Confidence collapse a regional challenge

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BY TOM O’MEARA

There is now a very distinct difference in Tasmanian business confidence when it comes to the state’s three regions, with the south unsurprisingly leading the way in the positivity stakes.

And while the Opposition is jumping on the new statistics as a sign of failing policies and ministers, the State Government and business leaders have been quick to talk up the state’s fortunes compared to the rest of the country.

The Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said its Q2 Tasmanian Survey of Business Expectations outlined the significant loss of business confidence on the North West Coast with over 46% of respondents indicating a negative view of the Tasmanian economy.

This is compared with 14.8% for the North, whose view of the Tasmanian economy remained reasonably positive over the June quarter but does have signs of weakening.

Business confidence in the South is a different story with 43.5% stating positive compared to 17.4% who had low expectations of the economy over the same period.

TCCI chief executive Michael Bailey said the results showed serious concerns for the North West Coast with expectations of the Tasmanian economy at its lowest point since March 2014.

But, he said the situation was a regional issue as a result of regional factors.

“We must remember that Tasmania is still sitting third regarding business confidence in the country, but bush fires floods and changes to dairy and poppies are all factors that are causing this regional dip on the North West Coast,” Mr Bailey said.

“We know that this will change over time, but what we need to see now is good government strategic thinking.

“We need to make sure the dairy farmers are protected and that Government infrastructure promises such as the Northern Cities project, which includes the UTAS relocation in Launceston and Burnie, are rolled out quickly.

“What better way to lift confidence than to see local activity.’’

The Labor Opposition jumped on the latest Sensis Business Index, saying it delivered a damning assessment of the Liberal Government’s performance.

Opposition Enterprise Spokeswoman Madeleine Ogilvie said many business owners were finding conditions tough.

“Business confidence has more than halved since December last year as the Government mishandled the energy crisis and thousands of jobs disappeared across the state,” Ms Ogilvie said

“The 17 point slump is the biggest fall in confidence nationally with Tasmania one of only two regions going backwards.

“The Government has been clutching on to business confidence as a sign the economy is going well but they can no longer make that claim.”

Newly appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Small Business, Trade, and Red Tape Reduction Roger Jaensch, described the results as concerning.

“Until very recently Tasmania’s business confidence has been among the highest in the country, so these results are concerning and we want to understand and address the reasons for it,” he said.

“Over the past six months Tasmania has faced an unprecedented set of challenges including a number of natural disasters, which no doubt had an impact.

“Nonetheless, it is worth noting that support for state government policies remains the third highest in the country, and Tasmania’s economy last year grew at the fastest rate in six years.”

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