Will Hodgman

Premier of Tasmania

Address to Liberal State Council

Will Hodgman - Premier

19 August 2016

President, State Director, Parliamentary colleagues, and members of our great Party.

It is a great honour to address this State Conference, for the twelfth time as our Party’s Leader.

But today, I want to speak to all Tasmanians. And today, I want to talk about the future.

Tasmania is definitely, once again, heading in the right direction.

Tasmania has changed, and for the better, under a majority Liberal Government.

11,000 more jobs for Tasmanians. Under the former government, 10,000 jobs were lost.

Our economy is strong. State final demand has grown every quarter since we were elected and is currently above the national average, and forecast to grow at the fastest rate in a decade. Under Labor and the Greens the economy slumped into recession.

When we came to Government, business confidence was the worst in the country, today it ranks amongst the best.

Tasmanians can trust us to manage the budget, and our economy, well.

When we came to Government, our hospital elective surgery waiting lists were among the longest in the country. Today, these waiting lists are the shortest ever on record.

When we came to Government, the education system was falling short. Now, there are more kids are at school, and results are improving.

It hasn't happened by chance. We are delivering our plan, that is delivering positive results.

But, despite all of this, we know it’s not nearly good enough. I don’t believe - for a second - that this is as good as it gets.

For we know that while today there are more Tasmanians employed than ever before, that’s of no comfort for someone looking for a job.

We understand that it’s still tough going for many Tasmanian small businesses.

We understand that people are worried about healthcare, even though elective surgery waiting lists are down to record lows.

We know that even though we’ve put more police into our communities, people want to feel safer.

We understand that Tasmanians are worried about the cost of living;  their power and water bills.

So there is a lot more to do!  And today, I want to talk about the next stage of our long-term plan; to build on the gains we have made over the last three and a half years, and to build an even stronger future. Your future.

The plan for a re-elected majority Liberal Government.

A plan to take Tasmania to the next level.

A plan that sets bold targets, and aims high.

It contains 43 specific ways a re-elected majority Liberal Government will improve the lives of you, and your family.

And it focuses on six priorities;

A strong economy, and more jobs.

Taking action on the cost of living.

Investing more into health, education and supporting Tasmanians in need.

Keeping Tasmanians safe.

Protecting the Tasmanian way of life.

And building the infrastructure our growing State needs.

It’s a plan you can trust us to deliver, as a our record shows. We stand by our commitments, and our long term plan is delivering results.

And we are doing this now, well before the election, because I want Tasmanians to know what the next stage of our plan looks like; and what a re-elected majority government will do.

It’s our vision for Tasmania, and how we plan to get there.

A stronger economy, and more jobs

Building a stronger economy, and creating jobs remains our number one priority.

A job provides someone with the best opportunity to be their best in life, and a strong economy provides the foundation for a stronger community.

And economy is now very strong, but we want to take it to the next level.

So, in our Plan for Your Future, we’ve set out a number of bold new goals.

When we were in Opposition, Tasmania’s unemployment had soared to 8.6 percent. We said that we would, when in government, reduce our unemployment rate to the national average.

Our opponents said it couldn’t be done, but we did it.

It didn’t happen by chance. It happened because opened the state for business, and we implemented our plan to kick-start the economy.

But, being middle of the pack isn’t good enough. So under a re-elected majority Liberal Government, we commit to reduce Tasmania’s unemployment rate to be the lowest of any state in the nation, by the end of our next term.

We will back local business; cut red and green tape; invest in our competitive strengths and in productive infrastructure; and in the education and skills of Tasmanians.

And we will increase our focus on giving more young Tasmanians the opportunity of work.

Statewide, our youth unemployment rate is down from what it was three years ago; but it’s still higher than the national average.

We will ensure that we get more young Tasmanians equipped with the skills they need for a good job.

Under Labor and the Greens the number of apprentices and trainees in the private sector went down by 40%. Under our plan, we will restore those numbers, giving young Tasmanians the skills and training they need to enter the workforce.

We need to provide the incentive for businesses to employ more apprentices and trainees, and reduce the barriers to them getting to work. Like our targeted payroll tax rebate and business grants for businesses to employ more apprentices and trainees.

We will partner with business, industry and community organisations to remove the barriers that are keeping people from work.

We are government that is committed to cutting red and green tape, and we are delivering

We have already removed over 140 unnecessary or inefficient  regulations. We’ve reformed planning laws with faster council approvals and reduced permit requirements for home building and renovations.

And the local benefits test we introduced on coming into government has resulted in a dramatic increase in contracts going to local, Tasmanian-based businesses over the last year, from 63% to 81%.

And we are planning for 90% of all Government contracts to be awarded to Tasmanian-based businesses.

The building and construction sector is a very important part of our economy. We need more people in it to literally build Tasmania’s future

Tasmania is experiencing sustained growth in business investment, dwelling approvals and the second strongest growth of any state in first home buyer finance.

We plan to increase, by 25%, the number of people employed in the building and construction sector over the next five years.

We will do so with significant government spending on public infrastructure, into schools and hospitals and public housing, through our nation leading Affordable Housing Action Plan

We are making it easier for Tasmanians to buy their first home by extending the First Home Owners Grant, and by reducing stamp duty.

Our building and construction sector is a pillar of our economy, and we are a government that will strongly support it.

As we will always be a government that firmly backs our competitive strengths – agriculture, aquaculture, tourism, mining and forestry.

We are planning to double the amount of water available through new irrigation schemes.

We have just released our sustainable growth plan for the future of our valuable salmon industry.

We are planning to increase not just the number of visitors who come here,  but how long they stay, and how much the spend while they are here; with a focus on spreading the growth of our visitor economy more into our regions.

We are planning a fifty percent increase in new mining ventures, and to double the amount of production from our hardwood plantations

A balanced budget

Growing the economy and managing our Budget are central to our plan.

Our record shows that Tasmanians can trust us the manage the budget and our economy well.

When we came to Government, the budget contained $1.1 billion of deficits and net debt forecast to reach $400 million.

Not only have we balanced the budget - four years ahead of what we promised - we’ve forecast modest surpluses this year, and in each year of the forward estimates, for the first time in a decade.

And rather than being in debt, we’re forecast to have a positive balance of around $450 million.

Unlike our predecessors, we have and will keep spending down to what we can afford. And we’ll keep the Government net debt free.

The reason this is so important is so that we are better able to invest in essential services, like health, education, public safety, and to take action to address the cost of living.

Action on the cost of living

We understand that rising costs of living are a big issue for many Tasmanians.

We’ve already taken action to reduce the costs of living, including by reducing motor vehicles premiums and by capping power prices.

Under Labor and the Greens, power prices rose 65 percent.

Under us, household power prices today are actually lower than they were when we came to Government.

But, we realise these statistics are cold comfort to a pensioner struggling with their power bill, or a family trying to make ends meet. So, we need to do more.

We will ensure that Tasmania continues to have the lowest regulated power prices in the country.

In our plan we are committing to keeping the cost of living increases for Government services at or below the rate of inflation – things like car registration, national park fees, and bus fares.

And we are committing, today, to no new or increased taxes.

Our plan take control of Taswater is about improved services for Tasmanians, but its also about bringing bills down to lower than the rises forecast under Council ownership.

We do understand that Tasmanians are feeling the pressure of the cost of living. The benefit of a stronger economy, and the balanced budget we have delivered, is that we are able to take real action to do more about it.

As we can into the very important priorities of improving health care, education, and supporting Tasmanians in need.

Investing even more into health, education and Tasmanians in need

Good health care is a top priority for our government

We’ve made great strides in fixing a system that was broken.

We are opening more hospital beds. We are employing more hospital staff

We’re rebuilding the Royal; increasing services at the LGH; we’ve secured the future of the Mersey Hospital; we’re investing in regional hospitals

And yes, elective surgery waiting lists are at record lows.

But, all of this means zilch for a senior Tasmanian who is waiting for hours in an emergency department, or a parent waiting longer than they should for an ambulance to arrive for their sick child.

We are a government that is demonstrating, through our Budget, the depth of our commitment to building a better health system.

But we need to match the investment with better outcomes for Tasmanians. We need to do more.

So under our plan we aim to ensure 90 percent of Tasmanians are treated within clinically recommended timeframes for their elective surgery.  

And for 90 percent of patients to be in, and out, of the emergency department within four hours. This is the national target and we have no excuse not to aim for it. The current rate of 64 percent is simply not good enough.

We also plan to reduce ambulance response times to the national average by 2025; which will be a difficult but important task, especially for regional communities.

We are increasing the focus on preventative health, especially in critical areas like reducing smoking and obesity rates.

And we will do more to reduce the tragic rate of suicide with new services and programs to support vulnerable Tasmanians, with better community mental health services, programs in schools, and initiatives to combat bullying.

All of these targets are bold, and they are achievable.

And as government, we are not afraid to aim high and to be judged on results.

As we will with improving education - one of the most important things any government can do

We’ve made great progress with our plan to extend our high schools to provide years 11 and 12.

Already, we have surpassed our first-term target with thirty schools already extended and another eight planned for next year.

This means, more students are now getting the qualifications they need. Retention rates are up and more students are achieving their Tasmanian Certificate of Education.

In our next term, we’ll aim to increase the year 12 retention rate to above the national average, and to significantly increase the number of students who are achieving their TCE.

We are dedicated to improving the educational opportunities for young Tasmanians. We make no apology for it. We owe them that.

We’re also firmly committed to supporting Tasmanians in need.

There is no higher priority than protecting our children.

We are leading the nation in addressing family violence, and we are redesigning a child protection system that had failed.

We are targeting a fifty percent reduction in serious child abuse by 2022.

This isn’t something that can be achieved simply by employing more child protection officers, it requires a whole of government, whole of community effort; more job opportunities; improved education; support for people at risk; stronger and safer communities.

Keeping Tasmanians Safe

Tasmania is already one of the safest places in the country, but recent statistics are an important reminder that we have more to do.

Tasmania is recorded as having the lowest or equal lowest victimisation rate in Australia for eight of eleven serious crime categories.

Today, I can announce that a re-elected majority Liberal Government will aim to have the lowest serious crime rate in the nation, across all measures, by 2022.

We will take action to address the issues that are causing crime, like illicit drug use.

The drug “ice” is destroying lives and damaging communities.

Currently, Tasmania has one of the highest ‘ice’ useage rates in the country. We want to make it to the lowest rate of use, of any state, by 2022.

We will do this by providing health and rehabilitation support to addicts, and by coming down like a tonne of bricks on the drug manufacturers and those who sell it.

Last year we were reminded of the threat of natural disasters, like bushfires

We took the strong decision to commerce a program on coming to government to significantly reduce vegetation fuel loads across the state.

We’ve already reduced the state-wide fire risk, but we’ll aim to decrease the risk to Tasmanian lives and properties by a further third by 2022.

Protecting the Tasmanian way of life

The Tasmanian way of life is like no other.

Whether it be throwing in a fishing line, walking or camping in our spectacular natural environment. We have have remarkable historic built heritage, and we enjoy living in cities with low-rise architecture.

These are the sort of things about Tasmania that make this the best place in the world to live.

We plan to keep it that way.

A re-elected majority Liberal Government is committed to protecting our way of life.

Building the infrastructure our State needs

Our economy is growing. Our population is growing.

We are welcoming more visitors to our State than ever before.

Tasmania is open for business, and people want to move here, and invest here.

But this means increasing pressure on infrastructure, like our transport network.

We’ll meet this demand by increasing the long-term average investment in public infrastructure by 20 percent over the next four years. This means about $70 million a year being spent on important public infrastructure, like our roads.

We will bring all of Tasmania’s freight and passenger roads up to minimum national safety standards, including the entire length of the Midland Highway.

And to capitalise on our competitive advantages, and seize great opportunities, we plan to make Tasmania renewable energy self-sufficient by the end of 2022; with zero net emissions by 2050; and, of course, to be the renewable energy battery of the nation.

The choice

This is just a snapshot of the next stage of our Plan to Build Your Future.

It is a plan that captures our vision, and the priorities of a re-elected majority Liberal Government.

It’s a plan that we will add to, with more policy announcements between now and the election in March.

Importantly, it is a plan that recognises that we need to do more, so that all Tasmanians feel the benefits of a strong economy, and a strong Budget.

Tasmania has come a long way in the past three and a half years. But it’s not job done – it’s job just begun.

And at the election, Tasmanians will have a clear choice.

It will be a choice between a strong, united Liberal majority Government, with a clear Plan for Your Future.

And a divided Labor Party without a plan, who will undoubtedly deal with the Greens again to form another minority government, with a return to what Tasmania was like three and a half years ago.

They may have a popular leader, but I’ll tell you what they don’t have that we do; a strong, united team; a plan for the state; and, as our record shows, the experience and the capacity to deliver it.

Today we release the next stage of our long-term plan for Tasmania.

Our plan, for a re-elected majority Liberal Government.

A plan to take Tasmania to the next level.