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Saul Eslake’s assessment of the State Budget
16.06.08 2:20 am1 comments
Saul Eslake Chief Economist ANZ
Assessment of the 2008-09 Tasmanian State Budget delivered by Treasurer Michael Aird on Thursday, last week.
It seems to me that an analysis of Eslake’s article would have us conclude that the pulp mill is not of vital concern to this state. The employment myth is buried, and it seems as if he, Treasury and the new Govt think that the state will manage very nicely without it. Have a look at the following extracts from his report:
Pulp Mill Predictions Invalid
“A further risk noted by Treasury is that ‘some major investment projects scheduled to commence in Tasmania are delayed or cancelled’. Although it is not mentioned specifically in this context, the Gunns pulp mill could come into this category. Last year’s Budget assumed that the commencement of construction work at Longreach in the first half of 2007-08 would boost employment growth by ¼%. That assumption turned out to be invalid, yet the employment forecast appears to have been achieved and unemployment actually fell by more than forecast.”
Pulp Mill Delay – No Measurable Impact on Consumer and Business Confidence
“Treasury’s perspective on this risk is worth quoting in full: “A decade ago, a delay in a major project, or the closure of a major employer, would have had a measurable impact on consumer and business confidence, and in some cases would have affected some major economic indicators. By contrast, economic activity and employment growth in Tasmania have remained strong in Tasmania over the past year, despite closures such as the Telstra call centre in Launceston and the Blundstone boot factory in Moonah, which altogether have shed 500 jobs. This reflects the high demand for labour, and for skilled workers in particular, and provides evidence that Tasmania’s economic performance is likely to remain strong, even if some major projects do not proceed as currently expected’ (emphasis added).”
“Elsewhere Treasury notes that the skilled labour shortages in the context of greater labour mobility between different parts of Australia and Tasmania’s relatively unfavourable demographic profile (compared with other States) may be a constraint on future investment growth in Tasmania”.
Pulp Mill No Longer Seen As Priority?”
“As it has been since the last election, health was again a big ‘winner’ in this year’s Budget. This year’s Budget was also notable for the significant uplift in infrastructure spending – something for which there is considerable justification and capacity. Although David Bartlett assumed the Premiership only a couple of weeks ago, there are some hints of his priorities in the new education and IT initiatives funded in the Budget, and (perhaps also) in the absence of any explicit mention of the Tamar Valley pulp mill in the Budget Speech or of any funding for infrastructure associated with it”.
What I would like to see in the Budget is an analysis of the costs to this state of the timber industry. I would also like to see an explanation of the ‘boom’ that we have had. What I have read seems to be more descriptive, than explanatory. Was it govt policies did it? Or was it the land boom fuelled by mainland pressures? Was it Tasmanians kicking it off, without waiting for the Government? The irony is that here in the Tamar, things were moving along pretty nicely, it was becoming interesting up here, till that silly proposal for a mill, of such a size and in such a place.
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