Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche


White Rabbit in a Snowstorm …

*Pic: Health spending … trend …

Pic: Premier Will Hodgman and Treasurer Peter Gutwein spruik the 2016 Budget …

JOHN LAWRENCE, State Budget: Back to the barn Put away the Prozac. There are now surpluses as far as the eye can see. That is the message from this year’s State budget …

JOHN LAWRENCE: Budget pork If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. When a government announces in a Budget that it will spend extra on health next year, is that compared to: 1. what has been spent in the current year?; or 2. what it intended to spend a year ago? In the case of health the answer is 2 …

AMA: A State Budget doesn’t make a healthy public hospital system

First published May 30

There are lies, damned lies, and there are State Budget Papers … nowadays, we might call them alternative facts.

Treasurer Peter Gutwein is a very clever man. He and his team are to be applauded for putting together a very fine set of numbers, and the rest of the Cabinet can be applauded for meaning well. The more complicated question is whether fundamentally, the Budget is true, or a lie.

The centrepiece of the Budget is supposedly a reinvestment in health, but a reading of the budget papers suggests this is doubtful at best.

First a disclaimer: Budget papers are complicated. They talk about the same fundamental revenue and expenses in a dozen different ways, with a different underlying principle to each estimate. I suspect the objective is actually to obscure rather than illuminate, but let’s have a go at unpicking the story.

The first thing to realise is that the Budget is just an estimate, and often not a very good one. There are systematic errors that the government finds it convenient to ignore. Health expenditure is an area of recurring, systematic, budget errors.

An interesting Budget comparison is the 2016-17 Budget with the 2016-17 Estimated Outcome. This tells you how much money the Government now expects to spend in 2016-17 compared to how much it told us last May. To cut a long story short, the Government spent $190 million more than it Budgeted. Of this, $60 million was employee wages and $80 million was supplies and consumables. Notes indicate that this includes at least $103 million for the Tasmanian Health Service.

If the argument is that health services are going to improve, with more nurses and more beds, then the Budget papers would show a real increase in the 2017-18 Budget relative to what was actually spent in 2016-17, rather than the original (under) estimate.

They don’t.

The budget shows that employee expenses across the public sector are only expected to increase by 1.2 per cent or $28.5 million between the estimated outcome in 2016-17 and the 2017-18 Budget. This won’t cover current pay rises and means either wages are going to go backwards, or the number of employees is going to go down, or, more likely, the Budget estimates are just as inaccurate as they were last year, and the year before that.

The simple explanation is that the Government can’t control health expenditure. Between the THS, the Health Department, unions, doctors and Treasury, nobody has control, and even if they did, holding expenditure to the budget would take more political pain than a pre-election government could contemplate. It is therefore lucky that the housing boom and GST revenue increases have helped offset the higher than budgeted expenditure.

Rather than being generous, announcing increased Budget allocations are necessary just to maintain current levels of actual spending and activity. If there are actually going to be new beds and nurses, then it will cost even more.

If health expenditure is actually running $100 million ahead of budget, or will be soon when the new beds are opened, then our surplus of $50 million each year is probably a deficit of $50 million each year.

And the election war chest has just evaporated.

Corrupt practices, like we have seen in TasTAFE and previously the THS, are made easier in an environment where budgets are a work of creative fantasy. Perhaps the Integrity Commission should investigate?

*White Rabbit is known to the Editor

EARLIER on Tasmanian Times …

The Treasurer’s Speech: ‘Building Tasmania’s Future’

Dr Frank Nicklason’s analysis: ‘Spectacular fail for patients and staff is outrageous …’

Labor will use savings to prioritise health funding

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]


  1. john Hayward

    June 3, 2017 at 12:23 am

    #13, TGC. Sorry, but explanations are currently available only in English. Ask for help.

    John Hayward

  2. TGC

    June 1, 2017 at 12:46 pm

    #13 may have to explain further- but it appears #13 is not a fan of this appointment.
    Because #13 is an honourable person the reasons must be respected- what are they?

  3. john Hayward

    June 1, 2017 at 1:08 am

    #12, TGC. For stunning evidence of the abysmal depths to which the Tas govt appointments bar has fallen. I invite you to reflect on the one I referred to in #11.

    John Hayward

  4. TGC

    May 31, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    Oh no #10 ‘your man’ has to do much more than that- getting consultant’s fees whilst carrying no real responsibility or having any ‘skin in the game’ is easy-peasy. He may well be the most highly qualified ‘economist’ in Tasmania (Australia?) but as we all know economic modelling and economic programmes mostly have to be tested against what the electorate will put up with-what the electorate will tolerate before it kicks the ‘brilliant economist/Treasurer out.
    And #10 it’d be useful for you to list those
    “crony consultants who have no expertise whatsoever.” and on whom you say “Our Government spends millions”- and they probably do.
    You obviously have considerable inside knowledge of their ‘crone’ and their ‘(in)expertise.
    Share it with us with a few examples.

  5. John Hayward

    May 31, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    It has long been recognised that the planet’s magnetic polarities can reverse.

    It has even longer been intuited that humanity’s moral and intellectual polarities can likewise go haywire. Tasmania is a hotspot.

    The latest evidence is yesterday’s announcement that the lawyer at the heart of the thwarted Waking in Fright gambit has been appointed to the Launceston Magistracy(!).

    In Tas, Halloween is a year-round affair.

    John Hayward

  6. John Hawkins

    May 31, 2017 at 12:45 pm

    Trevor Coweel #9

    You are always playing the prat.

    Our Government spends millions on crony consultants who have no expertise whatsoever.

    I am sure John would hate to sit in the parliament but would agree to being a properly paid consultant to a Government well out of its depth in a field that he has mastered and made his own.

  7. TGC

    May 31, 2017 at 12:17 am

    #8 “With such a competent man waiting in the wings..?
    ‘Competent’ he may be-but is he capable of being elected to a position where his ‘competency’ is tested against the harsh reality of the ballot box.
    At least the present Treasurer stands or falls- probably #8’s preference- by the decisions he makes in the face of competing interests.
    Is #8’s man up to the challenge? Unlikely-much more comfortable out here on TT.

  8. John Hawkins

    May 30, 2017 at 11:28 pm

    We are all blessed to have an independent voice in the Budget wilderness who can call our innumerate pollies to account.

    Gutwein ‘s budget surplus – having read John’s critique – is made up of dodgy book entries based on theft from poor old TT line.

    With such a competent man waiting in the wings you would think that either party would call on John for his expert advice.

    What say you Gutwein … or are you too proud?

  9. Alan Mason

    May 30, 2017 at 5:34 pm


    You post fake news.

    Its actually:

    “Public servants will receive annual pay increases of $1000 under a new wages policy announced by Premier Mark McGowan today.
    The new policy, which replaces the previous limit of 1.5 per cent increases, will result in an extra $19.20 a week for public sector employees.
    It is expected to save the budget $518 million over the next four years.”


    Sounds like good fiscal management to me.

  10. John Wade

    May 30, 2017 at 5:23 pm

    Be aware @4 that many Public Servants in Australia have not had a rise for over 4 years and are being threatened with losing entitlements even if they agree to a meagre 2% pay rise.

  11. TGC

    May 30, 2017 at 3:50 pm

    All governments and all political parties priotise health because apart from taxes and dying getting sick is an absolute certainty and getting health care a desperate electoral need/demand.
    But- no-one wants to pay for it either by direct taxation or indirect- ‘Medicare levies’
    Objectors on TT -and the myriad other media grumble sheets- to (any) government’s Budget are
    ‘free lunch’ devotees with the added demand that they get paid for eating the free lunch.

  12. Leonard Colquhoun

    May 30, 2017 at 1:48 pm

    “Labor will use savings to prioritise health funding” – is this the same Australian Labor Party whose WA government just decided to “prioritise” its own employees getting a ten percent pay rise, when everyone else gets far less?

  13. Chris

    May 28, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    The solution is easy just supply double the number of Fergie pillows and then the scum, oops public, can top and tail or be made comfortable with two beds per sickie.
    De Nile is a big river in Egypt and Oblivious is a minister in Abetzland of the rigged ticket
    Well may we say the hospitals are modern and adequate because no one will save the bumbling munster for elf.
    With Rocky on the ascendancy, backed by Erica Betz, Wee Willy will be washed out of the system for non compliance with Otto’s agenda as Rocky and the eastern friend of the Brethren push their worlds best practice in blue whale farming.
    Sounds fishy to me!

  14. Mike Bolan

    May 28, 2017 at 2:18 pm

    2 key points –

    1) Why does the government force public system users to pay for government staff and politicians to use the private system? Don’t they have confidence in the public system? And does this elitism result in a lack of care by public systems managers because they know they are safe from any problems that they create in the public system?

    2) If the Rabbit’s claims are correct (and with a name like that why wouldn’t they be?) then the massive accounting, bureaucratic, expensive and detailed apparatus run by the government doesn’t work. Why are we keeping it?

  15. john hayward

    May 28, 2017 at 1:03 pm

    As expected, the White Rabbit leads us down his hole to Wonderland, where we meet a LibLab Humpty Dumpty stand-in who claims the standard absolute right to define reality in his own terms. He looks exactly like Gutwein.

    It’s a great childrens story. A plurality of Tasmanian voters never seem to tire of it.

    John Hayward

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