Drawing on his experience as a political journalist and government relations specialist, Font PR Managing Director Becher Townshend has provided his insight into the 2021/22 Budget below.
For those with less time to spare, we have also put together a video of Becher’s summary, outlining the key facts and figures from the Budget.
If you put hay in the barn for a long cold winter and you are Peter Gutwein, then now is the time that you bring out the hay.
There is no doubt Tasmania is defying the odds when it comes to our economic performance during the pandemic with an unemployment rate the envy of the nation, if not the developed world, at 4.5 per cent.
Add to this a growth rate of 2 per cent last year, 4 per cent predicted this year, before it settles to 2 per cent in the future and you get a sense of just how fortunate this state has been.
Obviously, it has come from sound economic management, a moat as wide a Bass Strait and savvy pump priming by the Premier/Treasurer and his team.
This sees 28,000 jobs predicted to be created over the forward estimates, dwelling approvals up by a whopping 43.7 per cent on last year, retail trade up 10.9 per cent and exports increasing by 5.2 per cent.
However, despite all this it does come at a cost – the state is facing a $1 billion fiscal deficit by the end of 2022, and net debt will be at $1.7 billion by the end of this period.
Last year, there was prediction of a surplus by 2022/23 but this has now moved to 2023/24 when we will start trying to pay some of the pandemic debt off.
Not surprisingly the conversation in this Budget is all about health, and the Premier even took the opportunity to note that while this is a Budget speech, he encouraged all Tasmanians to get their jab.
And, with the Covid pandemic in mind, the Premier has set aside about $300m in the treasurer’s reserve just in case the pandemic makes an unwanted return because all this is based on that not happening.
Over the forward estimates period of four years health spending will increase by $900m to $10.7 billion and this will see some 50 additional hospital beds, 48 paramedics, $9m for ambulances and equipment as well as 7,000 more elective surgeries.
There will be more money for palliative care, mental health, some $5m for dental, while run down hospitals and health centres will received some $180m.
In terms of affordable housing, there is now a commitment to build 3,500 additional properties by 2027, which is up from an initial aim of 1,500 by the end of 2023.
Education funding now hits $8 billion over the next four years, which will include 358 more teachers and assistants while there will be $100m for capital works.
In terms of skills, $21m will be spent on a new energy, trades and waste centre at clarence, while TAFE will get $100m for its restructure, with 100 new staff and $45m for facility build.
Interestingly a new department will be created called the renewables, climate and future industries to make the most of our renewable future, while supports to business continue including $100m loan to Incat and $20m for the shovel-ready program.
Tourism gets $18m in extra support, while there is support for events and the arts.
The cornerstone for many years – infrastructure spending continues – with a $4.6 billion program with funding for prisons, roads, hospitals, housing, rail, sewerage, irrigation and Macquarie Point.
Overall the Government has been at pains to follow through with its election commitments under its 100-day plan. On this issue there is still some ground to cover, but it has meant there are few surprises in this Budget.
However, given such a strong economic performance during these unprecedented times and with so much uncertainty both here and interstate, it is no wonder the Government has taken the hay out of the barn to get us through this one.
Happily for us all, so far it has worked.
2021-22 State Budget – at a glance
Tasmanian economy grew by 2.0 per cent in 2020-2021 and is predicted to grow 4 per cent for the current financial year.
Total revenue is up to 7.2 billion thanks in part to a whopping $60m increase in property duties.
Unemployment is at an impressive 4.5 per cent and is expected to sit at an unprecedented 5.5 per cent into the future.
All this comes at cost with $1 billion deficit by the end of this year, with net debt sitting at $1.7 billion.
Compensating for this debt is the continuing $4.6 billion in infrastructure spending, hoping to create 28,000 jobs.
Spending for front line health and education to continue to increase.