Tasmania’s strong economy is something to be proud of. It’s the foundation we desperately needed and provides a strong base to be built on. The challenge is to construct an economy in these days of economic sunshine that is robust, flexible and innovative to shelter all Tasmanians from the storms and tempests that will surely come in the decades ahead.
Describing a vision for Tasmania where everyone can have a good life is the easy part. Making it a reality is another matter entirely.
The investment over the past five years in infrastructure, tourism and a range of other industries has provided the preconditions for a strong economy. But there is still an uncomfortable reality. As the national economy starts to tighten, we still need to counterbalance the investment and consider different, more innovative ways of working in education, health and wellbeing — in skills, transport and more than just the most basic of essential services. If we don’t, the foundations will not support that vision. The foundations will not support all Tasmanians, only some of us.
We need to look for and invest in opportunities where all Tasmanians can prosper. And we can only do that if governments at every level are flexible, open to ideas, set bold targets and strict deadlines, breach the bureaucratic walls that remain 20th century constructs in a 21st century racing ahead at warp speed. The Tasmanian Government can’t afford to keep doing things the same way we always have and expect different results. That is why the long awaited review into the Tasmanian State Service is key to unlocking our potential.
The other key is us. Tasmanians across our communities see the opportunities, they know what is needed. They have ideas but have not always had the right conditions to dare to aspire. For many, our history has been a lesson in precarious employment and long periods of economic downturn. Now however, where we have prototyped models that enable community-led approaches and investment in what is needed to succeed, we are seeing improved outcomes in employment and training.
In these examples, we are seeing more Tasmanians being able to fulfil their potential and experience economic independence, sometimes for the first time — and on their terms.
We need the right investment now from government to open up opportunities for all Tasmanians to prosper. And we need the right policy settings and systems to make that happen. For Tasmania to thrive long-term, we need governments at every level to clear the path, not build obstacles.
No matter what the current economy looks like, we will not prosper long-term if we don’t get this next investment target right. There are two streams to these challenges that will create opportunity and provide the focus for where investment needs to be. First, for adult Tasmanians, our greatest challenges and potential still exists in the low levels of education, literacy and health outcomes of our population. For our children and young people, the opportunity for them to be the generation who no longer carry that ignominious Tasmanian legacy is our most golden. Improving outcomes for the next generation so they never have to live a life of poverty like many of our fellow Tasmanians is a legacy to be proud of. And it is doable. But not without investment in our children, young people, their parents and grandparents.
Leadership is the process of bringing new and often unwelcome reality to a discussion. So amongst the ongoing dialogue of a strong economy, the unwelcomed, uncomfortable reality that requires leadership is that we have a long way to go to ensure everyone has the opportunity to participate. The beauty of the current Tasmania is in the eye of the beholder, and not all see it the way you or I might. Leadership can expand the vision so the road ahead sees a good life for all of us.
This editorial appears as the foreword to the 2019 Tasmania Report, published in partnership with the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (TCCI) and Deloitte Access Economics.