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Thursday, 26 October 2017
Page: 12237


Mr BRIAN MITCHELL (Lyons) (15:54): Before I begin, I'd like to thank the member for Chisholm. That was a great speech and I'd like to associate myself with her remarks.

Rebecca White has been the leader of the Labor Party in Tasmania since March this year and, if all goes as hoped, by March next year she will be our state's next Premier. Since taking on the leadership following the dignified and selfless retirement of Bryan Green, Rebecca has traversed the state listening to Tasmanians. The state election is due by March but could come at any time. Rebecca White and the Tasmanian Labor team are ready for an election whenever Liberal Premier Will Hodgman can find the courage to call one. Labor has the policies and the people to deliver a strong and effective majority Labor government that will focus on key services, such as health and education, while continuing to grow our state's economy.

Rebecca has represented the state seat of Lyons since 2010. I was delighted to have played a part in her campaign long before I came to this place, and she has been a great strength to me as I serve our common constituents at the federal level. In just the past few months, Rebecca and her team have announced plans for Lyons, including a pledge to fix a notorious intersection on the Bass Highway, at Christmas Hills near Deloraine, and a pledge to invest $1 million in mountain-biking tourism at St Helens.

Statewide, the big issue is undoubtedly health. It is an area that has been completely mismanaged by the Liberals at both the state and the federal levels. Ambulance ramping is out of control. We have ongoing bed shortages and people with mental illness are simply being shut out of access to quality care. I don't pretend that health is an easy policy area. It is diabolically difficult to manage competing needs within a limited budget, but it has to be said that the Tasmanian health minister, Michael Ferguson, a former Liberal member of this place, has been an unmitigated disaster. Like so many of his colleagues, he puts ideology before practicality; he puts dollars before care. A Rebecca White Tasmanian Labor government will invest an extra $88 million over three years into our state's struggling health system. Community nurses and health worker numbers will be increased and hospitals will run over seven days a week. This will keep people closer to their families when they need weekend and ongoing treatment.

The federal government recently ripped funding from well supported and popular regional preventative health programs, redirecting it to chronic care. This was appallingly handled, with no consultation and a haphazard changeover. I am yet to be convinced that the change has been for the better. The preventative programs kept people, particularly older people, happy and active within their local communities and kept them out of hospital. I think it's a terrible shame that the Liberals have axed those valuable programs. Labor have listened to regional communities and, in government, will move to commit more resources to preventative-care models.

With Rebecca White as Premier, two additional ambulance crews and two trucks will hit the road to get Tasmanians treated faster. I should note that Rebecca and I have both been working in recent months to secure funding commitments for Rural Alive and Well, based in Oatlands in our electorate. I am pleased to see today that the federal government provided a one-year lifeline to this vital outreach service. I would have liked to have seen a three-year commitment, but one year is better than nothing. I certainly do not want to see one-year commitments become the norm. They make it impossible for organisations to plan and they fuel fear and insecurity within the workforce and amongst vulnerable clients.

Rebecca and her team have announced wider policies, including a rollout of six new child and family centres across the state to support families and nurture young children. School starting ages will stay where they are. There is also a commitment to ensure that people can pay their utility bills in instalments without financial penalty and a public commitment to aquaculture and national parks. We both share a commitment to TAFE as a pillar of vocational training. Rebecca is a hardworking and compassionate Labor leader with a steely determination to achieve practical results. She understands regional communities in particular because, like me, she lives in one. It brings a perspective to her policy suite that can be difficult to fathom when you live in a nice house in the middle of a city, surrounded by amenities and services. I know Rebecca White well. I consider her to be a very good friend. Tasmania will be well served by a Rebecca White majority state Labor government at the next election in March.