Are you serious? You’ve got to be kidding me

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By Strategic Partner Paul Arnold

The recently released TCCI Tasmania Report gives an interesting report card on the performance of the State’s economy.

The report confirms that the largest employment industry for the North West (NW) in 2011 was manufacturing at 12.2 per cent of the workforce, followed by retail trade (11.5 per cent), with agriculture, forestry and mining making up seven per cent as too did accommodation and food services. Over the past six years, there has been many ups and downs in all sectors in the NW. When released, the 2016 Census, if found to have sufficient qualitative data, will highlight these challenges.

It is pleasing then to see the recent positive announcements around manufacturing. As highlighted previously in the Source, the NW region has manufacturing as one of its major strengths and the recent loss of caterpillar jobs has allowed employers, such as Southern Prospect to successfully bid for the Metro Bus contract, building 100 new buses from 2017 to 2020.

Keeping these manufacturing skills in the region (40 jobs with Southern Prospect and lots more in the supply chain) will bode well for the substantial vision of the Elphinstone Group to tender for and grow several intelligent mining and associated machines from plate metal to world class driverless machines.

The NW is very blessed to have the Elphinstone Group and Delta Hydraulics, amongst many others, producing innovative and world class machinery that provides so many other supply line jobs. Together they have over 2,000 customers in more than 30 countries, across a broad range of industry segments, including mining. The employment to be generated in this sector will build an even more resilient NW economy over the decade. It has to be said they have done all of the heavy lifting without too much government help, so recent successful grants for organisations are an excellent investment.

Other positive developments in the accommodation and food services sector have been the Vos Hotel Development Application at Boat Harbour Beach, 46 new units planned for Stanley Beach, and the Horizons accommodation expansion in Stanley. These initiatives, once approved, will fill a much needed shortfall in accommodation in the area. Other developments such as Devonport’s Living City accommodation expansion, add to the possibilities for 2017.

It’s not much wonder the ‘vibe’ around the NW is positive from the job perspective, as we begin 2017.

However, if only the entrepreneurial skills of the manufacturing and tourism giants could be emulated in Tasmania’s most competitive employment sector, agriculture, forestry and fishing.

One of the most interesting things highlighted in the Tasmania Report, is the relative performance of Tasmania’s economy compared with the other states, and while real progress is being made, we need to seriously assess why we can’t increase our gross state product from its current $18,572 deficit compared with the national average.

Gross state product has a lot to do with labour productivity, employment participation and hours worked. Yes, there must be improvement in all three. The report highlights that the industry sector showing the greatest labour productivity when compared to the rest of Australia for 2015/16, is agriculture, forestry and fishing.

It is so devastating then to see the public brawl between two key players in the aquaculture industry (Tassal & Huon Aquaculture). One could be confused for thinking that science is the first victim in this little ‘spat’. Tasmania can ill afford making headlines in its food production systems. When watching this play out, all I can say is ‘are you kidding me’. Surely the world needs our aquaculture industry singing from the same song sheet, supported by credible scientists, demonstrating sustainable practices. It can’t be that hard.

If we add to that the fortunes of Bellamy’s Australia, and its impact on Tasmania’s reputation, we can’t be serious. It is basically an excellent idea around infant food amongst other things,  that has been caught in the web of international trade intrigue, particularly in China. Sadly, its infamous slump reflects poorly on the Tasmanian Food Production system. This damages the state’s reputation and the opportunity for other Tasmanians to benefit from the agricultural opportunities.

If only we could find agricultural entrepreneurs that could grow a truly Tasmanian food company AND guarantee both origin of production in Tasmania, and the majority of profits returned to Tasmania. It is possible, if only we could get serious.  Tassie’s best days are ahead of it….. if only.

If the government is serious about niche Tasmanian agriculture reaching its potential, it is going to have to toughen up and get its hands dirty.  The world awaits…


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