The Government’s willingness to breach the spirit of national competition policy by its use of State resources to prop up Forestry Tasmania whilst imposing austerity on broader sections of the Tasmanian community has struck a discordant note with many of the affected. If prices charged by Forestry Tasmania were required to fully cover costs [never mind the idea of actually making a profit] then it would be required to cease its unprofitable native forest harvesting.
A willingness by the affected to pursue remedies and solutions has precipitated this note.
This blog by Tasmanian finance and economics commentator John Lawrence came out before Christmas, but it drives home the continuing failure of policy and corporate governance that is the hallmark of Government Business Enterpises such as Forestry Tasmania.
The fundamental lesson remains that Governments should not be in the business of competing with private business. Forestry is a business and there are many private tree growers who are being disadvantaged by Government policy and action.
One of the many failures in all of this is that farmer representative bodies such as the TFGA fail to bring the Government to account. If the Government opened a public service-run dairy, sold milk at below cost and then sacked teachers and nurses to help pay for it, the TFGA, dairy farmers and the rest of the Tasmanian community would be marching on Parliament. But for some reason forestry is different. Disadvantaging dairy farmers is out of the question but apparently disadvantaging private tree growers is perfectly acceptable behaviour amongst the farming community. It is very curious!
Another failure, as John Lawrence highlights, is that the so called Economic Regulator is a toothless tiger that spends more time licking the hands of politicians than biting their ankles.
It is certainly curious that Forestry Tasmania, the one Government agency that clearly competes with the private sector (unlike gas, electricity and water), is completely off the Regulator’s radar. Coincidence? I doubt it!
So forestry industry workers enjoy complete Government protection whilst front line services such as nurses and teachers continue to lose their jobs. And forestry markets remain completely distorted and corrupted by Government policy.
When will Tasmania wake up? When will farmers and private tree growers rally of the lawns of Parliament House and demand reform?