Will Hodgman

Premier of Tasmania

Premier’s Address 2017 – Building Tasmania’s Future

7 March 2017

Parliament House, Hobart

Introduction

Tasmania has come a long way in the last three years.

Our economy is growing strongly. Our budget is back in balance.

We are able to invest more into essential services – like health, education and public safety.

We have turned Tasmania around; we are heading in the right direction.

Now, we are building Tasmania’s future.

We are building Tasmania’s future by delivering on our long-term Plan.

We are building Tasmania’s future by working with the community and business sectors to deliver results.

We are taking action and making decisions in the best interests of the state.

And we are delivering what we promised.

We are a strong, stable, united Government with a long term Plan for the State, that is getting the job done.

But Madam Speaker, let me be very clear; there is much more to do.

The State of the State

Madam Speaker

The State is indeed in far greater shape now than when we came to government, less than three years ago.

Our unemployment rate is now below 6 per cent for the first time since 2011, and there are over 4,300 more people in jobs than there were when the election was held.

Our economy is strong with eleven successive quarters of growth.

State final Demand has increased by 6.1% since the election.

Consumers are more positive, retail trade has boomed with 27 months of consecutive growth, and household consumption is up 6.2 per cent since the election.

Our population is now growing at the fastest rate in five years.

More tourists are coming to Tasmania than ever before – 12.5 per cent up on three years ago.

Confidence levels for Tasmanian businesses are strong and my Government and its policies are ranked by local businesses as the most supported of any State in the country.

How things have changed; and for the better.

The Budget

Madam Speaker,

The Budget is back in balance.

We have taken the budget back into surplus, four years earlier than expected – the first budget surplus in seven years and the best financial result in a decade.

We are now forecasting an operating surplus every year over the forward estimates, and this year we will hold more than $500 million in net cash and investments.

This is a great turnaround from what we inherited with $1.1 billion in deficits,  and no return to surplus in sight.

We made the necessary savings, and we have reined in spending.

Forecast expenditure growth is just 1.3 per cent. Under the former government it averaged at around 5 per cent, and in a number of years was more than 8 per cent.

We said we would repair the State’s finances, and we have.

We said we would be a government that lives within its means, and we are.

And we said we would not raise taxes, and we haven’t.

This demonstrates what can achieved through budget discipline coupled with a strong, buoyant economy.

Last Year

Madam Speaker,

We will remember 2016 as a year of extraordinary challenges, that tested our State like no other.

One of the longest and worst fire seasons in recent years, with a record 15 total fire ban days. The cost to the state was well over $50 million, but thankfully, due to the hard work of our fire-fighting professionals and community volunteers, not a single life or property was lost. 

Then severe flooding - a national natural disaster - swept through 19 local government municipalities, tragically took the lives of three Tasmanians, and devastated hundreds of homes, businesses, and farms. Nearly $30 million of additional funding has been provided to meet the costs associated with floods and the total impact across the state is estimated to be more than $180  million.

And we endured one of the most significant and difficult energy security challenges in our state’s history - the result of a terrible combination of the lowest spring rainfall, the hottest summer in our state’s history and the first ever extended outage of the Basslink cable. 

We responded with a very clear and deliberate plan, and were successful in maintaining energy security, avoiding power rationing and protecting jobs and the economy, as well as keeping power prices as low as possible.

Importantly, we kept the lights on – a sharp contrast to what we saw happen earlier this year on the mainland and to what our political opponents suggested - power rationing.

We got through these challenges – government and the community working together - and I believe our State is a stronger place for it.

And we are learning from these challenges; how we responded and what we can do better into the future, to build Tasmania’s future.

The Future

Madam Speaker,

Let me again be clear – there is a lot more to do.

We want more Tasmanians to share in the benefits of an improving economy and higher employment.

We recognise that even though our unemployment rate is down, people are concerned about job security.

We understand that people are worried about healthcare, even though our 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 worry about the cost of living, like their electricity and water bills.

There is a lot more to do, and that is what we are focussed on.

Building Tasmania’s Future

So 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 years, and to build an even stronger future.

From day one on coming into government we have been systematic and disciplined in delivering the Plan we took to the election.

In our first year, we had to stop the budget bleeding and kick-start an economy that had stalled.

Our second year was about consolidating the gains and building the momentum.

Year three was about investing the dividends of those gains into the essential services Tasmanians need, like health, education, and public safety.

This year, year four, is about building our future.

It is about grasping the opportunities, and putting Tassie at the front of the pack.

Education

There are no better foundation stones to build Tasmania’s future on, than education.

It is the key to our future prosperity.

Our young people are our greatest asset, and lifting educational results is critical to them being their best and our state reaching its full potential.

We remain totally committed to our plan to change an education system that for too long has not given our students the best opportunity.

We are part way through what are the most significant improvements to our education system in decades.

And we are only able to do it because we have the budget back in balance.

Again this financial year we committed another record investment of $1.48 billion into education and training.

This is the third record investment in a row under my government and includes funding the full six years of Gonski - $134 million over six years. 

For the first time this financial year, Tasmania’s education budget has eclipsed six billion dollars over the forward estimates.

We have invested in more teachers – with an additional 113 full-time teachers in our system last year than there were over the previous year.  

And we are also investing, more than ever, in our school infrastructure – $110 million over four years to upgrade Government schools.

A centrepiece of our Plan is extending high schools across the State to years 11 and 12 – and it is working.

We now have more schools wanting to be part of the program than we expected, enrolments in the extension schools have increased by 57% since 2014, and the retention rate for students to year 12 is also increasing - now 73.4 per cent, up from 67 per cent under the previous Government and closing the gap on the national average.

Similarly, providing access to all children to a quality learning environment earlier is a central part of our plan.

An earlier, voluntary school starting age will provide significant opportunity to increase participation by our young children in quality early learning programs and ultimately lift overall educational outcomes. 

We are determined to shift the status quo -  where Tasmanian children can start school later, and leave school earlier than their interstate peers - with as much as two years less education than children in other states.

This simply isn’t right, and we can’t expect to do better by doing less – change is not just an option, it is imperative.

The additional  literacy and numeracy specialist teachers we added to schools in our first year in Government are also delivering positive results - building on the progress made last year in language and literacy outcomes for our younger students.  As a result, our NAPLAN performance is showing strong signs of improvement.

We are also bringing forward our commitment to put 20 school nurses into Government schools by 2018, to improve the health and wellbeing of our students.

There is no doubt - education is, and will always be a priority of my government.

And we are building the education system to literally build Tasmania’s future.

Health

Madam Speaker

Fixing a health system that was broken is also a priority of my Government.

It’s not an easy task, because when we came to Government, and despite the best efforts of our health professionals, our health system was very sick.

But we are making progress, and our Plan - One Health System - has delivered some critical gains over the past three years.

But we know there is much more to do.

Again, because we’ve got the budget back into balance, we’re able to invest a record $6.4 billion across the budget and forward estimates into health.

At the heart of any quality treatment of patients are the dedicated health professionals who look after those who need care – from the emergency room through to the rehabilitation suites.

Nurses are the backbone of our health service, and I’m proud to say since our election, we’ve employed more than 140 additional full-time equivalent nurses.

We have put back important programs cut by the former government, like hospital in the home and school nurses.

We have added new services, including staffing and opening the North West Cancer Centre in Burnie, putting extended care paramedics on the road, and opening and staffing new theatres and a short stay surgical unit at the Launceston General Hospital.

We have employed more than 30 additional doctors, 30 additional allied health professionals and more than 30 paramedics.

And we are delivering.

Our elective surgery waiting lists are now the shortest they have ever been, with record numbers of Tasmanians having elective surgery.

19,000 received elective surgery in the year to June 2016 – that’s 3,000 more than the annual average over the preceding five years; and the highest per capita rate for any state or territory. 

More Tasmanians are being treated on time - we’ve more than halved the percentage of people waiting too long for surgery.

Madam Speaker,

One of the biggest health projects in our State’s history - rebuilding the Royal Hobart Hospital, a massive, $689 million project -  is critical to building Tasmania’s future.

It will provide an additional 250 bed capacity, a helipad; and a state of the art hyperbaric chamber – critical infrastructure we need for the future but which was not part of the previous government’s plans.

It is an extremely complex project, but it is progressing well.

And at the Launceston General Hospital we are also building a better hospital.

We have redeveloped the Allied Health Department, providing better spaces for patient care – the first upgrade of this Department since the hospital was built 30 years ago. 

We are continuing to support the Mersey Community Hospital in its important new function - as a Dedicated Elective Surgery Centre for Tasmania - with more than 2600 Tasmanians receiving a procedure or surgery there since July last year.

We recognise the importance of certainty for people of the North-West, and our position is clear - Tasmanians need a long term deal, and we will fight tooth and nail to secure it.

This year, we will also continue to progress new health facilities around the State, including the new Kingston and Glenorchy Health Centres, the upgrade at the Children’s Ward at the LGH, the Ulverstone Dental Clinic and the new St Helens Hospital.

And, aiming for the healthiest population in the country, this year we’ll be launching initiatives to help Tasmanians, in their communities, stay healthier for longer.

We know there’s more work to do in delivering a health system that Tasmanians need and deserve.

That’s why last week we announced the second stage of our Patients First program.

This opened 50 acute and sub-acute beds across the State – the north-west, north and south - taking pressure off our Emergency Departments and providing better patient access.

Responding to this demand, and building a health system for the future, is only possible with the budget back on track.

And it is a key part of our long-term Plan to ensure all Tasmanians, no matter where they live, are able to get the health services they need.

The First Tasmanians

Madam Speaker

Last year my Government moved and, with the support of all Members of this House, amended the preamble of Tasmania’s Constitution to acknowledge Aboriginal People as Tasmania’s First People.

It was long overdue. We were the last state to do so.

And it was important; to properly recognise this historical fact, and to advance the cause of reconciliation.

This year the Government will continue to work to advance recognition, reconciliation and reduce the disparity in outcomes experienced by the Tasmanian Aboriginal community in all areas, including health, employment and education.

We are implementing our new policy for determining eligibility for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander programs and services to be more consistent with the Australian Government’s approach.

And we are advancing the involvement of Aboriginal Tasmanians in land management.

I will continue to consult with the entire Aboriginal community to work on these and other issues important to the Aboriginal community.

Making our communities safer

Madam Speaker,

Even though we’re on track to restoring Tasmania Police numbers that were slashed under the former Government, we know Tasmanians  want to feel safer in their communities.

That’s why, under our Plan, we are continuing to focus on strong law and order measures.

This includes implementing our election commitment to introduce minimum mandatory sentencing for serious child sexual offences.

Along with changes we delivered last year, these improvements to our law will send a clear message to offenders that there will be zero tolerance for heinous sexual crimes committed against children.

We will introduce new legislation to crack down on those who choose to evade police when driving. And the Sentencing Advisory Council will soon deliver its report on the sentencing of cases involving dangerous driving causing death or serious injury.

The Government will carefully consider that report and take appropriate steps to remedy any inadequacies in the current law.

It is simply not acceptable for people to place the lives of others at risk by driving dangerously on our roads, so we are taking action to toughen the law, and make our communities safer.

Another commitment we took to the Tasmanian people at the election is to abolish the use of suspended sentences and introduce a range of effective alternative sentencing options. In accordance with the advice of the Sentencing Advisory Council, we are phasing in these changes over five years and we have already introduced new alternative sentencing options to deter offending.

Madam Speaker

The community and police are tired of hearing stories of offenders continuing to offend while on bail.  

We need to make sure that our bail laws keep pace with those interstate, and offer the greatest possible protection to the community.

So this year we will also commence an overhaul of the State's bail laws to ensure there is greater transparency in bail decisions and to ensure that community safety is a primary consideration which must be taken into account when granting bail.

We will of course seek the views of key community and legal stakeholders as we undertake this bail reform. 

Our long term plan is to ensure that our legislative protections and sentencing practices protect our most vulnerable, reflect community expectations and provide a strong deterrent to criminal behaviour.

This will make people in our communities safer, and build Tasmania’s future.

Supporting Tasmanians in need

Madam Speaker,

Building safer, stronger communities is indeed a key part of our Plan, as is supporting Tasmanians who are doing it tough.

As I have always said; the dividend of getting the budget back into balance is that we are better able to invest in the essential services Tasmanians need.

For instance, our Affordable Housing Action Plan is a bold and innovative approach developed in close partnership with community sector organisations who work every day with Tasmanians who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

It’s backed by a $73.5 million investment that will deliver an extra 900 affordable homes and housing options for 1600 Tasmanians in need.

With ever increasing demand, we are not concerned with ideological arguments about who should or shouldn’t be delivering those extra homes. We are only worried about providing these homes. What matters is what works.

And last week we announced that our Plan will deliver 203 new and refurbished homes for Tasmanians in need, to be allocated to priority applicants for social housing.

In addition to the benefits of putting a roof over the head of more Tasmanians in need, this program will inject $34 million into the economy and create 230 jobs in construction.

We’re investing over $20 million to redesign the child protection system to better support vulnerable children and families – and key elements include new Child Safety workers and additional support for family services.  Implementation of the Redesign is on track.

We have welcomed the recent report by the Commissioner for Children and Young People into out of home care and we accepted, fully, all seven of the Commissioner’s recommendations with a promise to begin implementing them immediately.

We are also delivering on a $572 million, four-year plan to implement the National Disability Insurance Scheme in Tasmania and provide more support for those living with disability. On 1 July this year we will commence the next phase of the roll-out of the scheme, for children aged between four and eleven.

Eliminating family violence remains a top priority for the Government. 

We’ve made strong progress against all actions in our $26 million Family Violence Plan and next week I will be releasing an 18-month update that shows how this additional funding is making a real difference in our community.

This year, we’ll continue to roll out the pool of properties available for those escaping family violence under the Rapid Re-Housing Initiative.

The new Hobart Women’s Shelter will commence, increasing the capacity of the facility by over 30 per cent.

New laws will be introduced this year to further improve the safety of victims of family violence and hold perpetrators to account.

Economy and Jobs

Madam Speaker,

These are just some of the key elements of our Plan to invest in essential services, and to build Tasmania’s future.

We are better able to deliver as a result of the budget being back in balance, supported by a growing economy.

That is why, from day one, our Plan’s number one priority has been to build a modern economy and create jobs by backing our competitive strengths – like tourism, aquaculture, agriculture, forestry and mining and energy.

Our initiatives targeted at stimulating the economy have delivered results, and we have arrested the decline in jobs and economic growth that happened under the previous Government.

But, as I have said, there’s more to do.

The improvements in our growing economy have not been evenly spread across the state, and we want more Tasmanians to share in the benefits of an improving economy and higher employment.

That is a central element of the next part of our Plan – to build Tasmania’s future.

The Visitor Economy

Madam Speaker

As the Premier for Tourism, my Government will continue to strongly support a sector that is a pillar of our economy, and our beautiful island, our community, and our brand.

Our global reputation and pulling power has never been stronger, and our visitor economy is booming.

Visitor numbers are 12.5% higher than when we came to office and tourists are staying longer and spending more.

We have new tourism product coming on line, and it’s never been easier to get here - with significant increases in sea and air access. 

Airlines are putting on additional flights, and capacity has grown by over 170,000 new seats.

We’ve doubled day sailings on our refurbished Spirits of Tasmania and in January the ships carried almost 80,000 passengers in a month - more than when there were three boats operating.

This year, we’ll be moving to establish a fund to provide for the replacement of the Spirits, and we expect to be in a position to announce a decision on their replacement later this year.

More and more cruise ships are calling into Tasmanian ports, and infrastructure investments at Burnie and Hobart have allowed more and bigger cruise ships to call in. This year we will conduct a State-wide review of cruise facilities, to identify other opportunities to develop our ports.

Investor confidence is strong in our visitor economy – reflected in the number of tourism developments underway and planned around the state.

And Tasmanian operators once again recently demonstrated they are the best in the business, winning more awards than any other State at the National Tourism Awards.

But we can’t stand still to stay ahead of the pack.

That’s why we are building on the success of the award-winning Three Capes Track and have awarded tenders to complete Stage Three.

It’s why my Government has committed $15 million to invest in visitor infrastructure at Cradle Mountain, and back the Experience Master Plan for the site to guide a contemporary and outstanding tourist experience.

And it’s why we are backing the Mt Wellington cable car and will introduce legislation to progress the project, for it to take the next step to reality.

These attractions will further enhance Tasmania’s reputation as a destination with world-class nature-based experiences, and maintain the growth in our visitor economy which supports local businesses and creates jobs. 

And Madam Speaker

We are embracing the opportunities to build on the growth in the sharing economy.

Last year we moved to legalise ride sharing. This year we have moved to keep ahead of the game and deliver a policy that will offer more customer choice,  meet the increasing demand our visitor economy, and provide certainty for property owners who are part of the sharing economy. Our policy, AirBnB said, is a model for the rest of the world.

Madam Speaker,

We also recognise the importance of arts and culture to our economy, our community and our brand.

That's why we are investing $30 million in The Hedburg Centre for Creative Industries and Performing Arts in partnership with the University of Tasmania and the Federal Government.

This project will deliver a new home for the Conservatorium of Music, new performing arts spaces and provide contemporary front of house facilities for our beloved Theatre Royal, the oldest continuously operating theatre in Australia. 

Aquaculture

Madam Speaker,

A Liberal Government will always strongly support the traditional pillar industries that are our competitive strengths.

That includes our iconic salmon industry that supports more than 5,200 jobs in regional Tasmania and is among the best regulated in the world.

We are developing a growth Plan for the Tasmanian salmon industry as part of a range of measures to ensure future growth of the industry occurs sustainably.

The Plan will detail our priorities and actions to guide the growth, and comes in addition to a new package of improved environmental regulation for the industry to be tabled in Parliament soon.

Madam Speaker, we are a Government that will be guided by the science, and we are backing the industry.

Agriculture

Madam Speaker,

Our Plan is to maintain the strong growth in the value of our agriculture sector, working in partnership with our farmers, primary producers, processors, industry groups and agri-businesses.

Progressing  Tranche 2 of the irrigation network will transform the landscape of agriculture in Tasmania, strengthen our regional communities and create hundreds of jobs.

Three of the five schemes are already under construction, and this year we’ll progress the first to the commissioning phase.  And we are investigating the fast-tracking of a potential third tranche of irrigation projects.

This year we will also bring in new biosecurity legislation – to  replace seven separate Acts of Parliament - and provide for more effective, contemporary protection of our premium produce.

This new Act is a critical part of ensuring our biosecurity system reflects the 21st century global marketplace with increasing trade and visitors to our state and the changing nature of biosecurity risks to Tasmania.

We will also release a Fruit Fly Strategy for Tasmania to preserve our fruit-fly-free status - which is critical for our fruit producers to access valuable overseas markets.

Protecting our borders and maintaining modern and effective biosecurity has been a strong and consistent commitment from my Government that will continue this year.

Forestry

Madam Speaker

My Government remains committed to ensuring a sustainable and vibrant forestry sector to boost local economies and support jobs in regional Tasmania - a stark contrast with the position of the former government.

That’s why we’re moving this year to unlock 356,000 hectares of future potential production forest, preventing the loss of up to 700 jobs and keeping the sector on a growth trajectory.

We’re also establishing special timbers access to the public forest wood bank for selective harvesting, providing resource security for our iconic special timbers sector which was one of the biggest casualties of the Labor-Green forest deal.

Sustainable Timber Tasmania will begin operating with a focus on the efficient delivery of sustainable, renewable certified timber to support industry and jobs, particularly in regional areas.

We’ll also finalise and implement a rolling 20-year extension of the Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement which will provide ongoing resource security and investment certainty to our forestry industry.

Like other industries, forestry needs to stand on its own two feet, and that’s why we are putting an end to public subsidies for the public forest manager’s commercial operations – subsidies which should be spent on health,  education or other essential government services.

Mining

Madam Speaker

The Government is supporting our mining and mineral processing industry that provides jobs for more than 2000 Tasmanians and is currently worth around $1.5 billion to our economy.

We expect to see mineral exploration increase as commodity prices continue their recovery.

The closure of the Mt Lyell mine in 2014 due to health and safety issues was a real blow to the West Coast community. The company is to be commended for its ongoing commitment to the mine, through its significant expenditure in keeping the mine in care and maintenance.

Today’s announcement by Copper Mines of Tasmania that it is gearing up for a restart of the mine is fantastic news, and evidence of a rebounding sector.

The Government is continuing to work very closely with CMT, our $25 million support package of payroll tax and royalty relief remains in place, and we are considering what if any additional measures may be required.

There have been further positives in the industry of late, such as the reopening of the Henty Gold Mine, and with it 130 new jobs.

This year we’ll be streamlining mining approvals to provide greater certainty for investment and jobs in regional Tasmania, as well as completing the next stage of the Geoscience Initiative program to attract more mineral exploration.

The relocation of Mineral Resources Tasmania to Burnie continues, to better serve the industry and jobs on the North West Coast.

Small Business, Building and Construction

Madam Speaker,

Tasmania’s small businesses are the engine room of our economy with more than 37,000 businesses employing more than 100,000 Tasmanians.  

We are 100 per cent behind them.

We have acted to streamline building and planning regulations; have abolished development headworks charges; cut red tape; and have introduced a buy local test.

Under this policy Tasmanian businesses are better positioned to win more government business – and as a result, in the December 2016 quarter  85% of open procurement contracts went to Tasmanian businesses.

The new Tasmanian Planning Scheme has commenced – faster, fairer, simpler, and cheaper – making us the first state in the country to have a single planning scheme, statewide.

These nation-leading changes, along with our ground-breaking improvements to building regulations, will help everyday Tasmanian investors, businesses and developers, whether they are wanting to build new hotels, build houses or are families wanting to renovate their homes.

Madam Speaker,

Providing Tasmanians with the work skills they need is also a priority of this government.

This year, we’ll be working closely with our growth industries, like tourism, hospitality, agriculture, advanced manufacturing, building and construction, aged and disability care, to deliver real training opportunities.

Delivering real skills for real jobs means work readiness training that is tailored to what industry wants and needs now and into the future. It means there’s a steady supply of skilled and job-ready workers.

We’ll also be ensuring all businesses have the opportunity to benefit from hiring an apprentice or trainee, as we deliver on our commitment to create genuine pathways into the workforce for young Tasmanians.

Energy

Madam Speaker

Over the course of 2016 Tasmania has once again proved its resilience when it comes to energy. 

The Government acted swiftly to ensure the lights stayed on and that jobs and our economy were protected.

We also restored the prudent dam storage levels, which had been slashed under the previous Labor Green Government.

Our energy system is now one of the most secure in the nation.

Our dam levels have experienced a record recovery and currently sit at more than 40% full and Basslink is functioning well.

But we recognise there is still more to do. 

This year we will progress significant further renewable development in Tasmania.  

We have real opportunity for development in wind, solar and biomass. We will also look to maximise our hydro capacity through a careful assessment of Tasmania’s hydro pump storage potential. 

By developing our renewable generation we can be more self-sufficient and also help deliver more clean energy to the nation.

That’s why we are currently investigating the case for a second interconnector across Bass Strait to better understand its potential as a long-term strategic opportunity for Tasmania

Despite our advantages in energy, we recognise that significant challenges remain.

With all of the upheaval now happening in the national energy market, power prices will continue to be a strong focus of the Government. 

We will do everything necessary to ensure the lowest possible power prices for all Tasmanians. 

In December, the Australian Energy Market Commission released a retail electricity price comparison report that confirmed that prices in Tasmania are amongst the lowest in Australia.

This report also indicated that prices in Tasmania were on track to be the lowest in Australia by 2018-19.

We also continue to encourage greater energy efficiency including through the $10m Tasmanian Energy Efficiency Loan Scheme which will help Tasmanians reduce their power bills even further; and through the Aurora Energy YES/NILS program, we have assisted many vulnerable Tasmanians making energy bills more affordable.

We are aware that a small number of larger businesses are now having exposure to the higher prices currently being experienced in the volatile national market, and are actively working with the energy businesses to ensure any impacts are reduced as far as is possible.

 Energy is truly a competitive advantage for Tasmania. We will continue to do all we can as a Government to further that advantage for the benefit of all Tasmanians.

TasWater

Madam Speaker,

I want to now address an issue that has becoming increasingly important to our State, our environment and our way of life - and that is the quality of water and sewerage services.

It is a challenging issue,  but not as challenging as it would be to live in one of those Tasmanian towns where it’s not safe to drink the water.

It is a challenge my Government will tackle head on. We will do so for no other reason than to fix the problem.

25 Tasmanian towns with “Boil Water or “Do Not Consume” alerts;  only one of Tasmania’s 78 major sewerage plants is fully compliant with EPA discharge levels; sewerage spills seven times above the national average.

Tasmania is a world class destination with third world water and sewerage services.

Clean water and a reliable sewerage service are important for public health, quality of lifestyle,  our tourism industry, our brand, our economy.

Though, regardless of the failings of the system, we are told that prices are forecast to dramatically increase for Tasmanian homes and businesses; that Tasmanians will have to pay more for inadequate services and infrastructure.

Madam Speaker,

Reform of the sector back in 2008 was supposed to fix it. It hasn’t.

The model, where TasWater is owned by 29 separate councils is not a success story.

So Madam Speaker, we propose a new model for the sector.

That is, for the State Government to take on responsibility for, and control of, TasWater.

And our Plan will fix it faster, and it'll be cheaper for consumers.

We will do so without Councils needing to increase rates.

And water bills which the Councils have forecast to increase by five percent a year will, under our Plan, be cut to no more than 3.5 per cent.

Under State Government ownership, TasWater’s strong balance sheet will be used to borrow more and at a lower cost.

The Government will also use its strong financial position to provide additional support if required.

On taking control of TasWater on 1 July next year our plan is to bring forward and complete the remainder of the $1.5 billion capital program over a 5 year period.

The returns councils currently expect from TasWater will be guaranteed until 2024-25, as announced last year by TasWater.

They will get not one dollar less.

After that Councils will get half of all future returns, so there is absolutely no reason for Councils to increase rates.

Legislation will prohibit the future privatisation of Taswater.

No one will lose their job as a result of this change of ownership.

And concessions to low income Tasmanians and pensioners remain as they are, firmly in place.

The Treasurer and Minister for Local Government will provide further detail to the House by way of a Ministerial Statement tomorrow, and Councils will be consulted during the transition.

And to be clear - this has nothing to do with Council amalgamations. It simply is about fixing a serious problem.

But I will say this:  Tasmanians expect their Government to act when required, to be decisive and govern in the best interests of all Tasmanians. That’s what we are doing – with our plan to fix Tasmania’s water and sewerage infrastructure, and to build Tasmania’s future.          

Closing

Tasmania is in much better shape now, than it was three years ago.

We have turned things around and Tasmania is now firmly heading in the right direction.

Tasmanians have every reason to be more confident about our future.

We have a year to go in this term in government, and we are focussed only on delivering our long-term Plan; our Plan to build Tasmania’s future.