The Independent Member for Clark, Kristie Johnston, said today’s flashy budget was a patchy mix of big spending announcements and worrying omissions. She said it seemed to have something for everyone, but will it be enough and will it go to the right places?
Ms Johnston said she was encouraged to see funding in several areas:
- Some health initiatives, including $160 million for elective surgeries and endoscopies, $50 million for mental health services, and $110 million for the second stage of the RHH redevelopment;
- $5 million to increase literacy coach services in schools;
- The establishment of a Disability Services Commissioner; and
- A range of capital projects for local community groups and organisations in Clark.
“But Tasmanians’ money needs to be spent wisely, carefully and in the right places,” Ms Johnston said.
“I’m concerned money is not being targeted at the root causes of our social and economic needs, but on bandaid solutions.
“There is still not enough commitment and funding on preventative health measures such as community care. For example, in the context of the $10.7 billion health budget, less than $2 million a year is provided for the ill-health prevention and community-based wellbeing program.
“That is nowhere near enough. A mere drop in the ocean.
“Health is more than the need for more hospital beds, it’s preventing people needing to go to hospital in the first place.
“The Government has invested on big ticket capital projects such as new prisons and road infrastructure projects, but has not adequately funded programs that would reduce the need for these investments in the first place. This is a pattern in the budget.
“In addition, we have a problem with a government that ducks scrutiny and is sensitive to criticism, which is a worry when it goes into big spending mode.
“The Integrity Commission needs reform and decent funding, while watchdogs such as the Auditor-General has not seen a material increase in its budget. Given the huge sums spent on roads and buildings, the establishment of a State Engineer office would have given the public more confidence that their money was being spent wisely, but unfortunately that appointment has been ruled out by the Premier.
“I would like to see us learn from our past mistakes, but I’m not sure this budget does that.
“We should stop throwing more and more money at an acute health system that continues to fail and instead invest in keeping people well.
“We can stop the urban sprawl and start thinking about an holistic approach to housing and transport in our cities and towns. We must utilise our existing northern suburbs rail corridor by investing in light rail, which would re-shape Hobart and provide millions of dollars in economic stimulus, as well as providing higher amenity to our residents and visitors and a catalyst for 4,600 new homes and 1,200 new jobs.
“We should stop turning minor offenders into hardened criminals through an out of date criminal justice system. It costs over $120,000 a year to keep a prisoner in jail. And yet we keep creating more and more prisoners. And that doesn’t factor in the cost to the community of increased crime.
“We can stop the robbery of our most vulnerable citizens by a greedy and immoral poker machine industry.
“I challenge the Premier and his Government to shift their focus from treating the systems to actually addressing the disease in the first place – address the causes of hardship in our community and make a sustainable and real difference in the lives of Tasmanians.”