Wednesday 18 October 2006

State of the State Reply

MR FINCH (Rosevears) - Madam Deputy President, parochialism for its own sake must be put aside in favour of arguments based on fairness. After all, we are all Tasmanians and anything which benefits Tasmania benefits us all to a certain degree. However, we must always be alert to fairness in the redistribution of our taxes and this depends on people rather than regions with artificial boundaries. To a certain extent, Tasmania's Hare-Clark electoral system ensures that State governments are reasonably evenhanded in the distribution of spending benefits, or at least over time.
There is no argument, Madam Deputy President, that the Royal Hobart Hospital is a drag on our State health system. There can be no quarrel, though, from the rest of the State with plans to replace it. Launceston has a fine and efficient hospital and so does Burnie. Many Tasmanians from the north and north- west have reason to use the facilities of the Royal Hobart Hospital, therefore it is in our interest that those facilities are the best. Approximately 1 060 patients from northern Tasmania and 1 270 from the north-west have recently been admitted to the Royal Hobart Hospital. They are usually in the life- threatening areas of cardiothoracic, neurosurgery and vascular surgery. These are areas far too expensive to duplicate in a State the size of ours and should obviously be in the biggest population centre. It is in our interest that a new hospital is built. How it is paid for is another matter.
We do not necessarily want to sell important publicly owned assets which are owned by all Tasmanians to fund a new hospital. I hope, Madam Deputy President, that the State Government will look carefully at all other options before suggesting the sale of any publicly owned asset.
In commenting on the Premier's state of the State announcements, I do not intend to indulge in the politics of envy or go down that well-trodden parochial path which is usually counterproductive. However, I shall continue to fight for what the northern half of the State needs and particularly the Launceston and West Tamar areas. Some of those needs might not be greatly expensive. Sometimes community needs can be met with a bit of coordination, organisation and sensible planning rather than vast amounts of money.
Take the bike track proposal by some of the residents in my electorate, for instance. The 10-member steering committee for the completion of a track from Beaconsfield to Beauty Point say they only need about $120 000 to complete the sealed track. It really is a pittance in State budget terms. I see this track, which will be completed simply through the sheer determination of those behind it, as part of a series of connected bike and pedestrian routes from Launceston to the mouth of the Tamar. What a project! West Tamar residents are constantly coming up with good community ideas which may require determination and planning but not necessarily a great deal of funding.
Just recently I was briefed by a club called the Diggers Cricket Club at Rosevears which was established after the First World War by some returned servicemen in 1919. That cricket club is still functioning at Rosevears on a beautiful little ground just by the Tamar River. It is an excellent facility and they have a very small barbecue and two toilets. That is all. What more do they need, I hear you say. What they really need is -
Mr Wilkinson - Have they got a cricket pitch there?
Mr FINCH - A cricket pitch would be handy, yes. We will worry about that later. What they really need though is a clubhouse, one of those steel and Colorbond clubhouses. Well-planned sport and recreational facilities need not be expensive.
Mr Aird - Just a garage?
Mr FINCH - Just a garage will do for a start; we will build onto it later.
Ms Forrest - And a toolshed.
Mr FINCH - A toolshed as well. Big infrastructure projects are another matter, of course. Local governments around Tasmania, I am sure, have extensive wish lists. The West Tamar Council however, is relatively modest. It has four main aims over the coming years. First, the continuation of the funding for the upgrading of the West Tamar Highway and the freight route, which is the Frankford Main Road and the Batman Highway. Second, a baseline study of the Tamar estuary and ongoing monitoring of this important waterway. It is either the largest or the second-largest estuary in, I was going to say Australia, but if I say the world I might get your attention more. Third, the provision of sewerage services, particularly for those areas adjacent to the estuary - Gravelly Beach, Rosevears, Paper Beach, Swan Point and Deviot. All at the moment are not sewered. Fourth, with proposed and possible developments in the northern part of the municipality, provision of a water supply beyond Beauty Point. That is towards the Green Beach area.
There is a need for infrastructure projects outside local government. The West Tamar is short of child-care facilities and there is a push for a centre at Beaconsfield as proposed by the Beaconsfield Child and Family Centre Steering Committee. As I stated earlier, politics of regional envy are non-productive and I hope that the Premier's plan for a new Royal Hobart Hospital comes to fruition as soon as possible. I hope that some of the projects in Rosevears will also be accomplished sooner rather than later.