Hansard of the Legislative Council


Wednesday 28 May 2014





Reply to the Governor’s Address


       Ms Forrest

. The arguments about widening and/or increasing the GST will be with us for some time. First, it would be a retrograde step to widen the GST on fresh food. That would affect a greater proportion of the incomes for the less well‑off. Second, it would have some effect on consumption of fresh food by Australians, which is also very worryingly low. Studies are starting to emerge on the health effects of widening the GST to fresh food. We have to remember that a good part of Tasmania's economy depends upon production and marketing of fresh food as well.


Ms Forrest - Did you listen to or read Tim Costello's comments on this?


Mr FINCH - No, I have not seen them.


Ms Forrest - They would be worth reading as he has a different view, so some people disagree. High‑income earners also pay. It is about supporting and compensating the low‑income earners. I encourage you to read it. I commend his article to you. I will send it to you.


Mr FINCH - Thank you. Compensating the low‑income earners - that is my concern about the GST on fresh food.


Mr FINCH - If we need more revenue, and we certainly will, let us increase the GST on its present base. At 10 per cent, it is one of the lowest consumption tax rates in the developed world. If memory serves me correct, in Europe it is somewhere around 20 per cent, and in Great Britain it is somewhere around 15 per cent. So ours is quite low. I am reluctant to join an argument for higher taxes but we will need them if we are to maintain essential services in Tasmania.

I am gratified by the focus put on our tourism industry by the next Government, and I applaud the appointment of the Premier as the Minister for Tourism. During our investigation in New Zealand, which the member for Pembroke was on, what stood out for me was that the Prime Minister of New Zealand is the Minister for Tourism. It is no wonder that tourism is given that high priority by the New Zealand government when the Prime Minister takes on that portfolio. I trust it will have a similar impact with our Premier taking the lead in the Tourism portfolio. I am hoping for more recognition of the importance of the tourism industry. During that investigation it was quite troubling that we could not place how important tourism was for the economy of Tasmania. It leaves it open for people - because of their vested interest - to put tourism on a lower level. I could talk to some and they would put tourism, as far as the driver of the economy is concerned, down around number 4 or 5. I believe it is much higher than that, but you cannot get the figures to prove the point that it is an important economic driver. People in the tourism industry recognise that and try to get that message through and it is very difficult.

There was a time, not so many years ago, when it was argued that the forestry industry was more important than tourism in the Tasmanian economy. Any argument that environmental damage might deter tourists was dismissed, but of course there is no argument now. The need to reassure customers for our forest products is now widely recognised. Soon we will be debating the Forestry (Rebuilding the Forest Industry) Bill 2014. It is well known that I supported the now‑defunct Tasmanian Forest Agreement, with the majority of my colleagues, and I maintain that view. However, I will be looking closely at the new bill in the hope that it will lay a new foundation to rebuild the failing industry, and to provide those jobs that so many of you here are championing for the future of Tasmania.

I can assure this House that our present and potential customers in Japan, China and India will also be looking closely at the Government's proposals. Not only can these customers watch the debate online, but they can only observe forestry operations through Google Earth and loosely follow any protests and community attitudes, so they can keep a close eye, as they do now, on what we do.


Mr Mulder - Isn't there a two-year time lag on Google Earth?


Mr FINCH - Two years? They will catch up to it eventually.


Mr Mulder - You can hardly watch forest operations.


Mr FINCH - Yes, but they will get some idea of what is going on here, through –


Mr Mulder - Has gone on.


Mr FINCH - I did remark a short while ago on the focus put on the importance of the tourism industry. However, I have already made the point that we refer to building the competitive strengths of industries when talking about forestry, mining, agriculture, aquaculture and tourism. I trust that they all receive this boost that I am looking forward to in what we do in Tasmania with this new majority Government.

I commend the promise to deliver a single statewide planning scheme that is fairer, cheaper, faster and simpler than the current system. Do we not all wish for that? It will not be the first attempt, and may take longer than my just-beginning term in this House, but I am pleased that the intention is there. It is a source of great frustration throughout our community.

There are many good ideas in the new Government's program and they are to be commended. However, the majority of them require additional spending. I ask, with respect, where is the money coming from?

I would like to go from the Government's program to my recent election for the division of Rosevears. Thanks very much to colleagues who have welcomed me back. To the member for Huon, welcome to this place. I look forward to working with you over the next six years. You have already seen how welcoming and warm the reception is to members, even those who have been re-elected. You will enjoy the work environment and the opportunity you have to do good things for your people and for Tasmania.

I will talk about one of the most obnoxious aspects of the election - the Liberal Party robocalls - a tactic that backfired. Robocalls were tried by John Howard, in his own voice, and he lost the election resoundingly. I doubt the tactic was used in Huon because it is hard to put out unsolicited negativity when there are seven candidates.

My friend Ryan Pitt, the brother of a member of Parliament from many years ago, Neil Pitt, said to me, 'Kerry, do not be a nasty winner', and I will try not to be. But I will quote an email to my Liberal opponent, Don Morris, from a person in my electorate. It expresses the view of many who contacted me, through all forms of media. I will just quote part of it:

Dear Mr Morris,

I was disappointed to say the least to be interrupted during dinner tonight by a prerecorded message regarding the upcoming election. The message was authorised by one of your Liberal party colleagues, Sam McQuestin. As I'm sure you're aware, the message was saying that your opponent in the upcoming election, Kerry Finch, has ties to the Tas Greens. I found this message petty, offensive, inaccurate and malicious.

Kerry Finch is an independent Legislative Councillor without ties to any political party. Based on my observations, he judges each issue on its merit and votes accordingly. He may share some values with the Tas Greens - such as compassion, a care for people and the environment; the belief that everyone should have the right to be legally married. This does not make him a green.

I had not decided who I was going to vote for in the upcoming election yet - I didn't know much about you before this phone call. I had planned on doing some research about who you are and what your values are. I no longer need to do this. The phone call told me everything I need to know - I have no interest in dirty politics.

That is a typical email about the Liberal Party campaign in Rosevears. If people hold true to what they signalled to me, the Liberal Party has been clearly told that the robocall business has to come off the agenda. The most upset people from my electorate were Liberal Party supporters.


Mr Mulder - Isn't that a good thing? Wouldn't you encourage that, if you're the beneficiary of it?


Mr FINCH - People just do not like it - the invasion of their privacy, and the smear campaign. We do not need it in politics. As I said at the declaration of the poll, 'Where is our standing in the Tasmanian and Australian communities?'. Where do politicians sit? I will remind you - it is not up here, with nurses, with doctors, or with ambos. We are not even here. We are down here, lower than I can reach. We are down there, and we have to do something about it - the way we present ourselves, the way we behave, and the way we run our election campaigns. People are sick and tired of nastiness. People are fed up with it.

Member for Murchison, you were calling for us to be more collaborative in what we do. People have to see that reflected –


Ms Forrest - And support each other when we change our mind on the basis of information received.


Mr FINCH - Absolutely. When we go on with this stuff about 'the contest' –


Mr Dean - Do you really think it is ever going to change?


Mr FINCH - Member for Windermere, you might chuckle and think that is part of the landscape, and think it is what you do and how you conduct yourself and how it should be done, but people are sick to death of it.


Mr Dean - Don't make me stand up. I didn't say that. I conduct myself openly and properly.


Mr FINCH - But the implication is there. You think that is going to go on and it should continue to go on. I do not think it should go on.


Mr Dean - And here you are doing it.


Mr FINCH - I take the opportunity, while I can, to highlight this as part of what we do in politics in Tasmania, in Australia. We have to reassess how we go about it because it is not serving us well; it is not lifting up our standing in the community, which is too low for my liking.

Now that I am back for my third term, I will not be slowing down in my representation of the people of the West Tamar. I have some wonderful population centres, Summerhill through West Launceston, through Riverside, Trevallyn, and we have the fastest‑growing area in Tasmania in Legana. I have Exeter, Beaconsfield and some lovely hamlets all the way through to Greens Beach; it is a fabulous area. I will be fighting harder than ever for what the community needs: infrastructure, education, health and road safety.

One of the top priorities will be to persuade the Government to do something about the deplorable state of the so-called Frankford main road. It is an important transport route from the West Tamar to Devonport and the north-west, back up through Birralee as well. I believe whilst there have been improvements made, it is substandard and unsafe. I did a lot of walking during my election campaign, delivering 10 000 letters throughout my electorate and I walked some of the Frankford main road. I was astounded by the number and the speed of the heavy vehicles on what would be regarded elsewhere as a country road standard. I hope to see that Frankford main road become the Frankford highway. I talked about it many years ago, but I had not experienced what it is like now, with a lot of heavy traffic using that area.

I will also, among numerous other things, be arguing for maintaining the health services at Beaconsfield. People want to recuperate after acute care at the Launceston General Hospital as close to their homes and families as possible. Palliative care should also be provided as close to home and family as possible. This is a role the Beaconsfield District Health Service has played in our community now for many years and it is to be lauded for the way it deals with the people from our community they look after. It is a fantastic facility. We do have some changes coming up in about four years. There is a suggestion of relocating the Beaconsfield District Health Service. I will be fighting to maintain the services we now have because there is a plan B that will see a downgrading of services and becoming more like a 9‑5, Monday to Friday centre. That is not what we want for our community.

Separate from the Beaconsfield Health Service, or the health centre, is the Beaconsfield Child and Family Centre, which has been a tremendous success. I have supported the concept since its conception and will continue to do so. From the beginning the centre was developed to work in collaboration with services to provide support for the families with children aged from birth to five. Through this collaboration, easier access to service or referrals and support has had a huge impact on families in my electorate. It has been wonderful. An early childhood intervention service now operates one‑and‑a‑half days a week from the centre, which offers assessment and ongoing support through courses offered by TasTAFE and Avidity Training. Mums, dads and carers have the opportunity to participate and gain qualifications in a diverse range of genres, such as hospitality, community services, first aid, through to connections with the University of Tasmania. Parents gain confidence through participation in certificate courses, cooking sessions, parenting courses or playgroups, which then enables them to progress and develop to take on future endeavours such as employment or volunteering.

The Beaconsfield Child and Family Centre was the first in Tasmania - it might have even been the first in Australia. That was the plan by the Federal Labor government, and it has been duplicated in areas such as Ravenswood and elsewhere. It is a groundbreaking concept and has my dedicated support. I am still on the advisory council. Just to go there and see it working would open your eyes and I am sure you would want it for your communities.

There has been considerable talk about the need for a primary school in our very fast-growing Legana and I will be urging the Government to keep an eye on that need. I know it was talked about during the election campaign and I will be keeping a close communication with the Education minister and supporting that development as strongly as I can.

[12.30 p.m.]

There is also ongoing need for vigilance about the health of the Tamar River. I was pleased with the announcement by the Federal member for Bass, Andrew Nikolic, of the $3 million that will go to the Tamar River recovery plan. That gesture of taking notice of what is going on in the Tamar River is really important as we continue this long, ongoing campaign to make that estuary healthier.


Mrs Taylor - I am wondering if we are back in the Tamar mud.


Mr FINCH - I will just draw a line under that. It is finished.

Members laughing.


Mr FINCH - One of my important roles over the past 12 years has been as a conduit between my community and the government, and I will continue to be very active in that role. I already signalled this when we had our opportunity to speak with ministers and the Premier last night. I have already expressed my desire to be that and to do that. I will continue to spend as much time as I can facilitating community initiatives, helping grassroots movements to achieve their aims, and helping to achieve all those things which help make a community inclusive, caring and sustainable. I shall continue to support the volunteer groups doing important work near my home in West Launceston. Closer to my home it improves the values of the property, and that will be most appreciated.

Members laughing.


Mr FINCH - Not Landcare people but people who care for the parks in our area. Also, I might highlight the Trevallyn Reserve is not that far from my home and there is a lot of very good work being done by the Launceston City Council. This support now from the Federal Government is money that has come through to help support work in the Trevallyn Reserve. I have been a long-time supporter of the Friends of the Trevallyn Reserve. Further up in my electorate, there are the Friends of Redbill Point. I took the idea of the Friends of Trevallyn Reserve to people up there when they were looking to safeguard a piece of land, a beautiful area called the Redbill Point Reserve. They have flourished with the way they have taken care and concern for Redbill Point. It is a nice place for you to visit if you are ever in my electorate.

I have not gone on too much about my election campaign, but I made a speech that you will not be surprised has been recorded. It is on my website. It is being accessed by people and it is on my recorded video speeches.


Ms Forrest - There are some tragic people out there.


Mr FINCH - Well, I have watched it 14 times!

Members laughing.


Mr FINCH - While speaking of tragedy, let me say, my colleagues and Mr President, I am looking forward to my third term with great enthusiasm.