Politas Blogger - Dean Winter

Dean Winter describes himself as an economics, politics and sports enthusiast. He's studied economics, political science and journalism at UTAS as well as having worked as an advisor to Labor Ministers and Premiers. In 2012 he ran a spirited campaign against popular former Hobart Lord Mayor, Rob Valentine, for the Legislative Council Division of Hobart that was as spectacularly ambitious as it was a complete failure. Having parked political ambition, he now runs TASICT, Tasmania's ICT peak body. He stresses that his views here don't reflect his employer.


May 2016


Attending the Tasmanian Budget breakfast this morning there was a lot to look forward to:  terrible coffee (check), lots of guys in suits (check), questions from Edward Harry about support for small business (let down), spiel from the TCCI about what a great job they are doing (check, but no 'back in black' music this year) and a speech from no-longer-new, Treasurer Gutwein.

Unexpected bonus:  Tasmanian Local Government celebrity Ald. Jenny Brach-Allen asked a question.

If he was being accurate in his presentation, Treasurer Gutwein would have explained that by plodding along an almost identical fiscal strategy to the one implemented by the former government, Tasmania has arrived at a surplus at the time it was projected to.

Instead, we got a presentation which, if I had a copy, I would highlight was disingenuous in pretty much every slide.

I haven't, so I have recreated the highlight of the ridiculous.  The below graph is recreated, but I have checked with a fellow attendee who remembers it this way as well.  I'm pretty confident this is it:

World's dodgiest graph recreated from this morning's TCCI breakfast

The graph claims to highlight the improvement the majority Hodgman Liberal Government (that's what they actually call in documents with Tresaury's logo on it) has made to the operating position of the Tasmanian Government by comparing it to the previous Government.

The term 'compare apples with apples', obviously doesn't apply to the Treasurer, who decided to not only compare different years (2013-17 for Labor and 2016-20 for himself) but different sources.  Instead of using the last budget Labor delivered as his source material (2013-14), the Treasurer used numbers out of his 'risks report'.  A report which was designed for that special moment every new government craves: the 'things are way worse than we thought' moment, when you announce the old government was terrible and you are going to save the day.

Not only that, Treasurer Gutwein decided to compare different years. 

An accurate graph would simply be the below.

Operating surplus: Comparing 2016-17 operating outcomes from two Tasmanian State budgets.

Operating Surplus

  • The 2016-17 Budget shows a $77m operation surplus this year.
  • The 2013-14 Budget estimated a surplus of $9.9m for the same year

GST Receipts

  • The 2013-14 Budget estimated GST receipts of $2318.8m this year.
  • This year's budget shows only a slight detrition to $2299.2m (-$19.6m).


  • The 2013-14 Budget estimated expenditure of $5229.4m this year.
  • This Budget shows expenditure actually increasing from that to $5496.3, despite the savings.

So the truth?  Treasurer Gutwein has both raised more money and spent more money than Treasury was anticipating back in 2013-14.  Take away his Spirit of Tasmania revenue and he's only just ahead of the 2013-14 projection for this year.

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March 2015


I want to briefly follow my piece, in part, decrying the lack of values-based policy debate in Tasmania.   

This week has further highlighted the issue.

The cost of connecting your new home to ‘stuff’

In principle, the State and Federal Liberal Governments are dealing with basically the same issue in two completely contrasting ways.

Water and Sewerage connection

Headworks charges are payments for defined costs of new or existing water and sewerage assets deemed to be attributable to the new development (i.e. to purchase capacity in the system).

In his State of the State address, Premier Will Hodgman claimed the Government has ‘abolished’ headworks charges in Tasmania. 

It hasn’t.

It has socialised them.  Instead of the developer paying the charges, the cost is now ultimately borne by taxpayers – the vast majority of whom have nothing to do with the development. 

Is that fair? No.

Is it efficient?  Absolutely not. 

The cost of connecting new developments to the water and sewerage network is a legitimate cost that should be borne by the property developer.  If Government wants to reduce the cost of new development, it should focus on conveyance stamp duties which are economically inefficient according to the Henry Tax review.

NBN connection

At the same time as the State Liberals are socialising the cost of headworks charges, the Federal Liberals are doing the opposite with the cost of connecting new premises to the NBN.

Developers will now pay $600 and new home owners will pay $300 to connect new homes to the NBN.  So the Federal Government is reversing the socialisation of the cost of connecting new homes to the telecommunications network.

My Point

How can the same political party act in completely contrasting ways on the same basic issue:  the cost of connection (of stuff) to new homes?

What are the principles that underpin this political party?

How can two opposite policy positions both be consistent with the values of the Liberal Party?

I’m no expert on Liberal Party beliefs, but I’m pretty sure it’s the Federal Liberals who are acting in accordance with the values of the party.

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December 2014


Peter Brohier is a regular in the #politas debate about Bass Strait transport.

Mr Brohier is part of a group called the ‘National Sea Highway Coalition'.  It is unclear whether there are any other members of the group, who they are, or more importantly, how you become a member.  I suspect you can't.

Mr Brohier's other recent exploits have included:

  • Proposing a $9 billion bridge across the heads of Port Phillip Bay in Victoria
  • Operating Maptag, a business that sells - amongst other things - Map of Tasmania underwear at the Victoria Markets
  • Writing a list of thought-bubbles on a website and calling it a lobby (and BTW is that the worst website ever built or what?)
  • Running for as an Independent at Victorian elections.
  • Establishing and promoting 'God Actualisation'.
  • He has been labelled a 'lawyer' by the Mercury today, but I can find no evidence that he has practised law in the past decade (at least).

The reason I have put this piece together is because today he managed to get broad coverage for his position on Bass Strait transport in The Mercury, The Examiner and the ABC (and probably others).

I do not believe Mr Brohier is relevant to the Bass Strait transport debate because:

  • He lives and operates a business in Melbourne.
  • There is no evidence National Sea Highway Coalition actually exists as any form of official, legal entity.  Nor is there any evidence of an AGM, organisational structure or membership application process.
  • Mr Bohier has no qualifications or expertise in transport economics, transport logistics and does not represent Tasmanian exporters.

Brohier is the most persistent lobbyist I've ever come across.  It's how he gets meetings with politicians and - I assume - gets coverage in the local media.

When I was an advisor to the former Federal Government he would call almost daily.  After spending hours on the phone with him I eventually stopped answering.  He was completely unable to put together a viable policy to support his argument, which at the end of the day was the single thing I needed to assess whether his (lack of) ideas were worth taking further.

I know he did the same with nearly every other Federal MP and Senator's office.  Former TCCI Chief Economist, Phil Bayley tweeted back in June about a very similar experience:

 He (Brohier) wears people down through persistence, until they say OK, whatever you want, just leave me alone

— Phil Bayley (@PhilbyB) June 25, 2014

I have no doubt journalists over the past few years have endured the same thing.

But that doesn't mean they should report him.

And it isn't just journalists.  Independents Andrew Wilkie MP and Senator Jacqui Lambie appear to have joined with Mr Brohier to put forward a proposal that essentially asks the Federal Government to just throw even more money at the 'problem'.  Mr Wilkie has a history of support for Mr Brohier's 'reform' here.

Mr Brohier has no skin in the game and his proposal would see the Federal Government sink $270 million every year into Bass Strait freight equalisation.

I want to briefly touch on the policy point of view here.  Mr Wilkie and Senator Lambie have not considered the opportunity cost of putting such an extravagant amount of Federal Funding into Bass Strait transport. 

  • What could $270 million (every year) do for Tasmania's own roads and highways? 
  • What could it do for rail?  For our port infrastructure?
  • How much could we save exporters in the cost of moving their freight within Tasmania? 

Even the amount of jobs involved in building $270 million worth of infrastructure is worth considering before you take into account the productivity gains associated with the improved infrastructure.

I still don't know why Mr Brohier is so obsessed with being involved in the Bass Strait transport debate.  To my knowledge, he hasn't been paid by anyone for his work (although if he has he should disclose it), and his business does not operate in Tasmania. 

In a genuine, high-quality debate about Tasmanian economic policy, we should be talking to:

  • Experts in the field
  • Representatives of those directly impacted
  • Those directly impacted

Mr Brohier is none of those.

My biggest issue isn't just that he's not actually representing anyone, or that he isn't an expert on the subject matter.  It's that he takes up valuable time in the public debate with his inarticulate rantings about how Bass Strait should be 'treated as a highway'.  Today's piece in The Mercury was particularly gruelling and inarticulate. 

I'd rather hear from exporters who deal with Bass Strait transport issues every day.

Tasmanian industry's thoughts on his involvement with the Tasmanian debate were well articulated by the head of the Tasmanian Tourism Industry Council (another reputable, incorporated body with actual members) CEO, Luke Martin.

he's (Brohier) a liability to the argument.

— Luke Martin (@lukemartin83) June 25, 2014

Brohier isn't the first talking head lacking credibility in Tasmania (some would say the same about me I suppose). But he must surely one of the most prolific and long-lasting.

So can we please hit the Brohier mute button? 

Whatever the answer to the Bass Strait transport issue is, it's not going to come out of Peter Brohier's mouth.  It's going to come from industry, economists or policy experts.  So let's hear a little more about what they've got to say.

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June 2014


This was first published in The Mercury.

This is the original, full version.

Former Australian Prime Minister and Treasurer, Paul Keating’s public appearances are a nostalgic reminder of a golden era of economic leadership.

Reforms like floating the dollar, reducing tariffs on imports, reforming the tax system, moving to enterprise bargaining and deregulating the banking system meant when his time was up, he had shaped a modern, robust Australian economy.   

Under Keating's economic leadership, Australia's real GDP per capita increased by 32% over 13 years. A staggering figure when you consider the level of changes he was implementing – many of which led to short-term pain for long-term gain.

Keating’s unquestionable thirst for economic reform contrasts strongly with today’s economic policy malaise at both a state and federal level.

In Tasmania today, economic reform is inevitably difficult.  We deal with three waring political parties instead of two, we are instinctively distrusting of Government (perhaps even more than the rest of Australia) and education levels are the lowest in the nation.

Opponents’ voices always cry loudest and the need for reform is not acknowledged, communicated or understood. 

Politicians with longevity (or perhaps ‘success’ under their own definition) are almost always guilty of taking few risks, shirking difficult decisions and as a consequence, upsetting very few.

There is little meaningful policy debate.

That’s why Tasmania needs its own Paul Keating.  I don’t mean Labor, arrogant or conceited (although I don’t really care if any of those attributes apply), but at some point we need a leader who has the policy credentials and communication skills to cut though the haze of today’s political quagmire, articulate a vision and executes a plan that gets reform happening.

Reforms like water and sewerage centralisation, electricity competition and even the most minor of voluntary public service redundancy measures caused the former State Labor Government considerable pain. 

In 1998, proposed local government reform and electricity asset sales caused the Liberal Government so much pain it was fatal. 

It is little wonder there is no political appetite for reform.  There’s no reward for it.

Tasmanian politics isn’t being contested by waring philosophies.  It is being run in as a cyclical game of Government vs Opposition.  Politics is always the key consideration while policy is a distraction from winning or losing elections.

If you’re in Government you’re a realist; restricted by political realities, boring bureaucrats and the distrust of your electorate.  You’re pandering to a pre-existing public opinion and you’re unwilling to risk making the case for change.

If you’re in opposition you’re a populist. Unencumbered by reality, you’re prepared to say whatever is needed to get into Government.  Your policy-making vehicle is public opinion.  If what you actually believe in lines up with public opinion – good.  If not, you’ll sacrifice what you believe to be good policy (and your beliefs) for the chance to win.

All of that is ‘overseen’ by an outdated Legislative Council which sees itself only as a house of review and contributes almost nothing to public policy development or debate. 

Tasmania desperately needs a leader capable of smashing that now tried-and-trusted opposition populism via sound bite model. 

Ordinary leaders pander to public opinion.  The best leaders change it.  They can reform because they have a vision, understand policy and they can sell their message. 

Tasmania’s critical issue continues to be its unsustainable budget position.

The Tasmanian budget problems are undeniable.  Operating deficits are forecast through the estimates with no realistic chance of delivering an operating surplus unless wholesale reform is undertaken.

We can only hope the August Budget contains a plan to fix it.

Basic logic says the only two options to solve the problem are to raise revenue or reduce spending.  But raising taxes will only make Tasmania more uncompetitive compared with other states and territories.  New businesses won’t come here and existing ones may disappear.

That leaves the only option: reduce spending. That means review of the services we provide and the way we provide them.

A sustainable budget on the back of a more efficient public sector will provide the flexibility that is desperately needed to undertake taxation reform.  Tasmania should attract business by offering the lowest taxation environment in the country.

Whatever the option, Tasmania needs a vision people can believe in and a way to get there we understand. 

The status quo is completely unsustainable and needs to change.  Tasmania needs our own Keating. 

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March 2014


I wrote three blogs on Tasmanian State Election betting before the election.  You can find my complete roundup of the chances here, an update specifically on the Adam Brooks betting plunge here and my final roundup of the market movers here.

Things I got right:

  • Hodgman smashed everyone (but that wasn't a hard one)
  • Bacon won Denison and smart punters got the $4 return on him.
  • Brooks won Braddon and smart punters got the $3.50 return on him.

Things I got wrong:

  • The biggest surprise was in Bass, where it looks like Peter Gutwein has outpolled Michael Ferguson.  I expected Gutwein to make up a little bit of ground, but nowhere near the 7,000.  Never mind though because I dont think Ferguson will be too upset about polling 14,000 votes.  Gutwein was my other listed chance and was paying $5 by polling day.  Sportsbet would have had a very strong result from this after Ferguson was actually backed into $1.15 by election day.
  • Like most people I'm shocked at the Greens' result in Lyons.  2010's winner, Tim Morris win looks like he'll actually lose his seat.  His vote halved in the worst result for a sitting candidate in the State. The Liberals' five (excellent) candidates did all have a strong showing as I predicted, but the sum of the vote was so large that both Barnett AND Hidding outpolled my predicted winner, Rebecca White.  I didn't rate Hidding's chances because he doesn't have a history of topping the poll and his vote actually went backwards from 2006-2010 (although the fact he was Leader in '06 may explain this on reflection).  I was dead wrong and he actually beat Barnett who I predicted would top the Liberal ticket.  Punters didn't like Hidding either and he'd slid from $3 to $4 by election day.  That suggests the bookie was smarter than the punters here.

How I did

A lot of people were asking me what I bet on last night so here it is.

Overall my personal bets on Scott Bacon saved my election punting.  I had $150 at $4 and $100 at $3.  My original request was to put $1000 on him at $4 but sportsbet wouldn't allow me to do that (#%&@ers).

I lost $200 on Ferguson at $1.75, $150 on Rebecca White at $6 and $50 at $9 on Tim Morris.  I also had $50 on Rockliff just because I thought he was ridiculously good value at $5 and I said I would do it if he got passed $4.50 in this blog series.  So overall a net positive result of $450.  Not what I'd hoped for by still a decent return.

I hope you didn't lose too much money backing White or Ferguson like I suggested! 

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