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Launch of the Commonwealth/State Task Force on Tasmania



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PRIME MINISTER

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SPEECH BY THE PRIME MINISTER LAUNCH OF THE COMMONWEALTH/STATE TASK FORCE ON TASMANIA HOBART - 19 NOVEMBER 1989

i I am delighted to be here in Tasmania this morning on a very special occasion that marks a new era of co-operation and goodwill between my Government and the Government of Tasmania.

When Premier Michael Field announced earlier this year that he intended to hold an Employment Summit on 28 and 29 November in Parliament House, Hobart, I was determined that the Commonwealth Government would take an active and constructive part.

Because the Summit represents a new approach to put Tasmania back on the path towards co-operation and prosperity.

I want to outline today how we will be working with Michael Field's Government, both to make the Summit a success, and in the longer-term to ensure Tasmania's particular problems receive the attention they deserve.

Let me say at the outset that the initiative of Michael Field, and of my Parliamentary colleague Duncan Kerr, is a very welcome one.

For too long, under the previous State Government, Tasmania's economic plight was ignored or concealed behind the bluster of a Premier and a conservative party which had no idea of how to go about remedying the problem.

The fact is, Tasmania's unemployment is high relative to the rest of Australia and employment growth is well below the national average.

it's a serious endeavour to foster employment and enterprise development in Tasmania.

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COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY library MICAH

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That appalling situation - appalling for the well-being of _ the State as a whole and debilitating for those directly hit by unemployment - never received any constructive attention from the previous Government.

Indeed, their confrontationist approach exacerbated the situation. , . . .

What is essential now is that we develop a strategy which will create a base for sustainable economic growth, thereby generating permanent employment opportunities for Tasmanians. ·

In doing this, let us not ignore the number of real advantages that Tasmanian brings to the question of building the basis for long-term growth. For example, labour costs in Tasmania are lower than on the mainland, and this

reflecting not a difference in the structure of industry in thei State but a real difference in the cost structure of comparable industries.

In recent years Tasmania has also had an especially good industrial relations record, with the working days lost per employee in the last two years being less than hailf the national average - which itself is nearly 60 per cent lower

than under the previous Federal conservative government.

This is a credit to employers and to the trade union movement in Tasmania whose co-operation under the principles of the Accord has provided an outstanding industrial climate in the State.

Another major asset that Tasmania enjoys is the substantial assistance rendered by the Commonwealth to relieve the employment problems in the State.

First, under the policy of fiscal equalisation, Tasmania receives a per capita level of Commonwealth assistance which is more than 40 per cent higher than the average for Australia as a whole. This permits Tasmania to fund higher

levels of outlays and public sector employment than would otherwise be the case.

Second, Tasmania enjoys a number of forms of assistance not available in other States: the $50 million forestry industry package, the $45 million paid under the Gordon-Below-Franklin Package; the Tasmanian freight equalisation package of more than $30 million this year and the Tasmanian Wheat Freight Subsidy Scheme, worth some $3.6 million this year.

Third, the Commonwealth provides a full range of programs designed to assist employment, education and training in Tasmania. This year the total cost of these programs was

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$25 million including substantial commitments to TAFE, to trade training,.the Australian Traineeship system and the programs Jobstart, Jobtrain and SkillShare.

To ensure that these forms of assistance available from the Commonwealth can be directed and focused to maximum effect, and to sharpen the effectiveness of the Summit, I have decided, in consultation with Premier Field to establish a special Commdnwealth-State Task Force on Tasmania.

. The Task Force will report to me on action which the ' * s Commonwealth can take to assist the economic and social > development of Tasmania.

i The Task Force members all have a close understanding of ‘ ; Tasmanian needs. It will be chaired by the Federal Member l for Denison, Duncan Kerr, who developed the concept of the Task Force with me. The members of the Task Force will be:

. Peter Duncan, Commonwealth Minister for Employment and Education Services;

. Michael Tate, Commonwealth Minister for Justice;

. Peter Patmore, Deputy Premier of Tasmania;

. Michael Aird, Tasmanian Minister for the Environment and Planning, Minister for Employment, Industrial Relations and Training, Minister Assisting the Premier on Youth Affairs;

. Mr Kerry O'Brien, President, Trades and Labour Council and Secretary, Miscellaneous Workers Union;

. Mr Paul Salmon, Managing Director, Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australia Ltd; and

. Ms Robyn Cooney, Consultant to the Tasmanian Development Authority, Community Representative.

I want this Task Force to perform three key roles:

. First to examine ways of better integrating Commonwealth and Tasmanian State programs which have a bearing on employment generation and economic and social development;

. Second to develop Commonwealth-State proposals which would further the economic and social development of Tasmania, while recognising the fiscal constraints within which both governments must operate;

. Third, to advise me on appropriate Commonwealth responses to the Tasmanian Employment Summit.

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X want to stress that the outcomes of the Employment Summit will help to set the precise agenda for the Task Force. The deliberations of the Summit will be an important input to the work of the Task Force.

We will not be seeking to impose a solution, but we will be looking for how we can complement and support a Tasmanian­ generated approach.

One of the Commonwealth's chief concerns, and an issue of prime importance which will be addressed at the Summit, is the continuing problem in Tasmania of young people leaving school too early.

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The benefits to individuals and to the community of a more highly educated and skilled workforce are obvious and cannot be over-stated. j .

Just before my Government came to office in 1983 the Year 12 rate of retention across Australia was a miserably low 36 per cent. Since 1983 the retention rate has been increased to 60 per cent.

In Tasmania, however, the retention rate in 1988 was only 37.5 per cent. This clearly is an important contributing factor to the State's lower growth in employment.

I want the Task Force to report to me on possible remedies to this problem of encouraging children to stay on to complete high school.

I believe the associated problems of training and skills development can be usefully studied by the Office of Labour Market Adjustment - an office the Commonwealth Government

established last year to develop co-ordinated strategies to address labour adjustment problems.

The Office of Labour Market Adjustment is currently considering a number of practical measures which may prove helpful to support more efficient operations. Measures being contemplated include:

. Retraining to assist workers who lose their jobs as a result of restructuring in specified industries or companies;

. Measures to ensure that appropriately skilled labour is available in areas which are experiencing severe skill shortages; and

. Measures to give long-term unemployed workers in the north-west training and work experience for the small crops and food processing industry which has

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considerable capacity to expand its already important contribution to the Tasmanian economy.

I will be looking to the Task Force to advise on other assistance which could be provided for Tasmania through the Office of Labour Market Adjustment.

The Task Force will also take an in-depth look at potential 'windows of opportunity', to establish the scope for new businesses and industries for Tasmania. I cannot overstate ; ; the importance of exploiting new market opportunities to

> revitalise the Tasmanian economy. To support this ' initiative the Task Force will also examine the availability , of skills in Tasmania's labour market through a skills audit ? and determine where there may be a need to develop improved i skills training. There will also be a study undertaken to ί identify the cost/benefits of establishing and operating . enterprises in Tasmania.

My Government is determined that the help we can offer Tasmania in this strategic planning exercise should be practical and directed to achieving real outcomes which Will make a positive contribution to a sustainable improvement in the Tasmanian economy and employment situation.

It would ultimately be of little use simply to look for short-term, quick-fix solutions. Premier Field and I are seeking real improvements for all Tasmanians.

As further evidence of its commitment to the people of Tasmania, my Government has decided to boost the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme by up to an additional 100 places. This scheme aims to create viable employment opportunities for unemployed people by assisting them to set up self-employment ventures.

I have written to my ministerial colleagues informing them of the work of the Task Force, and I can assure you of their full co-operation in identifying programs and initiatives in their portfolios which may be of benefit to Tasmania.

One particular issue I want the Task Force to consider as a matter of some urgency is whether the CSIRO's Division of Forestry and Forest Products can not only remain in Tasmania but also expand its activities and research capacity to become a national centre for forestry work.

I look forward to the success of the Task Force and you may be assured of my continuing support for all efforts to provide a better economic and social future for the people of Tasmania.

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