THURSDAY 18 OCTOBER 2007-11-23

Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, what a pity that previous state of the State addresses have not coincided with Anti-Poverty Week or, if they have, the coincidence has not been much noted.  This state of the State address seems a little like catch-up.  However, I do welcome the Premier's sentiments; it is time we showed understanding of those in our community who need help; those in our community who are needy through no fault of their own.

After nine years the State Labor Government is talking about ensuring the most disadvantaged Tasmanians are not left behind.  But where have these Tasmanians been during the past nine years, Mr President?

Mr Aird - Be fair.  We have increased Disability, Family and Children Services.  You go back historically through the budgets.  Be fair, that is all I ask.

Mr FINCH - Okay.  The disadvantaged, yes now the disadvantaged are on the Premier's horizon.

Mr Aird - No, they have always been there and we have dealt with it successfully over a period of time.  It is true there is more to be done but be fair in your comments here.

Mr FINCH - I believe the Premier is a compassionate man but a compassionate man with practical priorities.  I will quote the Premier:

'Through sound economic management and the leadership that has built a strong economy we are able to pay a social dividend in caring for vulnerable Tasmanians'. 

It is true that the State Government has been talking about its sound economic management for some years now and it is able to announce what the Premier terms 'a package of measures directly targeted at giving people a fair go'.  However, we do need to understand the priorities of the economy and the Government.  You cannot give what you have not got.  The best way to help those in our community who need help is first to build the wealth necessary to be benevolent.  Let us not begrudge an acknowledgment that there are fellow Tasmanians in our community who do need help and the list is long.  Although we Tasmanians have an environment and a lifestyle that compensates somewhat for our low position on the national economic ladder, many are experiencing hardship.  Many families cannot afford adequate housing.  Some have no secure housing at all.  Those dedicated people who work in Housing Tasmania have been coping with the homeless and the under-housed without adequate funding.  I remember when I first connected with Housing Tasmania in support of a constituent and found out about the category situation - if you were not in category 1 you were in for a wait.  It must be very frustrating for their work.

Mr Harriss - Even in category 1 there is still a fairly long waiting list.

Mr FINCH - Absolutely.  So it must be a frustrating situation for those people in Housing Tasmania when they need to categorise people and there is not much that they can do for people in category 1, let alone 2, 3 and 4.  Next month's summit on affordable housing is most welcome, as is the Select Committee on Housing Affordability, to be chaired by the member for Elwick.  A lack of secure and affordable housing is a major key, I believe, to our community problems.  But there are numerous other hardships facing many Tasmanians.  You only need to ask at TasCOSS,  Anglicare or the Launceston City Mission.  To be fair, many of those hardships are not the fault of or the direct responsibility of the State Government.  However, it is pleasing to hear the Premier promise more benefits to those in need.  As you have heard mentioned by the member for Montgomery and others, the promise of a 70 per cent increase in electricity concessions to counter a power price rise from January which will mean $300 off the average annual bill for concession card holders is particularly welcome.  I have dealt with a former constituent recently who in fact has to budget - now she has to budget - during winter to turn her power on for four hours to heat the home she lives in.  She has to budget just to have the power on to heat the home for four hours each day.

Ms Forrest - She doesn't have the power on for the rest of the day?

Mr FINCH - In the middle of winter.  She is not able to heat the house during the rest of the day.  Her budget is that limited.

Ms Forrest - You wouldn't think that is very efficient, though.  Maybe she needs some assistance with how heaters work.

Mr FINCH - I did not check what time she actually turns the power on but I would imagine that she turns it off when she goes to bed at night.  That was the plight of a carer whose daughter is suffering from anorexia nervosa.  They live in a very high-roofed house, one of the old-fashioned homes in East Launceston - very cold in winter - and she is looking for some support.  Of course, the rent could go up at any moment, she is only paying $130 a week.  However, she is very stressed by living on the small disability pension that she receives and, as I say, is forced to budget very carefully.

Welcome, too, is the extra $8 million over four years to help children at risk of abuse and neglect.  Anyone who speaks of strengthening our communities, Mr President, has my full support.

Mr Wilkinson - You have to do more than speak about it, though, haven't you?

Mr FINCH - The Premier said, and I will quote him again:

'I know I also have a responsibility to build strong communities.  Part of building strong communities is making sure all Tasmanians can share in the better times that we are now experiencing.'

If the Government is serious about that sentiment, we need to see the detail.  I welcome the sentiment of the Premier's statement and I believe now is the time for all three tiers of government to work more closely with the communities that vote for them to ensure that those who fall behind are put back on their feet to join a cohesive and strong Tasmanian community.  Let us explore ways that this can be done, certainly in respect to housing.  Just outside the square there may be some things that could be considered like GST, stamp duty; maybe some council charges could be eased to help certainly younger people.

Mr Dean - If the State Government helps local government.

Mr FINCH - What I am talking about here is that team effort, the bigger view, the bigger picture with all three tiers of government looking at this situation.

The sentiments expressed by the Premier on Tuesday are to be welcomed.  They have my full support and now let us work out the detail, let us hear the detail and get on with the job of creating a more inclusive Tasmania.