Published: 07 July 2015

[3.00 p.m.]
Ms FORREST  (Murchison) - Mr President, we get an opportunity a couple of times a year in this place to deliver what has often been titled a 'grievance debate', where we have the opportunity to raise pretty much any matter or issue or area of interest to us as members, or our electorate, and this is one of those times.

I have always found the term, 'grievance debate', to be a bit of a misnomer.  I see it more as an opportunity to critically appraise the state of the state.  In doing so now, as I have in the past, I believe I offer a fair and considered contribution, always willing to acknowledge progress and decisions and/or policies of government that are having a positive impact on the state, as well as offering considered criticism of what I believe to be the opposite.  I do not offer views without consideration of the issues, including communication and consultation with others who have expertise in the areas I comment on, and/or stakeholders.

I have always said to ministers in this, and previous, governments that I am very willing to work with them on any policy matter where I believe there is a real and tangible benefit to Tasmania as a whole, not just for my electorate.  I do not intend to comment on all areas covered by the Premier, because there are quite a few.  But overall it is reasonable to say his address sought to affirm that the Government is on track to do what it promised.  On that score the Premier is not too wide from the truth.

The Premier further argued that we are back on track to grow the economy and fix the Budget.  On that score there is considerable doubt as to whether much has changed.  Currently the downward trajectory implied by last year's revised Estimates report issued just prior to the election has been arrested.  The steep decline may have been reduced, however we remain on a downward trajectory - it is now a more gentle downward slope.  But importantly, and possibly of more concern, is the reality that the underlying downward slide is worse.

Consider the following.  We all know the wages bill for the general government is about $2.2 billion.  Superannuation at 9.25 per cent is an extra $200 million.  But one third of employees are members of the now closed defined benefits fund.  As we know, the Government does not put away any superannuation for them.  The superannuation guarantee legislation requiring employers to put away 9.25 per cent does not apply.  That equates to at least $60 million.  It is probably higher, if anything, because the defined benefit members are generally older and likely to be receiving higher wages.

We do not have a sustainable system.  We are spending more than we receive.  Imagine a business with revenue problems that it failed to address - unable to borrow because it cannot service extra borrowings, surviving only because it is able to defer superannuation payments for a third of its employees.  That is our government in a nutshell.  I am not suggesting by any means that this Government has found a new way of deferring superannuation payments for a third of its employees.  It unfortunately is simply doing exactly the same as previous governments did for 16 years, and is being equally remiss in not saying so.


I have said before, and it is worth repeating, that when the Australian Government talks about a surplus or deficit, it means a cash surplus or deficit, including all capex - capital expenditure - outlays.  When the Tasmanian Government uses the same term it refers to a net operating balance figure, a profit and loss figure, which includes non-cash items such as depreciation and nominal interest on unfunded superannuation, but excludes capex.  It would be really helpful if both governments adopted the same definition.


The concept of a cash surplus or deficit is much easier to understand.  If a cash method was used, the inexorable rundown in cash would be more obvious.  I do not wish to be negative, but the Government is using the same gloss as its predecessor.  There has been a slight slowing of the expected cash drain for this year, which is positive in itself, but that is because the upgrade of the Royal Hobart Hospital has been delayed even longer, saving $27 million this year.  But it is only a deferment.  In fact, an extra $74 million will be spent on the hospital in 2017-18.


The need to find funds to rebuild the hospital is what is keeping the pressure on the Budget.  The specific purpose grant received from the Australian Government to upgrade the Royal Hobart Hospital was in effect a Clayton's deal, as future GST receipts were subsequently reduced.  Realistically, the grant was simply GST entitlements paid in advance.  These funds have all been spent on other things and now finding $400 million to complete the project over the next four years is the biggest Budget constraint.  Other infrastructure projects will suffer.  There is no alternative but to rob Peter to pay Paul.


The problem is not of the Government's making, but it begs the question as to how we should prioritise and fund large infrastructure projects in the future.  I believe we need to have a mature discussion about this challenge and a rethink of how we do it.  For example, the $400 million Midland Highway upgrade, funded by the Australian Government, is welcome but is it the highest priority?  Large projects such as the hospital, the replacement of the Bridgewater bridge and even the Tasman Bridge at some stage, should be prioritised in a non-parochial, nonpartisan climate and removed from the reach of pork barrellers at election time.

Apparently road and rail funding are subject to federal/state five-year agreements.  I fail to see why five-year agreements covering more than one election cycle could not lead to the payment of a lump sum each year to be spent on designated large infrastructure projects at the discretion of each state.  If federalism is to work at all, each state should be able to achieve that.  We should learn from the hospital upgrade planning debacle.  This hopefully might address problems caused by the budgetary pressures, which currently means funding large infrastructure projects from our own state's revenue is impossible.

The once-a-year Budget effort combined with the four-year election cycle unfortunately overlap to produce limited horizons for meaningful public policy implementations, and that is inhibiting us.  Not only do we need a rolling five-year plan for infrastructure, we need at least this for health and education, although I suggest in the case of health and education we need a much longer rolling plan - say, 25 to 30 years.

I know these plans are all in each department but we do not get to see them.  Estimates hearings are theatre, and little is gained.  Governments and ministers are guarded and distrustful, giving away as little as possible.  It is not the way a small state like Tasmania will make progress.  We need less adversarialism, not more.

The reality is the inertia of the system directs at least 95 per cent of the spending each year.  Politicians generally, but ministers particularly, think they have their hands on the levers.  We need to have a more realistic view of our primary role.  This is to lead and to offer a meaningful interface for canvassing and implementing public policy.  Making decisions behind closed doors will not work in a mature society.

Finding ways to make federalism work better is just as important, and should complement fixing the Budget.  The changes to federalism in my view are looming as the most critical in a generation for Tasmania.  The Premier's comment on this crucial matter in his address was alarmingly brief.  He simply said he'll be looking after Tasmania's interest and will be adopting a no-worse-off benchmark in securing the best deal for Tasmania.  Can we call that a policy?  Is that the best we can hope for?  It is not even a thought bubble.  It is a few glib phrases from the media minder's handbook.

Tasmanians deserve better.  It is more than that.  It should be mandatory for our approach to federalism to straddle party boundaries, otherwise any change will be watered down and lost in the sands of time.  It is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to present a united front across parties and across policy areas.  We are not simply lobbying for a footie team to play a few extra matches in Tassie.  We are lobbying to secure the future of our state as a viable part of the Federation.  It is beyond being just another policy to be decided by the government of the day.

I cannot recall a more crucial time to reshape the future of our state than that presented by the current joint review of the federal system and the tax system.  If we do not manage to agree on a non-partisan way forward, it will be a heroic wasted opportunity.  It will be an indictment on all concerned if we allow Tasmania's submission to be finalised behind the closed door of the Premier's department with the occasional spin-enhanced leak.  This must be an open and consultative process where all sides of political viewpoints are considered and inform, in a nonpartisan way, the very real issues and challenges that confront us.  If it ends up being a take-it-or-leave-it proposition similar to the Government's attempt to impose wage restraint, then I am fearful for the future.

If we look at how the state is tracking financially, we must consider the whole picture.  Whilst the midyear results show we are generally on track, with any Budget most changes occur in the second half of the year.  Whilst the decline has certainly been slowed in the first half year, there are a number of looming challenges that could steepen the current downward trajectory.

Tasmania's share of the GST pool due will be revealed this month.  We probably will not know until June whether the pool itself has been changed in size but our percentage share would almost certainly reduce as a result of declining royalties in the mining states of Queensland and Western Australia, which would necessitate an upward revision of their shares.

Then next will be the projection of specific purpose grants and national partnership payments to states in the federal budget due to be handed down a few weeks before the Tasmanian Budget in late May.  The Tasmanian Budget will need to address the ongoing needs of Forestry Tasmania and determine whether a special dividend from Hydro Tasmania in 2017-18 of $75 million will still be possible in light of the Government's recent acknowledgment of its woes when it shifted $325 million of debt onto TasNetworks.

The Government, to be fair, has avoided capsizing but the current trajectory has changed little.  In four years' time the only cash on hand will be the proceeds of a $700 million overnight loan used to repay amounts borrowed from the amounts set aside for other specific purposes which will disappear the next day from whence it came.  We are still very vulnerable.

Whilst the revised Estimates reports show things are no worse, we need to keep a realistic view of our situation and start offering a broader vision rather than merely slowing our decline.

Realism must rank before fake and false optimism, and in that regard it is incumbent on the Treasurer to avoid deliberately misleading interpretation of economic events as he recently did by declaring a Merry Christmas for Tassie retailers based on retail trading figures for December, whereas the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported a fall in seasonally adjusted terms, the worst monthly result in Australia and a continuation of a downward trend.

The South Australian Government has recently announced a review of its tax system.  Even the Abbott Government may have to take a hard look at the sacred cows of negative gearing, capital gains concessions and superannuation arrangements which favour the well-off.  We need to have greater peripheral vision when tackling our budgetary problems.

Tasmania has faced some very tough economic times since the GFC.  I have tried for many years to draw the attention of government and Tasmanians to the cold harsh reality of these challenges and why many of our decisions made by government during my time here have not been in the best long-term interest of the state.  In many areas we have seen political motivations driving decisions where sensible policy should take precedence.  I have said for a number of years that areas such as health service delivery and education should not be subject to continual political interference, thereby eliminating good policy decisions and leaving the people of Tasmania to pay the penalty.

Health and education should not be political footballs.  We need to have long-term policy settings that have bipartisan support and the guarantee that the underlying fundamental principles and policy will not be fundamentally changed every three to four years.  I do not mean that we should not change, nor that we should not respond to emerging evidence or evidence‑based decision-making.  Of course we need to do that, but in doing so we need to maintain an agreed framework for the long term, ideally a rolling 25 to 30-year vision in these areas.

Health policy is a classic case in point.  We see the Australian Government work towards dismantling the activity-based funding model established under the former Australian government.  No sooner is one model almost fully implemented, often at enormous cost, when we see this all thrown out and a new model brought in - a model that I believe may have serious consequences for the Tasmanian Health budget.  I have not had time to fully explore the implications of the proposed changes but logically, a state with a higher than average burden of chronic disease, a more rapidly ageing and in many cases a more unhealthy population as poverty and poor health outcomes occur together, and a dispersed population, will not benefit from the proposed model.

I really hope this is a matter the Minister for Health will get his head around and be an advocate for on Tasmania's behalf.  This is a matter that really must form part of the input of the Commonwealth's Federation white paper.

I commend the Government for seeking community input into health services in Tasmania.  I am pleased to note that the Government will offer a second round of community consultation in this process, as I believe the first round was lacking in many ways.  I am sure some would say, 'Just get on with it, haven't we talked about this enough already?', but we have not been having the right conversation.  Community members are often the forgotten stakeholders in the debate about health service delivery, so it is appropriate that the Government engages the community in any discussion of health services reform.  The discussion, however, must be meaningful and focused on the right areas.  It is of absolutely no value to start talking about how we could, might or will change things if the community conversation does not start with why we need to change things.

To achieve meaningful change, the community across Tasmania needs to have a real understanding of why health service delivery has changed, and why it is vital that it continues to change.  Tasmanians deserve to have access to quality, safe, timely and effective health care.  Broad community support is essential to the success of health service delivery and health care reform.  If clear expectations are not forthcoming, gaining community acceptance and understanding of how health service delivery is going to change or be reformed, then that community acceptance may simply not occur.

Even the best policy can fail if broad community understanding and support are lacking.

All of us here appreciate that health service delivery has and will continue to change.  Advances in knowledge, expertise, technologies and techniques result from constant research.  Hopefully, evidence-based change in health care delivery and practice is the result.  New investigative technologies and more effective treatments have been, and will continue to be, developed.  Generally these will have less adverse side effects, which is generally a cost saving.  However, these treatments and services are often quite expensive.  And the more the services are available, the more the demand grows.  This is a major challenge for the health system.

We also have a greater understanding of illness prevention and health promotion.  For example, many years ago patients were in hospital for weeks following a cholecystectomy, or removal of the gall bladder.  There was a large wound to the abdomen and many weeks of recovery.  Now this procedure is often undertaken as a day procedure, with very small incisions, a rapid recovery period and a significantly lower risk of complications, particularly those related to longer periods of immobility and hospitalisation such as infection, blood clots or DVTs, and pneumonia.  The same can be said of childbirth.  Gone are the days, thankfully, when women were confined to bed for days following the birth of their babies, often resulting in a range of complications.  They did not go home for up to 14 days after a normal birth.

With these medical advances community expectations also increase.  We expect access to more expensive diagnostic tests and treatments.  With improved techniques and treatments recovery rates and times improve, and as outcomes improve, overall life expectancy increases.  One has to ask whether we are creating our own health service cost crisis.  As life expectancy increases, so does the incidence of many chronic diseases, and so the need to prevent the onset of these conditions becomes more important, as does the management of the increased burden of chronic illness.  The sting in the tail of improved health care - surgery in particular - is this reality, and the growing demand for health services.  This happens in mature economies, and we should not regard it as a bad thing.  It is a challenge that will make us better off.

Compared to other states, Tasmania has a more rapidly ageing demographic, with higher levels of poverty and disadvantage, and thus a higher chronic disease burden.  Added to this challenge, Tasmania also has poor health literacy rates - the ability to read, understand and apply health care information that enables a person to make appropriate health decisions and follow instructions for treatment - as well as a much dispersed population.  These are clearly challenges, but they are just that, challenges - not insurmountable problems.

Consideration of health care should not be confined to any hospital or building.  Focusing on the location of bricks and mortar just drags us into the past.  Tasmania has some advantages in the delivery of health care that we should capitalise on.  We have relatively short distances to travel, and thus relatively short travel time to access care, which should be recognised as an advantage where it is the case.  It is true that it may take one or two hours travel time to access the nearest appropriate health centre, but much of this travel is on relatively good roads with low traffic volumes.

We often forget that many residents of large cities such as Melbourne take the same time to get to the equivalent health care facilities and have all the additional stress of heavy traffic.

I also acknowledge this advantage can be a real disadvantage for individuals in regional areas who do not have access to reliable transport, transport they can afford, or there are weather conditions that prevent travel by road.  Therefore, in some cases, access in terms of transport and accommodation should be provided.  This must be an integral part of the overall conversation about health services.

The discussions must be focused on a whole-of-state approach and this includes transport and accommodation as part of, and the cost of, health service delivery.  It should go without saying that in circumstances requiring urgent medical care, air transport can and should be arranged.  This may require additional government investment that could in reality prove cost-effective overall.


Tasmania has the advantage of increasing access to high speed broadband if only we can get NBN to all parts of the state as promised.  It seems incongruous to me that we can accept and expect new technologies to investigate and treat a vast range of medical conditions but there appears to remain a reluctance to embrace similar technologies to consult on and manage many of these conditions that do not require face-to-face interaction.

Home monitoring of a patient's blood pressure, with online interaction and consultation with a health care professional, can provide a much more accurate and possibly safer assessment than a blood pressure check-up after an hour's drive and a frustrating wait in close quarters in the doctor's waiting room with a range of contagious illnesses.  The nature of each individual's health care need is relevant.

If the required service is a surgical remedy, expected to be a one-off procedure followed by a period of recuperation and recovery, this service does not need to be provided in every part of the state.  For example, if a person requiring a hip replacement can access his surgery and avoid the complications that occur with long waiting times, they are likely to be able to return to an active life with minimal related ongoing health care demands.  If individuals need to travel two to three hours to access this surgery, and support is provided to them in their primary care at that time to achieve this, better outcomes will result.  They would also have a more efficient service with many more people ultimately accessing the required treatment.

However, in the case of health conditions where there is not a one-off surgical, medical, treatment or remedy that would reduce or remove the need for ongoing regular medical attention, a different approach is needed.  For conditions such as chronic pain from a range of conditions for which there is no surgical remedy, asthma and a range of other chronic conditions, the patient needs access to appropriate health care closer to home.

It is a reality that some individuals with chronic illnesses will need to access quality care and advice without having to travel long distances.  A one-size-fits-all approach is not appropriate and will not work.

Despite Tasmania's geographically dispersed population, we would benefit from centres of excellence located in different parts of the state.  This is a concept that appears to be finally gaining a bit more momentum and traction.  However, such an option must be supported through equity of access measures for those who need to travel.

Many Tasmanians are accustomed to travelling to access health services and the members for Apsley and Western Tiers would be aware of that from their areas, as well as from mine.  Under a reformed health service delivery model, we may well require people from all areas of the state, including major cities and population centres, to travel to access services.  This may mean Tasmanians based in our major population centres may need to travel out of their home regions to access one-off surgical remedies.  Such a change may not be readily accepted by some not accustomed to travelling to access health care and thus meaningful factual engaging consultation will be an imperative, as will supporting equity of access through transport and accommodation support at or near these centres.

Additionally, centres of excellence focused on delivery of a defined range of services are also less likely, if not entirely unlikely, to have the service delivery interrupted by emergency cases.  This will significantly reduce the number of deferred or cancelled surgery lists.  The only reason cases would be postponed on the scheduled day of surgery would be if the patient was not fit for surgery or the surgeon was unexpectedly unavailable and unable to be replaced.

Mr Hall - Did you hear this morning there was an English gentleman who was speaking on that very subject?  He was making those comments as a parallel to what is happening in the UK and what you are speaking about now.

Ms FORREST - No, I did not hear him.  I had other meetings this morning.

Mr Hall - You will be pleased to know you are on the money.

Ms FORREST - There are many people out there starting to recognise this as the only way we can look at sustainable health service in the future.  It is important to start these conversations, and one of the reasons I am saying this at this opportunity is that I hope this will raise the level of debate in the public.  Rather than having this fear that they are going to close something down or get rid of a service, which is not what we are talking about here, it is how best to access it.  Hopefully the public understands why things were changed, not how.

Mr Valentine - Reducing duplication.

Ms FORREST - That is it, yes.  The public needs to understand why things need to change because we can tell them how we should change it.

Much of what I have noted obviously is not new, from what the member for Western Tiers says.  I for one have been talking about some of these options for years.  Previous governments have started the discussion as well.  Under the previous Labor government, when Lara Giddings was minister for health at the time with the Tasmanian health plan, much discussion went around that.  That was only to be overridden by the Australian Government in an appalling display of opportunistic electioneering and the most blatant example of pork barrelling you are ever likely to see.  This action continues to create challenges to the important integration of health services and the best use of our health facilities.

Education has also suffered greatly over many years of political pointscoring.  It is Tasmanian students and thus the future of Tasmania that suffers.  The Premier noted the poor retention attainment rates of post-year 10 students.  I absolutely agree that we must do something to address these very real issues and challenges.  However, if we are to make appropriate decisions we must do so with a meaningful and accurate understanding of the reality.  I have been trying to obtain for some time accurate and comparable data regarding the retention attained for post-year 10 students.  I still have a question on the Notice Paper and have been assured there is an answer coming very soon.  We need to have a consistent, reliable and repeatable dataset on which to base our policy decisions.  The Government should not be making, or we should not be seeking to scrutinise, policy decisions made from a data vacuum.

I have real concerns for our senior students.  We all know they will need to achieve and attain meaningful qualifications on a variety of levels to have the best possible chance of gaining employment.  I do not, at the current time and with the information I have, believe that a one‑size‑fits‑all approach to this area of education is the right approach.  Of course I will keep an open and enquiring mind as we work towards a solution but at this time it is made even harder by the lack of consistent, comparable and meaningful data.

As I have said previously in my comments today, and many times before, education policy must not be subject to the continual political interference that we have seen over many years at a state and federal level, with political expediency overshadowing and virtually eliminating good policy decisions.  We must have a nonpartisan agreement on education policy that is made free from political expediency.  I have been saying this for years, as have others.  Therefore, I support in principle the approach being taken by the Opposition in this area, although I am not aware of all the detail with regard to this.  I have not actually drilled down into what they are suggesting but it is clearly in line with the views I have expressed over a number of years, of a long-term strategic plan that we cannot keep tinkering with and fundamentally undermining.

The review of the Education Act and other education-related legislation we are likely to see before Parliament in the not too distant future will provide other opportunities to comment on this.  I will make further comment then, as well as when other opportunities arise outside Parliament to continue to raise this exceedingly important area.

I acknowledge the Premier's Address is an opportunity for the Government to promote the actions they have taken, and in general terms the Premier's speech does that.  The Government has done many things they went to the election with, and many of these actions will hopefully have positive ramifications for the future.  However, many people I speak to are saying they had hoped to see more definitive action in many areas, or real evidence that the actions taken are having a positive impact.  I agree that some of the comments are matters of perception as well as reality; however, there are many areas that need serious and tangible evidence.

I have acknowledged that the midyear financial results showed that the Government is well on track.  However, that was not a full half-year as the Budget was delivered late, so one would hope this was the case.  The real pressure is coming in the second half of the year, so we hope that keeping on track can be maintained.  It would be good if we could move away from slogans, especially old and tired ones such as 'open for business' and 'cutting red and green tape' as many people simply switch off because it is not the reality for many.

There are many good and great things about Tasmania and we have many opportunities.  Tourism in many parts of the state is booming and in most parts of the state it has been better this year than it has for many years.  The low Australian dollar has been the main driver of this, along with MONA, and of course the international recognition for accommodation facilities such as Saffire.  The Chinese interest following the visit from Chinese President Xi Jinping has also put us on the map in many ways.  Many of these positive impacts have been the result of actions that have been years in the making - by private enterprise - and well outside the control of government.  We must make the most of them and capitalise on the opportunities as they present themselves.

The Premier's Address claimed an improvement in the economy of the state, and this of course is a positive thing.  However, as with all new governments, credit for the positive past actions of a previous government is rarely given, with the focus being on the poor decisions and impacts on the state.  This is not new as all governments seem to think that is the only way to make a point.  I find it frustrating but that is what all governments do.  However, I believe credit should be given where it is due, as well as credit taken when it is due.

Many initiatives recognised as positives for the state, and noted in the Premier's Address, were not implemented by this Government, such as the investment in irrigation, although there was bipartisan support at the time.  Even initiatives that included extended payroll tax relief for employees - one area that I believe would benefit from a much broader review - were not new initiatives.

It is positive that employment numbers have improved, especially on the north-west coast, but they were coming from a fairly low base there, and we continue to see businesses closing in many of our regional towns as people move away.  Those who remain are reluctant to spend.

I will be very interested to see what policy settings will be put in place to further stimulate employment, as there have been a number of missed and delayed opportunities.  One I will briefly mention is the Avebury mine in Zeehan.  This is a nickel mine hoping to get started before the end of the year.  It has been in care and maintenance for some time but never really got underway.  This business has been seeking some support from the Government to enable the start‑up.  So while a process was put in place, the request for support was lost in the Department of State Growth, formerly the DED.  I can understand, after hearing the long sorry saga of that mine, why some investors walk away in frustration.  They get sucked into a void with no real answers.

I had a very positive and useful meeting with the Treasurer yesterday regarding this matter and I appreciate the opportunity to meet with the Treasurer and the management of Avebury mine.  Hopefully this may be an opportunity for the Government to show investors that Tasmania is actively supportive of business and industry in a tangible way, and help us to move away from the commonly expressed view of external investors that Tasmania is just too hard.  That is what we are hearing.  People say, 'What's the Government's view on this?  How do you know they're shoulder to shoulder with you?'.  When you cannot provide tangible evidence, investors remain sceptical.  I look forward to ongoing communication with the Treasurer on this front and appreciate him meeting with me and the Avebury management last night.

The Premier's Address contains a long list of policies that the Government intends to implement.  Many were the same as appeared in the 'Plan for a Brighter Future' formulated almost two years ago.  At that time the 100 or so policy items read like a list of 'Dear Santa' requests, lodged in hope by party members.  In fact, I wonder if there will be any significant policy changes, as the 'Plan for a Brighter Future' did not provide a real sense of a vision.  It was more of a 'fiddling at the edges' approach.

Where serious changes were contemplated prior to the election, many were ideologically based and some of these have since been abandoned, watered down, or in the case of the forest legislation, resulted in an act waiting for some action.  Even some of the identified key policy objectives for next year seem a little shaky now.  The international shipping service may be at threat due to the actions of the Australian Government under the expansion of the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme.  I am yet to fully understand all the implications of this but the Productivity Commission report had differing views on how to address the issues to those reflected in the Australian Government's actions.

I hope the Federal Government will take every opportunity to remove some of the unintended consequences of the current scheme, which has made it harder to reform without making too many people worse off.  It is really important that the issue of the cost of freight is addressed, because the big issue is the cost of freight.  We need to look at ways of reducing those costs, otherwise this financial support will result in increases in costs and farmers and producers will not see any benefit.  The benefit will go to other places, as often happens.  We need to ensure the cost of freight does not climb as a result of this subsidy, with no financial benefit to those it is expected to support.

The real area of concern to me is that the Premier's Address confirms the lack of vision to address the challenges we face as a state.  It is mind-boggling that after a year learning how the place works, or how it should work, the Government failed to nominate any particularly significant policy or direction that would help address the state's financial woes.  The current path is remarkably similar to the track the previous government was on.

We have so many areas that require a nonpartisan approach to face and address the challenge.  I am gradually persuaded by the view that if we do not have the necessary shared understanding and agreed processes in place to facilitate any meaningful change, we will not be able to make that change.

We live in a developed society with intricate social infrastructure networks, but our ability to change and move forward together has almost deserted us.  Having a minority government is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for implementing change.  Community consensus is.  This cooperative approach needs to start in the Parliament.  No one person or one party is custodian of all good ideas, or solutions to the challenges we face.  We must find and pursue the right direction with open eyes and open minds.  The previous government must receive marks for trying to stick to what was promised, but to underestimate the challenges ahead, given our precarious situation, would be a grave mistake.

Mr President, I note the Premier's Address.

[3.36 p.m.]

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