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"Education definitely is something we'll be looking out for." - ABC Hobart Radio Transcript



SUBJECTS: Budget 2017; Tasmanian education funding; veteran’s funding; TV ad.

SARAH GILLMAN: Good Morning, Labor Senator Lisa Singh.

LISA SINGH, LABOR SENATOR FOR TASMANIA: Good Morning Sarah, how are you?

GILLMAN: Good. What's the weather like on an autumn budget day in Canberra?

SINGH: The weather is actually beautiful. Canberra does turn on a really good autumn because it's got so many deciduous trees, but whether that's a good sign for the budget remains to be seen. Let's hope – for Tasmania's sake at least – that the government actually considers what's important for Tasmania and for the nation when it delivers its budget tonight, but I'm not going to hold my breath.

GILLMAN: What do you think – as a Tasmanian – what are the things that you'll be looking out for?

SINGH: Definitely education. Obviously the government has made some noise that it's now recognising the importance of needs-based education funding with its Gonski 2.0. That is a rip-off of Labor's needs-based funding approach, but unfortunately from what we know it is only half-baked. That means that there's a $22 billion shortfall, which has a direct impact on Tasmania – with I think some $84 million over the next two years that Tasmania will lose out on. This is something of course that Jeremy Rockliff knows very well because he signed up in support of the original Goneski package – which was fully funded, not with this shortfall. So education definitely is something we'll be looking out for.

Also health – hoping the government removes the Medicare freeze. The impact that will have on patients and doctors is really important for Tasmania. Also housing affordability. We know that housing prices continue to go up – housing and homelessness as well are important issues for Tasmania, so I hope that the government heeds Labor's call in relation to housing affordability and actually does something serious about it. But at the moment we haven't actually heard anything in that space.

GILLMAN: You were on ABC's QandA last night, on the panel there and some of these issues did come up in light of the budget. Another issue that came up was whether there'd be any more budgetary provision for veteran's affairs. Why is this important?

SINGH: I think that for a number of years now there has been a real lag in veterans having their claims processed. It's taking a very long time because of their very archaic IT system in the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, and I can only imagine the stress that that must cause veterans who may be suffering post-traumatic stress disorder or mental health issues who don't get any answers from government about their concerns, which should be addressed as soon as possible. I commend the government for its investment in fixing this problem. However, it should have happened a long time earlier and if the government had its priorities right it would have done so, but at least its taking it seriously now. We know that there are a number of veterans that very, very sadly have taken their own lives and we really need to address this with as much support as government can provide. That's why I understand the government has injected some funds into addressing this issue in the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to provide the support that veterans need, but it should have happened years ago.

GILLMAN: Lisa Singh, on the issue of multiculturalism – that was discussed a little bit on the panel last night – the furore that's erupted over this latest ad featuring Bill Shorten, the opposition leader. An ad that's been described as "too white". As a Senator and a person with an Indian-Asian background, did you think it was too white?

SINGH: I think it was an ad that should not have been aired. I was very disappointed in that ad. I am pleased that it is no longer going to be aired and that Bill Shorten made the commitment that it won't happen again. Sarah, our Australian workforce is made up of people from around 200 different nationalities. Indeed, our parliament today is reflective of that as well, and I'm one of the representatives who reflect that. No, it was not reflective of the Australian workforce and I think that's really important when you project an ad to the community. I was really, really disappointed. I know a number of other colleagues were as well, so I'm pleased that it's gone.

GILLMAN: Good to talk to you. Thanks so much for your time this morning.

SINGH: Thanks, Sarah.