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Economic Development

Vica Bayley MP

Vica Bayley MP  -  Tuesday, 14 November 2023

Tags: Economy

Mr BAYLEY (Clark) - Mr Speaker, I thank the Opposition for bringing on this matter of public importance of economic development; it is a good one. It has to be said upfront that economic development, economic prosperity and indeed human prosperity, depend significantly on a healthy environment. We have all seen the stickers and postcards that there are no jobs on a dead planet. That rang true 30 or 40 years ago when that phrase was coined and it is still true today. Economies exist within and are dependent upon natural systems and environmental stewardship is therefore critical when it comes to sound economic management.

That is no more relevant anywhere in the world than it is here in lutruwita/Tasmania, where our environment, our brand and the notion of being clean, green and pristine, is absolutely central to our identity and to much of the prosperity that we enjoy here. It is important to note this because we are globally in a climate and biodiversity crisis. It is absolutely critical that our economy is adjusted to address these issues, the twin crises of biodiversity and climate.

Tasmania is doing a good job when it comes to climate. Of course net zero is very welcome as a result of protecting of over half a million hectares of forest and stopping logging in those forests 12 years ago, but we know the cost of responding to the climate crisis, the bushfires, the floods, the drought and other extreme events. It costs way more to respond to those events globally than it does to address them upfront. Critical to a strong economy is dealing with the climate and biodiversity crisis and taking action, and there are jobs and economic development in that.

Treasurer, we look forward to understanding more about SunCable and welcoming that. It is an important piece in the renewable energy transition, but Dr Woodruff spoke earlier this morning about initiatives such as the Connorville solar farm - 400 hectares of solar panels across already cleared land, already within reach of an existing substation, no need for new transmission lines - a really positive significant outcome for our state.

I also want to flag that a strong economy is also critically anchored to social justice. Workers' rights to organise themselves and bargain for fair pay and conditions is also central to a strong and compassionate economy. Business has to remember that they do not exist in a vacuum; they exist only by virtue of the commitment and generosity of their workforce and empowering that workforce with rights and the capacity to make sure they have their needs met is critically important.

One of the biggest problems when it comes to economic development is perpetual growth economics, the concept that for business to succeed - business that is beholden to shareholders, beholden to profit lines - they need perpetual growth economics. Whatever happened to business plateauing and recognising when they have reached a sustainable level of activity? Instead, we get a situation where, just like in Dr Seuss' The Lorax, these businesses want to get bigger and bigger. 'They're biggering and they're biggering and they're biggering until they collapse', and we only need to look at Gunns as an example of that. Gunns, the all-conquering, too-big-to-fail company in Tasmania, was exporting over 5 million tonnes of woodchips every year and seeking to build one of the biggest industrial-scale pulp mills in the world, but it got so big for its boots that it ultimately collapsed.

The main criticism I would like to take the opportunity to level at this Government, and indeed Labor governments, is the obsession with these massive, big industrial developments and almost cargo-cult mentality with big developments and the promise that they are going to deliver so many jobs and so much economic development into the future. The pulp mill was a perfect case in point. It absolutely brought down Gunns because it was the wrong project in the wrong place using the wrong resources and it could not stand the opposition campaigns and the resilience of the Tamar Valley community and indeed the Tasmanian community.

We have had other projects. Down here in nipaluna/Hobart, we had the kunanyi cable car proposal, again theoretically held up as this massive project that was going to fix a whole lot of problems and drive a whole lot of economic growth, but the project was so ambitious that it exceeded any of the requirements of the planning scheme and the management plan. That could have been seen on day one and it obviously did not go ahead. It was knocked back by the council, the proponent exercised its rights to appeal and it was knocked back on appeal by TASCAT. Ralphs Bay is another example.

Even today we are still grappling with and are going to condemn not only the Tasmanian community but the planning commission to an assessment process under projects of state significance for a massive stadium that barely fits on the Macquarie Point site and has a raft of significant issues when it comes to heritage values, values of the Cenotaph, traffic, transport and the like. In this parliament, the Liberals, together with the support of Labor, have pushed that project into project of state significance assessment and if the planning commission does its job and applies the Sullivans Cove planning scheme and any logical requirements the Tasmanian people will ask of it, it can only say no that project, and we are going to be left with nothing.

Economic development is fine, it has to happen, but we have to recognise that it cannot happen in the vacuum of a sustainable environment and there is no place in the world that is more important than here in Tasmania.