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Does Rees Protest Too Much?

JUSTICE ACTION http://www.justiceaction.org.au
02.10.09 9:29 am

“The latest moves by Premier Rees for new laws and state-wide watch teams make him an object of ridicule. It involves nine government departments in eight regions to combat elusive figures like blind pensioner Dennis Ferguson. Clearly nobody has mentioned to him that 95% of sex offenders aren’t known to police” said Justice Action spokesperson Brett Collins.

The Premier talked tough politics: “I want the community, I want the children in our community to be as safe as possible. If that means watching these convicted criminals then that’s precisely what we’ll do.”

“He can’t realise that frightening children with that power will prevent them complaining, as they know it will destroy their family where almost all of it happens” said Mr Collins.

“Unfortunately community problems where 1:4 women and 1:8 men are sexually abused need real solutions not political posturing. A consultative group put proposals based on international best practice to him last week in the wake of the vigilante actions at Ryde, but were ignored. Mr Ferguson’s counsellor approached him but was ignored” said Mr Collins.

“Premier Rees especially needs to look tough. Rees was Chief of Staff to Minister Milton Orkopoulos, now serving 14 years in prison for child sex offences while Rees was working for him. After Rees became Premier, his prisons commissioner granted special permission for the media to ask Orkopoulos whether Rees knew of Orkopoulos’ sex and drug abuse of young boys. http://tinyurl.com/ydnumw7

“Why would a Premier rely on the word of a convicted child sex offender to clear him? Why was the whistleblower, secretary Gillian Sneddon sacked from her job instead of acclaimed for protecting children. http://tinyurl.com/nkqdr7  http://tinyurl.com/y8m7n2y

“Rees breeding hatred and kowtowing to vigilantism is the worst kind of response. Driven by ignorance and fear, it gives the illusion of protecting children while insidiously putting them at further risk. If you discovered that your adolescent son was abusing your friend’s daughter, where would you turn?  After what we’ve seen happening to Dennis Ferguson, and the response we’ve seen from our politicians, certainly not to the police.

Politicians like Rees need to stop acting from their own self-interest and seek expert help in how the state can act in the best interests of children” said child protection campaigner Barbara Biggs.

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Politics | Legal | Society

STURGES’ BEHAVIOUR SYMPTOMATIC OF A GOVERNMENT OUT OF TOUCH

Nick McKim MP Greens Leader
02.10.09 9:27 am

The Tasmanian Greens today said that the belligerent and abusive behaviour of Infrastructure Minister Graeme Sturges is symptomatic of a government that has been in absolute power for too long, and is out of touch with community expectations.

Greens Leader Nick McKim MP said that Minister Sturges has form in this area having allegedly abused a hotelier in front of his wife at an RSL Christmas function last year, and the Premier must disclose how many more times this Minister will be allowed to abuse and threaten other people before the Premier demands his resignation.

“This is just the kind of arrogant behaviour that we would expect from a government that has grown far too used to the unfettered and absolute power of majority government.”

“I reckon three strikes and you’re out, so if there have been any other belligerent abuses of power from this Minister then Mr Bartlett will have no option but to sack him.”

“The Premier’s failure to take strong action means that it is his leadership that is under question as well as Mr Sturges’ behaviour,” Mr McKim said.

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Politics | State

DPP reveals Labor has failed to act on suspended sentence concerns since 2007

Dr Vanessa Goodwin MLC Shadow Attorney General
02.10.09 9:25 am

·    DPP reveals he urged government action on suspended sentence breaches in 2007

·    Recent reports have highlighted the unacceptably low rate of breaches of suspended sentences being acted upon

·    Labor’s failure to act more evidence of its mismanagement and incompetence

The Director of Public Prosecutions has revealed gross government mismanagement and incompetence when it comes to dealing with suspended sentences, in his annual report tabled in Parliament today.

Various reports in recent years have raised concerns about the treatment of breaches of suspended sentences in Tasmania, including a recent Australian Institute of Criminology report that found 41% of offenders on a wholly suspended sentence breached their sentence by committing one or more offences punishable by imprisonment. Yet action was taken in just of 6% of cases.

In its report on Sentencing last year, the Law Reform Institute also said:

Only five per cent of breached suspended sentences result in proceedings. The Institute’s view is that this is unacceptable.

And further

Failure to initiate breach proceedings is not an inherent flaw of the suspended sentence, such a failure merely fuels the public perception that such sentences are an ineffectual slap on the wrist and contributes to a lack of confidence in sentencing.

In his annual report, the DPP says he first raised concerns about the issue in 2007.

He said that he advised that the protocols for referring such breaches to his office was not working and wrote to police suggesting that an electronic capturing system ought to be investigated.

He continues:

I wrote again in May 2007, having received no reply, and attempted to follow it up in 2008, where I discovered that in September 2007, the then Commissioner had prepared a Cabinet Minute for the Attorney General’s signature seeking to make judges and magistrates responsible for identifying breaches. I am presently uncertain where matters stand.

The Attorney General needs to explain what the government is doing to ensure that breaches of suspended sentences are acted upon and she needs to explain why there has apparently been no progress on this matter for some two and a half years.

This is just more evidence of Labor Government incompetence, and of this government being more focused on its own scandals than on running Tasmania properly.

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Politics | State | Legal

Government’s wasteful ways must end

Peter Gutwein MP Shadow Treasurer
02.10.09 9:23 am

Liberals back public servant jobs in questioning excess by some senior bureaucrats

Giddings and Aird support catching a cab from Hobart to Burnie as a legitimate expense

Explanation needed for other excessive costs and information sought on other senior executives

The State Labor Government may not be forced to cut so many public service jobs if it reined in spending by senior bureaucrats.

Many Tasmanians could not afford to catch a taxi from Hobart to Burnie, and would see this as a total waste of their money.

Yet the Health Minister and Treasurer have condoned this behaviour and the expenditure of taxpayers’ money in this way as acceptable.  Furthermore, the Treasurer today refused to release the details of the travel claims of the other department heads and senior bureaucrats in the State.

Therefore, today the Liberals have lodged an FOI seeking intrastate, interstate and the overseas travel expenditure, including airfares, accommodation, transfer costs, including taxi fares, of all departmental heads and senior bureaucrats.

Tasmanians need to be assured that the Government’s rhetoric about cost-cutting is matched by reality.

Public servants need to be assured their job is not put at jeopardy because someone at the top of the tree has not tightened their belt.

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Politics | State

Royal Flying Doctor Service

Sue Napier MP Liberal Member for Bass
02.10.09 9:21 am

The Royal Flying Doctor Service provides a vital role for patient carrier services in rural and regional Tasmania

The State Government must guarantee full consultation with the RFDS as they move towards renewing their contract in 2011
There is a role for both fixed-wing and helicopter medical retrieval

The State Labor Government must recognise the vital role that the Royal Flying Doctor Service provides for patient carrier services in rural and regional Tasmania, including the Bass Strait islands.

I raised the issue in a Notice of Motion in Parliament today, and called on the Government to ensure that there is full consultation with the RFDS as they move towards renewing their new contract in 2011.

The RFDS has made a significant investment in remote health services in Tasmania, not only including medical retrieval, but improving dental services on Flinders Island, through its own fundraising efforts, and building airport facilities. 

It has recently won a million-dollar project from the Commonwealth to install a state of the art aero-medical training simulator at Western Junction, near Launceston, which could be at risk if they lose the contract in 2011.
The 2007 Sharley report re-opened the decade-long debate of fixed wing vs. rotor wing aircraft (helicopter) for medical retrieval, and recommended increased use of the existing Police helicopter as a “cheaper” option than buying a second fixed-wing plane to be based in Hobart, or a second helicopter to be based in Launceston. 

The Liberals recognise the need for the use of both fixed wing and helicopter services and that both aircraft have their benefits and limitations. Together, all bases can be covered.

The issue is about more than instances where a helicopter may be more appropriate than a fixed wing aircraft. There are indeed other times when a helicopter may be more appropriate than an ambulance.

We are extremely concerned at the lack of commitment to the RFDS and its base in Launceston after 2010 as publicly expressed by the Minister for Health, noting that this will be just after the next State Election.

The Government must ensure that there is full consultation with the RFDS as they move towards renewing the new contract in 2011.

Due weight must also be given to the importance of maintaining fixed wing services, levels of investment and the quality service provided by the RFDS as part of the essential mix of options available for patient retrieval services in this State.

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Politics | State

PREMIER IN DENIAL ON TASMANIA TOMORROW PROBLEMS

Nick McKim MP Greens Leader
02.10.09 9:18 am

Independent Audit the Only Way to Get Truth

The Tasmanian Greens today accused Premier David Bartlett of being in denial over the impacts of Tasmania Tomorrow on staff, students and educational outcomes.

Greens Leader Nick McKim MP said that the Premier’s claims on retention rates are unbelievable, and demanded that attendance records at the Academy and the Polytechnic be released.

“Teachers are telling me that many students who have not showed up to classes for months are still enrolled despite attempts to remove them from the system. This would represent a deliberate skewing of the retention figures in order to allow the Premier to claim things are going well when actually his reforms are crumbling around him,” Mr McKim said.

“The Premier must know that his claims of 95% retention into third term are absolute rubbish. It’s time for an independent audit to get to the bottom of how bad things actually are.”

“All that the Premier has to fear from an independent audit is the truth.”

“The first step to fixing a problem is to admit that it exists, and while Mr Bartlett remains in denial it is clear that things will not improve.”

Mr McKim repeated his demand that the Premier not force more campuses into Tasmania Tomorrow next year until an independent review of the impacts of the whole system, as well as an independent audit of retention and attendance levels, have been completed.

“There is no way that campuses like Rosny College should be forced into Tasmania Tomorrow next year while massive problems remain for students and staff, and nothing meaningful is being done to fix them.”

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Politics | State

Did the Premier mislead Parliament on Tas Tomorrow figures?

Sue Napier MP Shadow Minister for Education
02.10.09 9:12 am

·      Academy chief’s comments bring into doubt the Premier’s claim that there was a 95 per cent retention rate in Term 3 of the new PY10 system

·      Premier refuses to release the evidence to support his claims, which are at odds with what teachers are telling us

·      What has the Premier got to hide?

There are fresh doubts today over the truth of the Premier’s claims that there has been a retention rate of 95% into Term Three in the new Polytechnic and Academy.

Academy chief Mike Brakey is quoted today as saying that that 95 per cent of students who attended in March this year were still there on July 25.

That does not equate to a retention rate of 95% into Term 3 – which clearly begins well after July.

Did Mr Bartlett mislead Parliament in a desperate attempt to show that the new system was a success?

In Parliament today, the Premier again failed to release the evidence on which he bases his claims that there is 95 per cent retention into Term 3, which is totally at odds with what teachers and staff are telling us. Rather than a 95 per cent retention rate, I am hearing from many teachers that some Polytechnic classes are running at only 30 per cent capacity.

He also again refused to guarantee that the figures he was using were current active enrolments.

Why won’t he just release the raw data and definitions of what it does and does not include? What is he trying to hide?

The Premier also again refused to initiate a full independent audit of current active (i.e. attending) enrolments, so that we can have full confidence in the data before anyone even considers transferring remaining Colleges to the new system.

This is simply not good enough. The Tasmania Tomorrow system is in crisis and it is well and truly time that the Premier demonstrated some genuine leadership to get the system back on track as soon as possible.

Instead, for three days of Parliament, he has ducked answering questions.

And if the Premier has used unreliable data to save his own political skin and misled Parliament - and the Tasmanian community - he must apologise and take the first opportunity to correct the record. 

This is not the type of leadership that Tasmania needs or deserves.

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Politics | State

MORE FLORENTINE CHARGES DROPPED

Ed Hill, Still Wild, Still Threatened
02.10.09 9:10 am

Police question credibility of FT staff

Charges of assault and public nuisance against forest protestors in the Upper Florentine have been dropped in Hobart magistrate’s court today. Natalie Keene, 31 of Hobart, Ali Alishah, 25 of Hobart and Lee Sargent 29 of Kaoota had charges of assault and public nuisance dropped and Lauren Platzer, 23 of Kaoota, had her public nuisance charge dropped.

Principal legal officer Mark Miller made a statement in court that questioned the credibility of Forestry Tasmania employees involved in the incident as they used their cars to block a road preventing peaceful protesters from leaving the area. Mr Miller also made it clear that no peaceful protester was committing a nuisance or assault as Forestry Tasmania staff claimed. 

“Once again we’re seeing Forestry Tasmania leading the police down the garden path to once again make wrongful arrests of peaceful forest defenders. Premier Bartlett must resolve this issue and engage with forest campaigners rather than leaving it up to Tasmania police who have repeatedly had to drop charges due to FT’s incompetence and misleading claims that have led to dozens of wrongful arrests. Forestry Tasmania is a government enterprise out of control; Premier Bartlett must pull them into line and resolve the continual cycle of his police force being misled and making wrongful arrests.” Said spokesperson Ed Hill.

“This situation exemplifies Forestry Tasmania’s approach to dealing with the public, lie, intimidate and misuse the law. Premier Bartlett must insist FT change the way they do business and resolve the ongoing conflict by giving ancient forests the protection the deserve whilst ensuring a sustainable future for the timber industry by making use of existing plantations.” Said spokesperson Ed Hill.

“When this incident occurred in May this year Still Wild Still Threatened consistently stated that these charges were blatantly wrongful and would be thrown out in court. Peaceful forest defenders have been presumed guilty until proven innocent when they’ve been innocent all along. FT and the State government have vilified forest defenders for their supposed illegal actions and once again they’ve been found to be legal. Premier Bartlett needs to recognise community concern over the destruction of the Upper Florentine rather than accepting the advice of incompetent and untruthful employees of FT.” Said Mr Hill.

“Mr Miller’s comments about this incident make it clear that FT staff were the only people committing a nuisance by illegally detaining forest protesters using a government vehicle to block an access road. Still Wild Still Threatened is currently seeking legal advice over the potential for police to charge FT staff with public nuisance.” Said Mr Hill.

“Today’s decision by the police to not proceed with the charges vindicates the right of our community to peacefully stand up for Tasmania’s ancient forests.” Concluded Mr. Hill.

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Politics | Local | National | State | Forestry | Gunns | Environment | Legal

$147,909, 399 LOST ON POKIES IN JUST EIGHT MONTHS

Kim Booth MP Greens Gaming Spokesperson
02.10.09 9:06 am

But Bartlett Shirks Responsibility

The Tasmanian Greens today accused the Premier, David Bartlett, of endorsing as a virtual government policy position that it is acceptable for Tasmanians to continue to lose anything in the vicinity of $19 million on pokies each month, for the life of the Federal Hotels Deed, due to his refusal to take immediate action to stem the negative impact of pokies upon the community. 

Greens Gaming spokesperson Kim Booth MP said that since January this year Tasmanians have lost a devastating $147, 909, 399 on pokies, money which is now lost to families and local businesses who desperately need it, but the Labor government is happy for this to continue as they get a considerable cut of these losses.

“By refusing to take immediate action to reduce the number or the impact of pokies in the community, David Bartlett is shirking his responsibility, and tacitly endorsing as a form of government policy that it is acceptable for the Tasmanian community to incur anywhere between $16 million to $19 million dollars losses on pokies each month,” Mr Booth said.

“The latest monthly in arrears figures released by the Tasmanian Gaming Commission reveal that once again Tasmanians lost over $19 million dollars, which takes the accumulated total since January this year to an unacceptable and devastating $147, 909, 399.”

“Tasmanian families, and local economies cannot afford for this pattern to continue indefinitely.”

“If Premier Bartlett is genuine about being clever, kind and connected, then he will direct the Treasurer to immediately implement the positive policy changes suggested in the TGC’s Response to the SACES Gaming Social and Economic Impact Study,  which identified the need to reverse the placement of pokies in socially and economically vulnerable areas, as well as to investigate the removal of them from pubs and clubs.”

“It is clear that the government is the biggest addict itself, and one which cannot forgo the approximate $50 million it would have raked in as a cut of those losses bled from the community over these eight months, under the terms of the Deed with Federal Hotels.”

Tasmanian Gaming Commission website link: Here

Download: Graphs detailing pokies expenditure losses, January to August 2009 (2 pgs):

boothOct1_Pokies_Losses_Charts_K_Booth_ATTACH.doc

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Politics | State | Personal | Society

Rudd Labor refuses to play ball with Strahan recreation centre

Senator Richard Colbeck
02.10.09 8:39 am

The Rudd Labor Government’s failure to connect with community was plain for all to see when the Tasmanian Liberal Senate Team visited Strahan today.

Liberal Senators Richard Colbeck, Eric Abetz, Stephen Parry, Guy Barnett and David Bushby met with Strahan Primary School and West Coast Council representatives this morning.

“The case outlined to us was that Strahan Primary desperately needs a full size gymnasium – the current space used for indoor sports doubles as the school bus garage,” Senator Colbeck said.

“The current community space is tiny and utilises a second-hand former Hydro ablutions block as a change room.

“The school had hoped to access funds from Labor’s Building the Education Revolution (BER) program to get the project underway but the guidelines of this slap-dash program were so inflexible that Strahan Primary was deemed two children short of the number of pupils required for a project of that size.

“The flaws in Labor’s BER program mean that Strahan Primary will get the same amount of funding as a Queensland school with just one pupil, and as a result Strahan Primary has had to settle for a smaller, lesser priority project.

“Rudd Labor, and Braddon MP Sid Sidebottom, are really out of touch with the Strahan community on this matter.

“The Rudd Government has twice rejected a Strahan Recreation Centre project for funding now – once under the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program and once under the Jobs Fund – despite the glaring need for such a centre and the strong case that has been presented.

“Mr Sidebottom was a member of the West Coast Development Group which came up with a very well-planned recreation centre proposal so it is very disappointing that he has failed to secure any positive outcomes for this community.

“This case demonstrates that Rudd Labor’s BER program was never designed with the best interests of the schools and their communities in mind, and also that Rudd Labor is failing to connect with the real needs of regional communities,” Senator Colbeck said.

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Politics

Does Bartlett back his Minister?

Will Hodgman MP Leader of the State Opposition
01.10.09 1:02 pm

·    Serial breaches of the Code of Conduct by Minister Sturges

·    An apology for the latest transgression is not good enough

·    Premier must explain whether this embattled Minister retains his confidence

The Premier must explain whether he has full confidence in his Infrastructure Minister, Graeme Sturges – after he abused and threatened a security guard at a TT Line function who was just doing his job.

And if Mr Bartlett doesn’t have confidence in the Minister, then he should sack him.

Mr Sturges is a serial offender when it comes to breaching the Ministerial Code of Conduct – a code the Premier promised 14 months ago that he would strengthen.

Mr Sturges also proven to be an ineffective and incompetent Minister. Just like others on the front bench, he is only there because after years of scandal, there is no one left to chose from.

This sort of behaviour is totally unacceptable. An apology isn’t enough.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd at least forced his NSW MP, Belinda Neal, to undergo anger management treatment when she abused workers at a nightclub last year.

This incident has also just shown what a hypocrite Mr Sturges is. He claims to be the worker’s friend, but in reality he is clearly anything but. He not only abused a person who was simply doing their job, but threatened that person with their job.

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Politics | State

More pain for dairy farmers

Jeremy Rockliff MP Deputy Leader of the State Opposition
01.10.09 1:00 pm

·    Massively increased power bills add to dairy farmers’ pain

·    Many will not be able to pay these huge bills

·    Government still withholding practical assistance for farmers that was needed weeks ago

·    Has the State Government even applied for natural disaster relief assistance from Canberra?

Embattled dairy farmers have started receiving power bills that have increased 15% since July this year, following a 20% rise in 2008.

This is just compounding the financial stress of a 45% drop in the price they receive for their milk, reduced production because of atrocious seasonal conditions, and now on top of it all, power outages that have left many unable to milk their cows.

Dairying is an energy intensive business. The bills these farmers are receiving are huge. Many quite simply will not be able to pay.

I have today again pressed the State Government to act swiftly to provide the urgent practical assistance that dairy farmers needed weeks ago. It would be unconscionable for the Premier to hold off on the provision of support until next Tuesday’s rally in Devonport, where the timing might better suit him.

Farmers need direct financial help, such as subsidies or loans to help feed their stock, and other assistance, such as for animal welfare and counselling.

The State Government must also seek natural disaster relief funding for farmers. I got no answer to my question in Parliament today about whether the government had even applied for such assistance. 

Massively increased power bills are just going to increase the pain for dairy farmers. I again call on the government to move immediately to provide assistance to these people who are in huge distress.

The broader problem is the milk price, of that there can be no doubt. But a helping hand from government to get farmers through this difficult time was needed weeks ago and it is deeply concerning that it still hasn’t materialised.

Some farmers will simply not survive in business for the medium to long term if direct financial assistance in the short term is not addressed.

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Politics | State

National Foods runs scared from dairy inquiry & farmers rally

SENATOR THE HON RICHARD COLBECK Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
01.10.09 12:57 pm

Multi-national milk processing company, National Foods, has decided to avoid looking in the eye of dairy farmers who will rally in Devonport on Tuesday as part of the Senate’s milk pricing inquiry.

Instead, National Foods representatives will appear before the Senate committee in the more comfortable confines of Parliament House in Canberra the following day.

Senator for Tasmania and Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry Richard Colbeck said National Foods’ decision to scamper off to Canberra will be seen as another slap in the face to dairy farmers.

“National Foods is running scared from Tasmania’s dairy farmers,” Senator Colbeck said.

“It is disgraceful this multi-national company does not have the fortitude to front the inquiry in Devonport and face those dairy farmers who will rally on the same day.

“National Foods is happy lecturing farmers from fancy multi-million dollar corporate offices in Melbourne, but when will they front the farmers, their families and communities who will suffer as a result of National Foods’ boardroom decisions?

“National Foods’ senior executives clearly don’t want to understand the awful situation facing the local dairy industry.

“They don’t want to hear about the crippling effects of the low prices they are offering dairy farmers.

“They don’t want to see how farmers have faced torrential weather conditions over recent weeks. And they don’t want to see what a week of power outages can do to an already struggling dairy business.”

Senator Colbeck said despite National Foods’ decision to avoid the dairy farmers’ rally, he would ensure tough questions were asked when they appeared before the Senate Committee in Canberra on Wednesday.

“They might think they can avoid the dairy farmers and supporters rally in Devonport, but National Foods can’t avoid answering the questions dairy farmers wish to ask when they appear before the inquiry in Canberra.

“And National Foods can be assured this will be under the glare of Canberra’s national press gallery including the national rural media.”

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Politics | State

Urgent disability funding shortfall not addressed for five months

Brett Whiteley MP Shadow Minister for Health and Human Services
01.10.09 12:55 pm

·    Board approval to hand back residential services if $180,000 funding shortfall not addressed

·    16 clients and 15 staff could be affected

·    Minister denies knowledge of issue after five months of letters to Department

A reputable disability service provider of residential services, Oak Tasmania, will no longer be able to provide support to 16 people with disabilities in the south of the State if the Government does not act to address a funding shortfall. 
This could put 15 jobs at jeopardy and leave these vulnerable people without vital support.
The Liberals have today questioned the Human Services Minister on why there has been no action on urgent requests to meet a $180,000 funding shortfall five months ago. 
It is amazing that the Minister claimed no knowledge of the issue following an exchange of letters between Oak and Disability Services (at the Area Director level) spanning five months from 29 May 2009 to 30 September 2009.
Those letters clearly spell out that Oak is facing a financial crisis in relation to the provision of residential services and there is a need for decisive action, not delay. 
It was made clear to Disability Services that if no additional funding was made available, the provider would be obliged to close their residential services and hand responsibility back to the Department. 
The organisation has informed me that it can no longer meet the funding shortfall from its own resources and has Board approval to hand the service back. 
The Government will have difficulty attracting another provider at this level of funding.
Fifteen staff are employed to provide these residential services, and I am informed the union, HACSU, has been briefed on the possible loss of these jobs. 
Sixteen clients, 12 in group homes and four who are supported in their own home, could be affected.  These clients have not had their real support needs assessed by Disability Services in the past six years.
The Government’s Living Independently reform program transferred residential group homes to non-government operators as a result of a damning report by KPMG in 2005. 
The rationale for the transfer was that Government-run group homes were not meeting standards under the Disability Act, and the transfer would enable the Department to separate its responsibility for oversight of the system from the hands-on running of residential care. 
The Government promised to establish and monitor service standards to ensure safe and high quality services for clients, but disability service providers are now finding they are not being funded adequately for the level of care of people with disabilities, many of whom have additional needs associated with their ageing. 
The Minister must get across the issues in her portfolio and meet immediately with Oak Tasmania to remedy this urgent problem for the organisation, its staff and disability clients.

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Politics | State | Health

PREMIER BARTLETT SHOULD BRING SOCIAL INCLUSION STRATEGY FOR TASMANIA TO PARLIAMENT

Cassy O’Connor MP Greens Health and Human Services spokesperson
01.10.09 12:50 pm

The Tasmanian Greens today tabled in Parliament the report A Social Inclusion Strategy for Tasmania, released last month by Social Inclusion Commissioner, Professor David Adams, saying it was an unfortunate omission by the Bartlett Labor government that after two days of Parliament sitting the Premier had not yet mentioned this important report.

Greens Health and Human Services spokesperson Cassy O’Connor MP said that the Social Inclusion Strategy for Tasmania as presented by Professor Adams, proposed 10 strategies to improve the lives of disadvantaged Tasmanians, and called on the Bartlett government to issue a detailed, formal response to each of those 10 strategies.

“Under two weeks ago Professor David Adams released his significant report, A Social Inclusion Strategy for Tasmania, in which he has proposed 10 strategies to address areas of entrenched disadvantage and intergenerational exclusion, and help ensure Tasmanians can access the social, economic and civic resources necessary to improve people’s quality of life, yet we have not heard a peep out of the Bartlett government since Parliament resumed,” Ms O’Connor said.

“The Premier is to be commended for commissioning Professor Adams to undertake this important work.  He also needs to assure Tasmanians his government’s response to that work will be comprehensive and committed.

“This report presents some key, achievable strategies and policies to improve our community’s cohesion and resilience, and the Tasmanian people deserve a formal acknowledgement of, and response to, these matters from the Bartlett government.”

“Professor Adams’ report identifies that although work has progressed on social innovation across the state, ‘…the overwhelming image that comes through is that of a patchwork quilt of strategies and actions that just aren’t quite to scale, to scope, sustainable or connected as well as they could be’.” [1]

“The Greens stand ready to work with all sides of politics to make Tasmania a more genuinely cohesive society.  We consider the proposed Social Inclusion Strategy to be a genuine road map for the future, we will be looking at it closely and we encourage all Tasmanians to do likewise.”

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Politics | State

MORE FLORENTINE PROTEST CHARGES TO BE DROPPED

Ed Hill, Still Wild, Still Threatened
01.10.09 9:42 am

Accusations of assaulting Forestry Tasmania staff unfounded

Tasmania police are today dropping assault and public nuisance charges against four conservationists, arrested in the Upper Florentine last May. Principal legal officer for the police, Mr Mark Miller, will make a statement on the reasons for discontinuing the prosecution against defendants Alishah, Keene, Platzer and Sargent in the Hobart Magistrates Court today at 11.30am in Court No. 4.

“Protests in the Upper Florentine have always been peaceful. Still Wild Still Threatened is committed to peaceful protest and despite Forestry Tasmania’s attempts to discredit the environment movement by making unfounded accusations of violence, we will continue to stand up and peacefully protest against the brutal violence that is logging of ancient forests.” Said spokesperson Ed Hill. 

“The forest defenders whose charges have been dropped have constantly maintained their innocence and today Tasmania police will confirm this. Forestry Tasmania needs to stop leading Tasmania police down the garden path and stop using their politically driven influence that leads police to make wrongful arrests.” Said spokesperson Ed Hill. 

On Monday, prosecutions against another 16 Florentine protesters were adjourned so that the police could seek advice from the Crown Law office and DPP regarding Forestry Tasmania’s claim that another exclusion zone had been found.

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Politics | Local | National | State | Forestry | Gunns | Environment

POKIES STRIP $19, 018, 855 FROM TASMANIANS DURING AUGUST

Kim Booth MP Greens Gaming Spokesperson
30.09.09 8:55 pm

On Track for Total Loss of $220M during 2009

The Tasmanian Greens today called on the Bartlett Government and Treasurer Michael Aird to acknowledge the damage that poker machines are doing to the Tasmanian economy and society after the Tasmanian Gaming Commission (TGC) today revealed that Tasmanians lost $19, 018, 855 on pokies during the month of August.

Greens Gaming spokesperson Kim Booth MP said Tasmanians have lost an enormous $147, 909, 399 on poker machines so far in 2009 alone, and that money has now been forever removed from the pockets of Tasmanian families, and subsequently from the cash registers of their local businesses.

Mr Booth also said that poker machine addiction is causing huge social disruption in Tasmania, with law courts regularly prosecuting fraudulent behaviour caused by the addiction, and family courts regularly dealing with the fall-out and family break-downs that also result from addiction to these insidious machines.

“Losing over $19 million in just one month, as these August figures reveal, is an awful indictment on the Bartlett Government which just doesn’t seem to care about the ramifications of its own poker machine addiction,” Mr Booth said.

“This takes the total amount lost on pokies for 2009 alone the whopping amount of $147, 909 399.”

“The Bartlett Government is well aware of the damage that is done to Tasmanians and their families by poker machine addiction, but they are more interested in the revenue that these machines generate than the hurt and pain that they are causing Tasmanians.”

“If the current pokies loss rate continues, Tasmania will be looking at a loss of over $220 million for the 2009 year. That is $220 million which should have been spent paying for roofs over heads, food, electricity, clothing, and education for the family, but which is instead being lost to the community forever.”

“Just how many more social club treasurers, small business secretaries, trusted public servants, mothers, fathers, brothers, or sisters, must be jailed as a result of fraud committed to feed their poker machine addictions, before the Bartlett Government will finally acknowledge the huge damage these machines are causing and begin to roll them back out of our suburban pubs and clubs?,” said Mr Booth.

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Politics | State | Personal

Mrs Maree Blacker

Will Hodgman MP Leader of the State Opposition
30.09.09 8:53 pm

It is with great sadness that I heard of the death of Mrs Maree Blacker, particularly in such tragic circumstances.

My thoughts and those of my colleagues go out Mrs Blacker’s husband, John, her family and friends.

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Politics | State | Personal

CONDOLENCES TO THE BLACKER FAMILY

Nick McKim MP Greens Leader
30.09.09 8:52 pm

The Tasmanian Greens today offered their condolences to the family and friends of Mrs Maree Blacker, following confirmation that Mrs Blacker was amongst those who have lost their lives in the tsunami which has hit Samoa.

“On behalf of the Tasmanian Greens Party I wish to offer our deepest sympathy to Mr Blacker and his family, for their tragic loss,” Greens Leader Nick McKim said.

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Politics | State | Personal

Laptops for Teachers

Sue Napier MP Shadow Minister for Education
30.09.09 4:29 pm

The State Labor Government must fund the progressive upgrading and replacement of teacher laptops in Tasmanian public schools.

Four years ago, Paula Wriedt recognised the importance of teachers having up to date laptops to help ensure that teachers were trained and comfortable with everyday use of computers as a teaching and information tool.

Now as I visit schools, I am regularly told that their laptops are not powerful enough to run the software, keep breaking down and are just not up to the task.  They are out of warranty as well as out of date.

I brought a motion on this matter on for debate in the Parliament today, and while I welcome the tripartite support for our motion, it is clear that the Premier fails to recognise the urgency of beginning to progressively replace teacher laptops

According to the Premier, over 65 laptops per month – out of 4000 computers in total – have “warranty issues”, but this doesn’t even include the number of times that technicians have to attend to computers and the time that takes.

When I raised this issue in Parliament today, the Premier failed to indicate when he would begin to replace the out of date computers, what funding options he was considering, whether funding for the laptops should be built into school resource packages and whether the recently completely School Resource Review had dealt with this issue.

He also failed to explain what progress was being made on deciding on the model of computers to be used. The answer he gave to this about trialing ‘netbooks’ was the same given about 4 months ago.

The Premier needs to start to answer some of these questions that we have asked on behalf of teachers and schools, particularly in light of the National Broadband rollout. Those that will be still working just won’t be up to the job when the rollout happens.

The Tasmanian Liberals view access to computers for both students and teachers as an essential tool to ensure that teaching is increasingly based on individualised education programs for students. The recent unacceptable literacy and numeracy results show that this is clearly a vital issue for getting the best out of teaching and learning.

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Politics | State | Education

GOVERNMENT BLOCKS REVIEW INTO WATER & SEWERAGE PRICING

Tim Morris MP Greens Water Spokesperson
30.09.09 4:21 pm

Labor Exposed as Uncaring and Out-of-Touch

The Tasmanian Greens today attempted to get an independent review into the Water and Sewerage future price rises but their move was voted down by the Bartlett Labor government, despite the growing disquiet about the huge increase in fees that the changes are inflicting upon Tasmanians, especially those on low incomes.

Greens Water spokesperson Tim Morris MP, who also sought to ensure that any proposals that seek to charge tenants anything other than the water consumption charge were abandoned, said that Labor is turning a deaf ear to many in the community who are doing it hard due to the spiralling costs in living.

“By blocking the Greens’ move for an immediate review into the new Water and Sewerage pricing system, and refusing to commit to tenants only being charged the water consumption costs, Labor has revealed just how out of touch, and uncaring, they are,” Mr Morris said.

“Many Tasmanians are doing it hard, and under Labor’s water and sewerage changes they are just going to do it even harder, with a 10% price hike this year, another 10% hike next year, and a further 10% the following year.”

“It is clear that the increase in the cost of living already incurred by Tasmanians with the increase in MAIB premiums, public transport fees, and power prices, is set to spiral under Labor.”

“The Bartlett Government must take a fresh look at the proposed radical price increases as part of the required review of the Interim Price Order which will be undertaken this year because of the shocking increases many people have already received. If this is not addressed now, people will receive a further 10% increase for each of the next two years.”

Mr Morris also said that it was gobsmacking that apparently neither the Minister for Water, nor the Treasurer had sought any funding from the Australian Government to assist with upgrading Tasmania’s water supplies and sewerage systems, a failure which has now left consumers to bear the full cost.

Text of the Greens’ Motion, supported by the Liberals but voted down by Labor:

That this House notes condemns the Bartlett Government’s for it failure to deliver Water and Sewerage reform that provides any of the promised benefits and has led to several perverse outcomes affecting Tasmanians, as well as yet unresolved problems including;

1.    Price increases of 10% for almost all customers with a further 10% in each of the next 2 years which is especially harsh on persons on low and fixed incomes;

2.    That it is currently proposed by the Government to shift the obligation for payment from owners to occupiers without compensation for renters;

3.    That many pensioner tenants of Caravan Parks cannot access concessions;

4.    That the Regulations to set the concession at $130 for 2009/10 have not yet been laid upon the Parliament table;

5.    That the salary paid to the Chairman of the Corporations is way out of line with community expectations; and

Calls on the Government to review the proposed future price rises and to abandon any proposals that seek to charge tenants anything other than the water consumption charge.

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Politics | State

EMU BAY RAILWAY DEBENTURE HOLDER MUST BE TREATED FAIRLY

Tim Morris MP Greens Infrastructure spokesperson
30.09.09 3:25 pm

Minister Must Negotiate – Not Legislate Rights Away

The Tasmanian Greens today called on the Infrastructure Minister, Graeme Sturges, to commit to a fair negotiation process with Emu Bay Railway debenture holder, Terry Croft, instead of just resorting to legislating his rights away.

Greens Infrastructure spokesperson Tim Morris MP said that despite the Department being aware of the existence of Mr Croft’s debenture claim two months ago, very little had been done to negotiate with Mr Croft in order to ensure that the matter was resolved before the Government’s legislation to purchase the rail was introduced into Parliament.

“The Greens are calling on Minister Sturges to sit down with Terry Croft and negotiate in good faith a fair reasonable price for Mr Croft’s Emu Bay railway debenture, and by doing so clear the way for the State’s purchase of the rail system,” Mr Morris said.

“Instead of entering into general negotiations with Mr Croft the Bartlett government’s knee-jerk reaction was to virtually put a gun to his ahead by tabling legislation which will strip away his rights unless he accepts whatever the government suggests.”

“It is highly ironic given Mr Sturges’ long and loud complaints that Asciano had indulged in bullying tactics when they threatened to close the Melba Line, that we now see Labor threatening to legislate away the rights of a retired pensioner just because he might be in the way.”

“The last thing any of us want is to see yet another delay in the purchase of the state’s rail system, but it is grossly unfair to treat Mr Croft as if he is the problem, rather then ensuring that the right thing is done by him.”

“Mr Sturges must commit to ensuring that he will enter into negotiations with good faith to determine a fair and reasonable price to pay Mr Croft for his debenture, and that he will not move to legislate away Mr Croft’s rights until those negotiations have reached resolution.”

“Moving to debate legislation tomorrow which would remove Mr Croft’s rights should only occur as the last resort, and it would be an unacceptable and bullying move for the Minister to do as the first course of action.”

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Politics | State

NORTH WEST SMELTER TO USE NATIVE FOREST

Nick McKim MP Greens Leader
30.09.09 3:21 pm

Government Secrecy Risks Community Division

The Tasmanian Greens today said that the Treasurer’s refusal for the second day in a row to rule out the use of native forests in the silica mine and smelter proposed for Tasmania’s north-west means that it is overwhelmingly likely that forests from the Tarkine will be used.

Greens Leader Nick McKim MP said that the Michael Aird had also failed for the second day in a row to guarantee that a manufacturing plant will be part of the proposal.

“Twice the Treasurer has been asked to guarantee that the project will include a manufacturing plant, and twice he has failed to do so. And twice the Treasurer has been asked to rule out the use of native forests in the project, and twice he has failed to do so,” Mr McKim said.

“It is now fair to conclude that the Treasurer’s silence is confirmation that forests from the Tarkine will be used by this project, and that a manufacturing plant is unlikely to be part of the plan.”

“If native forests are not going to be involved, surely Mr Aird would have ruled it out by now.”

“It is not good enough for the Treasurer to claim commercial in confidence as an excuse to keep Tasmanians in the dark.  Mr Aird was provided the opportunity to justify how answering these questions could possibly breach commercial in confidence conditions and he did not take that opportunity.”

“It is the Bartlett government’s secrecy and refusal to rule out use of the Tarkine forests that is already making this project more controversial and divisive than it should be.”

“It is an insult to the Tasmanian taxpayer that their money can be used to underpin a project that they don’t know anything about due to excessive and typical government secrecy.”

Mr McKim repeated that the Greens believe that the project may be a good one for Tasmania, particularly given the potential end use of any silicon produced, but that more details were necessary before an informed view can be formed.

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Politics | State | Environment

SILICA SMELTER RINGS ALARM BELLS FOR NATIVE FORESTS

Vica Bayley
30.09.09 3:20 pm

The Wilderness Society supports investment in the renewable energy industry, but not at the expense of Tasmania’s carbon-dense forests which have a much more important role to play in storing carbon and combating climate change. Recent revelations of a silica smelter for north-west Tasmania could offer a good development opportunity, however Premier Bartlett must rule out the use of native-forest timber in the processing plant.

“One aspect of community opposition to Gunns’ proposed pulp mill has been fuelled by the fact that native forests would be used in the mill. Any new proposed investment, particularly one with important links to the solar energy industry, must be untainted by links with native-forest logging,” said the Wilderness Society’s Vica Bayley. 

Until more information is made available about the proposed investment in north-west Tasmania, it is impossible to support or oppose this project. In the meantime, the Wilderness Society requests a Government guarantee that any investment will not carry with it the potential for the destruction of the natural environment and the creation of community division that has characterised the pulp mill debate. 

“There is speculation that wood from native-forest logging would be used to make charcoal to fuel the smelter. If this is the case, it would undermine the sustainability of the project and simply create more unnecessary community division,” said Mr Bayley.

“We have seen what happened on the south coast of NSW just a few years ago, when a proposed charcoal plant for silica production fuelled huge community opposition resulting in the eventual withdrawal of the proposal.”

There are media reports that the project would use ‘wood waste’ from the forest floor in the smelting process. However, similar to the Forestry Tasmania’s concept of burning ’wood waste’ to generate electricity, it is feared this would simply create another end use for the native-forest woodchips overseas customers are now rejecting.

“In order to ensure the Tasmanian public is able to support new investment opportunities in this state, the government should mandate that only timber from existing plantations is used. To give the community confidence that no further native forests would be destroyed for low-value uses, Tasmania’s high-conservation-value forests must be immediately protected.”

In the emerging low-carbon economy the highest value use for native forests is in the carbon they store. The majority of the world’s wood needs can be provided by existing plantations, leaving native forests to perform their role in protecting us from dangerous climate change. 

“If the Tasmanian Government is serious about being seen as a viable place for investment in the renewable energy sector, it must act immediately to protect Tasmania’s native forests,” said Mr Bayley.

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Politics | State | Environment

MORE FLORENTINE CHARGES TO BE DROPPED

Geoff Law
30.09.09 3:16 pm

Police to give reasons for discontinuing ‘assault’ charges in court 11.30 Thursday

The police have informed the lawyer for four Florentine protesters charged with ‘assault’ in May that the charges will be dropped.

Principal legal officer for the police, Mr Mark Miller, will make a statement on the reasons for discontinuing the prosecution against defendants Alishah, Keene, Platzer and Sargent in the Hobart Magistrates Court tomorrow at 11.30 am in Court No. 4.

On Monday, prosecutions against another 16 Florentine protesters were adjourned so that the police could seek advice from the Crown Law office and DPP regarding Forestry Tasmania’s claim that another exclusion zone had been found.

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Politics | Local | National | State | Forestry | Gunns | Environment | Legal

Minister to sack workers, yet bureaucrats spend up on travel and accommodation

Brett Whiteley MP Shadow Minister for Health and Human Services
30.09.09 3:14 pm

·    Two top health bureaucrats spend $140,000 on travel and accommodation

·    Taxpayers paid nearly $1700 for the Health Secretary’s 48 hour trip to Burnie

·    Burnt-out Health Minister defends these expenses in Parliament

A Freedom of Information request has revealed that the top two bureaucrats in the Health Department racked up a combined total of over $140,000 on travel and accommodation over the past 18 months.  One of them has only been employed since November last year.

While obviously, it is necessary for top bureaucrats to travel to meetings and have their accommodation costs met, it looks like these costs go way beyond what is reasonable.

For example, when the top health bureaucrat in Tasmania went to Burnie for 48 hours it cost taxpayers nearly $1700 in accommodation costs.  How on earth can that level of spending be justified? 

When the same person went to Launceston, again for little more than 48 hours, the accommodation bill was over $1500.

A single return flight to Perth cost taxpayers $3881. 

Meanwhile, the second highest bureaucrat racked up $15,000 in taxpayer funded travel expenses before even starting work with the Health Department and $10,000 in taxpayer funded travel and accommodation since starting work. That includes almost $6500 for 16 nights’ accommodation in Hobart when she first started work.

Tasmania’s burnt-out Health Minister gave a feeble excuse in Parliament today that it was ok to waste massive amounts of money, because it happened before the full effects of the global financial crisis were known.

That’s not acceptable.  There is never a good time to waste money. And this extravagant spending has also occurred after the Premier pledged belt-tightening in response to the economic downturn.

Just days ago the Minister confirmed she was looking at getting rid of 250 jobs in Health in order to save money.  It must be cold comfort to those people who could lose their job that while they could be forced out the Minister is happy to defend extraordinary travel expenditure by her bureaucrats.

That’s not leadership from the Minister at a time like this.

And it is more evidence of a Government that is tired and out of touch after 11 long years in office and which has its priorities wrong.

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Politics | State | Health

SUPPORT FOR TASMANIAN A-LEAGUE TEAM

Nick McKim MP Greens Leader
30.09.09 3:12 pm

The Tasmanian Greens today confirmed their support the Tasmanian United Football Club’s call for an A-League Tasmanian team.

Greens Leader Nick McKim MP welcomed the TUFC’s work to establish that a State soccer team would be viable, saying that Western Sydney’s successful bid to join the League is encouraging.

“The Greens support the TUFC’s push for a State soccer team in the A-League, and the recent success of Western Sydney in joining the League is very encouraging, and should boost the TUFC’s efforts.”

“I would urge all Tasmanians who appreciate the fine football tradition, previously known as soccer, to get behind the TUFC’s bid,” Mr McKim said.

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Politics | State | Sport

BARTLETT CLAIMS ON PY10 RETENTION UNBELIEVABLE

Nick McKim MP Greens Leader
30.09.09 3:10 pm

Independent Audit Only Way to Find Out Truth

The Tasmanian Greens today called for an independent audit of Academy and Polytechnic enrolment levels, retention and absenteeism after raising doubts about the accuracy of the data which the Premier is using to support his claims that there has been a 12% increase in enrolments.

Greens Leader and Education spokesperson Nick McKim MP said that the Premier must investigate and clarify whether students who had enrolled but who have since left the system are still being counted as enrolled due to IT difficulties.

“Only an independent audit can now resolve the massive discrepancy between what the Premier is saying about retention, and what teachers are seeing on the ground.”

“AEU members at Hobart Campus have unanimously voted no confidence in the Premier’s claims on retention, and there are significant doubts about the capacity of IT systems to collate and produce accurate data. An independent audit would reveal the truth of the matter.”

“Mr Bartlett’s claims are quite frankly unbelievable, and are being contradicted by teachers who are doing the hard yards under the Premier’s disastrous restructure.”

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Politics | State | Education

Did Labor even ask for Rudd infrastructure funds for water/sewerage?

Peter Gutwein MP Shadow Treasurer
30.09.09 3:08 pm

·    When Labor embarked on its water and sewerage changes, it was banking on federal government support for infrastructure investment

·    Where is it? Did the government even ask for funds as part of Kevin Rudd’s recent mega-spending infrastructure funding packages?

·    Ratepayers now being asked to foot massive bills as a result of more Labor bungling

It’s time the State Labor Government revealed whether it even applied for the federal funding that it expected to underpin the infrastructure investment required as part of water and sewerage reforms.

When the State Government first contemplated water and sewerage reforms, in its discussion paper it said,

Reform of Tasmania’s water and sewerage sector needs to be consistent with the State’s obligations under the National Water Initiative. Reform outcomes would ideally ensure Tasmania is in the best position to access the Australian Government Water Fund.

Prior to the 2007 federal election, the State Government urged then Water Minister, Malcolm Turnbull to back the reforms financially.

But since the election of the Rudd Labor Government, and as these changes gathered speed, the State Government appears to have gone completely quiet.

In Question Time today, the Treasurer said there was no federal funding – or State funding for that matter - to support the reforms.

Given that billions have been splurged in infrastructure stimulus packages in recent times by the Federal Government, he needs to clarify exactly what the government sought for water and sewerage reforms, and if it failed, why.

Surely this is not another rail fiasco, where the government failed to even ask for a cent for our ailing infrastructure as part of a $22 billion federal government infrastructure spend?

As a result of the State Government’s failure to secure the federal funding it was banking on when it started this reform process, ratepayers are now unfairly being expected to pick up the tab. 

For residents of Launceston, Dorset, Sorell, Southern Midlands and Northern Midlands, they’re facing an increase of around 100% in water and sewerage charges to meet full cost recovery. 

This is all further evidence of the government comprehensively bungling the water and sewerage changes and it heightens the need for an urgent independent review of the whole Labor water and sewerage mess.

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Politics | State

Labor’s arrogant response to racing concerns

Jeremy Rockliff MP Shadow Minister for Racing
30.09.09 3:07 pm

·    Tasmanian racing industry in free-fall

·    Premier condemned for his arrogant, dismissive response to successive race cancellations

·    Labor has betrayed the Tasmanian racing industry time and time again


The Tasmanian racing industry is in free fall as a result of Labor’s mismanagement, incompetence and betrayal.
Successive race meeting cancellations at Elwick have seen losses for industry stakeholders mount – losses that stakeholders say could have been avoided with proper maintenance and drainage at $30 million new facility.
And this was the Premier’s response to an industry that is hurting:
“in the wettest winter since 1934, I think we can expect a few cancellations.”

What an arrogant response from Mr Bartlett.
He has demonstrated typical Labor disregard for the racing industry, and the thousands of Tasmanians who depend on it.
And he has again reinforced how out of touch this government is after 11 long years in office.
The racing industry is the State’s 4th largest employing industry and worth tens millions of dollars to Tasmania.
Current and emerging problems for the industry include continued race cancellations at Elwick estimated to cost upwards of half a million dollars, a budget shortfall of $5 million as a result of the State Government’s inability to pursue a product fee, and then the continued uncertainty surrounding the sale of TOTE – a sale the industry was told last year by this government wasn’t going to happen.
On top of major reform late last year, the industry deserves greater respect from the State Labor Government and the Liberals have raised these concerns as a Matter of Public Importance in Parliament today. We are deeply concerned about the government’s betrayal of the Tasmanian racing industry and its lack of understanding of the impact that its mismanagement is having on the many stakeholders involved.
The industry is hurting and the Minister for Racing cannot continue to be a hands-off spectator. The Premier, meanwhile, should get up to speed on the contribution that this industry makes to Tasmania and start backing it, not fobbing their concerns off.

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Politics | State | Sport