There is no doubt at the commencement of the Braddon by-election campaign I faced an enormous challenge.
At the March state election, the Liberal Party had polled a primary vote of 56%. Every published opinion poll and even the Liberal’s own polling had them winning the by-election if it had been held in June.
This was no ordinary by-election and it was clear, based on all the available data, it was the Liberal Party’s to lose.
Ultimately on polling day the people of Braddon made their decision.
From the outset I said the by-election was not about me.
In my first speech after being elected in 2016 I said, “The people of King Island, North West and West Coasts of Tasmania are a resilient lot. We are unassuming, we are unpretentious, we do not boast, yet we should be shouting from every rooftop just how wonderful our products and our people really are.”
The by-election was an opportunity for Braddon to shout from the rooftops. It was an opportunity to tell the rest of Australia who we are and our priorities are.
The by-election was fought on two distinct propositions.
Labor campaigned on increased investment in our schools, hospitals and TAFE, while opposing the Government’s $17 billion taxpayer funded handout to the banks and cuts to schools and hospitals.
The Liberals argued their corporate tax cuts would see the benefits trickle down to all people in our community. Such an economic theory doesn’t work - just as it hasn’t worked in the US
On the key issue of company tax cuts versus investing in services, the people of Braddon made their decision. Malcolm Turnbull should now heed this message and dump his corporate tax cuts.
The Liberal Party claim health funding has not been cut. This is untrue.
At the 2013 election, the Liberals promised no cuts to health and to support the transition to the Commonwealth providing 50 per cent growth funding for hospitals.
But the Liberals are only funding 45 per cent – meaning a cut of $11 million from Tasmanian hospitals between 2017-18 and 2019-20.
The Liberals have also axed Labor’s National Agreement on Improving Public Hospital Services and refused to extend Labor’s $325 million Tasmanian Health Assistance Package, which included $31 million to reduce waiting lists.
These cuts are now having a devastating impact in our hospitals.
The Liberals cut Tazreach, a program that supported visiting medical specialists to see patients at local clinics in regional communities like the West Coast, Circular Head and King Island. It meant people did not have to travel for appointments.
Labor understands how vital this service was, which is why a Shorten Labor Government will commit $4.5 million to restore it.
Twice in parliament, Malcolm Turnbull has been asked if he would restore Tazreach. Twice he refused to answer the question.
Labor will also invest $30 million to ease pressure on our hospital elective surgery waiting lists. This will halve the current waiting list.
Just as Labor led the way on health policy, Labor also led on local community projects. Labor announced first, funding to flood proof Latrobe, fix the Bass Highway between Marrawah and Wynyard, improve mobile phone coverage on the West Coast, fund Wynyard BMX and build new facilities at Meercroft Park. The Liberals followed my lead and I am now pursuing the Government to ensure these funds are delivered.
The Liberal Governments paint a rosy picture when it comes to jobs in our region. But Government data shows we have lost 1,400 jobs over the last 12 months and we now have 700 less apprentices since the Liberals were elected in 2013.
To meet current and future job opportunities Labor believes we need to rebuild TAFE and increase our skills base. Labor will invest $100 million in a Rebuilding TAFE Fund to renovate campuses and workshops. We will ensure one in every ten employees on a Commonwealth priority project must be an apprentice and we're going to waive upfront fees for 100,000 TAFE places.
Another key issue for our community is retaining the Pensioner Energy Supplement to help with the cost of living. It says a lot about Malcolm Turnbull’s priorities that he can find $17 billion for the banks but can’t find $7.00 a week so pensioners can keep warm over winter.
The people of Braddon have voted and made it clear what our priorities are.
A better health system, better schools, rebuilding our skills base and looking after the most vulnerable in our community are what is important. Labor gets it and it is time the Liberal Governments also heeded this message.