Tasmania’s police department will spend up to $268,000 of taxpayers’ money during a recession on a program encouraging emergency services workers to eat better and get fitter.
Police Minister Mark Shelton has defended the spending – part of a wider $6 million, four-year funding commitment – saying the health and wellbeing of emergency services workers is a state government priority.
A taxpayer group slammed the nutrition and fitness spending.
“The government has no business with our waistline,” Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance policy researcher Julia Kokic said.
“This doughnut discouragement program is just another case of the Tasmanian government encroaching on what should be a matter of personal responsibility.
“If anyone has a gluttony problem, it’s the government gorging on our taxpayer dollars.
“The Tasmanian government doesn’t need to spend $268,000 of taxpayer money to coerce public sector workers into taking responsibility for their own health and fitness.
“Instead, Tasmanian parliamentarians should take a hard look at their own fitness for office.”
The Department of Police, Fire and Emergency Management awarded the tender for “coordination and delivery of a face-to-face, 12-week fitness and nutrition program” known as Ready for Response on August 6.
According to tender documents, the four successful tenderers were swimming pools in Launceston and Hobart, a Hobart aerobics business and another Southern-based business.
The program was to have started earlier this year, but was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The restrictions placed on fitness facilities meant they could not deliver the services required,” Matthew Richman, the department’s wellbeing support director, said.
“Negotiations recommenced once these restrictions were lifted and, in line with Tasmanian government procurement guidelines, the contracts have now been awarded to four Tasmanian businesses.
“The program is currently in the onboarding phase and will officially commence on September 21.
“The cost of the contracts will not exceed the awarded amount ($268,378), but this is dependent on final participant numbers.”
Mr Shelton said: “Police, firefighters, and other emergency services workers are susceptible to post-traumatic stress disorders and other mental illnesses due to the severity of the incidents they attend and the cumulative effect of incidents attended over a long period of time.”
“The health and wellbeing of our emergency responders is a key priority for the Tasmanian Liberal government.
“That is why we have committed $6 million over four years for a proactive and preventative health and wellbeing program that supports both the physical and mental health of our emergency service personnel and provides intervention and support when necessary.”
Mr Shelton said the wellbeing program recognised the importance of staff and volunteers staying healthy and active.
“As part of that, Ready for Response is a 12-week fitness and nutrition program which targets the wellbeing of emergency service workers and volunteers across Ambulance Tasmania and the Department of Police, Fire and Emergency Management,” he said.
Nine bids were received, eight of which were Tasmanian.