27

May 2016

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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).

Expenditure

  • 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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16

April 2015

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My op-ed in today's Mercury, in which I argue government's should step-up and champion change:

http://www.themercury.com.au/news/opinion/talking-point-reform-possible-and-needed/story-fnj4f64i-1227304860325

 

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3

March 2015

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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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18

February 2015

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Reform in local government is one of the key policy issues facing Tasmania, with powerful forces on both sides of the debate. The State Government is steering a path that stimulates the community discussion without forcing reforms that doesn't have broad support in local communities.

With that in the background, yesterday I had the privilege of presenting to the inaugural LGMA Tasmania Finance Conference. Here are the slides I used to identify some challenges the councils face, the economic and regulatory context of local government, and the challenges I set for managers in the local government sector.

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2

December 2014

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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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