Tuesday 18 March 2020
Hansard of the Legislative Council
Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, I doubt if anyone here can remember a State of the State address delivered at such a time of uncertainty. At the time the Premier delivered his hopes and promises for the next 12 months in Tasmania, there was an air of uncertainty because of the coronavirus and other factors. Since then, our uncertainty has increased and it continues to increase beyond predictions.
By most standards it was a good address, concentrating on many of Tasmania's future needs. But let us face it: most of the address may now be wishful thinking overtaken by history. Like most of the State of State addresses, the bulk of the promises were predictable, more for health and education, although there never seems to be enough and health services are still in deep trouble.
Build infrastructure, create jobs and a strong economy but like all previous statements, the promises depend on future economic conditions which are increasingly harder to predict. Apart from the economic effects of coronavirus, global economic factors way beyond the Tasmanian Government's control are doubling down. We have a world recession on the horizon. The economic impact of coronavirus is still largely unknown and its impact on important Tasmanian exports could be catastrophic. There is this dangerous dispute between the Soviet Union and Russia over oil supplies, which has pulled down the global stock markets. I pity the state Treasurer and the Premier in working their way through these circumstances.
Like previous statements, this one dwells on past achievements. The state's economy is relatively strong, good employment numbers and there are plausible plans for the future which should have lasting benefits, such as the promised review of the public service to put Tasmanians at the centre of everything it does. The draft major projects legislation is an interesting promise although it does breed some scepticism, but if the time to gain development approvals is reduced, that is a good thing. If public opinion to some changes is disregarded, that is obviously not so good. Tasmania has a history of pushing through unpopular projects without due process. We all remember the Tamar Valley Pulp Mill process.
The Premier in his address spends a lot of time on the future of Tasmania's tourism industry, and so he should, but coronavirus presents a major problem there as well. If it is well gone by spring, well and good, but we just do not know. The 1918 Spanish flu pandemic lasted for years, but all that aside, let us cut to the chase.
The part of the Premier's statement that captures my imagination is the proposed renewable energy action plan. Tasmania is, of course, excellently placed to provide renewable energy well beyond its needs. Yes, it can sell some of it via the Bass Strait cable, but hydrogen storage, if it is feasible, will give Tasmania a tremendous export market. Hydro, wind and sunshine converted into hydrogen. The two proposed hydrogen hubs are only a start, but they could grow into something of major economic importance to the state, but that is well into the future.
The Government and all Tasmanians face big problems right now - problems that need leadership at both federal and state levels, and level-headedness among the rest of us.