15 March 2012
of the Legislative Council
FOLLOWING THE PREMIER'S ADDRESS
FINCH (Rosevears) - Madam
President, how do you read Tasmania's current position? We are not in
a very good state. That is the state of the State, isn't it, we are
in a bit of a mess. So we are throwing jobs out the window faster
than we are creating them. Suddenly we have a budget problem that
seemingly could not have been foreseen. Well, why not? I am not an
economist, Madam President, and thank goodness for that. But surely a
drop in GST and other revenues could have been foreseen some years
Hall - It was.
FINCH - They were, in
2008 other signals were there.
Forrest - Well, the GFC
was already hitting then; the GFC was already well known then.
FINCH - Yes, so why do
Parkinson - I didn't hear
you talking about them in 2008.
Forrest - I did, the
FINCH - When you are
PRESIDENT - Thank you,
the member for Rosevears has the Floor.
- So the question I have is, why do Tasmanians, as taxpayers, pay
for economists in Treasury and Government if they cannot plan for an
obvious future downturn in revenue, and do it well?
Forrest - Well, they did,
but then they took the handbrake off when the election was on -
FINCH - Yes, that is
right. So you know, why has it suddenly become apparent to Treasury
and the Government that Tasmania is in a financial mess, and that
nurses and other qualified people have to be thrown on the scrap
heap? Why could not this situation have been dealt with gradually,
more gradually? Do our Treasury and government leaders go into denial
until the last minute? Surely, Madam President, we pay economic
advisers to look ahead, even if it is only for a financial year or
two, and advise government accordingly. So I know it is hard to be an
economist, and I indicated my aversion to the role earlier, but I
cannot help thinking that those highly paid economists and recipients
of their advice have let the Tasmanian people down.
household, Madam President, can just look ahead for a few months or
even years. They can assess future income and expenditure, as we have
to do, and you have to plan accordingly, do not live beyond your
means. Then the normal household can reduce spending over a long
period in a sustainable way which then causes, for the family,
minimum harm. It seems our State Government cannot do that. If you
can see your income is going to be lower over the next few years,
well you immediately cut expenditure, not bury your head in the sand
until the situation is so dire that you have to start selling off the
family home. It seems the Tasmanian Government does not have that
simple domestic skill. However, Madam President, be that as it may,
we are in a situation where jobs in health and other areas are being
cut. It is a simple economic fact that when someone loses their job,
they also lose their ability to spend. This in turn further depresses
our economy and does not impress the likes of Gerry Harvey.
President, every job that is lost may save the wages bill but
ultimately that will weaken our economy. Other types of efficiencies
may be another matter.
domestic product - GDP - figures released earlier this month made for
depressing reading. Australia's economic growth in the December
quarter slowed to just 0.4 per cent. State figures indicated that
both Tasmania and South Australia were in recession and Victoria was
on the brink of one. However, this, while academic, is debatable
because State figures do not necessarily indicate the definition of a
recession. Economist Saul Eslake explained this in an article in
Tuesday morning's Examiner.
I know that others have quoted Saul Eslake and how handy it is to
have that overall assessment of how we are going in Tasmania and to
have his keen interest in what we are doing in this State. This is a
quote that I took from it; it is quite a long one but it does
explain, in his words, the situation:
commentators look, in order to determine whether an economy is in a
recession, to see whether there have been two or more consecutive
quarters of negative growth in the volume of goods and services
produced - that is, in what (for a nation as a whole) is called real
gross domestic product or GDP.
the Australian Bureau of Statistics produces state-based estimates of
real GDP (which it calls 'gross state product' or GSP) for financial
is where it complicates things.
we can't use this rule of thumb to ascertain whether Tasmania (or any
other state) is in recession.
bureau does publish, along with its quarterly estimates of GDP for
Australia as a whole (such as were released last Wednesday for the
December quarter of 2011), estimates of what it calls 'state final
demand', which is the sum of spending by households, businesses and
governments (including government-owned businesses) in each state.
those estimates, by definition, don't include interstate or
international trade, some commentators say that a state economy is in
recession if this measure of state final demand declines in real
terms or two or more quarters in a row.'
hear about that so often. Probably the member for Murchison goes
through that from time to time. That is not in Saul Eslake's
Forrest - I'm not
surprised it's not in his writing.
this partial yardstick, Tasmania's economy isn't in recession,
because although Tasmania did experience two declines in state final
demand last year, they were in the June and December quarters, with a
(quite large) increase in the September quarter in between.
is, there haven't been consecutive quarters of negative growth in
Tasmanian state final demand.'
is the quote from Saul Eslake. It may not be a technical recession,
Madam President, but it feels like one.
Forrest - Through you,
Madam President - I would like to quote the next bit that he said
when he uses a measure that he has devised looking at the employment
figures and participation rates. According to that measure that he is
providing around that, he said that Tasmania is in recession. So, it
depends - whether we are or not, it is certainly very challenging.
FINCH - Yes. I would not
want to be an economist.
reports last week blamed the high interest rates and government
spending cuts. Yes, obviously cutting government spending slows
economic growth and, in Tasmania, it is contributing to a recession.
However, if government revenue drops, so must spending, and the
immediate future is looking grim. At the same time as the poor GDP
figures were released last week, Treasury secretary, Martin
Parkinson, revealed that Federal and State revenues are now in crisis
with tax collections down by 4 per cent of GDP, almost $60 billion a
year, and unlikely to return to former levels for many years to come,
we heard from the Premier this morning.
Rattray - Likely to be a
FINCH - Likely to be a
decade, but Mr Parkinson warned of more pain ahead, saying:
both levels of government surpluses are likely to remain, at best,
razor thin without deliberate efforts to significantly increase
revenue or reduce expenditure'.
President, the State Government has now been warned if it was not
already. It may be a utopian concept and I might be economically
but I cannot help thinking that we are failing to manage our economy
State Budget - let us hope things will look better on 17 May, but
things are also dire in the private sector of course. Just looking
across the Tamar from my electorate to the member for Windermere's
area, we have Temco on the brink, Rio Tinto Alcan or Bell Bay
Aluminium, as I think it has been rebadged, looking unviable in the
future and even if the pulp mill was built it would only create a
small proportion of those threatened jobs in the long term. Of course
there are construction jobs and all that would go to boost the
economy that that would bring, but in the long term there will not be
that many jobs.
Forrest - That's why we
need a diverse economy, isn't it? We can't rely on one thing. Whether
it's a pulp mill or whatever, you can't rely on one thing.
FINCH - Absolutely. Of
course threatened job losses also apply on my side of the river. The
Beaconsfield Gold Mine is expected to lose 150 jobs by the end of
June and that mine which has been going on and off for more than 100
years is unlikely to ever open again. That is the reading, whatever
happens to the price of gold.
Forrest - The gold price
is pretty good at the moment and if the mine isn't profitable now
it's unlikely to get better.
FINCH - No, there is a
sense that all the remaining viable ore has already been extracted,
so you are fiddling around with the fiddly bits, if you know what I
Mulder - Otherwise known
as small people's gold.
FINCH - I am no economist
Hall - Through you, Madam
President - with regard to your comments on the pulp mill, even
though I think you said it would only create a small amount of jobs,
obviously it would create a large amount of jobs in construction, but
not in the mill itself. The actual harvesting and all the ancillary
jobs would be quite considerable.
FINCH - Yes, point taken.
I did not feel I had to say that, but thank you very much.
far as Temco and Bell Bay Aluminium are concerned, Madam President,
when did it make sense really to bring raw materials from thousands
of kilometres away, process them with cheap electricity and then
export them a further many thousands of kilometres away?
Hall - You said cheap
FINCH - Cheap electricity
at the time. It does not make as much sense now, particularly with
transport logistics and increasing costs of transportation. Do not
mention the war.
Forrest - There's only
one other thing you're not allowed to mention.
FINCH - It has always
made better sense to use our electricity to value-add to our own raw
materials or to sell our power, and of course that leaves the
argument for another Bass Strait power cable. While on the subject of
selling power across Bass Strait that idea of a water pipeline to
Victoria has emerged again. I am pleased to see that the State
Government is keeping an open mind about that. Evidently, the
suggestion is that we would only be selling fresh water which would
flow into Bass Strait after power generation. That is a suggestion at
this time. It will be interesting to follow that.
Mulder - We already have
a pipeline that is supposed to be having gas and there's not much of
that coming down.
Rattray - Stop the gas
and use the water.
FINCH - There is another
idea, Madam President. The ideas just flow. Throw one out there and
see what comes back.
Forrest - Through you,
Madam President - I would suggest that before we put water over the
other side of the water we are talking about we should get a second
Basslink cable first.
FINCH - Yes. I did not
realise I was going to workshop this speech but it is good. I like
Mulder - This is
FINCH - Yes, you can send
a lot of water through a 6 metre diameter water pipe that goes across
to the mainland. From my reading of it, I have not researched -
Forrest - Six metre?
FINCH - Or was it six
FINCH - I know you have
told me a million times not to exaggerate, but please. A big pipe can
send a lot of water across to the mainland. I have not done extensive
Mulder - That is obvious.
FINCH - What we hear and
what we see with scant viewing on television about water generally
the issues are getting, I suppose, worse on the mainland.
Taylor - By crikey there
is no shortage of water on the mainland at the moment.
FINCH - Not at the
moment, no, but the peaks and troughs, and as we move further into
climate change and the effects of that we do not know what is going
to happen. We have a fair idea that water is going to be - like we
used to hear when we were young people - it is liquid gold and it is
becoming more so.
looking further into our present economic situation, it worries me
greatly and I am sure it worries all honourable members of the House,
that about one-third of all Tasmanians are on some form of welfare.
It is also worrying that other States resent the fact that Tasmania
receives back considerably more GST revenue that we actually
generate. I was really taken aback by the Western Australian Premier.
Forrest - They have short
FINCH - Absolutely. I
won't go down that path too far, but I just thought that that was
unnecessary and it did not help our relations at all.
Mulder - Another thing is
that the subsidies that their manufacturing industries get in those
States is a subsidy to those States that non-manufacturing States
like us don't.
FINCH - It would have
been much better if he just sat on top of the totem pole and kept his
mouth shut. I will look on the bright side of things now.
Premier's Address last Tuesday was worthy, but for me not very
inspiring. There was not a great deal about concrete job creation
policies and as T.S. Eliot once said, 'If you have a big problem set
up a committee,' but in this case there will be a white paper. I am
not knocking that idea but most Tasmanians would prefer something a
little more concrete than a white paper.
Chlorine-bleached white paper.
FINCH - Thank you. There
wasn't really anything new in the talk of the Asian century. That
started in 2000 or even earlier.
Hall - That was Paul
FINCH - It has been
around a long time.
Taylor - But the century
started in 2000.
FINCH - Mind you, I did
make a point earlier by way of interjection when I said that in
listening to the discussion with Simon Crean, Bill Kelty and Lindsay
Fox we were hearing about the projections for the future, only scant
details, but one of those that resonated with me was the growth in
people who want to have middle-class values, or were going to develop
middle-class values and there will be three billion extra by 2030.
Forrest - In China.
FINCH - It is actually
China-India, that area. But three billion with middle-class values.
Forrest - They will want
more protein to eat, so we need more milk, more meat and everything
FINCH - Let us keep an
open mind on it. The markets are there for some of Tasmania's great
products, but there are tremendous difficulties, the main one appears
to be freight. If you can land a shipping container in Sydney from
almost anywhere in the world for much less than one from Tasmania
there is a problem that has to be addressed now. But the Premier's
September trade mission is encouraging and is a good idea. Tasmania
has a lot going for it, as the Premier said, in dairy, aquaculture,
wine, mining and more, and of course forestry as well.
few weeks ago I had a meeting with a couple of stalwarts of the
sawmilling and transport industries, Fred Ralph and Ed Vincent. They
were optimistic about the new products from plantation timber like
the laminated structural beams, but they were pessimistic about the
resources for smaller sawmillers from State forests. They both agreed
that the industry needed drastically restructuring although they both
said not along the lines of the present IGA. That is economics. There
are many other concerns and one of them that I have been personally
worried about for a long time is about the ostentatious carrying of
weapons by police. I have spoken to, I think, every police minister,
probably the last seven or eight, about this very subject. What
prompted me was one time in Melbourne I was walking up towards
Russell Street and I was behind a very young police officer - he
looked about 18 - and the main feature of this young officer was this
huge gun that was on his hip. It was a Glock.
Mulder - A big what?
FINCH - A big Glock. He
was heading up toward Russell Street and I was walking behind him and
I was getting a sense that he was going to the OK corral. He flexed
his shoulders and it worried me because I was thinking to myself -
Forrest - How can you
tell he was 18 if you were walking behind him?
FINCH - You can tell. The
little skinny neck that we all once had.
FINCH - The little frame,
you know what I mean, the little skinny wrists.
Mulder - How could you
tell how old he was if you could not see for his Glock?
FINCH - A good
observation by a police officer. In my own mind I started to talk
about why a police officer needed to carry such a big gun and how
mature is this young fellow to handle circumstances where he might
need to use a gun. Would there ever in his career come a time when
walking down the street he would need to draw his gun in defence of
himself or to shoot someone. They are interesting questions. When I
look at Australia the rates of classification for most crimes have
been dropping since 2001. I am led to believe, and I might be
corrected here, Tasmania has the lowest crime rates in the world.
Goodwin - In the world?
FINCH - If you read the
paper, you have been reading too much of what happens in the Press.
Goodwin - I do not think
we have the lowest crime rates in the world.
FINCH - Look, you told me
a million times not too exaggerate and I think that I am on the right
Forrest - What about
FINCH - Okay, I will move
on. But we have a good police service. Our police officers are
generally dedicated and very caring members of our community but I do
think that it is provocative to carry nine millimetre semi-automatic
weapons so openly. I understand the arguments -
Mulder - How much
brighter would the future of the State be if policemen did not have
FINCH - Let me continue
and talk about that alternative that has come up in Victoria. It just
worries me. We heard a few days ago our State Government has rejected
calls for police officers to be equipped with taser guns. In Victoria
police have tested the weapon for a year and they have now decided to
make it standard issue.
Mulder - In addition to
FINCH - Yes, but it is a
good step in the right direction.
Mulder - Add more
weaponry and frighten you even more.
FINCH - Also rather than
being here going to the OK corral he could be on the 3.10 to Yuma
trying to get on the train.
PRESIDENT - You
understand the television cameras are on.
Mulder - I am sure that
you will probably see some of it tomorrow.
FINCH - Acting Police
Association President, Robbie Dunne, said that there had been three
police shootings in Tasmania in the past 18 months and tasers would
give police an alternative to a firearm. Others I have talked to are
exercising their minds, not saying they are overly enthusiastic about
this, but they are sort of saying yes, it could be a circumstance
that we could go to in Tasmania that will give us that situation
where you do not have a gun that can blow people apart but you have a
weapon that enables you to stop somebody.
Mulder - Weld them
together with the electric current.
FINCH - You have a weapon
to stop people rather than inflict the damage that a Glock or these
semi-automatic weapons will do.
Mulder - By way of
interjection, Madam President, and I was invited to - are you
suggesting that contrary to all the other States you've mentioned, we
would actually replace Glock pistols with taser guns?
FINCH - Yes, that would
be my idea, yes.
Goodwin - Particularly
for the little, tiny officers that are very young.
Mulder - He hasn't seen
the weight of the battery that powers the -
FINCH - I remember as a
young person growing up in Hobart that we had an understanding that
police officers had access to guns when they went about their duties.
I remember up at the Fern Tree hotel I knew that the local copper who
came every time we had trouble at the pub either had a concealed gun,
and I think he had an ankle strap, or it was in the glove box of his
car. If things did take a turn for the worse, things that he could
not handle, he did have a weapon.
FINCH - If he beat the
miscreants out to the car he could then protect himself.
Forrest - Or the stoush
was in the car park to start with.
FINCH - Yes, but I know I
am making light of this.
Parkinson - I actually
agree with most of what you say.
FINCH - Look, we need to
do something to counter as well the so-called death-by-cop syndrome.
Now, that seems to be prevalent in Victoria, and it occurs elsewhere.
Parkinson - The London
bobbies did without guns for many years and I think they still do.
FINCH - Absolutely, yes.
Parkinson - They have
special squads over there to carry guns.
FINCH - But this
death-by-cop syndrome is not just about the victims of police
shootings, there is collateral damage all around, particularly for
officers involved. You might remember in the Northcote Shopping Plaza
several years ago not only did a disturbed teenager die, but three
dedicated police officers were traumatised, and probably for the rest
of their careers. That is just something I would like to put on the
table. I have already suggested to the chair of committee B that it
is something that we might ruminate over and see whether there is
something that we might lend to this argument. I do get a sense that
that might be something substantial that we could bring to the Police
minister's considerations on this. I think he has said no to tasers,
but I still think that it is compelling evidence from Victoria in
particular, which from all impressions that we get is a very
dangerous place to be for police officers.
Forrest - In Victoria do
they have tasers and guns?
FINCH - I am sorry, I do
not know, but they are issuing tasers. I would imagine initially they
will probably do the two. If you have a taser and you can stop
somebody who is going to physically harm you, I think that that is
Parkinson - There was a
program on television the other night that you probably saw.
FINCH - No.
Parkinson - One in Sydney
where the policewoman shot this mentally disturbed fellow, and while
aiming the pistol at him she screamed at the top of her voice,
'Taser, taser, taser'. She was totally off her face herself, she
didn't know what she was doing, she thought she was using a taser,
probably. It was incredible.
FINCH - Yes. And that is
all about providing the equipment and providing the training. They
are the areas that I wanted to talk on.
President, a really bright spot for my electorate last week was when
Legana-based McDermott's Coaches signed an agreement with a national
coach tour company, Scenic Tours Pty Ltd, to deliver all Scenic and
Evergreen touring programs in Tasmania and on the mainland. This new
program will go to Uluru, Darwin, Broome and Perth, and cover the
West Australian wildflower season, as well as 25 Tasmanian tour
departures. I know that they have bought two new luxury coaches,
touring coaches, for their existing fleet of over - now, this is
Legana, just up the West Tamar - they have 40 vehicles.
went for a press conference there the other day and I asked if they
could bring a bus out. The buses were all out, they were all being
used. You might remember we had quite a debate about the Cradle
Mountain bus service that went over quite a period of time. All
reports coming back to me are that McDermott's operation and their
drivers are exemplary. People who appreciate it give a lot of really
positive feedback about that operation. Company director, Peter
McDermott, has outstanding professionalism that concentrates on
customer service and that is why his 55 staff that he employs now are
the main reason for the company's success nationally.
Hall - That is good to
hear because we have had a few negatives up there for a while.
FINCH - Absolutely. That
is why I suggested to Peter that he should really tell people about
this because there are so many negatives in the tourism industry, and
warranted as well, but people also need to know the new stories.
Forrest - The 25
Tasmanian departures, are they 25 tours around Tasmania?
FINCH - Yes.
Forrest - Not leaving
Tasmania and going to the mainland?
FINCH - No, but there
might be a tour booked for the mainland that might feature
Tasmanians; he provides the buses and the drivers over there; they
hop on the bus and away they go. But they are ostensibly with the
umbilical cord back to the Legana operation. I might just go on,
Legislative Councillor for Rosevears, Kerry Finch, says he is proud
of the success of the company based in his electorate.'
wrote that press release.
FINCH - Anyway, it is
time for me to go. You are giving me a withering look, Madam