The start of a new year is usually a time to take stock and look ahead with hope and optimism, and after such a difficult 2020, I'm sure everyone is looking forward to a better 2021.
But, while we share that hope, we know the trials of last year are not over and much remains to be done to keep our state safe and our recovery on track.
While it's great to see businesses start to bounce back from the pandemic, many of them still rely on JobKeeper to stay in business and keep Tasmanians in jobs.
Even though this is the case around Australia, the Morrison Government started the new year by again cutting the JobKeeper payment, reducing the take-home pay of thousands of workers and jeopardising hundreds of businesses.
On top of this around 51,000 Tasmanians who rely on the coronavirus supplement are seeing their fortnightly supplement slashed from $250 to $150, affecting our most vulnerable and stripping an estimated $33 million out of the state's economy over the next three months.
Proceeding with the disastrous plan to cut the payment to zero in April will take a further $250 million from the economy and from Tasmanians doing it toughest over the course of 2021.
With nearly eight per cent unemployment overall and youth unemployment approaching 20 per cent - by far the worst in the country - we are in desperate need of a comprehensive plan to get Tasmanians back to work.
Labor's plan takes all Tasmanians along on our recovery ...
Labor's number one priority is jobs, and our fully-costed plan Working for Tasmania includes initiatives designed to stimulate the economy, foster business growth and get Tasmanians into secure jobs.
It is an ambitious plan for 35,000 jobs, which also demonstrates compassion for Tasmania's disadvantaged regions and people.
We will invest more than $470 million in a Jobs and Innovation Fund, in tourism and hospitality, small business, careers and jobs placement, environmental protection and our disadvantaged and neglected regions.
We will directly support Tasmania's manufacturing, mining, agriculture, forestry and fishing industries.
And we will rebuild and renew TAFE to provide more Tasmanians with the skills needed for meaningful jobs.
Along with our policy to provide free training in areas of known skills shortages, our TAFE plan includes a focus on enhancing delivery in regional areas like Deloraine, Scottsdale, George Town and St Helens.
As part of our Sea Highway Plan, we will invest $150 million into northern Tasmania's network of ports and other key infrastructure to help get cargo across Bass Strait and grow jobs here in Tasmania.
This includes $10 million at Bell Bay Port to create multiple berths for forestry and mining exports, increase the port's fuel storage capacity, replace old fuel pipelines and establish a new transport and wash-down system for forestry exports.
The investment would complement and support TasPorts' plans to invest significantly in the Bell Bay Port to support emerging industries including hydrogen.
Bell Bay is a prime example of what we can do to take Tasmania forward into an exciting new future.
The work that's being done at the Bell Bay Advanced Manufacturing Zone to develop major emerging technologies like hydrogen energy puts this area at the forefront of a whole new industry.
As part of our Working for Tasmania Jobs Plan, Labor will also encourage the growth of the advanced manufacturing, IT and premium food, wine and spirits sectors.
We will also use debt responsibly to deliver 25,000 infrastructure jobs and make sure projects are delivered on time.
This multi-faceted approach is exactly what Tasmania needs, yet the Gutwein government continues to rely on a one-dimensional infrastructure plan, when they have demonstrated over many years their failure to deliver, with more than half of the Governments projects way behind schedule.
COVID-19 exposed the weaknesses in our economy - an over-reliance on certain industries, high rates of casualisation and underemployment.
We need to address these issues in our recovery or we will remain exposed to repeating the mistakes of the past.
Labor's plan takes all Tasmanians along on our recovery so that we not only grow our economy, but ensure that everyone shares in the fruits of that growth.
We've already begun 2021 with hope of a vaccine rollout within months - hope that we can finally overcome the pandemic.
But we must not forget the lessons COVID-19 has taught us.
We need to work together, adapt and take the bold action required to build a better and fairer future for everyone.
I wish all Tasmanians a happy and healthy 2021, with better times ahead for us all.
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