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Monday, 9 December 2013
Page: 2059


Mr HUTCHINSON (Lyons) (12:08): I acknowledge some of the comments of the member for Denison, particularly in relation to the carbon tax. Whilst Tasmania has advantages in its large generation of hydroelectricity, the cost of electricity has still been going up in recent times. The cost of the carbon tax on the broader economy, particularly small businesses with refrigeration costs, is substantial. I believe that the government's Direct Action policy will be a great opportunity for Tasmania. We have opportunities with our forests to put in place abatement to the advantage of Tasmania in the longer term.

I turn now to the motion moved by my colleague the member for Bass last week and I note the economic growth plan for Tasmania. How has it come to pass that Tasmania has the lowest gross state product per capita in Australia, the nation's highest unemployment rate, the lowest proportion of adults in the nation who have attained a year 12 qualification and one of the nation's lowest retention rates to year 12? It has the lowest population growth and the highest proportion of Australians without superannuation coverage. There is also a growing sovereign risk to investment opportunities in Tasmania. Unfortunately, under state and federal Labor-Green governments it has become too hard to risk capital in Tasmania. This must change.

There is no better example of the state's dire social and economic circumstances than in my own electorate of Lyons, which is the biggest Tasmanian electorate, covering more than 50 per cent of the state. The majority of the electorate is rural and focused on agriculture; the state's once mighty forestry industry; and, to a certain extent, mining. Towns such as New Norfolk and Deloraine, but also very small communities like Triabunna on the east coast and Meander, have relied for generations on the wealth of the surrounding rural industries to maintain their economic viability. Tasmania does indeed have the highest unemployment rate in the country—now well over 8½ per cent in trend terms, compared to the latest national average of just over 5.6 per cent. In Lyons, the average unemployment rate has for several years been even higher than the state average. In 2013, Lyons had 3,652 of Tasmania's 17,600 unemployed people.

Building approvals in September 2013 were 5.7 per cent lower than the previous September, according to a Australian Bureau of Statistics survey released last month. It is an indictment on the lack of confidence in the Tasmanian economy as it stands. The spin-off effects of the deconstruction of the state's forestry industry, along with other challenges such as rising energy costs and the high value of the Australian dollar, have hit all businesses, including the big four employers—Norske Skog in my electorate, Nyrstar in Denison, Bell Bay Aluminium in Bass and Grange Resources.

The latest ABS Labour Force survey, released at the end of October, revealed that the number of unemployed men grew from 4,600 five years ago to 12,400 in 2013. The number of unemployed women grew from 5,900 to 8,900 in the same period. Unemployed people who work in mining, construction, accommodation and food service experienced the largest percentage growth over that period. It is nothing we should be proud of. We hear much about forestry jobs lost in recent times, and it is important to remember that when we describe the forestry industry it is never about those people felling trees in the forest or even driving cartage equipment; it is rather about the takeaway shop at the little town of Cressy in my electorate; the tyre business that supported the infrastructure around the industry; and the engineering shop that employed 10 or 15 people in a community like Launceston. The flow-on benefits of the forestry sector were enormous, and Tasmania is hurting as a result of its deconstruction by Labor and the Greens.

Despite the hard times that challenge Tasmania, there are those who are striving to be part of the state's inevitable economic recovery. In agriculture, we are seeing both local and foreign investment in the dairy sector. In fact, we have excess capacity on the north-west coast of nearly 75 per cent at the moment. The Big Picture project, which was launched recently, is another excellent example. Nyrstar, Grange Resources, Bell Bay Aluminium and Norske Skog already contribute over $1.5 billion to the state's economy every year. The Big Picture project aims to make Tasmanians aware of the enormous contribution that these companies make and of how they want to grow their investment. These major employers pay more than $300 million in salaries annually. The mining and manufacturing industries in Tasmania are worth $3.5 billion, and they are $1 billion ahead of the next largest industry. In the example of Bell Bay Aluminium, $200 million is spent with local suppliers every year.

Tourism is also a vitally important part of industry within the state of Tasmania, in particular, on the Tasman Peninsula. Recently, I welcomed some funding, under the government's T-QUAL program, for Matt Dunbabin, who has a business near the fire-ravaged town of Dunalley, which suffered so badly in the January bushfires. Those sorts of investments in regional tourism will encourage more visitor stays and more opportunities for those people who seek to visit the state's premier tourist attraction, Port Arthur, to spend an extra day on the Tasman Peninsula.

Last week, at the Australian Export Awards, Prime Minister Tony Abbott paid tribute to Australia's Regional Exporter of the Year, a small business located at Cressy in my electorate. It is a privately owned business, but it has tripled its employees in the past three years by expanding exports to the Middle East and Asia—a great example of the innovative, committed and hardworking people that epitomise the character of Tasmanians.

I refer back to the motion and the key points with regard to the economic growth plan that was launched during the election campaign. The coalition believes that the economic course of Tasmania can be reset to one of growth, jobs and rising living standards for all Tasmanians. And we will deliver.

Under the previous Rudd-Gillard-Rudd governments there were no new, additional jobs created in Tasmania. In fact, during that period almost one in 10 full-time jobs were lost. There is no avoiding the fact that Tasmania needs to be more competitive. It must have much greater incentives for the private sector to invest again, innovate and create jobs growth in Tasmania. Tasmania can be competitive, particularly in the resources, forestry, fisheries, tourism and agricultural sectors within the state. We have so many natural and competitive advantages that can provide greater, long-term benefits for Tasmania, including renewable energy.

Amongst the announcements that we made and that we are committed to delivering during the term of this government is a major projects approval agency, a one-stop shop for major projects. This will reduce some of the sovereign risk issues associated with investing in Tasmania. The sum of $3,250 will be provided to businesses which are willing to take on and keep on, in addition to existing assistance, unemployed people for an additional six months.

Most importantly, the Joint Commonwealth and Tasmanian Economic Council, including representation from the Prime Minister and Treasurer, will put Tasmania's economic issues at the forefront of the Commonwealth government policy agenda. We announced: $38 million for the upgrade of the Hobart International Airport; $400 million for the Midland Highway; $100 million for mobile phone black spots, which will be very welcome within the vast electorate of Lyons; $24 million for Antarctic research and to establish an Antarctic and Southern Ocean Research Centre in Hobart; $13 million for the Sense-T project; and also a vegetable industry task force in Tasmania. I commend the federal coalition's economic growth plan for Tasmania, which will provide the architecture to help turn around the state's economy.