Tasmania must diversify to build international competitiveness, Tasmanian Minister for State Growth the Hon. Matthew Groom has told CEDA’s Economic and Political Overview (EPO) in Hobart.
“We must facilitate a range of traditional and new industries to build international competitiveness in a way that creates robust, outward looking businesses,” he said.
On the long term strategy for engagement in the region, Mr Groom said they will continue to grow key areas.
“We are seeking investments to grow capacity in key sectors such as agriculture including dairy, mining and resources, higher education and tourism,” he said.
“Over the last year the Tasmanian economy has experienced modest but real growth driven largely by a rebound in construction and also tourism,” he said.
Mr Groom said tourism will be a focus area for the State Government this year.
“2015 will see us working with developers to realise projects that will help us grow the number to our target of 1.5 million visitors a year by 2020,” he said.
On proposed new developments Mr Groom said it is important to provide easier access for tourists to heritage and wilderness areas.
“We called for developers and tourism operators to submit expressions of interest for sensitive and appropriate tourism developments in our national parks and the world heritage area,” he said.
“We want to attract ideas that are genuinely sensitive to the natural and cultural values of the areas in question.”
Mr Groom said development proposals will go through transparent and detailed assessments.
Also speaking at the event, ABC Tasmania Journalist and Presenter, Airlie Ward said tourism is an important and expanding industry.
“There is no doubt that tourism is a shining light for the state,” she said.
Ms Ward said the Government’s tourism plan must be carefully managed.
“Part of that plan includes opening up more national parks and the world heritage area to some development,” she said.
“It would certainly help boost the economy but it will have to be handled incredibly carefully.”
Ms Ward said the Government also needs to focus on other policy areas.
“Tasmania does need to diversify and increase its revenue base,” she said.
“Some would argue it needs to review the State’s taxation system.”
ANZ Banking Group Senior Economist, Cherelle Murphy said Tasmania has benefitted from the drop in the Australian dollar with tourism numbers increasing.
“Tasmania…seems to be getting a greater share of the tourism pie,” she said.
“Traditional Queensland and NSW visits seem to be at least a little bit replaced by Tasmanian visits.”
On the broader economic outlook, Ms Murphy said the latest Tasmanian economic data has been quite positive.
“While it has come from a low base and while it is constrained by structural issues such as the State’s demographic, Tasmania’s turning around and doing reasonably well and will hopefully continue to do so,” she said.
Discussing trade, Austrade Chief Economist, Mark Thirwell said in the past decade exports to East Asia have dramatically increased.
“We’ve seen a very dramatic re-orientation of our whole trade profile,” he said.
International growth has now slowed and the international economy dynamic is changing.
“We’ve moving…to a new sort of growth model, one where there’s relatively lower emphasis on investment, relatively lower emphasis on exports and greater emphasis on consumption,” he said.
Mr Thirwell said the direction of trade won’t shift with Australia still focussed on growth economies.
“We’ll still see our key trading partners be in the region and around us although we’ll still have some of our traditional ties back to some of the other players too,” he said.
On the Federal political climate, University of Tasmania Institute for the Study of Social Change Director, Professor Richard Eccleston said Federal challenges will impact Tasmania and bipartisan support is needed to solve issues.
“On some of the key issues and challenges we faced in the 1980s…financial deregulation…reducing tarrifs there was a tasset bipartisan consensus,” he said.
“We need to try to recreate that and once we have stakeholders in most major parties agreeing on the broad parameters of reform then I think we’re in a position to build a political case for policy change.”
Mr Eccleston said it is unlikely that the Prime Minister’s leadership can recover with Malcolm Turnbull emerging as an alternative.
“I suspect that Tony Abbott’s leadership is doomed as we know once leadership becomes the issue, it becomes a self-reinforcing cycle,” he said.
“I suspect there will be a second leadership spill and there may well be a change in leader.”
CEDA's Economic and Political Overview (EPO) is Australia's premier publication and series of briefings on the Australian economy and politics for the year ahead. Running for more than 30 years, the EPO brings together political, economic and business leaders and provides CEDA members with business intelligence on the environment they will be operating in over the next 12 months.
CEDA's 2015 EPO will provide economic and political forecasts and also examine funding options from the finance sector and some proposed market-based reforms and equity issues in Australia.