November is usually a time when we turn our minds to preparing for the end of the year, and what the new year may have in store.
This year is a little different, thanks to COVID-19 turning the year on itself – including a six-month delay in tabling the 2020-2021 Tasmanian State Budget, which will be announced next week on Thursday, 12 November.
In the hours before the budget is announced, I will attend the State Budget Lock-Down. An opportunity for representatives of the community to listen to the breakdown of the budget before the Premier delivers his budget speech in the afternoon, the Budget Lock-Down is a unique opportunity to get an understanding of the budget in its entirety.
So secretive is the process, that they remove your phones and laptops before you go in, and you’re not allowed them back until after the budget speech is finished.
When I am attending the Lock-Down I will be listening intently for announcements that may assist or impact the Tasmanian alcohol, tobacco and other drugs sector.
Now that we are less than two weeks away from the budget being tabled, the reality is that the main budgetary decisions have been made and their focus from here is on finalising the papers for publication and media releases.
We will start to see some of this information begin to drip-feed out from the government, starting this weekend with the comments from the Premier that the budget will take the State into a $1.8 billion deficit.
The feedback that I’m hearing is that the budget is going to be ‘brutal’, ‘exceptionally tight’, and will ‘disappoint many’. It’s tough reading and I can’t tell you that the budget is going to provide relief to the waiting lists for alcohol, tobacco and other drug services.
I also can’t guarantee that the Budget will catapult alcohol, tobacco and other drugs into the spotlight (or alongside the level of investment that mental health is receiving).
I won’t pretend that it will but what I can say is that I am seeing an increased awareness and inclusion of alcohol, tobacco and other drug services and programs into funding responses and discussions, albeit piece-meal.
This information won’t provide immediate relief to the waiting lists and demand on services being experienced but in the current climate I hope it’s heartening to hear alcohol, tobacco and other drugs being included rather than excluded completely at this time.
Ensuring alcohol, tobacco and other drug services are included in community wide discussions and broader government funding considerations increases our ability to increase awareness and ultimately increase investment at a time when there is unprecedented demand for investment in community services.
It is a slow burn, but an important one that the team at the ATDC is intently focused on to ensure that reducing the harm from alcohol, tobacco and other drugs remains a priority for our community.
Chief Executive Officer