It seems that, every week, we see another indicator of how bad things are here in Tasmania, how we trail all other states and even the Northern Territory in some economic indicators, education outcomes, etc. This week, new figures showed that the rate of workplace involvement for women is lower here than anywhere else in the nation.
Eventually, the message that things have to change must get through to even the most recalcitrant nay-sayers.
The TFGA fully comprehends the parlous state of Tasmania’s finances. We have given credit where it is due for the stringent measures the present government has taken to stabilise the situation. We can all argue that we see some decisions as nothing short of bizarre, but let’s not get bogged down in a debate about football.
We’ve recently released our submission to the government for consideration in preparation of the 2014/15 state budget. You can read it here:
Even though we come to the bargaining table with a vested interest, TFGA has put our case to the next treasurer, whoever he or she may be, to focus on the main game (and forget about football). The main game is maximising economic activity in the private sector to create the wealth that will pay for the basic fundamentals of a society: health, education, and law and order. In other words, we have to get back to basics, concentrate on proven core industries and treat with caution hopefuls whose projected economic returns could never be audited.
I set out in this article to tell you about the things we’ve included in our wish list for the next state budget. However, I quickly realised that a lot of the things we’ve outlined in our submission are not new. In fact, most of them are things we’ve been talking about for years and years and years. We have been beating our heads against the proverbial brick wall and very little happens.
If agriculture in Tasmania is to continue to be one of the key, if not the key, economic drivers of the state economy and to generate more wealth and prosperity, farmers must at least be able to compete on a level playing field with other Australian producers.
That means the incoming government, new or returned, must seriously examine the impediments that make us more and more uncompetitive, not just with international suppliers, but also with our peers on the mainland.
State-specific regulatory costs in Tasmania continue to impose significant burdens on farmers here with no evidence of any increased return. We are continually told that farmers must operate in a global market – and we do. That means our prices are set by factors well beyond our control; and we have limited capacity to claw back more of the retail dollar to cover increasing on-farm costs.
There seems to be a mindset within some parts of government that they must set the highest regulatory standards anywhere in the world regardless of the science and the impact on farm businesses. It is not clear if this bizarre disjunct is deliberate or inadvertent. What is clear is that, unless we get a more sensible approach to regulation of the agriculture sector, then many of our farms will be driven out of the industry.
This is not a scare campaign; nor is it a case of Chicken Little saying the sky is falling. It is the harsh reality of doing business in Tasmania. We are over-governed and over-regulated; and it is becoming simply unsustainable.
The regular statements coming from government and the bureaucracy indicating that red tape is not an issue in Tasmania serve only to exacerbate our frustration at this intensifying burden. So we have decided it is time to put up rather than once again be told to shut up.
In coming weeks, we intend to highlight some of the bureaucratic over-regulation imposed on farmers and other businesses. Some of the examples will make you laugh, even though in reality the situation is not funny. In the end, one extra rule, no matter how innocuous by itself, can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Our farmers deserve better than that.