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Independent Member for Clark, Andrew Wilkie, discussed the important issues facing the community in the lead up to the 2024 Tasmanian election in a speech to the Federal Parliament. Please see above video for full speech.

“This weekend, Tasmanians will head to the polls to decide the next State Parliament. And as is the case with all elections, the community is bombarded with promises from the parties about how they will make our lives better.

“But this is what I’m hearing from my community about what they expect from the next Tasmanian Government.

“They expect a health system that works. Currently our health system is on the brink of collapse. Our emergency department waiting times are above the national average, with only 52 per cent of patients seen on time, compared with 65 per cent nationally. Moreover 44 per cent of category one elective surgery patients weren’t admitted within the clinically recommended timeframe. This is outrageous. And while funding is obviously crucial, it isn’t the only answer. For example, despite revenue and staff numbers increasing for the ambulance service over recent years, response times are down. In fact Tasmanians are now waiting longer than at any time in the last decade. It’s clear we need substantial structural reform.

“Tasmanians also expect a safe and affordable place to live. But this has been out of reach for many, and it’s getting worse. Indeed we’ve seen a 45 per cent increase in homelessness in Tasmania when measured at the last census. We’re seeing a record 4,700 people languishing on the housing waiting list, and more than half of mortgage holders in Clark at risk of mortgage stress. And Hobart is the second least affordable capital city for renters with rents ballooning by 60 per cent since 2016. These figures are startling, which is why the next Government must significantly increase investment in social housing and crisis accommodation, streamline development approvals and strengthen renters’ rights.

“It must also pay far more attention to education. Shamefully, Tasmania ranks well behind mainland states when it comes to educational outcomes. For example, the latest Report on Government Services shows that a mere 53 per cent of Tasmanians leave school with a Year 12 or equivalent qualification, compared to 76 per cent nationally. It’s no wonder that around half of Tasmanians are not functionally literate.

“And speaking of young people, the next Government must implement all the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry into the Tasmanian Government’s Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, including closing Ashley Youth Detention Centre urgently. As many in the community would recall, the Commission’s findings detailed horrific evidence of physical and sexual abuse, inhumane isolation practices, and strip and cavity searches of children. Yet the Liberals have pushed back their commitment to close the Centre from 2024 to 2026, and Labor has also confirmed it will not close the Centre immediately. This is unconscionable. Particularly considering the Commissioners flagged that there remains a live and current risk of sexual abuse to children in Ashley.

“And still on the subject of vulnerable people, I implore the next State Government to swiftly implement the cashless gaming card. Figures show that Tasmanians lost almost $190 million on poker machines in the 2022-23 financial year, a 10.5 per cent increase over a four-year period. But while the Liberals supported the Tasmanian Liquor and Gaming Commission’s recommendation to implement a statewide player card gaming system with pre-commitment and cashless gaming in 2022, we’ve seen no practical action. And shamefully, although unsurprisingly, we’ve heard nothing from Labor. If both parties are serious about protecting the community from gambling harm, they must commit to implementing this card immediately.

“And last but certainly not least, the next Tasmanian Government needs to get serious about protecting our environment. Yet all we’ve heard is a cynical attempt to reignite the forest wars. This is despite more than 680 Tasmanian plant and animal species being listed as threatened, including the Swift Parrot and Maugean Skate. The next Government needs to start taking the responsibility as custodian of our state seriously, including by growing a backbone and standing up to the forestry and salmon farming industries, whose business is trashing Tasmania’s clean green reputation and undermining what Tasmanians and tourists value most about this state.

“If the last ten years are anything to go by, the next Government needs to start governing for a change, because the community is sick and tired of politicians promising one thing and doing another. Until the major parties start listening to the community, their promises are nothing but empty words.”