Wrong way Lara Giddings — go back

November 18, 2011
Photo: Susan Austin.

Community and Public Sector Union Tasmania general secretary Tom Lynch gave the speech below to a 4500-strong rally in Hobart on November 12. The rally was held in protest at the Labor-Greens state government’s budget cutbacks.

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While external forces often determine the overall direction a government takes, the path it chooses to get there is for it to determine based on its values and beliefs and the will of the people it represents.

The global financial crisis and unrealistic forecasts for GST growth have significantly reduced the revenue the Tasmanian government has available to it to fund all the activities it undertakes.

We all understand this was out of the government’s control, but what was well and truly in its control was how it responded to this — which services and functions did it prioritise and which was it ready to abandon.

The premier has told Tasmanians that over the forward estimate period GST revenue is expected to fall by as much as $1.7 billion from that forecast in the 2008-09 budget and that as a direct result of this the government has no alternative other than cutting basic services in schools, in hospitals, in National Parks, in libraries, in child protection, in housing, in mental health, in tourism — across the whole spectrum of services the community enjoys.

But this story doesn’t really add up.

Since 2009, when the government became aware its GST forecasts were stupidly optimistic it has made hundreds of millions of dollars of spending decisions — and it is these decisions as much as any reduction in GST revenue that has placed the state in its current financial situation. It is these decisions that have led to the service cuts we are now experiencing.

In the 2010 election campaign, six months after it knew GST revenue forecasts had been significantly reduced, the government made some $475 million worth of election promises.

In the 2010-11 budget, 12 months after drastically reducing its income predictions, it announced a further $300 million in spending decisions.

While some $90 million worth of election promises were later repealed in the mid-year financial statement, a further $85 million worth of spending was included in the 2011-12 budget.

In all, since the 2009 budget the Tasmanian government has made a total of almost $775 million in spending decisions.

Good government is about making decisions and setting priorities, and to understand the priorities of this government you only need to look at its spending decisions.

It reduced the taxes we would receive from betting agency Betfair by $24 million and then cut Mental Health Services by $28.5 million.

It allocated $24 million to support the Parliament Square development and then cut $53.6 million from the police budget.

It continued to fund the Three Capes Track development at a cost of $12.8 million and then cut the budget for Primary Industry and Parks by $7.9 million.

It renegotiated the Hawthorn football contract at a cost to the budget of $11.3 million and then cut $11.7 million from the budget for Children and Youth Services.

It allocated $16 million to fund the Metro Park and Ride experiment and then cut $15 million from the budget provided to run our courts and prison system.

It reduced income by $177 million by cutting Land Tax and then turned around and cut funding for elective surgery by $60 million.

It goes on and on — the truth is that the $775 million of spending decisions our government has made since the 2009 budget significantly exceeds the $568 million in cuts it is now making to basic services.

By making better decisions all the cuts to services we are currently seeing could have been avoided.

Government is about making decisions and setting priorities.

This government places the interest of betting agencies, developers and football clubs before the interests of our children’s education and the health and safety of our community.

It has made bad decisions and set the wrong priorities.

And that is why we are saying — you have gone the wrong way premier and it’s time to turn back.

It’s time to review all our spending decisions and focus on the provision of basic services.

It’s time to begin real structural reform of our public sector to ensure it is providing services as efficiently as possible.

It’s time to lift the fog of fear that has descended on so many in our community who don’t know what they will do if they need health care of if their school doesn’t have the resources to provide their child with support to get a proper education.

It’s time to start listening to the growing chorus of voices that are saying — the path you have chosen is the wrong one — it’s time to turn back.

To be blunt: you have gone the wrong way premier — go back.

[Republished from the Tasmanian Times.]

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