Government relations expert and former Cabinet Minister John Barker gives his views on the upcoming 2015-16 state budget
The second liberal State Government budget which is to be handed down on 28 May is critical to the continued rejuvenation of the State’s economy.
The first budget, a measured, steady document, has been effective in attracting interest and improving confidence in Tasmania and its future.
A continuing reduction in the unemployment rate now 6.5% in trend terms, strong retail sales, substantial growth in visitation numbers, improved export figures and a strong strategic approach to delivering pre-election promises has underpinned the increase in business and community confidence.
The 2015/2016 State budget will again focus on improving the operating balance, reducing the net deficit and net debt and ensuring that Tasmania is an attractive place for businesses to invest and grow and for visitors to explore.
To ensure this occurs Tasmania needs to be more competitive in respect to service costs such as cheaper power, reduced red and green tape as well as planning rationalisation and taxation, for example further reductions in payroll tax.
While the south of the State, Hobart in particular, is attracting investment there is an urgent need for the north and north west to keep pace. A danger for any Government is for it to be considered Denison centric.
While the rapidly improving agricultural sector incorporating irrigation expansion is contributing significantly, an infrastructure strategy focussed on the north is urgently required. Further consideration of spreading agency personnel and responsibilities to regional areas would also be welcome.
Tasmania is hamstrung in that it relies so heavily on Federal funding as 64% of the Tasmanian budget derives from Canberra and 39% of its total income is spent on public sector salaries, wages and entitlements.
The Federal budget to be released on 12 May, its revenue, expenditure and related policy issues will impact Tasmania. Whether it be positively or negatively we will see.
State budget items to follow closely are:
- Health and education reforms including merger of the three THOs into one Tasmanian Health System
- Infrastructure capital works expenditure including the RHH redevelopment, Midlands Highway, the broader road’s program, TT-Line refurbishment and sea freight initiatives
- The future of Forestry Tasmania and rejuvenation of the forest industry
- Tourism including world heritage, wilderness, national parks initiatives, Asian links, TT-Line day trips and passenger fares
- Progress to a single State planning scheme
- Allocation to advance Local Government reforms
- Public Sector Agency employment numbers and expenditures
I will provide an initial assessment of the State Budget on the day. If you would like me to follow any specific budget item please contact me firstname.lastname@example.org and I will advise you.