Image: J

The poverty of imagination and the lack of sense of destiny among our present-day political leaders was manifest yet again last month when they were invited to provide their “visions” for the future of the Huon Valley.

Our “honourable” ostriches (plus Mayor Robert Armstrong) — all seemingly incapable of sensibly tackling the pressing issues of today — dutifully wrote their vision of how they want the valley to be half a century hence. Subsequently, their words were published in the November 28 Huon Valley News, a copy of which was placed in the time capsule that now rests beneath the floorboards of Franklin’s century-old Palais Theatre.

In 2062, the townsfolk of Franklin — surely it will be a town by then, rather than a township! — will lift floorboards and pore over the capsule’s contents. I hope they won’t be holding their breath in anticipation of gasps of admiration for the brilliance of either the leadership or vision of their early-21st century ancestors.

The thoughts of Labor Premier Lara Giddings, Greens leader Nick McKim (who, with his party’s MPs, holds the state’s Labor Government together), Liberal Opposition Leader Will Hodgman, and Mayor Armstrong, as they appear in the Huon Valley News, can give none of us a sense of pride in knowing that they will be read when the capsule is opened 50 years from now.

Not only is there not an original thought among their offerings; there is not even one creative idea as to how, from this early 21st century dysfunctional starting point, the groundwork for a successful Huon Valley community circa 2062 can be laid. The paucity of imagination and vacuity of our leaders’ responses to the invitation to put their “visions” on record is flabbergasting. (None of which is to say that the valley will not be a sustainable and flourishing place to live 50 years from now. But it will be no thanks to the efforts of the aforementioned.)

It doesn’t matter which of the four “visions” you read, you’ll learn nothing about how our leaders intend to contribute to the advancement of the Huon Valley’s fortunes.

Robert Armstrong offers a lot of platitudinous mother-hooding: “I would like the Huon Valley to be an area where people enjoy living and working . . . I would like our rural lifestyle to remain . . . with good access to transport, technology, infrastructure, health services and education opportunities for all . . . It is important that the residents in 2062 look back at the generations that have passed, respect and celebrate where we have come from, our history and heritage . . . I hope there always remain opportunities to encourage investment and economic growth . . . We need the Huon to grow and prosper without sacrificing the beauty . . . For many tourists, the Huon Valley is a place where they are seduced by its charm and return to call it home . . . The Huon Valley is a region where communities . . . strive for positive outcomes for all . . . I hope a sense of community and working together is still alive . . . I wish . . . for a prosperous and happy place for all . . . and for [the valley] to remain a region we are proud to call home.”

Lara Giddings, after asides to space probes landing on Mars, iPhones and internet dominating our lives, and female prime ministers and premiers, writes: “ . . . I believe the Huon will still be one of Australia’s most beautiful and tranquil places to live . . . The fresh air, wonderful river and stunning scenery will not change . . . As Tasmania’s population grows so too will the Huon’s towns and villages, perhaps bolstered by more people from overseas seeking to escape . . . from an overcrowded world or from places affected by the extremes of climate change . . . people . . . will be using technology that we cannot imagine . . . in education and health care . . . technology . . . will be helping Tasmanians live happier, longer and healthier lives . . . advances will . . . help to further reduce the inequalities between the richest and poorest . . . residents will still grow crops and fish . . . others will work in jobs that have not yet been conceived . . . Perhaps . . . in the financial markets or communications industries of London or New York . . . I hope that future generations will also look back with gratitude to the people of 2012 who helped build and grow new industries like aquaculture and tourism and who helped to preserve the . . . natural and built heritage . . . To . . . residents of 2062, I say remember fondly those who went before you, and strive to create an even better future . . . just as we did in 2012.”

Will Hodgman writes from a 2062 perspective: “The Huon Valley I see in 2062 is a thriving regional centre that is still a great place to live, work and raise a family . . . there are more people . . . schools are . . . full of kids getting a great education . . . High schools now go through to Year 12 . . . fewer people out of work . . . people more confident about running a business and investing . . . The forest industry has recovered from being used as a political football . . . other thriving industries like tourism, aquaculture and agriculture . . . Residues from forest operations are used to create bio-mass and bio-energy . . . more tourists . . . more accommodation options . . . Government has invested in important infrastructure . . . Police numbers have been restored . . . expanded health services . . . Valley is rated as one of the nation’s most liveable places . . .”

Nick McKim, state leader of the only national party that can brag about a vision for the future, has missed a chance to confront the reality, although he does touch on areas to which his opposing contemporaries seem to accord little value: “ . . . My vision is for the Valley to be appreciated, respected and protected . . . I would like to see decisions made for the future have empathy with the past and inform the present . . . continue supporting, promoting and celebrating the rich cultural and artistic diversity — to build on the strong sense of community . . . to have our natural environment conserved and protected. Our wild places . . . are integral . . . and it is our responsibility to instil an ethos of guardianship . . . invest in tourism, agriculture, art and people. To work with the natural landscape to nurture economic and community strength . . . a vision for a healthy and robust community . . . strong educational and health outcomes . . . prosperity, for a community that shares interests, responsibilities, goals and ideas . . . I know [the valley] will be strong . . . People matter to one another . . . forefront for sustainable development . . .”

At the end of all this, one is left wondering why there is not one idea from any leaders that might help to give us a clear understanding as to how we are going to get from now to the shining future they all envisage? Only Giddings, in passing, mentions “climate change”. Not a mention of sustainability, peak oil, renewable energy, global warming, sea-level rise, pollution, over-fishing, urban sprawl . . . Not one offers a single idea for new forms of employment or economic opportunities that are implicit in each of the challenges listed in the previous sentence.

I won’t be around half-a-century from now to see public reaction to the utterances of our 2012 political leaders. But the optimistic Will Hodgman imagines himself visiting the valley in 2062 “at a spritely 93 years of age” and partaking of “a cold organic apple cider or two”.

If he does last that long, and still has his marbles — and we, here and now in 2012, don’t soon get serious about facing up to the unprecedented challenges that humans’ ill-treatment of the local and global environment is creating — I expect him to be cringing before the contempt with which our successors will be viewing us.

I’d like to think we in Tasmania are awake enough to face up to challenges of the dire straits that lie ahead of us, locally, nationally and internationally. I’d like to think we are better than, say, the dunderheads of an American system that has presidential candidates viewing a mention of the environment as the sounding of a death knell to their leadership aspirations. I’d like to think that we, on this blessed isle, are more caring of our world than our prime minister who, despite her admirable defiance, remains a slave to the establishment, or her parliamentary foe who masquerades as an opposition leader.

But these are all simply wistful “thinks”. There’s almost no chance we’ll do anything constructive to make life better for those who may or may not be around to lift Palais floorboards in 2062.

There is a chance, however, that our dullard leaders of today may be saved from posthumous ignominy in 2062. The key to such an avoidance might lie in one of the many snippets of information gleaned by Franklin historian Ruth Young, who has just published a true labor of love: The Palais Theatre — a social history of Franklin’s Town Hall 1912-2012.

On page 44 of her book, Young reports that, early in December 1911, after the demolition of Franklin’s 51-year-old Mechanics’ Institute Hall (to make way for the Palais building), a time capsule was retrieved from beneath the hall’s foundation stone. Some items in it had survived, but “parchment” in a bottle was “in a dry and stiff condition” and “considerably discoloured”, so much so that “it is doubtful whether any of the writing thereon would now be discernable [sic]”. That piece of information comes from the Huon Times of December 9, 1911.

Perhaps the November 28, 2012, issue of the Huon Valley News will have suffered the same fate after 50 years beneath Palais floorboards. — Bob Hawkins

• Scott Bacon
Minister for Finance
Monday 10th Dec 2012

Revised Estimates Report

The Minister for Finance, Scott Bacon, today released the 2012-13 Revised Estimates Report.

The Revised Estimates Report is an important financial report that provides an update on the status of the 2012-13 Budget.

The 2012-13 Revised Estimates Report has been prepared following the release of the Australian Government’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook and the September quarterly report on year-to-date financial information.

Mr Bacon said that the Revised Estimates Report highlighted the Government’s commitment to continued strong financial management to achieve its Fiscal Targets.

“The Government continues to make progress against its Fiscal Strategy Targets and all Targets are expected to be achieved by 2014-15

“The important financial indicator of Net Debt has improved compared to the estimate included in the 2012-13 Budget.

“The Net Operating Balance is now estimated to be a deficit of $327 million in 2012-13 (Budget $283 million), improving to a surplus of $251 million by 2014-15.”

“Net Debt is now estimated to be $37 million in 2012-13 (Budget $134 million), improving to negative Net Debt of $347 million by 2014-15.”

“The 2012-13 Revised Estimates Report also includes important additional expenditure that is strongly focussed on stimulating new investment and jobs growth and supporting priority service areas.”

Additional funding allocated in the 2012-13 Revised Estimate Report includes:

• $24.5 million for the Tasmanian Jobs Packaged announced by the Treasurer;
• $35.9 million for Out-of-Home Care and Child Protection Services;
• $6 million for the National Disability Insurance Scheme Launch Sites; and
• $10 million for Corrective Services.

Mr Bacon said that the Revised Estimates Report also included updated economic forecasts and projections for the Tasmanian economy.

“Unfortunately, the strong Australian dollar continues to put pressure on Tasmania’s export and import competing sectors,” Mr Bacon said.

“That’s why the Government is investing in the Tasmanian Jobs Package* to do everything we can to support existing jobs and to help businesses to create new ones.”

Mr Bacon said that updated financial information for the year to 31 December 2012 will be included in the December Quarterly Report due to be released by 15 February 2013 and updated Budget estimates will be included in the 2013-14 Budget Papers.

A copy of the Revised Estimates Report 2012-13 can be found at http://www.treasury.tas.gov.au.

• *All about that jobs package:  ABC Online: Premier unveils jobs plan

The Tasmanian Government is going a further $44 million into the red to stimulate the economy.

It is spending $25 million on business grants, increasing the first home builder grant, funding small infrastructure projects throughout state and introducing a payroll tax rebate for new jobs created.

It predicts the plan will create more than 3,000 jobs.

The Premier, Lara Giddings, says the time is right for the stimulus package.

“We’ve seen a pick up in GST which has helped,” she said.

“We also had some drop in our state revenues and what we can do by stimulating jobs is actually help our state revenues as well.”

The Government has also announced a $36 million increase in spending on child protection services and $10 million for corrective services.

Ms Giddings says the unemployment rate of 6.8 per cent is too high.

She says it is a Government plan, not a Labor election platform.

“What the jobs package is today is a modest push in the right direction, it’s not just an all-out free spend-for-all,” she said.

etc ...


Nick McKim MP
Greens Leader
Monday, 10 December 2012

The Tasmanian Greens Leader Nick McKim MP today welcomed the Premier’s announcement of a new economic package aimed at creating jobs and boosting economic confidence.

“This is a pro-active stimulus from a Labor-Green government, which will help to ensure that businesses have the confidence to invest and to create jobs,” Mr McKim said.

“As we move through this economic transition, it’s important to continue to stimulate the economy in carefully targeted ways.”

Mr McKim said the Greens were pleased that the Revised Estimates Report released today showed that the Government had a clear plan to return to surplus across the forward estimates.

“There’s no doubt that the State Budget has taken a substantial hit because of declining GST revenue, which is why the Greens have argued the need for a more flexible fiscal strategy across the forward estimates,” Mr McKim said.

• What Lara says ...

Lara Giddings
Monday 10th Dec 2012

Tasmanian Jobs Package

The Tasmanian Jobs Package will support the creation of over 3300 jobs and leverage around $375 million in private investment, the Premier, Lara Giddings, said today.

Ms Giddings said the package is designed to lift confidence and provide an immediate boost to the economy.

“The Tasmanian Government is committed to growing jobs and opportunities for Tasmanians,” Ms Giddings said.

“We have seen the creation of 1400 new jobs since May and more than 2000 direct and indirect jobs have been secured through agreements with major industrial companies like Norske Skog, Pacific Aluminium and BHP Temco.

“We readily acknowledge that more needs to be done to bring the unemployment rate down.

“The Tasmanian Jobs Package has been designed to boost confidence and maximise jobs in the state.

“The included measures have been carefully considered in consultation with industry stakeholders to provide an immediate positive economic impact.”

The $24.5 million package includes the following initiatives:

• More than doubling the first home owners grant for construction of new homes to $15,000. The First Home Builders Boost will go for 18 months beginning on 1 January 2013 and is estimated to support the construction of 1100 new first homes and the creation of 1800 new jobs.

• Reintroducing the successful payroll tax rebate for all new jobs created from today up until 30 June 2014 and maintained until 30 June 2015.  This scheme is a proven performer, creating 876 jobs in 2009/10 and 843 jobs in the 2011/12.  Based on previous results it is expected the tax rebate will support the creation of 850 new jobs.

• $2.5 million in additional funding for the Tasmanian Government Innovation and Investment Fund or TGIIF to leverage around $11 million in private investment and create 170 new jobs.

• $3 million for community infrastructure including maintenance, renovations and upgrades of Community and Neighbourhood houses. 30 new jobs.

• $2.8 million investment in Northern infrastructure projects including the Seaport boardwalk expansion, the upgrade of lights at Aurora Stadium and the creation of the Hollybank Mountain Bike Park for the combined creation of 80 new jobs.

• Tassal processing plant: The State Government is providing a grant of up to $440,000 to assist in the upgrade of infrastructure and systems required for processing at George Town Seafoods. 22 new jobs.

• Clearing the way for Parliament Square to secure $100 million in private investment and 400 jobs.

• An additional $1 million for tourism marketing to promote Tasmania and maximise take up of additional airline seats.

• $400,000 to support the dairy industry’s ‘Filling the Factories’ program which aims to secure another 355 mega litres of milk supply in Tasmania and create 550 on-farm jobs.

Ms Giddings said the relatively modest outlay will make a massive contribution to job creation and private investment.

“The package is a key part of my agenda for 2013 which will focus on jobs, people and opportunities.

“I look forward to seeing more Tasmanians find jobs as a result of the strong action we have taken today.”

Ms Giddings said the Revised Estimates Report, also released today, showed the measures were affordable because the 2012/13 Budget remains on track to return to surplus and eliminate net debt.

“This plan is fully costed and will be rolled-out immediately, unlike the Liberal Opposition’s so-called stimulus plan which amounts to little more than marketing slogans and weasel words.”

• ACL welcomes increased spending on the needy in Tas

The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has today welcomed an announcement by the Tasmanian government that it will invest more money into child protection, corrections and the National Disability Scheme (NDS).

The news came on the back of the unveiling of a stimulus package designed to create more jobs and boost the economy.

It included plans to increase spending on child protective services by nearly $36 million and $10 million for corrective services over the next four years.  It also promised $6 million towards the NDS.

ACL’s Tasmanian Director Mark Brown has commended the government for its commitment to support the vulnerable and needy.

“We applaud the state government in channeling money to some of the community’s most needy - especially children.

“We have been particularly concerned with the past cuts to child protection on top of significant increases in the number of children in out of home care,” he said.

Mr Brown said that although it is a tough financial environment we must continue to ensure the most vulnerable in our community are prioritised.

“There are many sectors working with the most vulnerable who could do with extra help but this is a step in the right direction,” he said.