2019-20 Tasmanian Budget Delivered

The 2019-20 Tasmanian Budget was handed down on Thursday 23 May by Treasurer Peter Gutwein.

OTA has prepared a summary of those Budget measures most relevant to occupational therapists. Click on the links below to skip to the sections of most interest to you.

The Bottom Line

Three years out from the next state election, the Hodgman Government has brought down a Budget notable for broken promises but significant investment in infrastructure and additional expenditure of $544 million on health-related services over the next four years. This new spending will be offset by cuts of $450 million to government departments.

Delivering his Budget speech, Treasurer Peter Gutwein cited key measurables that point to a state economy growing steadily. Tasmania’s economy grew at 3.3 per cent last financial year, its highest rate in a decade, and Gross State Product was over $30 billion.

On a per capita basis, Tasmania’s economy is the fastest growing in the nation, at nearly double the Australian average. The 2019-20 Budget forecasts this growth to continue, and remain above trend, at 2.75 per cent next year. Under the Hodgman Government nearly 13,000 jobs have been created, however unemployment remains at 6.25 per cent.

Of particular note are strong tourism and housing construction sectors.

However, two key promises have been broken. The first – not to drive the state back into debt – has been broken to the tune of more than $1 billion over the Forward Estimates. This borrowed money will fund an infrastructure spend of $3.6 billion, on projects including the Tasman Highway between Hobart and Sorell, the Bridgewater Bridge replacement, water and sewerage upgrades and a Derwent River ferry service.

Premier Will Hodgman justified the decision to go back into debt by saying the Tasmanian economy was strong enough to weather debt at a time when important infrastructure had to be built.

The second broken promise – not to introduce new taxes – takes the form of a 15 per cent gaming tax and imposts on foreign investors. 

State Government expenditure is forecast to be $6.3 billion in 2019-20, an increase of $293 million from last year's Budget, while State revenue is estimated at $6.4 billion, up $189 million on the previous year.

The Treasurer’s optimism notwithstanding, the Tasmanian economy faces challenges born of a growing demand for services and enhanced infrastructure.

The Treasurer’s biggest headache is a drop of nearly $500 million in revenue from the GST and stamp duty.

Health and Hospitals

The Hodgman Government will spend a record $8.1 billion on health services over the next four years.

With health now accounting for nearly 32 per cent of State Government expenditure, up from 25 per cent a decade ago, Tasmania ranks second among the states and territories in terms of the proportion of revenue spent in this portfolio.

This expenditure includes:

  • Funding of $180 million to address health demand pressures across the Tasmanian Health Service.
  • A further $40 million to support emergency care and bed access.
  • $90.6 million to fully fund stage 2 of the Royal Hobart Hospital redevelopment, including expansion of the Emergency Department, more ICU beds and ward upgrades.
  • More hospital beds and frontline health staff:
    • $132.11 million to progressively open and staff 250 new beds at the new Royal Hobart Hospital;
    • $20.5 million to continue staffing the new eight-bed Acute Medical Unit at the North West Regional Hospital;
    • $15.1 million to fully open and staff eight new beds on Ward 4K of the Launceston General Hospital; and
    • $4 million for new services and staff at the Mersey Community Hospital following infrastructure upgrades.
  • Funding of $43.8 million for 27 new mental health beds in the south.
  • $2.32 million for Women’s Health elective surgery procedures and women’s health organisations.
  • $11.7 million for 120 more nursing graduates positions across Tasmania.

In order to relieve pressure on Tasmanian hospitals, the Budget includes:

  • Funding of $13.6 million for new Community Rapid Response (Hospital in the Home) services in the North-West and Greater Hobart areas, and to continue the service in the North.
  • $4 million for 30 additional drug and alcohol rehabilitation beds in the community as part of a State-wide initiative.

Investment in the fabric of Tasmanian hospitals includes:

  • Continuation of the $87.3 million Launceston General Hospital redevelopment, including an additional $5 million for more car parking.
  • Funding of $4 million to complete air-conditioning upgrades of hospitals.
  • $1.95 million to complete the purpose-built antenatal clinic at the North West Regional Hospital.
  • Continuation of the $35 million Mersey Community Hospital upgrades.
  • Funding of $12 million for upgraded regional health facilities and staff accommodation including King Island, Flinders Island and the Midlands Multipurpose Centre at Oatlands.

Treasurer Peter Gutwein earlier this week announced the $132 million in funding over four years for additional beds at the new Royal Hobart Hospital, an announcement criticised by the AMA as a rehashed policy.

Disability Services

This year’s Budget invests an additional $27.6 million to support the National Disability Insurance Scheme and disability services. This means that just over $1 billion will be provided to the NDIS and to support people with disability who are not eligible for the scheme.

Funding of $1 million is provided in 2019-20 for Tasmanian Autism Diagnostic Services to assist in reducing the waiting time for an autism assessment for children aged 0-18 years.

Education

Changes identified through the 2014 Ministerial Taskforce to support children and young people with disability will continue to be progressed with an additional $34 million.

A new needs-based funding model will be introduced from 2020, which will see funding nearly double for schools with students who have high level needs.

This additional funding will take the total investment in supporting students with disability to $93.35 million.

Preventing Elder Abuse

The Budget provides an additional $850,000 to implement key actions under an updated Tasmanian Elder Abuse Prevention Strategy, including a contemporary community awareness campaign, a new website to help streamline referral pathways and training tools for Tasmanians who work in the sector to better understand and prevent elder abuse in the community.

This funding will also assist to implement the National Plan to Respond to the Abuse of Older Australians (Elder Abuse) 2019-2023, which was endorsed by the Tasmanian Government earlier this year.

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