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2020-21 Tasmania State Budget Delivered

The 2020-21 Tasmanian budget has been handed down. 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

Tasmania’s Liberal Government has opted to spend its way out of an economic downturn caused chiefly by the COVID-19 pandemic but exacerbated by longstanding structural and demographic problems.

The 2020-21 budget plunges the island state back into intergenerational debt, with almost $5 billion committed to an infrastructure program aimed at spurring economic activity and cutting an unemployment rate currently standing at 8.5 per cent.

In his seventh budget, but his first as Premier, Peter Gutwein conceded the spending splurge would create a legacy of lasting debt, but that this was effectively the only way forward for a state that was still in recovery mode when the pandemic struck.

A deficit of 1.1 billion will fund the construction or upgrade of roads and bridges, as well as health, welfare and education initiatives.

As a result of this new spending, net debt will rise to $4.4 billion by 2024. While this will still be the lowest level of net debt in the country, it represents a significant liability for a state with stagnant population growth and a precarious economy. Currently, federal government GST payments constitute 63 per cent of state revenue; a $347 million fall in these payments accounts for about a third of this year’s deficit. 

The Tasmanian economy contracted 0.5 per cent in 2019-2020 and is forecast to contract a further 1.5 per cent this financial year. Optimistic forecasts of a return to economic growth beyond this year are predicated on a COVID-19 vaccine and the opening up of state borders.

Record health expenditure of $9.8 billion over four years includes some initiatives of interest to occupational therapists.

Hospitals

Major hospitals will receive an additional $50.2 million over two years to help meet rising demand, including support to open new beds.

The 2020-21 Budget also allocates significant funding to new and existing infrastructure projects, including:

  • $10 million for regional health and ambulance facilities over four years;
  • $11.5m for the continued upgrade of rural hospitals and ambulance stations;
  • $7.4m over two years for the completion of Stage 2 of the King Island Hospital redevelopment;
  • $89.8m over three years for the Royal Hobart Hospital Stage II redevelopment; including an expanded Emergency Department;
  • $79.8m over four years upgrades to Launceston General Hospital, including completion of Ward 4K and greater bed and care park capacity;
  • $21.6m for a new Human Resources Information System;
  • $19.8m to build 27 new Mental Health Beds in southern Tasmania; and
  • $33m over two years for the continued upgrade of the Mersey Community Hospital.

Primary Health

The 2020-21 Budget provides the Tasmania Health Service with additional funding of $140 million in 2020-21 and $150 million per annum from 2021-22.

As part of the Government’s COVID-19 response, the 2020-21 Budget also provides $1.3 million to equip the primary health sector with personal protective equipment; information and communications technology; and workforce related costs, including additional staffing support, specialist expertise and security staffing.

The Budget provides funding of $1.1 million per annum to support the Healthy Tasmania Five Year Strategic Plan from 2020-21. This includes initiatives to reduce smoking; promote healthy eating and physical activity; and enhance community connectedness.

Mental Health

The 2020-21 Budget provides $1.2 million to continue mental health support initiatives during the COVID-19 response and recovery period. This includes $120,000 to Lifeline, $195,000 to Rural Alive and Well, and $400,000 to GoodSports.

As part of the Government’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Measures, community organisations will also receive $2.1 million to support individuals experiencing mental health difficulties as a result of issues related to the pandemic.

The Government has committed $4 million over two years to fund reform of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. A further $4.1 million will be delivered over two years to address priority areas in the Mental Health Reform Agenda.

Education

The 2020-21 Budget provides Government schools with $1 million in 2021 and a further $1 million in 2022 to increase support for students impacted by trauma. This builds on an initial commitment of $7.3 million over four years, announced in the 2019-20 Budget.

The 2020-21 Budget also delivers a total of $3.2 million over four years towards a Case Management Platform to deliver a cross agency view of learners facing vulnerability.

In 2020, the Government introduced the Educational Adjustments funding model for students with a disability, committing a total of $34 million over four years. The 2020-21 Budget increases funding by $3 million per annum to deliver improved access, participation and engagement for students with a disability.

Aboriginal Australians

The 2020-21 Budget allocates $300,000 per annum for the Closing the Gap Refresh initiative. The funding is to help build the capacity of the Aboriginal community-controlled services sector and develop the implementation plan for the initiative.

A further $35,000 per annum will help find the Aboriginal Affairs Reset initiative. For 2020-21, this includes $30,000 to support Aboriginal organisations and $5000 for the Young Aboriginal Tasmanian Leaders scholarship program.

For more information, access the 2020-21 Tasmania State Budget at https://www.treasury.tas.gov.au/budget-and-financial-management/2020-21-tasmanian-budget.

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