Thursday, 4 April 2019
Almost three years ago I was extremely fortunate to be elected to this place by the good people of Braddon. It is remarkable that, over the last three years, the issues and challenges for my region remain the same. And those issues will remain the same unless there is a change of government. The budget handed down this week by the Prime Minister and his Treasurer has confirmed that the people of Braddon will be better off under a Shorten Labor government. In all the key priority areas for our region, Labor has a better plan—for health, education, TAFE, apprenticeships, tax cuts, jobs and economic growth, and let's not forget wages. This government has no plan to help boost the wages of people in my electorate. My local paper—The Advocate, the wonderful Fairfax daily paper in my electorate—today talks about how subdued wages have led to significant decline in retail turnover. That's not good for businesses in my electorate. But this government has forgotten those people who earn under $40,000 a year. In my electorate, the gross income for 25 per cent of people is $33,000 a year or less. This government has completely forgotten them. We've got a household median income that is $330 a week less than the Australian median income, and this government doesn't really seem to care about the people in my electorate. Let's talk about penalty rates. Because this government hasn't acted on penalty rates, it has cost businesses in my electorate $10 million.
There are so many issues that I could speak on in the time that I have, but I want to particularly focus on two: support for our farmers and support for our people when they are unwell. During the 2016 election, farmers in my electorate were devastated by a combination of flood and dairy-price clawbacks. They wanted government support, but none of that was given. The minister at the time, the member for New England, couldn't even be bothered to come down and speak to my farmers. But now, three years on, farmers are telling me they want support from government to increase their productivity, increase local jobs and grow our economy. They want government to invest in more irrigation, building upon Labor's tranche 1 and 2 Tasmanian irrigation schemes. I note the irony of those opposite who have turned up in Tasmania in recent times taking credit for the completion of tranche 2 schemes. They forget that every irrigation scheme constructed in Tasmania over the last 20 years has been either planned or funded by Labor. For the last six years, this government has done nothing—a lack of vision, a lack of leadership. So once again it's up to Labor to lead the way and roll out the next phase of Tasmanian irrigation projects. A Shorten Labor government will provide $100 million towards these projects, many of which are in my electorate of Braddon, in our wonderful dairying areas in the far north-west. But this government offers Tasmanian farmers nothing—not a cent—for irrigation.
Shortly after I was elected in 2016, I received an email from Dr John O'Sullivan from the Devonport GP Superclinic. Dr O'Sullivan was concerned that this government had axed a fund called TAZREACH that enabled visiting medical specialists to come to his practice and many areas in my region, including the west coast of Tasmania, Circular Head and King Island. His concerns at the time were shared by the West Coast Council mayor, Phil Vickers, who said that this loss was detrimental to his community. He said:
The loss of these services places more stress on unwell residents and will also place more pressure on these services in other regions as West Coasters will now have to travel to attend appointments.
Three years later these health cuts remain in place. Sick people are being forced to travel, and some are not even going to their appointments. Labor will re-establish this fund, with $4½ million, to get visiting medical specialists to regional and rural areas of Tasmania.
I would like to thank Dr John O'Sullivan and all the small businesses across the north-west for helping us collect this petition. I'm unable to table it because the Petitions Committee has not met, but over 1,000 people in my electorate have signed this petition. We've been campaigning on this for three years. But, again, the budget on Tuesday night did not fund this service. This government has no care or respect for those in regional Australia, particularly in regional Tasmania, for making sure that they get the best care outcomes possible.
Dr O'Sullivan said recently:
We had a great service, with cardiologists, physicians and psychiatrists.
They were on site to be able to look after our patients but now these patients have to travel for some of their care.
We have an elderly population and patients who are unwell. They need access to ready medical care in rural areas and should not have to travel 60kms or 100kms for that.
This government has failed again. But the choice is clear. Labor will invest in health. Labor will be there to support our farmers.