Tasmania: the green growth state

Speaking at Hobart’s 2020 Economic and Political Overview event in one of his first public addresses since his appointment, Premier of Tasmania, the Hon. Peter Gutwein, touted Tasmania's economic growth and promoted his state’s leadership on renewable energy, calling it “the next important revolution that we will see in terms of development and opportunity here in Tasmania.”

Mr Gutwein highlighted the success of his government’s policies in boosting economic growth and consumer confidence in the state.

“In terms of state final demand, in terms of growth, we lead the rest of the country. That’s a fantastic position to be in for a small jurisdiction like Tasmania.

“We also lead the country in business confidence. For a small jurisdiction like this, confidence is king.  And if businesses are feeling confident, if consumers are feeling confident, then our economy works very well. I’m pleased that the private sector has responded to the government’s policies.”

Mr Gutwein credited the Tasmanian private sector with the jobs growth the state has seen over the past five years.

“The public sector and our government businesses have played a role, but ultimately it’s because of the private sector having the courage to invest to employ. What we’re seeing now is much greater opportunity for Tasmanians.”

The Premier also discussed the challenges and opportunities that Tasmania’s growing population have brought.
“The population growth that we’re seeing at the moment is the highest annual growth in the state in 30 years. It’s growing at twice the long-term trend rate.

“What’s really interesting and important is that we’re seeing a broader mix in that growth. We’re now seeing a higher percentage of younger families and young professionals coming to Tasmania. I think that as we continue with our infrastructure program rollout that we announced in last year’s budget we will see an increase in the number of trades people and engineers.”

Mr Gutwein says that the growth in business confidence and population is supporting investment in the state.
“We have the strongest housing sector in terms of growth compared to anywhere else in the country. We’re seeing more houses come out of the ground…and that’s been a very strong underpinning of our broader economy.

“We have a very strong GSP (Gross State Product) in Tasmania. I was pleased to see last year that we were growing faster than Victoria and almost twice as fast as New South Wales in terms of GSP. This comes back to the confidence that we have in our businesses, in our community and importantly the fact that we have businesses that are prepared to invest, underpinned by a growing population.”

For further proof of the success of the Tasmanian economy, the Premier pointed to the recent mid-year economic update in which Treasury revised up all of the forecasts for this year’s budget.

Mr Gutwein went on to discuss the recent economic challenges presented by coronavirus and the bushfires.
“The impact that we are seeing (from coronavirus) is largely on those businesses that rely primarily on the Chinese market. Obviously, we have a number of smaller businesses that focus on Chinese visitation and we are working closely with them.

“One of the things that Tasmania relies on is our universities and our international students… It’s been reported that over 1300 students have not been able to make it back into Tasmania when the travel restrictions were first put in place, but at this stage less than a handful of students have not re-signed into courses and over 80 per cent have engaged online.”

He said that while the coronavirus will negatively impact the economy “there will be a bounce back that will come once the restrictions are lifted and people start to find their way back into our economy.”

The Premier highlighted the impact that the declining GST pool will have on the Tasmanian economy.

“Last year in the budget, I noted that there were headwinds and that confidence had fallen, particularly in the Victorian and New South Wales property markets which we’ve heard this morning have bounced back quicker than expected.

“The lack of confidence played into consumer sentiment; we were seeing less spending and therefore the GST pool was written down. We wrote down our GST receipts by around $500 million last year and just recently in the media report I wrote them down by another $270 million… This may have an impact on Tasmania, but we won’t know until we get closer to the budget.”

The Premier then turned to discussion of the recent bushfire crisis.

“We were very fortunate in that the carnage and the devastation that befell the eastern seaboard and other states wasn’t felt here to anywhere near that extent. We had some fires, but we reacted quickly.

“I was speaking with the Treasurers of Victoria and New South Wales last week; Victoria lost over five million hectares, New South Wales more than five million and Queensland was up there too. Looking around the country the devastation was at a level that we haven’t seen in this country, certainly not with the intensity that occurred.

“The question that we have to face up to and consider is what can we do in Tasmania today to ensure that we are ready for the next season’s bushfires? What are the adaptation measures that we need to take? What are the things that we need to do to make certain that if it does occur that we’ve done everything that we possibly can to protect life, to protect property, to protect infrastructure, to protect the environment?”

After addressing growth in the healthcare sector and recent reforms to the State Service Act, Mr Gutwein reflected on Tasmania’s role in mitigating climate change and preparing for future disasters.

“It is really important that we face up to the challenges and accept that we do have a variable, volatile climate and what we do now over the next six to nine months is going to be very important in terms of standing us in good stead for the coming summer period.

“In terms of the story that we have been telling, in terms of where Tasmania stands on climate change, I don’t think we have been loud enough. If you look at Tasmania’s position, and this is not just due to this government, it has been worked on for decades in this state, we are in a position where we are one of the lowest net emitters, not just in this country, but in the world. We were the first state to hit zero net emissions in 2016 based on 1990 levels. No one else in this country will get close to that.

“We generate around 25 per cent of the country’s renewable energy and it’s something that we should be enormously proud of. By 2020 we will be 100 per cent renewable post-2022 and we will be increasing the percentage share that we can provide to the rest of the country.

“We are so well placed in Tasmania in terms of renewable energy – I think it will be the next important revolution that we see in terms of development and opportunity here in Tasmania as that progresses.”

He also spoke about the importance of fuel mitigation burns in Tasmania’s fire prevention strategy moving forward.

“We have taken great steps forward in terms of the fuel mitigation strategy that we introduced six years ago and with the amount of fuel mitigation burns that we have undertaken, but there is still more to be done.”

He acknowledged that fuel reduction will grow more challenging moving forward, but said that there was still a pressing need to “make decisions today that are going to stand our community in good stead when we get to the point where the fire does come over the hill.”

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Economic and Political Overview
The event was part of the national series to launch the Economic and Political Overview report. Read and download the report here