and confident private sector, but very strongly supported by Governments, Liberal Governments, that understand and are prepared to cultivate and to facilitate this strong growth and this progress. As I've said today, in a couple of areas we are experiencing some growing pains. There are challenges in our community, and there's a lot more that needs to be done. We are conscious of that, and our commitment is to ensure that we have sensible and sustainable development.
Our election promise to protect what's special about our state remains a priority for this Government. It's the place we all love, and to protect it and our precious way of life is one of the pillars of our election commitments, our promise to Tasmanians in our plan. And we can, and so often do, get the balance right. We do have to go carefully, but there are now some who want to put the brakes on, who want to stop this progress, who don't embrace change, who might prefer that we put up a wall or perhaps bring down the curtain on those things that are bringing people to our state, stop those things that are leaving Tasmania, the products that the rest of the world want from getting there. Well, I do not believe for one minute that we should be taking our foot off the pedal.
This rare opportunity of unprecedented growth and progress in our state may not be with us forever. It certainly will not, if we become complacent or timid. So, under our Government, we will continue to take Tasmania to the world, with trade missions to our strongest markets, and that includes China, the United States, interstate, anywhere that we can support Tasmanian businesses and Tasmanian jobs by getting our products to those markets that demand them.
We will continue to engage in trade missions, not only for economic development and progress, but also for educational and cultural exchange.
We will continue with our plan to grow our population. We have to grow our population to be a more productive state, and we'll do it sustainably and sensibly.
We will support tourism like no other Government, and we will do all that we can, not only to bring more people to Tasmania, but to make sure that when they come here they see more of our state, they stay longer while they're here and, most importantly, they spend more while they are here.
And we’ll challenge ourselves, as this Government has done, to be more culturally confident, and we’ll invest strongly in events, into festivals and into the arts. The things that are making it more attractive to be here and to stay here and giving people less reasons to leave.
And we will push for a team of our own. Our state is growing. It is more prosperous, it is prouder, stronger and more confident than ever before, and our agenda is to take it to the next level, because by having such a strong and buoyant economy, such high levels of confidence, it helps future generations of Tasmanians, the prospect of them enjoying the excitement of living in Tasmania today.
We want to continue to be a Tasmania, as Peter has outlined, that leads the pack, that does not lag behind. And for those, I don't think there are many here today, but for those perhaps who may not be so confident about how great we can be, just consider this: there are now more people employed here than ever before, and Tasmania is now the top, or perhaps the second-highest performing state in the country on a number of key performance indicators, the value of our exports, the growth in international tourism, investment is leading the nation, retail trade, state final demand, housing approvals and commencements, capital spending, we have the most confident businesses in Tasmania for any state in the country. Has anyone mentioned we've got the best whiskey in the world? We all know that.
And it's our vision, it's our plan for all Tasmanians to be part of that brighter future. We do recognise that as far as we've come and how great it is to be a Tasmanian, there are many Tasmanians who need more. We are conscious of that, and our track record, but more importantly what we are going to do, shows that it's our vision to make sure that all Tasmanians feel that brighter future.
There's obviously no reason at all in my view why Tasmania can't be the best, the very best at everything we do. That's certainly my vision, my ambition. In so many ways we already are. It's my vision, it's at the heart of our Governments that we be.