Speaking about his government’s response in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Premier Gutwein says the decision to “capitalise on our unique island advantage” and “go hard and early on border restrictions” helped ensure the safety of the population. He also spoke of the “difficult decision to put in place first stage restrictions on businesses, with significant impacts on our tourism and hospitality sectors as a result of the closures.”
“We have no doubt that these initiatives, given our state has an older and more vulnerable population, saved lives,” he said.
Premier Gutwein outlined the economic toll that COVID-19 and the responses it required have had on the Tasmanian economy.
“In April, retail trade fell by 17 per cent. By May, around 20,000 Tasmanian jobs had been lost, including around 28 per cent of hospitality jobs. Treasury was forecasting an unemployment rate of around 12.25 per cent in June, and a budget with significant deficits and net debt,” he said.
Premier Gutwein said that his government’s economic response, which he noted was the “largest in the nation” as a proportion of GSP, helped sustain the state economy.
“Our social and economic support responded to the health crisis and cushioned the economic impacts by using our balance sheet as an economic stabiliser, while complementing Commonwealth supports, including JobKeeper, JobSeeker, and cash flow and investment support,” he said.
Premier Gutwein discussed further measures his government was taking to stimulate the state economy, including the announced $3.1 billion Construction Blitz and the fast-tracked $7.1 billion investment in two major renewable energy projects: Project Marinus and Battery of the Nation. He also discussed changes to regulatory approvals aimed at accelerating investment.
“Our businesses are already adapting,” Premier Gutwein said.
“Recent national confidence surveys from Sensis confirms that Tasmanian businesses are the most positive in the country about our state economy, and NAB has found we have the best business conditions in the nation.
“With confidence returning, and the easing of restrictions, Tasmania is getting back to work. 16,000 Tasmanians are back in work since the height of the pandemic in May. That’s over 80 per cent of the Tasmanians who lost their job have now returned to work or found a new job. Interestingly, there are now 6,600 more Tasmanians in work than this time last year.
“While JobKeeper and JobSeeker are playing their part, we have the lowest unemployment rate in the country at 6.3%,” he said.
The Premier said that the upcoming State Budget and the plans to “sensibly ease restrictions” should push the recovery along further.
“Right now we are living through a period of significant change and uncertainty not before seen on this scale in global history,” he said.
“In generations to come, people will look back at Tasmania and on the events of 2020. It is my hope that they will say it was a state which did all it could to save lives, to support Tasmanians, their businesses and their livelihoods.”