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Thursday, 3 December 2015
Page: 14792


Mr NIKOLIC (Bass) (10:57): I seek leave to speak without closing the debate.

Leave granted.

Mr NIKOLIC: The approaching Christmas and New Year period is always a time for reflection. I was going through some clippings from Launceston's The Examiner, an award-winning newspaper in northern Tasmania, which I thought were worthy of reflection and comment today. I came across an editorial dated 16 February 2012 by the deputy editor, Barry Prismall. He was, in essence, bemoaning a dire economic outlook in Tasmania under the Giddings Labor-Greens government in Hobart and the Labor-Greens government in Canberra. He said:

A predicted underlying surplus has been revised as a big deficit … economic growth is expected to decline … the Government will fail to meet savings targets … unemployment will continue to be relatively high … on top of this gloomy set of numbers, the forestry peace process has collapsed … Ms Giddings and her Greens cabinet colleague Nick McKim are at war … cabinet solidarity has been so bastardised as to be unrecognisable.

It was a very sad situation, indeed, culminating in an unemployment rate in Tasmania above eight per cent—the worst in the nation. In fact, it got so bad that on Friday, 12 July 2013, the front page of Launceston's The Examiner reported that then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd travelled to lead a 'rescue mission' to Tasmania on the back of the state's worst unemployment figure for a decade. Mr Rudd, at the time, promised to 'spend some time with Premier Giddings to see what we can do'. But after 16 years as state Labor government and six years of federal Labor at that point, people just wanted to see the Labor-Greens governments gone. They wanted people in place who could make a difference to some of these strategic structural problems that were besetting my beautiful home state of Tasmania.

I am pleased to report that in just two years much has been accomplished to remedy some of those things. There is still a lot of work to be done, but the positive indicators are very clear. The Examiner, in contrast, on 20 October this year told a much different story:

TASMANIA is experiencing an economic resurgence that is good for battlers and business.

The unemployment rate is in line with the national average—a huge change.

Since September 2013 more than 10,000 full and part-time jobs have been created, which is a turnaround on job losses that at one stage a few years ago approached 10,000.

Growth is tipped for international exports, tourist arrivals and in the ever-reliable retail sector.

Economic growth overall is predicted to be up by 14 percentage points within four years, according to a Deloitte Access Economics report.

The value of a series of positive reports about Tasmania is that it encourages more settlement and investment … the state is no longer the nation's basket-case.

Let the facts do the talking. South Australia has an unemployment rate of eight per cent and rising, while Tasmania's is 6.2 per cent and falling.

The ABS figures for September 2015 show that Tasmania's unemployment rate is 6.2 per cent, the lowest rate since 2011. This encouraging progress demonstrates the synergy that results from working with our state Liberal colleagues on job-creating investment, which has resulted in 242,000 Tasmanians now being in work, the highest level ever achieved in Tasmania. According to the latest CommSec report, Tasmania is No. 1 when it comes to its labour market. And, importantly, we are no longer on the bottom of the national unemployment benchmarks, with our jobless rate now lower than those of South Australia and Queensland and equal to those of Western Australia and Victoria.

There is a lot more to be done. We have got the free trade deals, and many of the businesses in my electorate and across the state are leveraging the benefits of those free trade deals. A Deloitte Access Economics business outlook report last October gave a positive report on the Tasmanian economy, saying, 'The economic pain of the past decade is dissipating.' Instead of short-term political sugar hits, we are putting in strategic investment that will enable us to build on those great results: $203 million for the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme, $60 million for irrigation schemes which will enable us to turn marginal farmland into something much better—and I could go on. I am simply pleased to deliver my final speech in parliament for 2015 on such an optimistic note, confident of the future for my great state of Tasmania.