Saturday, November 01, 2008

From beggars to choosers

Tasmanians are the poorest Australians.  According to Australian Bureau of Statistics data, Tasmanians have a per capita gross state product of just $39,160.

Mean household net worth is $135,326 less than the Australian average.

True, the unemployment rate has rapidly fallen to 4 per cent -- lower than the national average -- but the participation rate remains below the national average.

Bear in mind, it was only last year that Tasmania had unemployment at about 5 per cent.

Overall Tasmanians receive more in social security than they pay in federal income taxes.

Of course, Tasmania is a massive recipient of Commonwealth grants and subsidies.  That is the Tasmanian status quo.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to maintain the status quo.

In his 1997 review of Tasmania, Peter Nixon spoke of an overwhelming inertia and the State Government response to the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry paper is evidence of that.

Of course, nobody likes criticism, even perceived criticism, and the Tasmanian Government is no different.

We have no desire to exchange unpleasantries with the Tasmanian Government.

Our paper Tasmania:  An Imperative for Reform is simply a call for debate.  As we suggest, Tasmanians have the right to choose their economic destiny.

But how many Tasmanians have a sound understanding of their current economic situation?  It is simply nonsense to argue, as Michael Aird has, that we are calling for higher taxes on Tasmanians.

Tasmanians are -- as are all Australians -- already over-taxed.

Our argument is that Tasmania needs to be more economically self-sufficient.

The way to do that is to grow the Tasmanian economy, not increase taxes.

There are plenty of important reasons why that should happen.

The most important reason is that we live in a community not an economy.

It is only by having a sound, robust economy that Tasmanians will be free to pursue the well-rounded fulfilling lives that they want for themselves and their children.

Tasmania has some unique features.  Growing the economy needs to take into account the existing natural environment and the existing lifestyle choices of Tasmanians.

That is why we have called for an open and wide-ranging debate.

The same old business-as-usual approach that Michael Aird represents is a valid option.

Of course, we can all play debating games-this number is no good or that graph is better, or the ABS data is not up-to-date.

The point remains that Tasmania could do a lot better in both economic and community terms.

In defence of the State Government, they are severely constrained by the centralist tendencies of the Commonwealth.

All state governments are in the same boat.

Overall, the Tasmanian Government, like all state governments, has fallen for the financial divide-and-conquer strategies of successive Commonwealth governments.

It is really time to think outside the square and imagine ways of becoming more self-reliant.

Our argument is that Tasmanians can improve their lives and standing in the Commonwealth through different policy choices, but those policy choices need community debate, acceptance, and a willingness to challenge the assumptions of the status quo.

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