Tasmania will reopen its borders to travellers to and from New South Wales in the first week of November, subject to that state’s COVID-19-status remaining “positive”, Premier Peter Gutwein has announced.
A decision not to permanently fly the Aboriginal flag at council chambers has divided a Tasmanian council and been heavily criticised by sections of the community.
Clarence Council was split 50-50 on the flag flying motion, so it was ultimately defeated
Alderman Dean Ewington says flying the Aboriginal flag would be tokenistic
Aboriginal lawyer Michael Mansell says its “unbelievable”‘ the council is so divided on the issue
The motion at the Clarence City Council on Hobart’s eastern shore was lost after six of the 12 alderman voted against it.
Alderman Dean Ewington this week described the proposal as symbolism and said “reconciliation is a two-way thing”.
“Sometimes I feel like we don’t get the opportunity to have the opinion of the majority … being able to say things without being called certain names, we all know what that is,” Ald Ewington said.
“I’m a proud Australian … as a society we could put aside the race card, focus on Australia first, still do the acknowledgement of Aboriginal people in other ways.”
Ald Ewington cautioned against “focusing on one people and one group” and said there “needs to be a chance to sit back and take a breath”.
“I honestly can’t say that I think that flying the flag continuously would make all that much difference,” he told the meeting.
“I know it would to some, but I think it needs to be done as a bigger review of the whole process.”
The move was proposed by the Greens’ Beth Warren who told the meeting there were “no barriers” to the flag being flown.
“We have the flag, we have the flag pole,” she said.
“Why should we take down the flag at the end of NAIDOC week?”
Ms Warren was surprised her motion was defeated.
“We’re really behind on this. I know a number of other councils around Tasmania have been flying the flag for some time, for a number of years now,” she said.
Fellow alderman, Wendy Kennedy, said she was “really quite sad that we haven’t already done this”.
But others said the timing was not right.
Mayor concedes community wants to see flag flown permanently
Clarence Mayor Doug Chipman, who voted against the motion, said he was not surprised by the community reaction to the council’s decision.
“The response from the community is exactly as we’d expect,” he said.
“I think that they want to see us fly the Aboriginal flag permanently and I believe that Clarence Council will be flying it permanently, but we just need a proper occasion to celebrate the fact that we’ve made that decision.
“For example the motion on Monday night was just to leave it hanging after NAIDOC Week. I personally believe that when we make that decision and start flying it permanently that it ought to be recognised with a suitable occasion, suitable function, such as celebrating the signing our reconciliation action plan, which could even be before Christmas.”
Ald Chipman said he was certain the flag would be flown permanently “in the near future”.
Aboriginal community leaders said there was no reason to delay.
Tasmanian Aboriginal Land Council chairman Michael Mansell said it was unbelievable that the council “in this day and age are quibbling about flying the Aboriginal flag”.
“They haven’t talked to any Aboriginal people about this discussion [about a ceremony], there’s nothing to consider, there’s nothing to quibble about,” he said.
“Tasmania in the last 25 to 30 years has led Australia in the reconciliation process and one of the symbolic gestures as part of that process is flying the Aboriginal flag.
“If every other council in Tasmania can do it, why can’t the Clarence Council?
The Aboriginal flag has flown permanently at Tasmania’s Government House for more than a year.
When that decision was made, Governor Kate Warner said flying the flag acknowledged a shameful chapter in the state’s history that should not be ignored.
Former Lord Mayor and now Tasmania Speaker Sue Hickey urged the council to get on with it.
“I think we are still fairly divided as a society and there are some people that won’t accept an Aboriginal flag and I think that’s very disappointing,” she said.
“This is a culture that has been on Tasmanian soil for thousands and thousands of years and it does deserve recognition … I would like to see all councils flying an Aboriginal flag.
“Hopefully when they’ve finished their work on Aboriginal reconciliation that flag will fly permanently.”
Senior staff within Tasmania’s fire department are refusing to meet with union representatives after an explosive meeting that the state’s fire chief alleges left employees “anxious and concerned”.
Fire service chief Chris Arnol blasts what he called several recent examples of inappropriate and degrading behaviour from union representatives
Mr Arnol said departmental staff would not meet with them again until they committed to workplace values
The union says the matter is being dealt with through the State Fire Commission
Tasmania Fire Service chief officer Chris Arnol emailed all staff this week to lash United Firefighters Union for behaviour he said “can only be described as inappropriate and degrading”.
“No-one needs to raise their voice, talk over, use aggressive tones and body language, and continually interrupt others to get their point across,” he said, in in an email obtained by the ABC.
“This is not the first time this type of behaviour has occurred and is far more than ‘minor’ as the UFUA claims, which is evidenced by the distress it has caused a number of people on the receiving end,” the text reads.
“Until … this pattern of behaviour stops, the Deputy Secretary [of the Department of Police, Fire and Emergency Management] has advised the State Fire Commission that Business and Executive Services employees will not attend meetings with representatives of the UFU.”
Mr Arnol’s email said he supported the department’s position, calling on TFS employees to “speak up” if they witnessed disrespectful behaviour.
Neither the TFS nor United Firefighters Union would comment more specifically on the allegations.
However, some staff appeared to take umbrage at Mr Arnol’s all-staff email.
One employee who identified themself as a union member replied to suggest that if the matter involving union representatives was serious, it should be referred to police.
“If you are requesting a ‘commitment to values’ for union members, can I suggest a commitment of ‘no deliberate delay’ by all negotiating,” the person wrote.
Another person replied: “Also over the years this has been happening with some senior management but no-one has been concerned then.”
A third employee raised four points of concern related to broader workplace health and safety issues — including the promotion of a staff member facing serious criminal charges, which have apparently since been dropped — saying issues were not confined to the union’s conduct.
Another example was alleged slow progress on four hazard reports related to remote firefighting concerns.
“Where is the plan and desire to actually reconfigure our bush firefighting capability to meet the needs of today [let alone tomorrow],” the person wrote to Mr Arnol.
“None of the above should diminish the seriousness of the incident you have alluded to … it’s just that it’s a bit disrespectful of the organisation to pick and choose when to play the game.”
In a statement to the ABC, Mr Arnol said he was committed to working cooperatively with the United Firefighters Union.
“However, in recent times there have been several instances of disrespectful and intimidatory behaviour towards members of staff displayed by some members of the UFUA (Tas),” Mr Arnol said.
United Firefighters Union Tasmania senior industrial officer Leigh Hills declined to make broad comment while an internal TFS inquiry was underway.
“A work health and safety issue was raised in regards to the United Firefighters Union and we’re currently dealing with that via the state fire commission,” Mr Hills said.
The Minister’s fitness to handle the Human Services portfolio was challenged by the Labor Opposition in a no-confidence debate on Wednesday, just a day after Mr Jaensch survived a no-confidence motion over whether he misled Parliament in his capacity as Housing Minister.
A number of Tasmanian children who had attended the Northern Territory program alleged when they misbehaved they were made to sit in isolation on a milk crate for hours and the power to their room was cut.
Mr Jaensch has told State Parliament the children in the program were not sent there to be moved 3,000km away from home, but rather because it was the solution that fitted their needs.
“I’d send them to the Moon if that was the only place where there was the right solution for those kids,” Mr Jaensch said.
Mr Jaensch told Parliament he agreed Tasmania needed to work towards having a suitable program inside the state, but the Government had so far experienced difficulty securing a private provider.
“In the absence of an off-the-shelf model available through a procurement process, we may need to build something of our own,” he said.
“We’ll get the best ideas from wherever they are, as before, because the goal has to be the best outcome for children and young people in whatever form it comes.”
Labor leader Rebecca White moved a no-confidence motion in Mr Jaensch after telling the House of Assembly a “shocking” video had emerged of one of the children at the Northern Territory camp allegedly stealing a vehicle and speeding through a community area at 100kph.
Ms White told the Chamber the child was clearly putting themselves and others at risk.
“Premier, how can you say the children in the program are safe and well when there is clear evidence that is a lie?” Ms White asked.
“Why haven’t you acted immediately and decisively to bring these children home?
The video was filmed last month.
Mr Jaensch said rather than stealing the car, the child was joyriding, no charges had been laid, and actions such as those captured in the video were why the child was in the program.
Labor’s no-confidence motion centred around Mr Jaensch’s comments the children in the program were safe, comments which were made on Tuesday after he first viewed the footage on October 7.
Ms White said Mr Jaensch had actively played down concerns about the safety of children in the program, and had not informed the Premier of the incident until nearly a week after he first saw the footage.
Premier Peter Gutwein accused Labor of weaponising the issue for political purposes, and reiterated his “full support” for Mr Jaensch.
The motion failed, with Independent Madeleine Ogilvie siding with the Government.
A Greens push to get the House of Assembly to call for the six children remaining in the program to be brought home also failed to pass.
Greens leader Cassy O’Connor said “tough love” programs were not evidence based, and she was concerned Tasmania’s Commissioner for Children had no jurisdiction over the Northern Territory program.
Mr Jaensch said the repeated calls to bring the children home from the Northern Territory were damaging.
Labor, the Greens, Ms Ogilvie and Speaker Sue Hickey were given a private briefing on the program by the Department of Communities at lunchtime on Wednesday.
Tasmania will decide whether to open its border to travellers from New South Wales next Monday, the Premier says.
Tasmania will make a decision on October 19 about whether to open the border to NSW travellers
Restrictions for travellers from Victoria will likely remain in place until December 1
Travellers from low-risk jurisdictions will still have to undergo health screening when restrictions ease at the end of the month
The island state, which was the first Australian state to close the border in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, is set to open up to travellers from the “low-risk jurisdictions” of SA, WA, Queensland, the NT and the ACT from October 26, but no decision has been made on NSW.
“We are continuing to monitor the situation in New South Wales closely,” Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein said on Tuesday.
He said numbers of COVID-19 infections in NSW were “very low” for such a large state, but that public health advice was to wait another week to make a final decision.
“I am certainly not ruling out easing the restrictions with NSW at this stage,” Mr Gutwein said.
At this stage, Tasmania’s border is set to stay closed to travellers from Victoria until December 1.
From October 26, mandatory quarantine will still be in place for people entering the state from high-risk areas.
Visitors to face health screening
Mr Gutwein said travellers from low-risk jurisdictions would still undergo health screening upon arrival in Tasmania,including temperature checks and questions regarding symptoms.
Those who indicated they had symptoms would be asked to get a coronavirus test and to isolate until they had their results.
Anyone travelling to Tasmania from low-risk jurisdictionsvia the Spirit of Tasmania ferry, which departs from Melbourne, would need to transit through Victoria only stopping for fuel, Mr Gutwein said.
Addressing the availability of flights in and out of the state, Mr Gutwein said he expected airlines would be moving “swiftly” now there was “clarity” over the state’s border reopening.
“As I understand it we currently have a number of direct flights into the states in terms of Adelaide and Brisbane,” he said.
The most comprehensive report examining suicide in Tasmania is a sobering read, but will help the state work towards zero deaths by suicide, Mental Health Minister Jeremy Rockliff says.
A report has found men and people aged 45-54 are most at risk of suicide
The report analysed data from 359 deaths by suicide in Tasmania
The Government hopes it will play a role in reducing deaths
The Suicide in Tasmania report, released on Friday, includes data from the Tasmanian Suicide Register and analyses the 359 deaths by suicide reported to and investigated by Tasmanian coroners in the four years from 2012.
The report’s findings included:
The highest rate of suicide in Tasmania was among those aged 45 to 54
Men were more likely to die by suicide
More than half of those who died by suicide had at least one previous diagnosis of a mental illness
Most had experienced at least one interpersonal or family stressor
Half of those who died by suicide had contact with police, courts or corrections services during their lifetime
Tasmania’s chief psychiatrist Dr Aaron Groves said it was important to get a deeper understanding of the factors at play.
“It’s not necessarily a single factor that is a link between a person’s distress and suicide, it’s actually a very, very complex matter,” Dr Groves said.
“This report is very helpful for us as policy makers and planners — and people who deliver services — to better understand how to target that, and how we make sure that our services remain most relevant for the people who have the greatest amount of distress and who need our assistance when they need that assistance.”
Mr Rockliff said too many Tasmanians had a personal experience of suicidal distress or bereavement.
“The Tasmanian Government is working very hard with our health service, community partners and all levels of government to ensure Tasmanians know where to go to receive the support that they need in line with Tasmania’s suicide prevention strategy.
“To do this we need to know as much as we can about the stresses that people who’ve died by suicide are experiencing, and to use this knowledge to inform more targeted suicide prevention initiatives.”
He said the report was “very sobering”.
“It represents the tragedy of 359 Tasmanians who died by suicide, and I acknowledge each of them here today and we remember them, all, today.
“They each had people who loved them and cared about them, people who now miss them, people who are grieving.
“We want zero deaths by suicide and that must be our aspiration, we must work towards that. You cannot put a figure anything above zero. That’ll be challenging, we recognise that, but we’ve got to do all we can and that is absolutely a goal that we should have.”
Mr Rockliff said all Tasmanians could play a role in suicide prevention by:
Regularly checking in with the people around them and encouraging discussion
Giving people a sense of belonging or a feeling of connectedness
Listening without judgement, showing compassion, and instilling hope
Developing skills to support someone in crisis, including to encourage the seeking of professional help.
Wild weather is expected to hit Tasmania’s north and east in the next 24 hours, with heavy rain and high winds expected.
The heavy rain is due to a low-pressure system which is moving from the mainland and is expected to sit over Tasmania’s north-west
The worst of the weather is expected on Thursday, but will carry on in some regions until Friday
The SES has warned motorists to be careful on the roads, with fears the rain may lead to flash-flooding
Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Debbie Tabor said it would be “wet, wet, wet”.
“We’ve got a low pressure system coming down from Victoria that moves near King Island tomorrow … [bringing] a lot of rain, particularly in the north and the east, as that low becomes almost stationary near the north-west corner of Tasmania.”
She said the north and east could expect between 30 and 60mm, with 10 to 12mm elsewhere and high falls of around 80 to 90mm in parts of the north-west and north-east.
Several flood warnings have already been issued for rivers around the state, and Ms Tabor said she expected more.
The bureau has warned there is a risk of flash flooding and river rises as soils and catchments were already very wet across much of the state’s north.
Strong winds of 50 to 60 kilometres per hour are also expected tomorrow, with gusts of 100kph.
Ms Tabor said it was unusual to have both heavy rain and strong winds.
“It’s a springtime pattern, so we do get these low pressure systems from the mainland moving over the state, that’s not uncommon, what is unusual is the combining of the heavy rainfall and the strong winds,” she said.
She said wet and windy weather would still be lingering on Friday, but should mostly clear up by the weekend.
“The rain continues [on Friday with] further good falls into the west and even another 10 to 20mm in the north-east,” she said.
“We’re not out of the woods on Friday, certainly on the weekend it’s improving.
Mhairi Revie from the State Emergency Service (SES) warned motorists to be vigilant, especially in the busy school holiday period.
“It is likely that there will be water on and around roads, and drivers also need to be cautious of debris on roads,” she said.
The SES said people should:
Supervise children closely
Check that family and neighbours are aware of warnings
Manage pets and livestock
Secure outdoor items, including furniture and play equipment
Be prepared in case of power outages
Beware of damaged trees and powerlines and take care when driving