Peter Gutwein

Premier of Tasmania

PRESS CONFERENCE - 4 JUNE 2020

I will begin by saying that this will be our last routine coronavirus press conference and update. We’ll now schedule these as and when the need is required, but I want to say thank you to Tasmanians that have been following these and watching them.

I especially want to thank Stephen, Allie and Joyce for their time with us and thank the media for their time and patience in this space for what has been a significantly long period of time and thank them for putting up with me for, I think, about 71 occasions.

We are continuing to do very well. I’ve said that we needed to get to a better place. We are in that better place, but we need to remain vigilant, we need to ensure that we remain disciplined.

We’ve now had 19 days with zero cases. Over 800 tests in the last 24 hours. I want to acknowledge and thank Tasmanians for testing. It is good to see that that level of testing is occurring, and I would encourage them to continue with it. If you’ve got the slightest sniffle, please get tested, turn up and help us to understand whether this virus is within our community.

We have three active cases still, and we’ve had 210 people that have recovered.

It pleases me no end to be able to today talk about some good news in terms of the rebuilding of our economy.

Without a doubt, coronavirus has been the single biggest health, economic and societal shock that has hit our State in a century.

Now we face the second and arguably tougher phase in this fight to reboot our economy, to rebuild Tasmania and to ensure that we do it in a disciplined and sensible way, ensuring that we limit the chance of a second wave.

It’s no longer about shutting down the economy to save lives, it’s about opening up the economy to rebuild lives.

The best way to support Tasmanians is to ensure that we can reboot our economy swiftly with a program that delivers the very best bang for our buck.

And so, today, as promised, I’m announcing the details of our record construction blitz over the next two years, which will support around 15,000 jobs.

The package will build on the Government’s current infrastructure package which is around $1.8 billion over the next two years, and we’ll add both Government and private sector funding of around $1.3 billion to that.

As I’ve said, the hallmarks of this Government, when I was first elected Premier, would be a Government of conviction, compassion and opportunity, and never before has that been more important, as we rally together to build our way out of this virus.

The centrepiece of the package supports delivery of around 2,300 new dwellings, including new social and affordable houses across the State.

We’re expanding our $20,000 First Home Builder grant to any owner-occupier. This will be open for the next six months from today, and I am so very pleased that the Federal Government are making a $25,000 injection as well, meaning that there will be for those who qualify $45,000 available, if you’re going to build a home in Tasmania.

That $45,000, you will need to sign up to a contract from today and before the end of December, you will need to be able to begin construction within three months and then you’ll have two years to complete that construction.

There has never been a better time to build a house in Tasmania ever. I’m certain that people will grasp this opportunity.

Importantly, the new builds will support we estimate around 5,000 new jobs.

On top of this, we will provide $100 million to deliver an additional 1,000 new social houses in partnership with community housing providers.

We’ll fast-track 220 additional houses under our affordable housing strategy.

The Homeshare program, which is where the Government takes an equity share in a home and assists people to get into home ownership earlier, will be enhanced and the Government will take up to a $100,000 equity stake in Homeshare properties, and we are going to increase the income thresholds in most cases by around 15%. That will assist another 150 people get into homes, and we estimate around 75 new builds over the next two years as well.

We’re going to allocate $40 million to state road safety upgrades, and we’ll be bringing forward $40 million through an accelerated procurement tender process. This will provide the local civil construction sector with certainty of work and employment prospects over the coming months and into the next construction season.

We’re investing $15 million to prioritise the $28.51 million Don Irrigation scheme, and this will support again more jobs.

In terms of essential services and upgrades across the State, there’ll be a total construction value of around $42 million for regional health and ambulance facilities, the Launceston police station for the first time in a long time will be upgraded and renovated. A new State Emergency Operation Centre and upgrades to the final 29 police houses that have been gradually upgraded over time will be completed as well.

We’ll be bringing forward $7 million for Child and Family Learning Centres as part of the $28 million investment to ensure that we can bring forward the investment there.

There’ll be a total spend of around $167 million on community infrastructure. This will include $68.5 million which is included in this package, which will be for the upgrade of the Derwent Entertainment Centre, including $20 million for a community forecourt multisport facility.

I spoke with Mr Kestelman last night, and we are very close to a final agreement. There are a couple of matters that we need to hammer out, but we’re both positive that we’ll be able to take this forward, subject to finalising those matters. And that will also enable an NBL team to play in Tasmania, not this season obviously, but in the next.

$10 million is being provide for improving the playing field grants to ensure that we’ve got facilities for sporting organisations that can be upgraded, both for female participation and increased activities there but across the board, and grants for up to $250,000 will be available for sporting clubs.

We’re going to upgrade the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens and give them new infrastructure to meet the growing visitor numbers that we expect that they will have in the future, once we can travel again, and $4 million will be provided there.

And the Cascade Female Factory will receive $3 million towards its new visitor centre.

In terms of the rebuild, both economically and socially, and the work that PESRAC is doing, at the moment we obviously have an unfunded superannuation liability that sits on our balance sheet. Against that we have around $2.1 billion worth of cash assets. Those cash assets are invested in the main outside of the state in equity investments, with fund managers.

In discussions with Treasury, we decided that we are going to bring at least 10% of that fund back to Tasmania, around $200 million, to invest in social and economic projects here in Tasmania for the benefit of Tasmanians, as we go through the rebuild.

Treasury will implement the arrangements, and we will be seeking from PESRAC guidance in terms of the structure that we will put in place to manage that fund and, importantly, guidance in terms of the types of projects that can be funded through that scheme.

When it comes to skills and training, an additional $7 million will be provided to develop the $14 million Trades and Water Centre of Excellence, to expand the skills training base to meet the jobs to deliver the construction program.

This will skill and train Tasmanians for local jobs in the construction and civil contracting industries, including water and sewerage. The Centre will have its own industry-based board to ensure operations and training align with the skills needs of Tasmanians.

The construction blitz will also be good news for apprentices. Our building and construction training policy requiring that contracts in excess of $250,000 use apprentices for a minimum of 20% of the labour required for work undertaken on Government-funded building and construction works.

I want to announce today that we will be establishing a Statewide skills roundtable. This will be held in coming weeks.

Obviously, we need to ensure that we have the skills and training and that we are nimble enough to ensure that we can meet the demand that we are placing into the system over the next couple of years.

That roundtable will discuss skills and training options to ensure that we can deliver this significant infrastructure and building boost.

The roundtable will include key industry and business stakeholders, TasTAFE, regional skills and workforce development bodies and relevant unions. I want to bring everybody to the table. We are all going to need to work together to find the right pathway.

I want to thank my Ministerial colleagues for the work that they have done over the last coupe of weeks in pulling together what is a significant, extensive and important package, as we work our way through the rebuild post coronavirus.

I do want to make the point though that we cannot get in front of ourselves and that we will always need to remain vigilant, we will need to ensure that we follow the rules in terms of social distancing and where we’ll need to ensure that we maintain good hygiene and be sensible in the way that we step forward from this.

But in the same common-sense way that Tasmanians have approached the challenges that we’ve had in past months, I am certain that they will take the same common-sense approach as we work forward, both managing the virus but, importantly, putting their shoulders to the wheel to ensure that we can rebuild Tasmania.

In finishing, I want to especially thank Dr Veitch and Public Health and Dr McKeown for the work that they have done to this point. This is not over, and their work will continue, the Government’s work will continue.  But we are in a good place.

It’s important that as we go forward, we are cognisant of the rules, important that we don’t forget the lessons that we have learned in past months, that we keep an eye to the challenges that are occurring around the world and ensure that the difficulties that other countries are facing do not impact on us or this country.

But, importantly, the package that we will be rolling out that I’ve outlined today, is a package that will rebuild Tasmania, both economically and socially, and it will create jobs and, importantly, it will get us back to where we were.

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