2016 State Budget Speech Kym Goodes, CEO, TasCOSS 26 May 2016 Welcome I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet here today and pay respect to their elders past and present. I would also like to acknowledge their ongoing resilience. I would like to acknowledge: The Minister for Human Services, the Honourable Jacquie Petrusma Shadow Minister for Health and Human Services, Rebecca White and Leader of the Tasmanian Greens, Cassie O’Connor. I would also like to acknowledge the many of you who are here today, who told us what you wanted to see in this State Budget when we asked you. Introduction State and Federal Budgets have a profound impact on our community, particularly on disadvantaged and vulnerable Tasmanians and the services that support them. So, as we analyse this Budget we ask ourselves: What do people currently experiencing disadvantage in Tasmania want? What do the people who work with them day to day consider to be important? And for all of us we are asking - What is a ‘good life’ in our community? For those born today what do we want them to experience over their lifetime? Somewhere safe to live, and a secure, nurturing environment in which to grow. An education that inspires us to learn for life with outstanding public schools in our neighborhoods. To have a life fulfilled by meaningful work. To be healthy, with nutritional food and health care within reach. To be able to contribute to our democracy and have our voice heard and respected. The comfort of knowing that when we fall down, as we all do from time to time, someone will be there to help us back up. An aspiration that is the achievement of a ‘good life’ for each one of us.
So we ask of our governments – how are we working together and what is your role to move us closer to our aspirations? Two Tasmanias These are the things we have talked about this year, and many of you would have heard me talk about the two Tasmanias. There is one where our fresh produce is sought after nationally and internationally. Where our tourism visitor numbers exceed all expectations as people from all over the world flock to our beautiful island. One where MONA has steered the eyes of the world in our direction. And the other… Where almost one in five Tasmanian households with children are jobless. Where one in six people between 15 and 24 are unemployed—with a youth unemployment rate the highest in the country. That’s an entire generation of young people looking for work that does not exist or is out of reach. Where those on Newstart try to get by on $37 a day in a place where the number of jobs has shrunk by 2500 in the last 8 months. In the other Tasmania fewer than half of Tasmanians students complete year 12 and we have some of the poorest health outcomes of all the Australian states. State Budget Analysis In this budget we have seen the Hodgman government put an explicit and long awaited focus on those who are most vulnerable in our community. These are people who experience vulnerability in their lives every-day. We welcome and applaud this. That is for babies, children and young people at risk of harm and neglect, that is those needing safe, warm, affordable housing, that is more support for people on guardianship orders who we know are one of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable in our community. It is for those who need access to legal support and cannot afford it It is those who have lived with family violence and need a range of support, from somewhere to live, to counselling, and the most basic right of protection and being safe. So now let’s have a look at the detail of what is in the budget. Before today we already knew the following:
In the last few weeks our members told us they wanted to see these priorities in the budget Other announcements we want to comment on and confirmation of last year’s commitments still being funded … Indexation continues at 2.25% ERO – $21.2 million this year and increasing over the forward estimates. SASS received $100,000 p.a. for four years for sexual assault awareness programs in select high schools and colleges Education Act Review funds transition funds $2.25 million for 2 years then increasing to $6.29 million in 2019 Student Health initiatives $500,000 p.a. for 4 years to promote student health and wellbeing in low socioeconomic communities. Smith Family funds - $1.6 million for 4 year to support learning hubs in at least two communities But there are areas of disappointment and those we would classify missing in action and these include: No funding for the Transport Access Strategy – with the exception of some funds for additional Metro Buses, there is nothing in this budget to address transport disadvantage. This is ignoring one of the most fundamental barriers to participation and we will be lobbying hard in the next 12 months to redress this major area. Preventative health was to be the centre piece of this budget, Many of you in this room participated in the consultation and provided major input to the draft preventative health strategy. 2.6 million over four years, this comes out as $650,000 p.a. This year there will be 2% of the total health budget dedicated to preventative health but then it goes down over the forward estimates. On unemployment while we welcome some infrastructure and minor investments in skills and work readiness, there is a long way to go and limited investment in tackling the complex issues of long term, generational unemployment. One of the major disappointments for the sector is not to receive DHHS funding to support organisations in the transition underway. There is still a failure among decision-makers to recognise the contribution our sector makes to our economy and the lives of Tasmanians. And a failure of recognition or understanding of just how the current reform agenda are impacting. The introduction of market based reforms to disability services, mental health and aged care - and the range of reforms being implemented by the Tasmanian Government - are placing huge pressure on a sector already impacted by funding uncertainty. It has not gone unnoticed that the Government is happy to provide funding for Caterpillar or Forestry or Manufacturing as these sectors and industries have transitioned into new eras.
This is despite the sector employing nearly 10,000 people - just under 4% of the total workforce. To be clear, our sectors workforce is three times larger than the forestry workforce and 3 times larger than the advanced manufacturing workforce in Tasmania. But the same incentives that were provided to business to encourage growth or manage the business transitions in these sectors are not given to the community sector. This is despite the community sector contributing $50m into the Tasmanian economy through expenditure across our communities. The new funding models present major challenges. As a sector, we already grapple with: Funding cycles bear no resemblance to intervention and outcome timelines Short term funding arrangements that create inefficiencies like dealing with disruptive procurement processes, during wind down and start up phases and avoidable costs in workforce recruitment and retention Given these challenges, I need to understand what the narrative that we hear from government about improved efficiency is based on - we already pay low wages, have one of the smallest gaps in the economy between the lowest paid and highest paid staff in an entity, make extensive use of volunteers, rent the cheapest building stock and have sub-optimal investment in ICT - what further cost efficiencies are envisioned? The reforms are having a significant impact on the sector and the viability of some organisations through cash flow pressures and changing business models. These reforms will impact on jobs in our sector. Only 5 days ago in Launceston we saw a provider make 30 staff redundant due to the changing nature of the market based model. Leaving aside the issue of whether community services should be delivered in a fully marketised model, the transition from a community based model to a full market model requires new skills - in business planning, accounting, legal and marketing. This is what we were asking for in our BPS â€“ support to access these specialist skills for our sector. We risk losing community services whose focus is the care, the person, the trust that the community has in us and our volunteers. While there is much work being done in specific areas such as disability and mental health, we need a more strategic approach to the capacity of the whole sector in the next five years â€“ for business and client models. TasCOSS will continue to pressure for recognition and funding support to support the sector to transition through the massive and ongoing reform agendas. Federal Government Cuts While today is about our assessment of the state budget we need to make comment on the federal budget handed down a fortnight ago.
We expected that the State Government would have to step in to reduce the pain of Federal Government cuts and in the space of legal assistance this has happened. With 60% of its revenue coming from the Federal Government Tasmania is particularly vulnerable to the national budget cuts. The Federal Government continues make decisions that reduce opportunities for many Australians to prosper. There is a lack of leadership around tax reform or any real acknowledgment of the fact that we have a revenue issue in this country. Therefore we need our state government to continue to put pressure on their federal counterparts to not just halt, but reverse the so called austerity measures that are leaving our core services for the community vulnerable. Conclusion – A New Contract with Community What we’ve been asking for from government ahead of this budget is a bold vision and brave leadership. Tasmania is at the critical point where we can turn the corner. We can reduce inequality and see everyone enjoy the opportunities this beautiful state could and should provide. That it does provide already for some in our community but not others. And we don’t expect our government to do it alone. We are worthy partners in this. But we do expect government to be a facilitator of vision and the change, bringing people together to make change happen. That’s what Tasmania should be striving for. Together we can be working on solutions to the structural issues that are holding people back. The best political leadership and the best budgets create a culture of opportunity and aspiration, bringing people together and applying good public policy to complex challenges. We also need to make sure Tasmanians, who know their communities best, are listened to and respected, and are funded to innovate. This is what a publicly spirited government delivers. And so this budget has demonstrated a commitment by the Hodgman government to addressing a range of social needs and vulnerabilities. However, Tasmania’s long term challenges persist - unemployment, participation in work, education and society; health outcomes; transport access; And this is where the bold vision comes in - a vision that draws all the plans and reform agendas into a vision for a better Tasmania, a more equitable Tasmania for the next generation? Bold Vision Brave Leadership. But it is not beyond our reach to imagine a place where Tasmanians are inspired by education, moving into meaningful employment and living fulfilling, healthy lives as members of empowered communities. We are going to build our strength as a sector so we can continue to help those Tasmanians who rely on our services.
That is why we are here together today with representatives of the peak organisations of our sector To show that we are united in the social vision we want for Tasmania and to show that we are determined to work together to create a better Tasmania for everyone. Thank you.