THE state government is set to define the direction of Tasmania for the remainder of its current term, with Treasurer Peter Gutwein bringing down his budget at the end of this month.
Last year’s budget, brought down in August due to the change in government, had two aims: firstly to come good on the election promises made by the Liberal Party in the lead-up to the 2014 election and, secondly, to steady the ship and rein in expenditure.
This has seen the state government work towards its goal of reducing the size of the public service as well as cutting expenditure to ensure that the state can work towards creating a surplus in 2020-21.
With the reduction in expenditure now entrenched and the public sector wages bill now under control, this budget will be an opportunity for the Treasurer to stamp his direction on the state’s finances over the coming years.
As announced at last year’s budget, the Health White Paper has now been completed and Health Minister Michael Ferguson is on track to introduce much-needed reforms to the state’s health system.
This is likely to see a number of initiatives enshrined in the health budget for the period of the forward estimates, including changes to service delivery, particularly on the North-West Coast where the government has successfully communicated the need for change.
However, as many previous health ministers have learned, when it comes to the provision of health services, it is one thing to say what you want to do and another to actually see it happen.
Elsewhere, Treasurer Gutwein is also likely to focus on economic stimulus packages for both the North and North-West, after acknowledging recently the rate of economic recovery in these regions had not been at the same pace as the South.
“I recognise that the North and North-West haven’t recovered as quickly as the South and will need some special attention in the budget,” Mr Gutwein said.
“The budget is all about jobs, retaining fiscal discipline and building on our gains.
“We also expect better outcomes from the essential services.
“But the emphasis is all about jobs,” Mr Gutwein said.
Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive officer Michael Bailey welcome the comments by the Treasurer, stating business was keen to see more done to address economic growth in the North and North-West of Tasmania.
“While many in the South would say their region is still facing challenges, I think it would be fair to say the North and the North-West are struggling,” Mr Bailey said.
“Compounding these challenges has been the recent loss of much of the capacity at Caterpillar.
“Clearly there is much that needs to be done. Business is keen to see what the state government can do to help stimulate the economy and create much-needed jobs throughout all of Tasmania at the upcoming budget,” Mr Bailey said.
Mr Bailey also flagged the importance of ensuring reforms to health were continued, as well as moves on local government reform and that it was now time for the state government to restart a process of reform to the education system.