While it can appear to be an exercise in political point scoring, in between the rhetoric and retorts there is a lot that we can take away from budget estimates in Parliament this week.
At the most basic level budget estimates is about keeping track of government spending across sectors.
But deeper than that it is an exercise in democracy, accountability and transparency.
It is an opportunity to understand how government is progressing against its own goals and to shine the light on complex government processes that underpin the policies we vote for.
It is also the most frequent opportunity, outside of elections, for the general public to engage with and hold government to account.
For the community sector, estimates can be pivotal in shaping our advocacy over the coming year.
When our sector knows what the government is doing to address the long term, entrenched issues that continue to hold Tasmania back, then we can operate as the best advocates for the people that we represent.
For example over the past week, key information on housing and Out of Home Care has come from budget estimates.
This is what we have learned so far:
- 5 of 13 young people at Ashley are Aboriginal, however there is no Aboriginal liaison officer at Ashley.
- Current number of children that have not been allocated a case worker: 147 in the north, 47 in the NW and 54 in the south.
- Confirmation of 200 FTE child safety workers are employed in Tasmania, with around 18 vacancies across the state. Minister Roger Jaensch state these vacancies as the reason we have $24 million in the budget for OOHC.
- The state government will need to oversee the completion of 291 social housing properties over the next twelve months to meet the Affordable Housing Action Plan four year target of 444 new builds.
- The government is aiming for 153 new homes completed by the end of June under the Affordable Housing Action Plan – which would lift to 165 home by the end of September.
- 115 homes have been completed in the last three months.
- Public housing waiting list was at 3190 applicants, with 2212 classified as priority cases.
This kind of detailed information provides us with an opportunity to undertake advocacy within our democratic system of government.
Our sector can use information such as this to enhance our advocacy, through deeper knowledge of where the gaps are in what the government has promised and what it has delivered.