This week’s budget offered nothing to make the basics more affordable for those on low incomes, writes Adrienne Picone.
AS Tasmanians, we are proud of our island home, and fierce defenders of our identity should anyone seek to ridicule our state.
The passion for our state is palpable, and rightly so.
But as much as Tasmania has provided a sense of community and an abundance of opportunity for myself and my children, the reality is that not all Tasmanians enjoy these benefits.
Reflecting on our third state budget in two years, it’s been affirming to see evidence of the government’s priorities shifting. This reflects not just a change in thinking but also what we’ve learnt through COVID-19 — that without a healthy, empowered and supported population, there is no economy to preside over.
Premier Jeremy Rockliff’s stated commitment to leading a government of ‘heart’ now faces its first real litmus test. Yet for all the talk on cost of living relief, there was unfortunately no new measures in the budget that will have an impact on making the basics more affordable for Tasmanians on low incomes.
For years, Tasmanians have told us they simply want to live a good life, yet in more recent times they are telling us it is an uphill struggle just to get by.
And despite recent gains, the stark reality is there are:
- 29,100 Tasmanians looking for work or more hours.
- 120,000 Tasmanians living below the poverty line.
- 65,000 Tasmanians are digitally excluded and not able to get online.
- 59,000 Tasmanian households are currently experiencing energy poverty.
- More than 4,500 Tasmanian families are on the social housing wait list.
- Hobart is the least affordable capital city in Australia.
By any measure, this isn’t good enough.
On the positive side of the equation, we did see clear evidence that the government is listening to the concerns of the community, with confirmation of funding for 10,000 new homes over the next 10 years and a significant investment into digital health services.
And we warmly welcome the increased focus on women and children’s safety, including progress towards a child-safe framework, as well as Tasmania’s inaugural Gender Budget Impact Statement. However, the detail and much-needed targets to measure gender equality were sorely missing.
Regretfully, overall the budget fell short of futureproofing our population
against future crises.
It was particularly disappointing to see the government choose not to fund a family and sexual violence co-ordination mechanism.
For a government that leads with heart and compassion, the metrics that should really matter need to be centred around the wellbeing of our people and their ability to live a good life.
We need to see the practical application of budget measures create a more equal and inclusive society, one of opportunity and hope for a future.
It’s time the government moved beyond simply announcing funding and counting the services delivered and start building in more accountability through targets and the measuring of progress against outcomes that improve the lives of all Tasmanians.
By putting wellbeing at the centre of economic policy-making, aspects of wellbeing like affording the basics, having a healthy body and mind, and having a place to call home all become the focus of government spending and accountability.
And we wouldn’t be the first to do this — New Zealand, Scotland and Wales have all introduced wellbeing and outcomes frameworks that form the basis of their annual budgets.
It is our hope the government’s undertaking to using a wellbeing framework — a tool that sets markers, monitors and reports on progress, as well as identifying areas for improvement — is a sign of a marked shift in how we do things, and we look forward to working with the government on progressing this.
When talking up Tasmania, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to boast about our education outcomes, our digital literacy, or that we had enough homes for those who need them, and that Tasmanians were not forced to enter into unsuitable, unsafe lodgings just to get by while they waited well over a year for a home? These are the outcomes that a government with heart will be measured by.
Adrienne Picone is chief executive of the Tasmanian Council of Social Service.