Tasmanian Times

Economy

Labor’s deals: The Real Cost?

I have recently had an extended stay in Tasmania and was impressed with its natural beauty and physical isolation, although it also appears isolated from many ideas and developments in other parts of the world.
My work in the intelligence sector keeps me associated professionally with organizations that focus on fiscal probity and formal means of assuring that democratic systems report accurately back to the people so that they may make informed judgements at election time. In intelligence we also study how such systems fail and what brings about their collapse – lack of probity produces corruption because opaque processes allow anyone involved to siphon money off with a low probability of being caught.

I must say that I was very surprised with the way that the Tasmanian Labour government, appears to be supporting the private sector by transferring major amounts of public assets into private hands. (Most labour governments are organised to support labour over capital whereas your government seems to support capital over everything else. Is this a strategy to make the Liberal (capital) party irrelevant I wonder?)

During my stay I was repeatedly confronted with diverse views on your forestry and other practices. The government appeared to side with the private sector and argue for untrammelled logging of public forests against public views that argued to retain and protect more forest for future generations.

With my professional background it didn’t take much effort to realise that the parties arguing for continued conversion of forest to plantation had something to gain from the practices – probably money. In complex cases it is useful to build a more complete picture of what is happening rather than the fragmented nature of news stories and press releases. What appears to be happening is a massive transfer of wealth from the public purse to the private sector.

Costs imposed on the public purse

I listed the various costs that were being imposed on the public purse that were benefiting the private sector. To keep a long story short, my list included:

* Items sold below market value: timber, buildings, poker licences and tourist resorts;

* Direct transfers of public assets to private sector: public forest converted to plantations, transfers of public land to private hands;

* Losses created by methods used: burning valuable timbers, converting timber quality woods to low value woodchips, water table losses;

* Downstream costs created for communities: air and water quality, tourism losses;

* Costs shifted to other budgets: cost of health care for people poisoned with chemicals in water supply.

Government reporting on many of these factors appeared very limited, with few actual figures available for public inspection.

Of course, the large dollar numbers are beyond the scope of many people so look at it like this: There are around 500,000 Tasmanians, so if the government spends $500,000 that’s $1 for every Tasmanian.

The value of poker licenses and the Coles Bay giveaway

Some costs have been documented in bits and pieces and the likely totals are very scary for a small State like Tasmania. The value of poker licenses and the Coles Bay giveaway to the Federal Hotels group has been valued at over $130 million – which is equivalent to $260 transferred from every Tasmanian person into private sector pockets.

Transfers of land (reported transfer of around 100,000ha to private sector) is probably worth at least $200 million ($400 per person).

Losses created by methods used converting timber quality hardwoods to smoke and chips are probably over $200 million ($400 per person) by now.

Water table losses could easily run into multiple billions of dollars over time according to papers lodged with the Environmental Defender’s Office but I’ll leave those aside for now.

Downstream costs for communities, air and water quality losses coupled with tourism losses could easily exceed $100 million ($200 per person).

Costs shifted to other budgets, is often a big “sleeper” item, depending on the health impacts of poisons in water, could run between $50 million and $500 ($100 – $1,000 per person).

Even with these conservative estimates, the current methods of government in Tasmania could be costing from $2,000 to $6,000 for every Tasmanian. That’s money that could have been given to the taxpayers, or invested in public health and dentistry.

This leads to the obvious question: Do individual Tasmanians understand how much they are personally contributing to these asset transfers and costs and are they happy with the situation? If they know and they’re happy then fair enough. But if they don’t know how can anyone say the public is comfortable with the situation.

It is amazing to see similar methods to those in Chechnya, Uzbekistan

These are large cost penalties to create for people, for a small economy and population such as yours, the cumulative costs appear both punitive and damaging.

It is disquieting to note that your government isn’t reporting these costs, neither do they appear open to criticism on the way they are operating. While we are used to that kind of opacity in government affairs in various Eastern countries (Chechnya, Uzbekistan etc) it is amazing to see similar methods in use in the “developed” West.

Remember, every government action can be costed in terms of what individual Tasmanians are giving up in order to pay that cost. The recently reported $100 million overpayment for one of your ferries is an example that (if true) has cost every Tasmanian $200 each, or around $1,000 for a family of 5 persons. By the way, has anyone checked who got the commission on that sale? Commissions are usually lump sum payments and if they were (say) 10%, then that would be $10 million commission paid out on the overpayment alone!

The big picture remains the same, massive transfers from the taxpayers’ pockets to the private sector

Whenever big sums of money are involved, it pays any government to protect itself by adhering to rigid standards of probity. Failure to do so opens up the suspicion of corruption and bias supported by secrecy.

It also means that people like me are forced to use estimates like these to reach conclusions. The answer is accurate reporting. Anyone can argue the details, the big picture appears to remain the same, massive transfers from the taxpayers’ pockets to the private sector along with even more massive wastes of resources.

Let me close by saying that I loved Tasmania and I hope that it can be kept in good condition with a growing economy. Perhaps in a few years I can return to its shores.

Yours truly,
Adele Sainte-Marie
Canada

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13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Geoff Rollins

    March 1, 2005 at 3:31 am

    Dave (everybody’s best mate and impartial expert on life from Sydney), I will not get into a long-winded argument with you, as you have shown yourself in the past fortnight to have far more words, motivation and time to write than most, including me.

    Again I will reiterate my request that people support claims that they make with evidence. I will listen to any argument on any matter, provided that the person concerned can actually support what they say.

  2. Dave Groves

    March 1, 2005 at 12:52 am

    Gidday Liz.

    You must be aware by now that some Tasmanians have very thin skins.

    There seems to be a feeling of inadequacy among many here.

    There is always this mentality of being the poor state, the ones who are always left behind the door when the “mainlanders “get it all.

    These Tasmanians are victims of their own imagination.

    They have a marvellous state, the best in Australia in my opinion, but we need to work together to change the mindset of these poor folk who are resentful of those who come here and express an opinion that differs from those who have been brow beaten for many years.

    Personally, I know why “latte sippin’ mainlanders” have so much to say about what goes on here.

    In fact Blind Freddy could tell you in a flash.

    The powers that be, with compliance from the masses, have destroyed the beauty that was in say Sydney for example. They can see the rampant pillage that is Tasmania and the error of their ways and now want to help here so the same thing doesn’t happen.

    So proud Tasmanians, don’t take offence when an “LSM” says something you disagree with, they may have your best interests at heart.

  3. Geoff Rollins

    February 28, 2005 at 4:01 am

    Liz O’Dwyer – your post is the same type of horseshit I referred to in my response to John, baseless allegations made without proof.

    Just because I happen to accept the unfortunate reality of the road-kill issue on Tasmanian roads, why am I therefore a “hoon”? What possible premise do you base that on? The same as John who had no evidence whtasoever that log truck drivers are to blame for road-kill.

    All I am asking is that people do not use this excellent forum to bandy about ideas which have no evidential basis or basis in fact. It’s the same problem ABC Radio Talkback faces, opinionated clowns who believe they understand intimately the flaws of the world, yet when pressed have no capacity to support their arguments.

    And as far as the term “mainlander” is concerned, I stand by my view that it is the height of arrogance for (some) non-residents to come to Tasmania, exhort that something must be fixed without understanding any of the issues that may be involved.

    It’s the same as me rocking up to Melbourne or Sydney and demanding that the residents stop drinking their lattes because it is hurting the feelings of instant coffee drinkers.

    Liz, I have visited many parts of mainland Australia (never been to WA or NT) and if you go back a page on TT you’ll see and long and boring article I wrote on New Zealand. Again another incorrect assumption on your ignorant behalf. As for working class Tasmania in the sixties, I wouldn’t know because I was yet to be conceived.

  4. annie zon

    February 27, 2005 at 9:36 am

    Thankyou Adele, your thoughtful list of Tasmanian government rip-offs through public asset stripping is most useful for us all to study.

    I am intrigued to know more about your work and the success of any methods you may have identified to expand probity within democratic systems so that the opaqueness of government processes is reduced and people’s ability to “make informed judgements at election time” is enhanced.

  5. Liz O'Dwyer

    February 27, 2005 at 9:03 am

    Well said Adele. I only wish that more interstate and overseas visitors could appreciate the rot and corruption that is Tasmanian politics.

    Sadly, Geoff badly needs to get out more often – but then we don’t want too much more road kill, do we? Sounds like he drives like a hoon. If he did get out (as in out of the island) a bit more he might come to realise how insular he is. Talk of “mainlanders” whizzes me back to working class Tassie in the sixties. Shame he can’t move on.

  6. Dave Groves

    February 26, 2005 at 10:05 am

    Gidday “rat”.

    Hope this finds you hygienic and living somewhere dry.

    Interesting, typing “rat” into Google brings up 303,000 hits in 0.67 seconds.

    You are obviously a famous person. Well done, your incisive input is appreciated. I hope you are fortunate enough to dodge the blue carrots. Apparently they are not real flash for your digestion.

    More power to ya!

    Dave

  7. Dave Groves

    February 26, 2005 at 12:47 am

    Gidday John.

    Hope you eventually had a great time in Tasmania.

    It is both unfortunate and fortunate that you have seen some of the darker aspects of life in Tasmania.

    Maybe you can smuggle what you have witnessed to the mainland as there is no other way for reality to leave this island.

    Our native habitats are shrinking by around 5 million tonnes per year as they are shipped offshore. The log trucks you have diced with are the reality of life in Tasmania.
    Native habitats are replaced by monoculture plantations. Native animals are firebombed and fed 1080, an insidious poison. Perhaps the highways are a last refuge, an escape route from the pillage of dwindling habitat?

    Personally it gives me joy when ‘ latte sippin’ mainlanders’ come to Tassie with their eyes open and are concerned with events taking place.

    I came here almost 3 years ago from Sydney and although I doubt I’ll ever be ‘accepted’ in Tasmania (part of Australia, my country of birth and for generations my family’s home) I welcome all to my new home, this predominately white Anglo Saxon state, a far cry from the 86 nationalities at our children’s school in Sydney.

    So John, take your truth and spread it far and wide, for your concern is our concern.

    Dave

  8. Barnaby Drake

    February 24, 2005 at 4:34 am

    Is this an attempt on the part of ‘Rat’ to shoot the messenger?

  9. JOHN

    February 22, 2005 at 2:57 pm

    LOGGING TRUCKS KILL ANIMALS

    The Rape of Tasmania, by Richard Flanagan (The Best Australian Essays 2004, Ed R. Dessaix), ( and http://www.oldtt.pixelkey.biz/jurassic/flanaganrape.html )stirs me.

    On a recent trip, I drove from Launceston Airport at 110kph to Launceston, and further up to George Town. (Why can you go so fast to & from the airport?) What a beautiful morning, sunny, few cars, beautiful green.

    1st logging truck, 2nd logging truck, third logging truck, so many logging trucks, where are they all going? Then coming back, 1st logging truck, 2nd logging truck, many logging trucks, big ones, expensive new ones, full going up, full coming back, where are they all going?

    Then I started noticing animals, dead ones, on the side of the road. Some big furry ones, wombats, possums, slower ones caught on the road. Their heads were gone, and blood was all over the road. Huge ravens pulled at their entrails. Some guts were all over the road. I slowed down to look.

    There seemed to be plenty of dead animals between 8am and 10am around George Town.

    I tried not to look – there are some “quaint” little villages by the Tamar. Had to give way to logging trucks to get back on the highway.

  10. rat

    February 22, 2005 at 9:24 am

    Interesting that a google search of “Adele Sainte-Marie” doesn’t pull up a single hit. Sure it isn’t “Buffy”?

  11. Brenda Rosser

    February 22, 2005 at 4:23 am

    And this predatory economics described by Adele has been aided and abetted (and indulged in) by BOTH sides of the political spectrum. Labor AND Liberal.

    What strategy do we have in place to stop the ongoing theft and rape of Tasmania’s communal and natural assets?

  12. mouse

    February 21, 2005 at 2:22 pm

    Thank you Adele.

    No histrionics and simply a review of reality.

    I have sometimes speculated that if the story of Tasmania was told but called the story of Sarawak or Louisiana we would all laugh and feel sorry for the local hick population.

    We can’t seem to conceive that Tasmania is as likey to fall victim to predators seeking the easy money to be made by theft of public property as any other place.
    I will add Uzbekistan to my Tassie peer list.

    Mouse

  13. Dave Groves

    February 21, 2005 at 12:59 pm

    Marvellous news that.

    Someone from Canada has the courage and fortitude to stand up and write about what some of us know to be true.

    It’s great to see that someone from far away takes such an interest in our jewel Tasmania.

    I hope that this article is read and understood by every Tasmanian.

    “The times they are a changing”.

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