Being bold on education, population growth and reform are keys to Tasmania’s future
22 February, 2018: According to Deloitte, bold action must be taken around three key areas – population, education and reform – to address structural issues that are restraining the state. Doing this in a strategic way with a long term focus will lead to better outcomes and quality of life for all Tasmanians.
In a new report – Be BOLD Tasmania – Deloitte says that the underlying long term structural challenges should be looked at now - given various strong economic indicators at present.
Carl Harris, Deloitte Managing Partner, Tasmania said: “We need to address these critical areas which, if left untouched, will continue to undermine our potential.
“Our declining workforce, poor education outcomes and the need for reform to deal with our long term issues like our unfunded public sector superannuation liability, as well as housing availability and affordability, present very real challenges.
“Ignoring them, or resisting change, could be at our peril.”
Be BOLD Tasmania outlines a series of positive trends and upsides across the three key challenge areas, and recommends “bold actions” that should be taken.
“Tasmanians hear a lot about our aging population, the real concern is our declining workforce. Retirement of baby boomers, combined with the exodus of tens of thousands of Tasmanians aged 15-34 during the 1990s means Tasmania needs to drive targeted population growth to have enough people working and creating economic activity in the future,” said Harris.
“Of course we love our lifestyle and the things that we know make Tasmania so special. Some see population growth as a potential threat to this, but our view is we need to grow our population in a strategic way by targeting working families in the right sectors just to maintain our lifestyle.”
- An upward trend in the 25-29 age bracket
- Net interstate migration at a six-year high
- Tourism boom driven by NSW and Victoria
- Strong growth in healthcare, construction, professional services, retail and tourism
- An attractive destination for families.
- Aggressively target NSW and Victorian and overseas families for workers in growth industries and to address skill shortages
The future of work and which industries will be the backbone of Tasmania’s economy must be considered. Growth industries in particular should be targeted – including agribusiness, education, tourism, healthcare, professional and IT, renewable energy and creative industries. Roles where the state is currently impacted by skills shortage, such as construction, nursing and hospitality, should also be targeted.
“Many of the challenges confronting Tasmania can be traced back to our historic poor education outcomes,” said Harris.
“For example, nationally, Tasmania currently has the lowest proportion of people between 20 and 64 with year 12 qualifications or higher.
“While it’s wonderful to see many considered changes occurring in the education space that will benefit younger children, we think more can be done and we also need to do more with those who have already left school.”
Positive signs emerging
- Between 2006 and 2016, the proportion of Tasmanian residents aged 20-64 with year 12 qualifications grew from 37.6% to 45.8%
- In 2006, Tasmania had the lowest percentage of non-school qualified residents of any state, at 52.2% of the 20-64 year old population. In 2016, this had increased to 64.0%
- Changes to the Education Act and year 12 extensions
- The University campus relocation and the introduction of Associate degrees and diplomas.
- Continue year 12 extension as well as course alignment and refinement
The year 12 extension is a bold policy initiative from the government, and long overdue. The transition from year 10 to 11 must disappear, and this can only be effectively achieved by extending all state high schools to year 12 as soon as possible.
- Build aspiration and an early intervention program for struggling schools
This strategy is about supporting certain schools to help them achieve better outcomes and deliver the same level of education across every school regardless of location or the challenges they face.
- Workforce alignment and education
Specialist education in growth industries would help establish a strong link between education, industry and the community, bringing careers to life and into schools. A success story is the Huon Valley Trade Training Centre which opened in 2012.
“Tasmania does not have a strong history of driving and delivering major reform, or leading the nation when it comes to innovative solutions to economic and social challenges,” said Harris.
“While there have been some good reform discussions recently, including on state-wide planning and major projects, there has been little that could be considered major reform.
“We believe our communities, our industries and our businesses are open to change - in fact many are calling out for it.”
The upside of being small
- Being smaller in size and population should make Tasmania agile, and enable and empower the state to make bold changes quickly
- Reform needs to attempted, and if it fails, it can be a case of failing fast and rebounding quickly
- Successful reform could have a profound impact on the future of the state.
- Establish a future fund
Substantial revenue needs to be raised to put aside to fund our state superannuation liability and major infrastructure. Privatisation, leasing of state assets and other innovative solutions must be considered.
- Perform a comprehensive review of state taxes
To make informed decisions about the way forward, the government should conduct a comprehensive review of state taxes, consider alternatives, and model the outcomes on stakeholders and the economy.
- Implement strategic mandated local government reform
The establishment of an efficient and consistent third tier of government through a strategic mandated amalgamation approach to local government reform must be undertaken.
Political, business and community leaders need to think long term to fully capitalise on Tasmania’s strengths.