Uncertainty over the rebuild of the Royal Hobart Hospital
The Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, has discussed the continuing uncertainty over the rebuild of the Royal Hobart Hospital.
``The continuing uncertainty over the rebuild of the RHH is unsettling for the Tasmanian community and must be immediately addressed by the State Government,’’ Mr Wilkie said.
``The rebuild is almost two years behind schedule and undoubtedly beset with problems. This reflects very poorly on the previous State Government and its inability to show strong leadership and grip the project up.
``But it’s now the new State Government’s responsibility to deliver the project in full. Stopping the project or reducing its scope is simply not an option because a fully rebuilt hospital is what’s urgently needed.
``I call again on the Premier and Health Minister to commit unambiguously to remedying the problems and delivering the project in full.
``For my part, I’ll do whatever I can to try to protect the $340m Federal grant I secured for the project, $290m of which has already been paid to Tasmania. But the fact is that money is based on a concrete funding agreement pinned to the original project plan.
``If the State Government does abandon or downgrade the rebuild it raises serious questions about the $340m in funding. Surely the State Government would not risk handing back some or all of that money? Not rebuilding the hospital and returning almost one third of a billion dollars to Canberra would be a shocking betrayal of the Tasmanian community.
``This is a golden opportunity for Tasmania. The previous State Government stuffed it up and the new government must fix it.’’
The Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, has condemned the live animal export industry which this morning effectively withdrew an invitation for him to travel on a live export ship to Indonesia.
Mr Wilkie accepted the invitation from the industry to experience a live animal export ship, as well as feedlots and abattoirs in Indonesia, when he visited producers in the Northern Territory in January as part of his campaign to ban live animal exports from Australia.
``I agreed to go on a vessel to Indonesia, not because I’m about to roll over and end my opposition to the live trade, but because I thought it was important to look for ways to improve animal welfare practices with the system we’ve got,’’ Mr Wilkie said.
``But since the invitation the industry has stonewalled and come up with every excuse under the sun as to why it can’t provide a firm date to host me on a live export ship.
``Today in Brisbane I met with representatives of the Australian Livestock Exporters Council and the Northern Territory Livestock Exporters Association who expressed numerous concerns with the journey going ahead, everything from difficulty obtaining visas to space on ships, the Indonesian election and lack of trust between the industry and me.
``Today’s meeting proved the industry had got cold feet and was searching for an excuse to call the whole thing off so it could continue business as usual.
“All the industry could commit to today was for me to visit a loading dock in Australia.”
Mr Wilkie said the report of animal cruelty and alleged fraud by an exporter, aired on ABC television last night, was more proof that the live export trade had to end.
``Livestock Shipping Services is a repeat offender: it has persistently breached licence conditions in the past, and it beggars belief that the Department of Agriculture appears again to have granted it a licence,’’ he said.
``The only explanation can be that the Government simply doesn’t care about the trade being systemically cruel, not being in Australia’s economic self-interest and that the trade lacks popular support.
``It is no wonder that popular support is lacking when an exporter like LSS with repeated cases of cruelty against its name is allowed to continue to operate.’’
``I understand the Department is investigating the alleged fraud but in reality this is a matter for the Federal Police. If no one else refers these allegations to the police then I will.”
In February Mr Wilkie introduced a Bill to ban live exports from July 2017, his fourth legislative attempt to end the cruelty.
I share new Tasmanian Health Minister Michael Ferguson's assessment that the situation with the rebuild of the Royal Hobart Hospital is "appalling."
The need for the rebuild is pressing and self-evident. That's why I made it one of my top priorities for federal funding and secured $340m after the 2010 federal election, most of which has been sitting in the Tasmanian Treasury for years.
But, despite the importance of the fully funded project, it’s about 20 months behind schedule and, as we've learned from the State Government's report today, beset by a string of problems.
Governance of the project is unsatisfactory and much of the contingency reserve budget is now spent. Moreover Mr Ferguson has advised me today that the temporary patient accommodation plan - decanting - is in need of review.
In other words the rebuild is a mess and the previous State Government misled the community every time it claimed the project was on track, and every time it rebutted my concerns and criticisms.
I do not criticise Health Department or RHH officials for this appalling situation. They are doing their very best in difficult circumstances.
At the heart of the problem is the complete absence of strong and effective political leadership of the project under the previous State Government. The Premier and the Health Minister should have gripped this up, they didn't and the Tasmanian community is all the poorer for it.
The pressure is now on the new State Government to get the rebuild of the Royal Hobart Hospital back on track. The project's simply too important for the health of the community, and for the State Budget, to be allowed to continue to bumble on the way it has so far.