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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

regional development « Previous | |Next »
September 23, 2004

This article by Greg Barnes does capture one aspect of the politics of Tasmanian forests. They have become a political football, even if no plan has been tabled to buy the forestry industry out.

What has happened to the plan? Has the Coalition conceded seats in Tasmania to win preferences in the mainland marginal seats.

We have meet Greg Barnes before on this issue. Previously, in an earlier round of this debate he had said that there needed to be less rhetoric and more consensus on the forest issue. This was in response to this and this and this. Then the criticism from public opinion was that Barnes downplayed the importance of wilderness and forest ecology. He has a thing about the Australian Greens.

This time around in the forest debate Greg Barnes has tried to show how consensus can be a way forward. He argues that there needs to be consensus between Canberra and Hobart to pull Tasmania out its impoverished status and economic decline. This is the key issue, not the one of just saving the forests. Barnes says:

"A survey of 812 low-income Tasmanians revealed that 59 per cent had gone without meals in the previous 12 months due to money shortages and 20 per cent had had their power cut off.

Over 35 per cent of Tasmanian households are dependent on government support - the highest figure in Australia. More disturbing for the state's future is the fact that only 27 per cent of Tasmanians have completed secondary school education.Tasmania has the oldest population in Australia with an average age of around 38. And, while the population decline of the early 1990s has been reversed, those moving to the island tend to be retirees or people close to retirement."

Tasmania is even worse than South Australia in terms of the extent of poverty, lack of power, poor education and the low employment prospects. These are depressed regions. What is required is a big investment in public infrastructure and human resources in Tasmania and South Australia.

The tragedy is that little has been, or is being done, by the State ALP governments in Hobart and Adelaide despite the inflow of GST revenue. What has gone wrong with our political culture? Has it gone neo-liberal?

John Quiggin makes an interesting remark about our political culture. He sees signs of the end of the neoliberal push to overturn the social-democratic settlement at the federal level.

Well, it is not so at a state level. The media-spin SA Rann Government, for instance, is still in the grip of neo-liberal orthodoxy. It continues to run down the public sector, build up ever increasing budget surpluses, apply user pays and allow the market to design our regional energy future. The effect is to starve public schools of the resources needed to address low education rates, prevent skills formation through TAFE through excessive fees, or avoid helping universities establish or develop new campuses in the regions.

Under a neo liberal mode of governance everything has to be run as a business whilst public institutions have to stand on its own two feet as corporations. Depressed regions need to become self-reliant and to find their own way out of their depressed economic situation.without handouts.

I would guess that in Tasmania the state ALP government is doing very little for its people, whilst allowing the state's natural heritage to be trashed.

Greg is right. There is a pressing need for the federal and state governments to look at regional development once again rather than allowing the market to decide by default.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 4:58 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (2)

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference regional development:

» from
This is useful in the light of here:the lack of social democratic response to the economic devastation of regions within the nation state. [Read More]

» David Plowden#4 from Junk for Code
I've been travelling in the regions of South Australia. It is like going back in time. David Plowden, Signs on [Read More]