Tasmanian Times

Economy

Things have to change …

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:

http://www.tfga.com.au/index.php/download_file/view/835/219/TFGA_2014_15_State_Budget_Submission.pdf?file=TFGA_2014_15_State_Budget_Submission.pdf

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.

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Harry Higgins

    November 23, 2013 at 11:45 pm

    I was having a chat to a young farmer today. He has a nice batch of fat lambs to sell soon. Problem is,they have to be sold before the Bridgewater saleyards shut down at the end of this year. If he waits until the new year, the stock will have to be transported to the Powranna saleyards at great cost. When I questioned this scenario, I was informed that Roberts Ltd., owners of the Bridgewater site, made this decision for ‘efficiency’ reasons. Apparently the site will be abandoned, but other potential operators will not be allowed to take over the infrastructure. Just like the King Island meatworks closure, one company can cause major damage to the rural economy. This weak government does not appear to give a hoot about the many small producers in the south of the state, otherwise this ridiculous scenario would never be allowed to happen. Any comments, Jan?

  2. Frank Strie Terra-Preta Developments

    November 23, 2013 at 1:46 am

    RE: “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.”

    Here is my suggestion:
    Agribusiness urged to back biochar in Tasmania

    Carbon economy with biochar at its heart

    Posted Fri 22 Nov 2013, 5:05pm AEDT
    Consultant, Frank Strie wants to see a carbon economy flourish in Tasmania with biochar at its heart
    Source: ABC Rural | Duration: 6min 55sec
    LINK: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-11-22/agribusiness-biochar-tas/5111626

    AND: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-11-22/agribusiness-biochar-tas/5111096

    Topics: climate-change, gardening, sustainable-and-alternative-farming, alternative-energy, recycling-and-waste-management,

  3. mike seabrook

    November 23, 2013 at 12:17 am

    how much are wedge tail eagles worth

    Duke Energy Renewables Guilty Plea Nets Big Fine For Bird-Killing Wind Turbines
    Posted: 11/22/2013 7:31 pm EST

    Share on Google+
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    FOLLOW: Birds, American Wind Energy Association, Department Of Justice, Duke Energy, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Awea, Golden Eagles, Wind Farms, Wind Power, Wind Turbines, Wyoming, Politics News
    WASHINGTON –- Duke Energy’s renewables division will pay $1 million in fines and restitution for unlawfully killing golden eagles and other threatened birds with its wind turbines, the Department of Justice announced Friday in its first criminal enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

    Duke Energy Renewables Inc., a subsidiary of North Carolina-based Duke Energy Corp., pleaded guilty to violating the federal law that protects hundreds of bird species.

    The company admitted killing 14 golden eagles and 149 other protected birds, including hawks, blackbirds, larks, wrens and sparrows, at two sites in Converse County, Wyo., from 2009 to 2013.

    “This case represents the first criminal conviction under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act for unlawful avian takings at wind projects,” Robert G. Dreher, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, said in a statement.

    Duke “acknowledges that it constructed these wind projects in a manner it knew beforehand would likely result in avian deaths,” but since then has taken steps to “minimize the hazard,” Dreher said.

    The company’s plea agreement with the government requires it to pay the fine and to put in place a plan to prevent bird deaths at its four commercial wind farms in Wyoming. Duke Energy Renewables will be on probation for five years. The penalty will be paid to conservation groups that include the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund, the Wyoming Game & Fish Department, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

    “Our goal is to provide the benefits of wind energy in the most environmentally responsible way possible,” Greg Wolf, president of Duke Energy Renewables, said in a statement. “We deeply regret the impacts to golden eagles at two of our wind facilities. We have always self reported all incidents, and from the time we discovered the first fatality, we’ve been working closely with the Fish and Wildlife Service to take proactive steps to correct the problem.”

    The American Wind Energy Association, the lobbying group representing the industry, issued a statement arguing that wind energy’s impact on birds is not that significant. “This agreement will help advance the knowledge of wind wildlife interactions to further reduce the industry’s relatively small impacts,” the group said.

    “No form of energy generation, or human activity for that matter, is completely free of impacts and wind energy is no exception,” said the statement. It pointed to a 2009 study from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority that found that wind energy has a lower impact overall on birds than other energy sources.

    Bird and wildlife conservationists often favor renewable power, but wind turbines can have a brutal effect on birds without mitigation. George Fenwick, president of American Bird Conservancy, acknowledged this tension in a statement.

    “Wind energy is not green if it is killing hundreds of thousands of birds,” Fenwick said. “We are pro-wind and pro-alternative energy, but development needs to be bird smart. The unfortunate reality is that the flagrant violations of the law seen in this case are widespread.”

  4. TGC

    November 22, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    #2 is honest enough to say “the system’s broken” and that should be good enough for everyone.
    About the only thing missing from this perception is the solution- and we can be confident #2 has it.
    Just a matter of getting it in writing we can all understand then implement it- and surely we would all support #2’s recommendations?
    By Christmas we could be entering a brave new world!

  5. Shaun

    November 22, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    A few days ago I bought some wood pellets. Nothing fancy, just normal wood pellets for running a pellet-burning heater.

    This lot was made in New Zealand by what I assume to be a privately owned company (that’s what a quick Google search of the name on the bags brings up).

    The previous load of pellets was also from New Zealand but made by a NZ government owned company.

    So let me get this straight. We’ve got rather a lot of wood in Tasmania and shipped millions of tonnes of the stuff overseas in the form of woodchips over a period of 40 years. And yet we import wood pellets, a simple product to make, from New Zealand.

    That logic is why we’re in trouble. Not much more can be said really.

  6. phill Parsons

    November 22, 2013 at 9:59 am

    Aotearoa New Zealand agriculture has the advantage of a lower dollar driving the dairy industry. It also appeared to have larger scale producers. On the other hand where the landscape dictated sheep abounded. Then there was tourism which appeared to be the other industry.

    No two places are alike but the parallels in the regional towns of empty shops was clear. I couldn’t imagine these results were driven by over regulation when the country seems so can do.

    Artisanal production for the local market was apparent and the product was diverse and first grade, not the export rejects often on offer locally.

    Regulation is not simply something that affects businesses, its impacts run right through a society.

    By all means lobby for change but you cannot discount external factors or long standing insular attitudes in defining the success of Tasmania’s economy.

  7. Karl Stevens

    November 21, 2013 at 10:39 pm

    Agree with Russell above. Also, there is a limit with what you can do with 19 parliamentarians hanging around your neck like dead rabbits. Count them Jan? Who is going to fix that little problem? There is only so far you can go into the vortex without losing your farm, your career and even your sanity. None of them understand. They just keep doodling away in the margins between banquets and extended trough-sessions.
    They don’t even need you Jan. They can get their offal cheaper from China.
    The system is too broken to fix and there is nobody honest enough to say it.

  8. Russell

    November 21, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    “how we trail all other states and even the Northern Territory in some economic indicators, education outcomes, etc.”

    Have you even been to the NT or Darwin, Jan?

    If you had you wouldn’t be comparing the “can-do, get out of the way” attitude of Territorians to the “woe is me, can I have another handout” apathy of Tasmanians.

    Why is this Jan? Why now has the NT one of the lowest, if not the lowest, unemployment rates in Australia while Tasmania has the highest?

    Well, the NT used to have Tasmania’s pathetic performance numbers until Kakadu, Litchfield Park, Uluru, etc. opened the NT up for business and in flowed a younger generation of Australians in the early 1990s who wanted more in life and were given the Government encouragement and assistance required to start new innovative businesses while not clinging to a neanderthal past. And yes Jan, you can include a massive expansion in agriculture.

    You’re not over-governed in agriculture, Jan. You’re over-represented in unsustainable not-for-profit backward mass paper-pulp tree-farming.

    Driving towards Melbourne from Geelong the other week, I was passed by a B-double truckload of Brazilian paper. The writing has been on the wall for a long long time. It’s time Tasmania learned to read.

    If so much Tasmanian and Commonwealth money wasn’t wasted on propping up the welfare-dependent paper-pulp tree-farming sector, your real farmers wouldn’t be hit with all these extra costs to pay for it, and they may even be getting more of it invested in real commodities. Think Asia and dairy products (eg: Warrnambool Dairies).

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