HODGMAN Can I firstly also acknowledge the original owners and custodians of this land on which we gather today and pay my respects to elders, past, present and emerging.
And to Melinda and to State Director [inaudible], to CEDA. Thank you very much for being here as well and being part of our economic landscape. I think it is important that a national organisation such as yours pay particular interest in our state and all we do, and we welcome you to Tasmania and the opportunity to engage with your membership.
And to Jason and our major sponsors, Westpac, Government Bank is no less. I can assure you there’s no connection between your very kind and warm introduction and the extension of that contract, but if I can acknowledge what you do in our state as a great bank, but also in supporting this event that I’m delighted to be at today to talk about the state of this State.
And if I might say, I think it is irrefutable that Tasmania does in fact have the best performing economy of any state in the country across any measure. I can quote economists and analysts and Prime Ministers no less about what they’re saying on the turnaround state, as they call it.
But here are the facts. State final demand, the fastest rate of growth of any state for the first time in 15 years. We tripled the rate of growth in the nation’s so-called power house New South Wales for the first time in a quarter of a century. Gross State product has risen on a per capita basis, the fastest rate in the country. Private investment, the fastest rate of growth in Australia at seven percent. Retail trade, the highest rate of growth in the country. Housing approvals and finance are up, we’re the only state in the country where that’s happened. The fastest growing rate of building work completed, while all other states declined. Engineering construction up, again the strongest rate in the country. Tourists are now reportedly spending more than ever before. Exports have hit record highs, as we get our high-value products to the rest of the world. Our farmers the most confident in the country. Our population growing at the fastest rate in 30 years. And most important, more work for Tasmanians. We’ve got very high levels of business confidence, the highest in the country, and the best business conditions. And there are now 1,600 more businesses operating in Tasmania than when my Government took office I 2014. And they’re employing more people. 15,000 more Tasmanians employed than when we came to Government.
So, our economy is stronger. It is a more confident place, especially for our businesses, and our challenge as a Government, of course, is to make sure we keep it that way and ensure that we provide the best possible business environment in the country, because that’s what drives our economic success, not Governments, but our business community.
But, as I say, there’s no doubt that our economy is performing well and the state of the state is in very good shape. But it’s not just economically where Tasmania is excelling. Tasmania is a state of
excitement. It’s a very cool place to be. We’ve been awarded the best museum in the world, best hotels, bushwalks, books, bikes, festivals, farmers of the year, whiskeys, wines, honey and cheeses for starters. Each year, we generally win more than any other state in the national tourism awards where we are regarded as the best in the business. Our University of Tasmania, the prestigious Eureka Prize winner in world-leading science. We’ve even won a Logie. And Tasmania is without doubt now a much more culturally confident and self-assured place. 80% of Tasmanian kids are optimistic about their future.
We’re the first state in the country, one of the first places in the world, to establish a statutory place branding authority and reflecting the importance of Brand Tasmania to ensure that we can continue to stand out from the crowd and compete strongly in the global market place. We have chosen to be the only state in the country that’s GMO-free, further enhancing our Brand and giving a marketing advantage to our exporters who use that status to access premiere markets across the world.
Tasmania does have the lowest per capita emissions of any state or territory in the country, and we are one of the lowest net emitters of carbon dioxide on the planet. We were in fact the first state in the country to reach zero net emission status in 2016. And we are leading the nation in renewable energy generation, we’re on track to be 100% renewable energy self-sufficient by 2022.
We’re harnessing some of our greatest competitive advantages. The cleanest air in the world of any populated place on the planet and winds which are amongst the best renewable energy zones in the country with abundant waterways that are propelling nation-building infrastructure that will establish Tasmania as the renewable energy powerhouse of the country. So, not only will this allow us to export the most valuable commodity of renewable energy into a national market that desperately wants what we’ve got, reliable, low-cost and clean energy, but it’s estimated that it will inject about $6.5 billion and around 2,400 jobs into our economy. This is a nation-building opportunity for our state that we are grabbing with both hands, and with the strong support of the Morrison Government, as is the case with many of the major infrastructure projects that are happening across the state. We are working constructively with the Commonwealth Government to deliver for Tasmanians, as they’d expect us to do.
And it’s not just into roads, into rail, into bridges and airports, but also into hospitals and affordable housing. And we are investing in the most important social infrastructure of all, education. Having been the only state in the country that didn’t offer Years 11 and 12 in our high schools, we are the first Government in Tasmania to reform our education system and to do that, and we’re delivering it. We’re also increasing access to early education, new early learning centres, free pre-school for three-year olds in or most disadvantaged communities. And while there’s certainly a long way to go in this regard, we are making good progress turning around one of the worst education results in the country. Our school retention rates are up, our TCE attainment rates are up by 10 percent since 2014. And we’re leading the nation in apprenticeship starts. Up 10 percent, while nationally that rate has declined. And our approach is to work collaboratively with key non-government partners wo have expertise in education, like the national award winner, the Beacon Foundation, or the internationally high-ranking University for Tasmania and world-leading teaching and research institutes like IMAS, Menzies and the AMC. And to be a smarter and stronger Tasmania, because our future prospects lie, of course, in education.
So, in my view, in my humble opinion, the state of the state is very positive. We’ve got a lot to be proud of. And many of these achievements, and this is just a sample of them, it’s not a proud boast to demonstrate rather what I’ve said at this very forum a year ago, and that is that we can be the very best at all that we do. There’s no reason why we cannot. We might even get a team of our own one day, the way we are going.
Now, there are always those who’ll find fault and, yes, there are many things that do keep me awake at night. There are many, many Tasmanians who are not enjoying the benefits of a strong economy. There are Tasmanians who are vulnerable in our communities. There’s much more to do. For instance to get Tasmanians to the healthcare that they need sooner. And yes, our economic fortunes and successes are not just down to good luck, nor can they be taken for granted, because there are now global economic headwinds that we must take account of. And whilst Tasmania’s economy does remain strong, and in many respects is bucking the national trend, we do need to take action against what is a global slowdown.
Just recently, we’ve heard that national GDP has grown just 1.4 percent over the last year, well below the growth in our economy. The IMF has just re-cast their forecast for the reduction in GDP growth, and global economic growth has slowed, due to rising trade and geopolitical tensions taking a toll on business confidence, investment decisions and global trade. And we are seeing the impact of this here, notably in the slow turn in international tourism to our country. But our budget, which has also suffered from a reduction in state receipts this year, particularly the GST, as our economy get stronger, and needing to cover additional expenses like bushfires and floods or providing meningococcal vaccinations. This is what makes it so important that we continue to have budget surpluses, to ensure our state against these unexpected costs. Good budget management which also, importantly, supports business confidence in our community is a non-negotiable for my Government.
Despite these write-downs in receipts, we will continue to achieve all our fiscal strategic actions. We are building on the achievement of net operating balance surpluses over the last three years, with surpluses forecast across every year of this budget. It does require modest savings measures to be implemented to support the sustainability of our budget. And it’s also why we are acting to so aggressively stimulate our economy through that investment of $3.6 billion into intergenerational infrastructure right across our state. And, in fact, over the term of my Government, we’ve deliberately increased investment in infrastructure that our growing state needs and demands, and infrastructure investment by my Government has more than doubled in just six years.
But we’re not only investing in the infrastructure that our growing state needs, but in so doing creating more job opportunities for Tasmanians. Our investment in rail, and roads and bridges, in courts, is supporting our exporters to get their products to the world more efficiently and our tourists to and from the state more safely. We’re improving the productivity of our businesses and hopefully for people to be able to spend more time at home and less time in traffic jams.
Our investment in new irrigation schemes is driving investment in farm productivity, boosting trade and creating local jobs in our regional communities.
And our investment in schools, in building new ones, will help generate that job-ready.., educate that job-ready generation.
And in hospitals and health services we’re building capacity, which means more access to hospital beds, more people being treated more quickly. And it will also support the jobs of hundreds of new nurses, doctors and frontline workers to build that better health system that we need.
Our record investment into affordable housing is helping support what is the hottest construction market in the country.
Our investment in Parks for world-class bushwalks, for icons like Cradle Mountain and Freycinet is keeping our visitor economy so strong.
We are building the infrastructure that our growing state needs, but it’s also creating more jobs than this year’s budget forecasts, that that infrastructure program will create 10,000 more jobs. So, we need to stimulate our economy and to maintain the momentum. And as our budget has gone from the worst
in the country to one with surpluses, our economy now strong, whilst once in recession, the most important objective of any Government means that we are in budget surplus with a strong economy, so we’re best placed to do it. It can only be done through a strong economy and a good budget. It is the means by which we do these things.
And on another matter that is also particular important to me and my Government, and which has particular relevance today, our mission to eliminate family violence in our state. As it’s been from the start, it is a priority for my Government. One of the first major reforms in Government was to massively increase our efforts in this regard. We designed a family violence action plan backed by $26 million in additional funds, resources and support and programs. It was described as nation-leading by the Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty. And it was of course an appropriate response to the horrifying reality that on average one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner, that one in four children are exposed to domestic violence, and why, earlier this year, when we released the second stage of our action plan, backed with similar funding, we’ve expanded its scope to include sexual violence, because we know that one in five women in our country has suffered sexual violence.
As well as the horrific personal impact, the occurrence of family violence in our community also has an incredible financial and economic toll. Three years ago, KPMG estimated it’s as high as $26 billion a year, in Tasmania $500 million. That was three years ago. And it’s always been understood that family violence incidents are unreported, many of them. So, understandably, the figure today would be much higher.
And while Governments bear the majority, or a large proportion at least, of the cost, it also has a significant impact on our broader community, on non-government organisations, businesses, the economy. It’s a massive cost to our community and, of course, most significantly to the victims. But it’s in all our interests to reduce it.
So, now, as an employer, the Government provides many programs to support staff who may be victims, including providing additional leave days for state service employees who are experiencing family violence, awareness raising, better training for our officers and managers. And it’s a cause that we encourage all Tasmanian businesses to be part of. And there are many resources available to assist them. Often with the support of organisations that have the expertise and capacity to effectively help us on our mission to deliver all the actions and programs contained within our Government’s commitment to reach and better support more victims, to more adequately deal with perpetrators and, most importantly, to change the negative attitudes and behaviours that are the cause of family violence.
And, for instance, Our Watch, and this is what brings me to what I’ve done today, a national leading organisation whose aim is to deliver nationwide change in culture and behaviours and gender imbalances that lead to violence against women and children.
Today, together, with Natasha Stott Despoja, the Chair of Our Watch, we’ve entered into a new partnership to enhance and improve the effectiveness in all that we do to reduce and prevent family violence from ever occurring, ‘cause obviously, preventing it from happening in the first place is the best way, the only way, to eliminate it. And this partnership too is a national first. So, we’ll continue to lead the nation in our mission to create a Tasmania free from family violence.
So, overall, while I say, in my view, that the state of the state is very positive, we have come a long way in just a few short years. For me and my Government there’s so much more to do for more Tasmanians to share in the benefits of a strong economy.
There are more Tasmanians now to do so, because at another record pace, our population has been growing at its fastest rate in 30 years, four times higher than the year which we came into Government
where nearly 3,000 Tasmanians left the state. Net interstate immigration, we had the oldest population and the second slowest population growth rate in the country. But since then, 19,627 more people have chosen to make Tasmania their home, as there are now many more reasons to staying here than to leave. And that has always been our mission, a Tasmania with more opportunities, a Tasmania where every child can grow up safe and healthy, with a good education and a bright future here in our home state and a Tasmania that is truly the best place to live.