Labor leader Rebecca White has used her opening address at the party’s state conference to challenge the notion that Tasmania is in a “golden age.”
Flanked by the party’s 14 members of Parliament, Ms White delivered a wide-ranging speech to a sea of red T-shirts, chalking up Labor’s election loss as a success with six new members elected at the March poll.
The Liberal Government sold this year’s state budget as taking the state from a “black hole” to a “golden age”.
But to rapturous applause Ms White told conference delegates that under the Hodgman Government the state was “drifting further away” from being a “fairer state.”
Ms White focused on the housing crisis in Hobart, health system issues, and the public sector wage cap.
“It’s not a golden age when Will Hodgman refuses to pay hardworking teachers, firefighters, nurses, park rangers, allied health professionals and cleaners a proper pay rise,” Ms White said.
“It’s not a golden age when our public sector workers are paid the lowest wages in the country – and the gap is getting bigger.”
Ms White also referred to the problems in the state’s health system.
“It’s not a golden age when sick Tasmanians are trapped in hospital hallways for hours because there are no beds.”
Labor stood by its anti-pokies stance despite voters returning a Liberal Government. (Facebook: Love Your Local)
Labor’s policy to remove poker machines from pubs and clubs scored a brief mention, with Ms White describing it as a “brave decision”.
“We had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to remove the source of so much pain, suffering and poverty in our community and we took it.”
“Quite simply it was and still is the right thing to do,” she said to a round of applause.
This year’s party state conference is focused on rules, with one motion from Young Labor proposing changes to the way the party leader and deputy are elected.
Under its current rules, Tasmanian Labor leaders are elected through a ballot of party members, union affiliates and members of the Parliamentary Labor Party (PLP), with each of those groups weighted at one-third of the total ballot.
Young Labor wants to each vote to be weighted equally in a “one vote-one value” model.
Ms White will move an amendment that would give 50 per cent weight to rank and file members, including MPs and 50 per cent weight to conference delegates.
“It will mean we have consistency of rules right across the party platform,” she said.
Federal Labor President Wayne Swan will address the conference later today, and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the ABC understands popular Tasmanian Labor senator Lisa Singh will be fourth on the senate ticket.
Counting of votes from rank and file and delegates at the state conference to decide the ticket is underway.
The fourth position is considered unwinnable.