Thursday, 6 March 2014
I attended a dinner in the Great Hall last Wednesday night, and I acknowledge that you, Madam Speaker, graced us with your presence at that dinner, which was about showing support for the forestry industry. It was an honour to hear our Prime Minister speak, but many of the things that he said gave me cause for sombre reflection. He talked about my home state of Tasmania as having the lowest wages in the country, the lowest GDP in the country, the lowest life expectancy in the country, the lowest education attainments in the country and the highest unemployment in the country. And given these indicators of our economic and social wellbeing, it is little surprise that Tasmanians are struggling at the moment—struggling with the cost of living. For example, retail electricity prices have increased by 66.8 per cent since 2008.
What we have seen in Tasmania during the last 16 years of 'hard Labor' is what I can only describe as 'strategic drift'. Yet how did it come to this? After the 2010 election there was a minority government formed between Labor and the Greens. Yet no-one, no party, said before the 2010 election that they would support such an outcome. Indeed, the then Premier David Bartlett said he would never do a deal with the devil. Immediately after the election, he did exactly that.
This was a peculiar minority government. I do not describe it as peculiar because it had two Greens ministers within the Labor cabinet—even though they were peculiar individuals—but because they were accorded the option of removing themselves from cabinet under what the Cabinet Handbook described as 'matters of significant concern'. So when:
… a Greens Minister forms the opinion that he or she could not support the decision without potentially compromising his or her standing within Tasmanian Greens party—
they were allowed to absent themselves from cabinet. What a joke! No Tasmanian voted for a get out of jail card for the Tasmanian Greens designed specifically to circumvent the central principle of the Westminster system and collective cabinet responsibility.
Yesterday in Hobart, Greens leader, Nick McKim, talked about the fact that the Greens had served their apprenticeship and they were ready to go back into government. He said, 'We've done our apprenticeship'. When people do apprenticeships, they learn skills and acquire knowledge and attitudes that prepare them for the next stage of their life or the next stage of the endeavour they are undertaking. It is clear, though, that the principles of responsible government have passed by the Greens and Labor since 2010 in Tasmania.
The centrepiece of the Greens' election campaign is another social and economic extravagance, a Legoland approach to public transport—a light rail system to the northern suburbs of Hobart—but there is no reference to the total cost, no reference to the demand that would support the economics of this project and no reference to the fragile budget in Tasmania that desperately needs less Greens intervention and more investment to replace the social services and front-line services that have diminished under the Labor-Greens government over the last four years in education, health and policing.
Yesterday there was yet another report into the Tasmanian health system, which found it wanting. The Grattan Institute report suggested that Tasmanian hospitals have racked up tens of millions of dollars in avoidable costs. Healthcare improvements in Tasmania under this Labor-Greens minority government have a lot of parallels with Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot. Both can be described as absurdist. After 16 long years of government in Tasmania, Labor are tired and out of ideas. They fight amongst themselves. One of the Labor candidates in Braddon, Brenton Best, is calling for the resignation of Labor Premier Lara Giddings—one of her candidates. If that is not dysfunction, I do not know what is!
Tasmanians, on 15 March, get an opportunity to change after 16 years of 'hard Labor'. To give our state the chance it deserves for a better future, to restore the front-line services and the economic credibility that Tasmania once had and deserves to have in the future, my request, my plea, to the people of Tasmania is: please vote one to five for your Liberal candidates in your electorate. No more than that. Do not nourish the Greens with those leaked preferences that occur when you put more than the numbers one to five on your ballot paper. In that way you guarantee majority Liberal government in Tasmania, and you give our state the chance it deserves for a brighter future.