Tuesday 18 October 2016
Hansard of the Legislative Council
Poverty in Tasmania
Mr MR FINCH question to LEADER of the GOVERNMENT in the LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL, Dr GOODWIN
- Does the Government agree with TasCOSS that 74 000 Tasmanians are living below the poverty line and the rate of poverty in Tasmania is about 14.2 per cent, above the national average of 13.3 per cent?
- Does the Government agree that 15 000 Tasmanian children are living below the poverty line?
- What measures is the Government considering to address this problem?
Mr President, I thank the honourable member for Rosevears for his question.
- The recently released Australian Council of Social Services Poverty in Australia 2016 report is based on 2013-14 data and provides statistics at a national level. This report does not provide the same data at a state level, nor has the state Government been provided with the Tasmanian data TasCOSS has referred to in media statements. However, under the Government's 2014 election policy, A Hand-Up for Vulnerable Tasmanians, we have already articulated the need to work on a long-term plan in partnership with the community sector to deliver a more joined-up human services system that would focus on improving outcomes for Tasmanians and provide a hand-up for the most vulnerable in our community.
- Prior to the report being released, the Government had already articulated a number of steps to support those who are disadvantaged, including children. For example, we have commenced reforming the state's Child Safety Services with a $20.6 million investment to ensure Tasmania's vulnerable children and young people are kept safe and better protected. In addition, we are also providing a record investment of $1.48 billion into education and training so that we can achieve better long-term results for our children, so as to create a job‑ready generation, while at the same time undertaking historic education reform to increase universal access to education and to break the cycle of disadvantage.
- As part of our commitment under A Hand-Up for Vulnerable Tasmanians, we have already invested in developing a joined-up human services system which is testing the development of a shared entry point and assessment for government and community-delivered services; a lead worker for complex cases dedicated to building a network of support around individuals and families; and an outcomes-based focus working with individuals and families on their strengths and goals.
This Government is also reinvesting in essential services. This includes investing record funding of approximately $260 million in the Human Services portfolio in 2016-17, to over 220 community sector organisations to deliver around 500 services to assist vulnerable Tasmanians.
In the 2016-17 Budget we are also investing over $300 million to fund a range of concessions to help the disadvantaged and those in need with electricity, water and sewerage bills, local government rates, public housing rents, Metro bus travel, and rural and special needs school buses.
The Department of Health and Human Services also have a range of initiatives that assist with disadvantage, including:
- increased maintenance and heat pumps for vulnerable Tasmanians under the Better Housing Futures program;
- funding of $7.5 million to build a north-west youth accommodation and training facility;
- private rental assistance;
- continuing to pay water rates for public housing tenants;
- building six-star energy-efficient properties;
- an extra $990 000 for the 33 DHHS-funded neighbourhood houses over two years, with $5.755 million to be spent in 2016-17;
- a new Launceston Northern Suburbs Neighbourhood House at $1.66 million;
- $100 000 towards food co-ops in communities;
- $572 million over the next four years for the NDIS;
- an additional $2 million over four years to deliver vital extra support to people living with disabilities outside of the NDIS;
- ensuring fair pay for community sector workers;
- $73.5 million additional funding for our Affordable Housing Action Plan, which is in addition to Housing Tasmania's capital funding;
- $250 000 over two years to the National Disability Services for its Workforce Development and Skills Plan; and
- the successful review and overhaul of the Home Share and Streets Ahead schemes, which has made it easier for more low-income Tasmanians to purchase their own homes.
Across government, we are also continuing to work hard to create more jobs to move individuals and families out of reliance on welfare payments. As a result, the unemployment rate has fallen to 6.7 per cent.
Other Government initiatives to support vulnerable Tasmanians include:
- an additional $50 million for frontline health services, totalling a record investment of $6.4 billion over four years to deliver a better health system, including $3 million for the Rethink Mental Health plan;
- an additional investment of $6.4 million, which is in addition to the more than $70 million we already spend for preventative health programs under the Healthy Tasmania Five Year Strategic Plan;
- 100 new buses for Metro Tasmania, with $31 million committed over four years to implement the Metro Bus Fleet Initiative, which will provide more sustainable transport options and increased accessibility options by being fully Disability Discrimination Act compliant;
- $1.2 million for emergency food relief in each region of the state;
- $300 000 per annum for emergency relief to Tasmanian families suffering financial hardship, under the Family Assistance Program;
- $330 000 per annum to support Tasmanians who struggle to meet the cost of electricity, under the Energy Hardship Fund;
- $26 million for the Safe Homes, Safe Families, Tasmania's Family Violence Action Plan;
- $10 million for the Tasmanian Energy Efficiency Loan Scheme, in addition to the NILS -No Interest Loans Scheme - and Aurora Energy YES program.
Reinvesting in essential services and protecting the vulnerable are major priorities for the Hodgman Liberal Government.