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Monday, 19 October 2015
Page: 11738

Ms COLLINS (Franklin) (18:18): There has been the Deloitte Access Economics business outlook for the September quarter out recently, and it is finally pointing to some good news for Tasmania. Indeed, some of those sectors where Labor invested when we were in government are showing signs of growth, such as tourism, agriculture, aquaculture and dairy. Labor of course invested $100 million in our jobs and growth plan when we were in government. It was a bit amusing to see the new Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science in the parliament today trying to claim credit for a particular project at Triabunna, at Tassal. Labor of course has invested heavily in the aquaculture industry at the state and federal level over many years, and it is wonderful to see the Tasmanian economy starting to turn the tide.

Labor invested in many areas in Tasmania, and one of those areas was infrastructure. We increased infrastructure funding in Tasmania from around $157 per person to $264 per person—that is, to $1.9 billion—over the six years we were in office and the further coming five years covered by Labor's last budget. That is $1.9 billion invested in road and rail in Tasmania under the Labor government. But what have we seen from the current government? There is a bit of concern in Tasmania that some of the investment in Tasmania is not going to be delivered. We cannot forget the debacle of the Cadbury funding. It was going to happen for two years, and then it did not happen. Now, apparently, it is being matched by the state government and being turned into a jobs fund—about which we do not have any criteria or guidelines announced yet and about which we as yet have no details.

We know about the cut of $100 million from the Midland Highway. Labor committed $500 million to the Midland Highway, the major highway connecting north and south Tasmania, and the Liberals cut $100 million from that. We have seen delays in works on the Midland Highway. The member for Lyons is trying to talk about the Perth to Breadalbane section upgrade, saying it was such a positive thing. Of course it is a positive thing. It would have been better, however, if it had not been over 12 months late. Being late with infrastructure and withdrawing infrastructure from Tasmania appears, sadly, to be all too common.

In estimates today, we had confirmed that the Tasmanian state government, despite the fact it was agreed under Labor that there would be a $240 million package for freight rail in Tasmania, only put up a package worth $119 million. Between the state Liberal government and the federal Liberal government, they are taking $120 million out of freight rail in Tasmania over five years. That is $120 million that will not now be invested in Tasmania. We have also seen cuts to health, hospital and schools funding in Tasmania—over $2.1 billion. Sadly we saw a report last week that said that Tasmania's elective surgery waiting lists were still the worst in the country. Indeed they are the only ones continuing to go backwards. Clearly there is a serious problem with the health system in Tasmania that needs to be addressed. The former state Labor government tried to address it. It is good to see the current state Liberal government is also trying to address it, but it is a bit hard to do that when the Commonwealth keeps ripping money out of the state health system—causing Tasmanians to suffer as a result.

The Hobart Airport project in my electorate was promised $38 million for an extension of the runway. I understand that to date only about $2 million of that $38 million has actually been paid out. We have seen no signs yet of a tender that apparently was supposed to be let this year for that construction to get underway and to get the masterplan completed. Labor invested very heavily too in buildings around Tasmania. There was the National Rental Affordability Scheme investment in university accommodation—which is now underway in Melville Street in Hobart—and we invested in an arts and cultural centre which is also about to get underway, again with the University of Tasmania. These latter two projects in the centre of Hobart were very large-scale investments worth over $100 million.

There is some concern that the Liberals are taking money out, but there is also concern about when the projects that are currently in the system cease. What will happen after that? Will we continue to see the types of investments under the new Liberal government that we saw under the Labor government? We think not—because of all the delays coming from the state Liberal government and all the money being cut by the federal Liberal government.

We have seen a change of Prime Minister recently, but we have also heard a lot about how this has not changed any policies. It seems it has not changed very much in terms of policies in Tasmania either. But there is one thing that does concern me about the new Prime Minister with respect to Tasmania. I have gone back and had a look at the new Prime Minister's visits to Tasmania. Interestingly, I can only find one case of him visiting Tasmania since the Liberals have been in government. That was in November 2014—and there was a press release saying it was the first time he had come down as Minister for Communications. That might be because of his NBN failure and his fear of coming down and facing Tasmanians about the NBN promises that he had not delivered on. Alternatively he might have been sneaking in, not wanting anybody to know, because he is too embarrassed.

It is interesting that the current Prime Minister has only been to the state once since the Liberals have been in office. I am sure that Tasmanians will note with interest if he suddenly starts turning up. He has now been Prime Minister for five weeks. We saw on the weekend that he has made it to New Zealand. So he has had made it to New Zealand, but he has not yet visited Tasmania.

To Prime Minister Turnbull: 'Come on down. Don't be that embarrassed about your NBN failure, but we will, of course, talk to you about that.' It is interesting that he has managed to make it to New Zealand, which is close to Tasmania but he has not yet made it to our island state. Indeed, he does not seem to have been very committed to it over the time the Liberal Party have been in government. It will be interesting to see whether there will be any visits to Tasmania in the coming weeks. I would have thought most new Prime Ministers do try to get around the country and visit every state. I am sure Tasmanians will give him a welcome when he does come down and they will talk to him about the NBN failure, particularly in those areas that were to get fibre under Labor that are now no longer getting fibre—the north-west coast, the west coast and south of Hobart. I know there are many communities that are concerned that they are no longer getting fibre under the current government. It will be good to see the Prime Minister down in Tasmania.

I started out talking about jobs and the economy, but I also want to talk about the Tasmanian Jobs Program. The Tasmanian Jobs Program was the brainchild of the former employment minister, Tasmania's Senator Eric Abetz, who also happens to be one of my constituents. Senator Abetz's Tasmanian Jobs Program finishes at the end of this year. On the figures that are currently available, they have spent more on advertising than they have on wage subsidies as part of this program. I am hoping that when we get to estimates later this week, we actually hear some good news about these placements and this program, given that the former minister doubled the wage subsidy from $3,250 to $6½ thousand for employers wanting to put on Tasmanians. Clearly, the Tasmanian Jobs Program has been a failure under the former employment minister. I am hoping to see an improvement in those wage subsidy figures and I am hoping to see an improvement in employment in Tasmania.

There has been some great news for Tasmania in changes to the economy. We have even had Tasmania's own Saul Eslake talk about Tasmania in today's media and those growing industries. People are saying that the low Australian dollar and Tasmania's produce being what the world wants, particularly the growing region of China, are the reason that Tasmania is doing a little better than we might otherwise be doing. But it is, of course, no accident that we invested in those growth areas when we were in government. It is no accident that projects are occurring around Hobart city and around Tasmania that were funded by the former Labor government. There is genuine community concern about what will happen when these projects are no longer under construction and there are no new projects in the pipeline.

There is genuine concern in the Tasmanian economy about what the government will do at the state level, where clearly they have serious issues about planning for infrastructure and making sure we make the most from Commonwealth investment, and at the federal level, where they continue to rip money from the state and continue to abandon Tasmanians. As I said, I can hardly wait for the new Prime Minister to come down to Tasmania to face constituents in Tasmania and explain his NBN failure and explain not living up to his promises for Tasmanians.