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March 2014

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When the Tasmanian state election campaign kicked off in late January the lobby group that represents local government, LGAT, issued a media release which was breathtaking in its arrogance.  

The January 21 release by LGAT President Barry Easther argued that there should be no mention of local government reform in the State Election
campaign.  "There are enough issues for the community to ponder about the way State Government services and functions operate without trying to confuse the issue by bringing Local Government into the State election debate," Easther said.

In other words, let us pretend that having 29 local governments and the red and green tape factories that each houses, has zero impact on the costs of
doing business in Tasmania.  Let us pretend that it is an optimal state of affairs for a State of 510,000 people to be saddled with local governments, many of which are barely functional and in some cases are broke.

If the Liberal Party were serious about economic reform in this State then it would be talking about local government.  It would be planning its merger
strategy now.  It would be committing to slashing this inefficient tier of government so that only those councils which are relatively efficient - Burnie, Hobart and Brighton spring to mind - survive.

But the Liberal Party, like the ALP in Tasmania, is not a genuine economic reform party.  It throws around trinkets and baubles; its leader Will Hodgman puffs out his chest and big notes himself with a first 100 days in office plan.  But where is the structural reform?

Local government is the obvious place to start.  Business in Tasmania has rightly been calling on political parties to commit to reduction in the size and scope of local government.  There are horror stories about local government red tape in planning and development.  

It is incumbent on the media following this election campaign to apply the blow torch to Mr Hodgman.  He has been getting a dream run from the media - today's front page story in The Examiner on Spirit of Tasmania fares reads like an advertorial - because no one is questioning him on the serious economic reform issues.  How can Mr Hodgman sail through this election campaign without being grilled about local government reform?

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