It’s sad we are down to this level, but I give my total support for Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff driving a line to halt schoolyard bullying in all forms and calling on Tasmanians to tell him what should be done.

The bullying of today is light years away from a few decades ago. Punches aren’t new but knifes are and so are the gutless heroes who kick and stomp people on the ground, which unfortunately is not restricted just to the boys.

The mental damage delivered through social media bullying, basically Facebook, is beyond understanding, but so cruel as parents and grandparents try to help and explain to a distraught child. Mr Rockliff said he was constantly shocked at the extent and severity of stories of bullying and violence in schools right across the state.

He makes it clear that bullying is a crime, confirmed by the Government releasing draft legislation that will see bullies who cause serious mental and physical harm to victims possibly sent to jail.

For the younger students, the buddy support systems are a successful way of limiting bullying, with senior students assigned to look after a primary school student, or a Grade 10 looking after a Grade 7. The support is confidence boosting to the youngsters and can help avoid bullying from gutless groups.

This system also creates an understanding that if someone is in trouble you should help your mates. Today we see many kids and adults watching fights/bullying but doing nothing to stop it, even though there seems to be plenty of time to take photos and videos.

It takes the support of all levels at schools to create a culture of working together at all ages to emphasise that bullying is not smart, not funny and not accepted at our school.

The need of adult support was highlighted by a William Golding book, Lord of the Flies, which became one of the hundred best English language stories. The book is based on group of English school boys stranded on an island after a plane crash which killed all adults on board.

While the book is fiction, today it’s an amazing example of fact and just how immaturity can make anything fall apart. Alone on the island during the second World War, the group’s attempt to govern themselves was a disaster with factions, bullying and eventually an out of control murder.

They survived by catching fish and pigs on the island, burnt firewood and sought water which was admirable, but while some thought they were leaders they lacked the maturity and support to govern, which is why the Minister’s approach is so sound.

Business also has a history of being on the edge of bullying and one incident has always stuck in my mind.

A couple of decades ago, two people were in the race for the appointment of the CEO position at a Sydney based media company. The grapevine suggested it was a pretty even race and eventually the board made its decision.

With such a close call, why did the board appoint one above the other?

Well the reason from the decision makers, of which they were very proud, was the winner “had a good streak of mongrel and that’s what we want these days.”

So, mongrel beat the good guy.

He reared up at times, which to me was like water off a duck’s back having survived seven years in boarding school, but others suffered.

He also had a strong understanding of the business and certainly looked to the future. However, yesterday’s mongrel is today’s bully and I’d hate to see a board appoint a mongrel bully today.

I was having a coffee with a couple of Hobart mates who are jumping up and down about the Hobart City Council rushing to set height limits in Hobart, which will then be locked into the Council’s vault for decades.

Really, things are changing as we read today, so how can the Lord Mayor and Alderman know that the 45m proposed limit will be the best outcome for Hobart, the capital of the state.

At least one Alderman, the recently elected Simon Behrakis, is horrified that any decision maker would make a call without properly informing themselves.

In an opinion piece in The Mercury, Alderman Behrakis said the people who live and work in the city, now and in the future, are entitled to know the Council did it properly.

Limiting building heights is like shutting the door on developers who need height to increase the number of rooms, units and apartments in order to bring more people into the city.

Hobart needs more dwellings to accommodate the extra 100,000 people predicted to call the city home in 20 years’ time.

The other option is to build homes and units further and further away from the city, which creates a nightmare with roads costing state and council millions, not to mention costs to TasWater, Hydro, NBN, Telstra and of course the additional thousands of cars joining the already clogged major roads.

One of the reasons given as to why the height limit has to be so low is that higher buildings would block out Mt Wellington. I’m sure if you were to walk around the next corner you would see the mountain – that is of course if there were no clouds or rainstorms which kunanyi regularly attracts.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have more activity in the city centre instead of having everything stop by 6pm, except for Salamanca and North Hobart.

Or Hobart could do what Launceston City Council did, deciding last week to seek more detail and support from the community before it debates height limits later next year.

Watch out Hobart City Council, make the wrong decision on height and developers will pull out of Hobart and take their projects to a welcoming Launceston.

Weekly weigh-in: Demise of Fairfax, unhealthy habits and the Tasmania Report



There may be a few tears for the demise of Fairfax, but I worry more about the future, particularly for the regional papers who can’t take another beating like they have in recent years. 

This week’s activity included Nine chief executive Hugh Marks stamping the $4 billion merger with Fairfax and on the same day axing 92 staff while asking his consultants to examine closer editorial working arrangements between television and newspaper reporters. 

The 92 people axed were part of 144 positions made redundant, including 52 positions which were duplicate roles or not filled at the time the call was made.  

The process of bringing together television with metropolitan newspapers in Sydney and Melbourne is a massive challenge, so do Nine really need to also transition 175 daily, weekly and monthly regional papers as well as a host of historic agriculture papers? 

The enlarged group will be organised into four operating businesses: Australian Community Media, Printing and Stuff, Publishing, Stan and Television.  

Publishing is the former Australian Metro Publishing, which manages the Sydney Morning Herald, Australia’s oldest newspaper, The Age and The Australian Financial Review.  

It’s interesting that the Canberra Times has been flicked back to the Australian Community Media, Printing and Stuff group, along with the 175 regional papers and agricultural publications. 

Mr Marks has already let the cat out of the bag by questioning the duties of newspaper and television journos, shining the light on an obvious opportunity to share roles and cut numbers. 

Moving the Canberra Times to the regionals is again another message – we don’t need you anymore. 

Sad but true and the ‘for sale’ sign is probably in a truck coming down the Barton Highway to Canberra at this moment.  

Having managed the Times in the early 2000s, it’s an ideal business to be run by a successful person, or a group of Canberra business people who could turn it back into a quality paper paying its way.  

Which comes back to Tasmania with The Examiner, which of 176 years is the third oldest newspaper in Australia and could find itself in the same position as the Canberra Times, which I see as a positive, not a negative. 

The Fairfax approach on regional papers was to have a design to be used for all papers which suited some of the smaller players that often didn’t look too smart but destroyed the look and feel of so many very good papers, with The Examiner one of the big losers.  

Try picking the difference now between The Examiner and The Advocate.   

It was also at this time that Fairfax had decided senior people at newspapers had no say and if you didn’t agree you would find yourself on the footpath very quickly.  

But the biggest damage inflicted by Fairfax has been their dictatorial approach, with no understanding of the needs and wants of communities around the nation. Just because something works in Port Macquarie doesn’t mean it will work in Launceston.      

Sales have not been on the agenda because Fairfax was hamstrung during the merge process with Nine and couldn’t engage with other people to seek business and assets at that stage. But we should expect interesting times in 2019. 

A Tasmanian owner of the The Examiner would be applauded by the community and the same rings true for The Advocate. 

Yes, times have changed and we live in a big, new IT world. But there is still a time and a place for quality journalism and strong leadership. 

Undoubtedly the bomb shell to come out of the TCCI’s Tasmania Report Roadshow this week was the terrible health status of Tasmania’s 25 to 34-year-olds. The report from St.LukesHealth was kind when saying “the results aren’t good”. 

Data presented, from the basic to the necessity, are way below the national standards and an example of why preventive health is 100 per cent supported by the TCCI and St.LukesHealth. 

One third of Tasmanian 25 to 34 year olds have sought professional help for their mental health which suggests the need to spend much more on mental health services into future. 

Nearly a third of the cohort have higher rates of asthma than the national average, yet 30 per cent diagnosed with asthma don’t have a plan to manage their disease. 

More than half (52.4 per cent) are overweight or obese, a key factor known to cause chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and musculoskeletal conditions. It’s certainly no surprise the respondents failed to meet the guidelines for sufficient fruit and vegetables. 

Apart from this age group being pretty slack on brushing their teeth and naturally having poor dental health, Tasmanian females in the cohort are smoking and drinking at higher rates during pregnancy than the rest of Australia. 

St.Lukes Health CEO, Paul Lupo, said one of the five recommendations from the survey was to provide urgent and adequate funding to support young Tasmanians to create healthy habits and decrease risky behaviours to futureproof the state. 

“Despite this age group being aware that being overweight, smoking or not brushing their teeth is bad for their health, simply knowing it doesn’t make them change their behaviours,” Mr Lupo said. 

“If we keep expecting Tasmanians to look after their own health without support, the health of our state won’t improve. We need to stop trying to use a band-aid to heal an open-heart wound.” 

Apart from heading towards a very difficult and painful life,  there simply won’t be sufficient funds, hospitals, doctors and nurses  to cover the tsunami of patients that would not be in that terrible position if they had taken the preventative health approach. 

The main element of the Tasmania Report Roadshow, Saul Eslake’s assessment of Tasmania’s economy, showed business confidence and investment levels were in a much healthier position than the state’s 25 to 34 year olds, according to TCCI CEO Michael Bailey. 

“The good news is that Tasmania is now recording faster growth than the national average, or indeed the fastest of any state or territory. This improved economic performance is now being reflected in higher levels of migration to Tasmania from both overseas and interstate, which is in turn providing a boost to economic growth,” Mr Bailey said. 

“The Tasmanian Government is also entitled to a good share of the credit. The Government’s management of Tasmania’s public sector finances, its infrastructure investment program, and other policy settings have helped to maintain a consistently high level of business confidence, which has been in turn reflected in sustained higher levels of business investment.

“However, it is crucial that this initial progress be sustained. Doing so will require an ongoing focus on the principal economic drivers of material living standards – in particular, participation in employment, and productivity – and to the various ways in which the benefits of improved economic performance are shared throughout the Tasmanian community.” 

To view Michael’s full recap of the 2018 Tasmania Report click here.

Weekly weigh-in: The contrasting states of men’s and women’s cricket and an inspired world champion

cricket image


You know men’s cricket is under pressure when the headline on the back page of the Australian yells: “Cricket a dysfunctional family” and the headline below says: “Angry Clarke hits back at a “headline chasing coward.” 

Fair dinkum, it’s about time our senior cricketers and management take a couple of years suspension and grow up. 

The Australian coach Justin Langer, looked on as a good bloke by insiders, was very forthright with his belief that cricket is a dysfunctional family and that the relationship between former captain Steve Smith and his offsider David Warner needs healing, as do so many more in the game. 

The coach met with the suspended pair separately in Sydney this week, watching both bat on different days at the SCG. As rumour has it, there is still great tension between the two players after the ball tampering issue in South Africa which fractured their seemingly strong relationship. 

The other blow-up was between former captain Michael Clarke, who is defending Warner, his former teammate, and radio broadcaster Gerard Whateley, who has bounced Clarke for his absurdity.  

Clarke said the Australian team should stop worrying about being respected and being the most liked team in the world because they won’t win a game with this attitude. 

“In cricketing terms, Michael Clarke is proving himself the last of the great climate deniers,” Whatley responded.  

“Clarke’s interpretation of the predicament the Australian men’s Test team finds itself in is breathtaking.  

“When the cultural review identified the phenomenon of the gilded bubble where elite cricketers existed in a parallel universe blessed with wealth and privilege oblivious to outside perception and influence, it should’ve posted a photo of the former captain. 

“Australia didn’t know what or where the line was – that’s how it ended up with sandpaper on the field.”

We’ve seen the bad, now let’s look at the good – the women’s Australian cricket team, which this week won the final of the T20 World Cup in a superb game against India. 

It’s not just the victory that was impressive, but the 18 months of preparation to bond together a group of cricketers who were focused and trained and played together as a team. 

Listening to an interview with star allrounder Ellyse Perry on Melbourne radio early this morning, you could feel the relief, happiness and confidence of a professional team player. 

While the interview was with Ellyse, the story was the team and the dedication shown to work together and take on the world. 

When questioned about appearing to be having a great time in the final, with no stress, she responded: “Easy to have fun when you’re a winning.” 

Ellyse then explained how the team was committed to building their skills over the 18 months prior to the tournament. 

“I enjoyed working together and everyone was clear on their role. It was exciting to have the young players coming through and performing the way they are. 

“We came up with some clear plans and it was so rewarding, especially in our bowling. 

“It was a tough time and very competitive but we all came together. Really cool.” 

What an example for the men’s game, on and off the field.

And here’s a positive role model example of a young child watching her heroine win an Olympic Games gold medal. 

The second interview I have honed in on this week, while trying to avoid a repeat of political rubbish stories, featured Steph Gilmore, who last weekend won her seventh World Surfing Championship in Hawaii. 

It was a fascinating interview of a very humble champion inspired by Cathy Freeman, Olympic gold medallist in the 400m at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. 

“I was inspired to be in athletics by watching Cathy Freeman winning the gold medal at the Sydney Olympic Games,” Steph said. 

“She performed under the most intense pressure and held it together. It was super human to me.” 

The then 12-year-old competed in athletics before turning to her love of surfing, winning her first World Championship in 2007 as a 19-year-old before going on to dominate the tour with four consecutive titles. 

Surfing is her job and she reckons it’s the best job in the world, saying “It’s no wonder I’m always smiling.  

“The beauty of the Hawaii course is lining up out on the water and seeing the beauty of the rainbows coming and going, turtles in the line-up and dolphins swimming around you. 

“I got all the girls together on the night after the final.  

“We all have a great time, the competitive approach stays in the water and we come together to have a great time.” 

Like all champions, it doesn’t happen without blood sweat and tears. 

“If you really want something to happen and you really have that desire and passion for it, you will work hard and find a way to win,” Steph said.  

“Each year when I start training, I make a promise to myself that I will do everything I can to make it happen.” 

A great lesson for all sporties and a great example of the impact our leaders have on younger Australians. 

Weekly weigh-in: Sewage attacks, birth certificates and right-wing Christians



The old saying of letting sleeping dogs lie rings so true when it comes to corrections in newspapers, as we have witnessed over the past two days.

Yesterday, The Examiner covered the story of a very popular Trevallyn café which was flooded overnight. A TasWater spokesperson said a sewer blockage occurred in the vicinity of Café Culture, resulting in sewage backing up and overflowing into the property through internal plumbing.

TasWater said a significant build-up of fat in the sewer line was expected to be the cause.

A flood is bad enough, but a sewage flood in a restaurant is a shocker at best.

However if you missed the story yesterday, it was back again today, with TasWater saying the sewerage blockage had been cleared.

“A blockage occurred just downstream from a manhole near Café Culture, resulting in sewage backing up and overflowing into the property through internal plumping,” said TasWater.

“CCTV investigation showed a build-up of silt, rocks and other debris was the cause.”

No doubt the café owner was livid about the suggestion the horrible sewage attack was the result of a build-up of fat in the sewer line from his kitchen.

The mental picture of what occurred in his restaurant was bad enough in the first place, without a second round of sewage overflow reporting to worry about, let alone the fat in the sewer argument.

By the way, there was no smelly approach by the newspaper as it was just doing what a local paper should do.

The re-shaped Marriage Act Bill, which now includes the removal of gender on birth certificates, had the House of Assembly jumping on Tuesday. They will now pass the headache on to the Legislative Council.

We know how the four Labor members will vote but what about the four independents who have a history of blocking contentious Government bills. This time they face a bill supported by Labor and the Greens with the assistance of floor-crosser Liberal Speaker, Sue Hickey.

Attorney-General Elise Archer has publicly shared her concerns about the bill, which no longer resembles the bill introduced by Government. Her main concern is the nine amendments are legally untested and as such have unknown consequences.

Mr Archer said an example of this was the use of the terms “apparent sex” and “gender expression”, terms which do not have any legislative precedent. The terms, along with several other broad definitions “beg the question, what do they mean?” Ms Archer said.

Another amendment of concern will allow a 16-year-old to change their name without parental consent, a practice which does not align with the national identity standards adhered to by the Registrar of Birth, Deaths and Marriages.

Community and social media have certainly arced up about the proposed changes in the north and north-west, with a recent research poll asking should we, or should we not, remove gender from birth certificates. Radio host Brian Carlton yesterday revealed the Facebook poll results, which showed 95 per cent of people said NO and 5 per cent said YES, from 10,600 responses.

History shows that for the majority of its 193 years, the Legislative Council has been looked on as the House of Review. It picks up legal errors, unintended consequences and then sends the bill back to the Government with the changes.

In theory, it’s not a matter of voting against the bill because you don’t like the subject of it, but because it is a flawed bill.

The tricky part happens if the Legislative Council sends the bill back to Government with amendments. At this stage, Government won’t support the amendments, so how will the Opposition, Greens and Sue Hickey react to any Upper House changes?

Time will tell.

It was interesting to hear that Speaker Sue Hickey, following her crossing of the floor to support Labor and the Greens, is now the political counterweight to the “right-wing Christian element” of the Liberal Party.

“People have to realise the Liberal Party has a very strong right-wing Christian element,” Ms Hickey said.

“I would hope that I can give hope to other people who are interested in liberal values that you can be a Liberal without necessarily being extreme right.”

The surprise of a couple of Hobart friends is not Ms Hickey’s comments, but how her Chief of Staff, Mervin Reed, could support the comments having been further right than Genghis Khan.

Weekly weigh-in: Parliamentary numbers, local council rumblings, Legislative Council change and election advertising



One of the Government members who supported cutting the numbers in the Tasmanian House of Assembly from 35 to 25 in 1998, publicly said in recent years that it was the wrong decision and he wished for an opportunity to reverse the change.

Some stories from the past suggest the move was to kerb the power of the Greens. In fact, it was the reason for cutting the numbers.

Tony Rundle, the Liberal Premier at the time, said after a very messy debate that “while this new model isn’t perfect, at least a party with 10 per cent of the vote will no longer control the state.”

Wrong. Just three elections later, Labor and Liberal picked up 10 members and the Greens five. Liberals refused to work with the Greens after the 1998 debacle, so David Bartlett and Labor retained government through an agreement with the Greens.

Next week, Greens Leader Cassy O’Connor will introduce a bill hoping for support from either the Government or the Labor Party to increase the House of Assembly from 25 to 35.

Premier Will Hodgman is opposed, saying the size of Parliament is not a priority for the Liberals.

Surprisingly the Opposition won’t support increasing the numbers until all parties agree, as they did in 2014 until the Liberal Party withdrew before the election. Speaker Sue Hickey supports the increase and if it was 2014, her vote would have passed the bill.

There is certainly an argument about the costs of adding 10 members to Parliament, with some using the 2014 research which said the new members would replace up to 20 or 30 staffers who would be replaced by the backbenchers etc.

The Government member who publicly regretted the decision was the late Tony Benneworth, the member for Bass from 2002 to 2008, who wished for an opportunity to reverse the decision.

The political and personnel changes at some local councils following the recent local government elections have certainly created some potential problems and maybe even a ticking bomb.

No-one is suggesting we will have another Glenorchy City Council style train-wreck, but two of the biggest councils in the state – Hobart and Launceston, may find some challenges.

Already rumbles are bouncing about since the new Hobart Lord Mayor Anna Reynolds revealed her agenda to the community. The Lord Mayor stood as an Independent after many years as member of the Greens.

Former Labor Minister and now political consultant, Julian Amos, said this week that six aldermen (or councillors) have now written letters to The Mercury advising their concern that the Lord Mayor is following her own agenda without reference or support from council.

“And particularly so when her views would suggest an agenda that – to say the least – is not supportive of business and investment,” Mr Amos said.

Launceston has a very solid Mayor, Albert Van Zetten, who retained his position in a very close election from former Mayor, Janie Dickenson (2002-2005). Albert has now led the Launceston council since 2007 and is looked on as a consistent Mayor who understands the needs of continuing to grow the city with the support of ratepayers.

However, the election has shifted the balance within the council, which will attract some very interesting debates – particularly with a series of developments in need of support, including two major hotels.

As a friend said yesterday, let’s hope we don’t go back to the days when Tasmania was the only state where Green meant stop.

Talking of changes, it appears the President of the Legislative Council, Jim Wilkinson, won’t stand in next year’s May election for Nelson.

This will be a sad loss of a very effective Legislative Council member since 1995, and President since 2013 when Sue Smith retired.

As rumour has it, a Northern member already has the numbers required to become President and a North West member is set for the deputy position.

Wow, seven months away and the deal is done.

When staying with friends in Melbourne last week, they shared their frustration about the barrage of TV ads leading up to the Victorian election next Saturday.

A quick look and you know the answer. The content was the same as seen in Tasmania through the State Election and Braddon by-election, with the only change being the names and photos.

With a Federal election not that far away, let’s hope Get Up at least introduce some factual information and stop beating the stuffing out of good people.

Weekly weigh-in: System failures, craft beer and the silly season



When will we ever learn?

That is the key question for big business and IT in order to improve their reliability for frustrated and angry clients.

Every time there’s a major event, the systems crash and people spend hours or days waiting for the IT systems to re-open. Examples are plenty, including tickets to the AFL finals in Melbourne, bank failures in South Australia, Telstra e-mails for the past three months across four states including Tasmania (yes, I’m one of the people affected), the 2016 Census debacle, the ATO, Centrelink and the Federal Government.

In fact, a Senate committee claimed Government has not demonstrated it has the political will to drive digital transformation and that there were serious deficiencies in the way Government departments communicate digitally with the private sector.

Just this week thousands of punters flooded social media with complaints about two of Australia’s major corporate bookmakers, Sportsbet and Ladbrokes, crashing before Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup – the biggest betting day of the year.  Sportsbet came back online just before the cup but it was too late for many of their clients.

Ironically, Sportsbet, when interviewed a couple of days before the cup said that the company exceeded 26,000 bets per minute and peaked at 850 bets per second last year and were expecting bigger numbers for this year’s race.

Aside from blasting Sportsbet and Ladbrokes, many of the punters shelved their loyalty and opened accounts with rival bookies.

Matt Tripp, the chief executive of BetEasy, a recent merger of Crownbet and William Hill and majority owned by Canada’s The Stars group, was one of the beneficiaries, signing up 500 new customers every minute.

Tabcorp, overcoming its unfortunate past, has worked hard for the last three months with constant load tests to ensure a seamless week. Through this busy racing week, Tabcorp and its new partners Ubet, will process more than 4300 bets per second through online accounts, phones, electronic betting machines and manual betting.

Staggering figures, but certainly they prepared for the tsunami – perhaps others should take note.

The growth of the Australian craft beer industry has no limits. If one brewery door closes, another opens and so it happens around the nation.

Figures vary, but there is something like 550 craft beer breweries in Australia while the US industry sits at 6000 plus. The growth in the US is still strong but has just started to level out, with only a five per cent increase last year compared to the 16 per cent increase in 2016.

Research shows 94 per cent of craft beer drinkers believe the quality of craft beer in Australia is improving and 85 per cent are buying more Australian craft and less international craft.

A fascinating businesses in Bridge Road, Richmond supports this research and is amazed at just how many clients have moved to the craft beer.

The business, Purvis Beers, has 1300 different craft beers on the shelves with the majority from around Australia with a handful of the popular UK, Danish and Belgium winners.

Dragged into the Purvis Beers store by a mate earlier this week, I found the sheer variety of brews on offer an eye opener and a lesson in what is now available from places I didn’t even know existed. A couple of Huon ciders and beers lined the shelves, but according to the owners the competition is very tough, with a minimum of 30 new brewers a week wanting to have their new beers on display.

The times they are a changin’…

While Christmas and the resulting holiday period is generally a merry time, it can be a real headache for employers in areas such as closing the business, negotiating staff parties and managing employee leave.

In this month’s Tasmanian Business Reporter, TCCI Workplace Relations Consultant Abbey George provides some very salient advice on how to prevent these issues from spoiling what should be a wonderful time of year.

To read Abbey’s column, click here.

Weekly weigh-in: A breath of fresh air, journalistic ‘facts’ and Ministerial relationships

parliament house


Last weekend’s summaries of Tasmania’s Government, Opposition and Greens by Brad Stansfield, former Chief of Staff for Premier Will Hodgman, was a breath of fresh air. It was also a very smart move by The Mercury and Sunday Tasmanian to run the stories.

Brad, now a Partner at Font Public Relations following eight years and two successful elections for the Liberal Party, didn’t hold back his thoughts – but at no stage did he touch on confidential areas or share secrets of his inside knowledge of Government, as you would expect.

He challenged Government for going soft and breaking election promises; questioned the drive of an impotent Labor Opposition and the potential of a David O’Byrne attack if leader Bec White failed to deliver and also pointed out that the Greens are at a defining time of their existence, or ‘Greens in wilderness’ as the headline screamed.

Of course, there were many more issues and details in the well written stories by a writer with a great knowledge of politics and business.

Many of the issues raised have been discussed in the office, at the pub and around the dinner table.

However, we don’t see these stories often enough from our political writers in our newspapers and other media outlets, apart from a few exceptions such as Managing Editor of The Examiner, Mark Baker.

The majority of political stories are written by the left, from Labor to Green, by writers who often don’t understand how to write a balanced story. It’s kicking the government and filling up with questionable stories from opposition parties with no questions asked.

And that leads to the Andrew Bolt story in yesterday’s Herald Sun. Bolt, who now dominates politics on Sky News during weeknights, can be a pain in the neck, but he has certainly taken on politicians from all parties and has no time for idiots.

But he really hit the bullseye on Thursday when he attacked the Canberra media pack and the National Press Club luncheon. The speaker was Australian Conservation Foundation boss Kelly O’Shanassy,

According to Bolt, Ms O’Shanassy made a preposterous claim. “If we continue to burn coal and gas for decades to come, we will kill the 1.5-degree target, we will not have a habitable planet and hundreds of millions of people will die,” O’Shanassy said.

“Pardon?” Mr Bolt wrote in his article.

“Hundreds of millions of people will die? We will not have a habitable planet?

“But get this: not a single journalist in the room said: Are you nuts? Not one asked: What’s your evidence?

“To me, it’s mad, bad and dangerous that a room of journalists can hear a shiny-eyed speaker proclaim the end of the world — at least for humans — yet react without the slightest scepticism.

“Have they no eyes to see or brains to think?

“They accept wild doom-preaching because for some strange reason they really, really want this junk to be true.”

And there was more, but his final paragraph is a wake-up call for all media outlets: “Facts and reason no longer count in journalism. If you don’t think that’s scary, you deserve all the pain that’s coming.”

Unfortunately there is fact in his story.

Life moves on for Sarah Courtney and her new Ministry portfolio of Resources, Building and Construction after a return to her position in State Cabinet.

Ms Courtney stood aside from her former Ministry role following the development of her relationship with the secretary of her department, John Whittington, which led to investigations into decisions made by the pair and Ms Courtney’s potential breach of the ministerial code of conduct.

The investigation revealed there was a minor breach of the code of conduct for waiting a month before alerting the relationship to Premier Will Hodgman. The Premier confirmed the independent report and said Ms Courtney’s action in not disclosing the relationship sooner was minor.

“I have had a lengthy discussion with Sarah and she accepted she made an error of judgement,” the Premier said.

Ms Courtney said she understands the public interest in the story. “But my relationship is a private and personal matter and I hope that privacy is respected,” she said.

Former legal eagle, Damian Bugg, who investigated the code of conduct issue, confirmed in his summary that the relationship started on 13 September, a month before Ms Courtney told the Premier.

Thank goodness the date was made public, finally quietening the fixated journos and leaders of the Opposition and the Greens. Did we really need to know the date of the first coffee, glass of champagne, the first kiss or more? Of course not.

Back off and let a very successful Minister continue her new roles for the betterment of the state.

Weekly weigh-in: Local government elections, parliamentary lingering and Question Time



I understand the annoyance of media organisations and day-to-day parliamentary journos following the release of the new rules for media in parliament. “No lingering” in selected corridors reminds me of my boarding school days.

The new regulations were released by the House of Assembly Speaker, Sue Hickey, although there is still some confusion over the introduction of the heavy-handed media rules.

Opposition parties are far from impressed with rumbles coming from some in the Legislative Council. Their concern is the potential obstruction of the media’s access to politicians for stories and photographs.

The rules state that journalists “may not linger” in selected corridors and may not seek to engage members in conversation. Instead, media should make an appointment by telephone if they wish to speak to a politician.

Photos of “unparliamentary behaviour” by parliamentarians are banned and images cannot be digitally enhanced, touched up or altered in any form.” Best of luck on that one.

My time in covering parliament was certainly in the dark days where there were no photos in the House unless it was an approved function, no Hansard, strict rules of access in the House and of course the famous Members and Strangers Bars which are no longer.

The Strangers Bar, as it sounds, was for journalists, visitors and others, while the Members Bar, as it sounds, was strictly for members. However, members were allowed into the Strangers Bar and surprise, surprise, many spent their time with the journos sharing great stories, sucking information about future stories and leaking some very good stories.

Rules were rules and bars were opened until one hour after the House of Assembly adjourned, even between 4am-5am after a filibuster. Access could be difficult at times whether it be because of an individual or a party under pressure, so really nothing has changed.

As for sneaking around corridors and having an ear to the door, the spies were not the necessarily the journalists and the sneaking continued for many decades.

Times changed, TV crews and photographers were welcomed into the House, including access to Question Time and live streaming of the entire parliamentary sessions of Commonwealth and State parliaments through internet and TV stations, a great example of a democratic nation.

However, Question Time in the Tasmanian Parliament has been poisoned since access was granted to television.

The smart Oppositions, whether they be Liberal, Labor or Greens, woke up to the fact that if you yelled, screamed and told government they were liars you were guaranteed of hitting the 10 minute TV section of Question Time, which really was/is fight time.

And nothing has changed, as you will find if you attend or watch via the current webcast. The personal attacks can be pretty horrible which would never be accepted in today’s workplaces, schools or other environments.

A 12-year-old relation recently spent several hours in Parliament as part of her school curriculum and soaked up so much in the sessions from Speaker, Sue Hickey and others who opened up a new world for the class.

The blot was Question Time. The ringing of the bells was more like the start of a boxing round.

Weeks after the visit, the student was still shaking her head. Having been looking forward to Question Time, she couldn’t understand why the two female leaders were so angry, so nasty and didn’t stop interrupting. My explanation of Question Time strategy failed and two politicians are now off her leaders list.

It’s certainly not a good example.

I foolishly asked a cynical friend in Hobart recently what he thought of the candidates for local government.

He responded, “the good, the bad and the evil”.

I changed the subject.

But it would be very interesting to understand why 481 Tasmanians are fighting for a seat in local government with a strong attraction to wanting to be Mayor (102 candidates) and a whopping 135 fighting for the Deputy Mayor positions.

If I had asked Mr Cynical, no doubt he would have replied “all for the money”.

The Local Government Association of Tasmania has provided a valid explanation reminding the community that the Government introduced new legislation to overcome costly two-year elections so local government elections would be held in four year terms with an all-in, all out approach.

The result is that all Alderman and Mayors would have a four-year term when previously elections were held every two years, with 50 per cent of the Aldermen having to be re-elected to retain their seat.

However, it doesn’t explain why the big players such as Launceston and Hobart, have more than 20 candidates fighting for mayoral positions and another 135 throughout the state wanting the deputy mayoral seats.

Hobart has 36 candidates, with 11 candidates for Lord Mayor and Deputy Mayor. Launceston attracted 32 candidates with eight seeking the Mayor’s position and eight also for Deputy Mayor.

West Tamar, with only nine councillors has 22 candidates and four for Mayor and five for Deputy Mayor. Clarence, with 12 aldermen has 25 candidates with six for Mayor and 11 for Deputy Mayor.

Burnie with nine aldermen has 18 candidates, five for Mayor and seven for Deputy Mayor, while Devonport also with nine aldermen has 20 candidates, three for Mayor and five for Deputy Mayor.

The bigger problem has been heard and read by ratepayers who have been shocked by the numbers of candidates and thought “who the heck are they?” Which creates the next question, can you name the current 12, nine or seven aldermen or councillors in your electorate?

With lists up to 36 candidates, there’s no doubt many ballot papers are ending up in the rubbish bin.

Weekly weigh-in: Conflicts of interest and compulsory voting



The affair of a State Minister and her relationship with the secretary of her main portfolio created vastly different approaches around the state.

Opposition party leaders have been frothing at the mouth to find out more detail from Premier Will Hodgman, who set up the inquiries on Monday and won’t provide information until the inquiries are finalised.

Minister Sarah Courtney has stepped down while conflict of interest areas are raised by her personal relationships with Department of Primary Industries,  Parks, Water and  Environment Secretary, John Whittington, who is now on leave.

Pressing the Premier in question time this week, the Opposition parties were desperate to know if Mr Whittington had apparently requested to work two days a week in Launceston where Ms Courtney lives.

The Premier would not confirm the request but said a move would be consistent with Government policy to decentralise staff from DPIPWE.

I have it on good word that yesterday’s weekly coffee meeting discussion between a group of Launceston ladies was dominated by the political affair and accepted the need to clear potential conflict of interest breaches.

However, they won’t accept it is illegal for adults to fall in love regardless of whether they are politicians or public servants.

In fact, they agreed there should be more affairs if it meant more Public Servants working in Launceston.

As for The Mercury’s front page on Wednesday, ‘NORTHERN EXPOSURE’, the response was bring it on, because they really don’t see it as something secret, embarrassing or damaging.

While there is a lighter approach by many, the conflict of interest process is essential.

The Premier was advised by Ms Courtney and Mr Whittington of their relationship on Sunday.

Mr Hodgman has requested the Head of the State Service, Ms Jenny Gale, to review all relevant decisions made by Ms Courtney and to consider whether State Service Code of Conduct is required in relation to Dr Whittington.

The Premier has also sought independent advice from former Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions to see if there is any breach of the Ministerial Code of Conduct.

The Tasmanian Code of Conduct, a modest seven pages, was introduced by the Premier shortly after the Hodgman Government was voted in for a second term in March.  The Code of Conduct for Ministers covers such areas as conflicts of interest, declaration and divestment of personal interests, gifts and benefits, improper advantage, improper use of public resources, misleading statements, fairness of decision making, respect for persons and breaches of the code of Public Officials.

The conflict of interest codes says: “Any material conflict between a Member’s private interest and his or her official duties which arises must be resolved promptly in favour of the public interest. Ministers must take reasonable steps to avoid, resolve or disclose any material conflict of interest, financial or non-financial, that rises or is likely to arise between their personal interests and their official duties.”

The investigations are expected to be completed sooner than later.

Despite Opposition attacks, neither the Premier, or Ms Courtney, will make any further comments until after the investigation which is a totally accepted approach.

It is also a very different approach of 10 years ago when a Labor Party Minister was sacked after she confirmed to a Mercury journalist that she had an affair with a ministerial driver.

She was removed by her Premier, the driver was paid $55,000 because the fallout of the tryst left him depressed.

With record numbers of candidates seeking positions in Local Government ratepayers have a terrific opportunity to select the candidates who will look to the future and work for their ratepayers.

The TCCI is calling for compulsory voting which is now a necessity to ensure councils are not overtaken by parties who can support decisions which are so far away from the needs of ratepayers with so many Melbourne councils now overrun by parties.

Read TCCI CEO Michael Bailey’s report for more detail.

Weekly weigh-in: Long term policies, health problems and sporting decorum


Liberal MP and Speaker of the House of Assembly Sue Hickey has called for a halt to political argument on the state’s health and a start to a new paradigm where we put people first and politics second.

Ms Hickey has also told media the Government needs to accept input from other parties in State Parliament and work on projects over 10, 20 and 50 years instead of just a four-year term.

It’s interesting that Ms Hickey is supporting the need for long term policies as mentioned in last week’s Weigh-in. The support for long term policies was revealed at the Business Leaders Summit in Canberra organised by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI).

The speaker’s long term policies would be welcomed by business and the community. Her call to “stop blaming previous governments for generally following the same well-trodden path” has merit, however the inability of the previous government to start the redevelopment of the Royal Hobart Hospital is the main reason for the shortage of emergency beds.

It takes at least four years to build or re-build a hospital and the current Government is now in its final eight to 10 months of the project for increased beds and enhanced surgical and emergency departments.

The daily media attacks by the opposition parties and unions are damaging the confidence of the community, although the great majority I have met who have spent time in state EDs or the wards are thankful and supportive of their experience.

The Speaker has also called for a radical rethink of the state’s health, child protection and housing problems, saying the culture of waste and blame needs to end.

The responsibility for blame sits with all in politics and they certainly can do better. The same applies to the union movement and the media.

An example of blame culture was The Examiner’s front page headline on Thursday which read ‘DEATH BED’.

The headline was created from an inaccurate story which said more than 80 Tasmanians a year die prematurely because of bed block, with the LGH having the worst bed block in Australia.

The information came from Martin Goddard, whose report was based on official data and statistics. His report found the LGH had the worse bed block of 287 Australian public hospitals with emergency departments.

Mr Goddard said research showed a person’s chances of dying if they were affected by bed block increased by a third.

“It is likely that there are in excess of 80 premature deaths a year in Tasmanian hospitals because of bed block,” he said.

Hang on, the intro said “more than 80 Tasmanians a year died because of bed block” while Mr Goddard said “It is likely there are in excess of 80 premature deaths” which is very different to saying that it happened.

Today, on page 13 of The Examiner, the Premier rejected suggestions Tasmania’s hospitals are unsafe and Health Department Secretary Michael Pervan questioned the 80 deaths through bed block in hospital EDs.

“Mr Goddard is not reporting actual mortality statistics, but is instead making inferences based on estimates taken from studies undertaken elsewhere, including as far back as 2003,” Mr Pervan said.

“Importantly, the Australian Council of Healthcare Standards has also recently re-accredited both the LGH and RHH with outstanding feedback.”

Health leaders, including in private health, are amazed that the media never asks the obvious questions of Mr Goddard but instead suck up his un-questioned information for page one and lead stories on radio and television.

Remember research shows that 56.5 per cent of ED patients are non-urgent and the non-urgent patients are increasing, with the Tasmanian figures now the second highest in Australia.

Now AFL has left the stage, we start looking to our spring and summer games such as cricket, both male and the much more impressive female team, basketball, The Melbourne Cup and the lead ups, golf and of course tennis with the Australian Open in January.

The growth of Australian tennis, both the men’s and women’s games, is very exciting and no doubt will attract massive numbers to the Australian Open in January, the first grand slam for 2019.

Then there’s the elephant on the court. Yes, Nick Kyrgios, the world’s 38th ranked player, loved and despised by tennis fans world-wide, including in his home country, Australia.

So grating is Nick, that The Australian’s sports editor Wally Mason ran a column this week refusing to name the brattish Aussie tennis player who had thrown his toys in the sandpit after the umpire said something that offended him.

Instead, Mason concentrated on Aussie player Matthew Ebden, a journeyman who always gives his best and played a terrific game at the Shanghai Masters to beat US star, Frances Tiafoe, ranked 40 in the world.

He fought hard after losing his first set 3-6, but won the next two 6-4, 6-3. He didn’t spit the dummy after the first set, nor did he threaten the umpire who may have looked at him which is enough to send off Kyrgios.

Mason was stunned by the failure of the battalions of tennis journalists covering the Shanghai Masters when not one thought it worthy to write about Ebden’s win.

“Instead they were at an adjacent court writing about a sneering smart alec with a towering sense of his own importance who had yet another on-court tantrum,” Mason said.

“Such stories about this particular clown are a dime a dozen – he does it every second time he picks up a tennis racquet.

“Ebden didn’t amble through a lacklustre loss to an American qualifier, Bradley Klahn. He didn’t make a series of petulant remarks to the umpire and rant and rave at his box, apparently because things weren’t going his way.”

“And he didn’t slump off the court after his defeat with his towel in his mouth and his face buried on his phone.”

A great column by Mason in the Australian and a gutsy call to refuse using Kyrgios’s name.

Frustrating behaviour from such a talented sportsman who forgets to install his brain when he takes to the court.

The results of the TCCI’s Survey of Business Expectations for Quarter 3, 2018 are in, showing that overall, confidence remains steady, but recent events politically and economically have had an impact on Chamber members.

In general terms the expectation for the Australian economy is neutral, but with some positivity and for the Tasmanian economy is strongly positive.

To view the results of the survey, click here.

Weekly weigh-in: Federal Government failings



One of the big frustrations for so many people in Australia has been the inability of governments, particularly Federal, to develop long term policies and strategies and stick to their decisions.

It’s difficult for a couple of reasons, particularly when the Federal House of Assembly has only a three-year life before an election, while it’s a four-year term for most states.

But even in these three years we are now bombarded with wasteful behaviour by politicians who dismiss their electorates and make their own odd decisions.

The obvious example is the political assassination of Prime Ministers between 2007 and 2018 including Rudd, Gillard, Rudd, Abbott and Turnbull – five PMs in 11 years. Previous to the internal slashing of PMs sat John Howard from 1996 to 2007, or 11 stable years at the wheel compared to the mess of the last 11 years.

Certainly not enough were worrying about long term policies while plotting knockouts and seeing how they could get a seat in Cabinet.

Ancient history has us believing for centuries that the 44BC assassination of Julius Caesar was horrible when he was knifed to death by a group of rebellious Roman Senators. Well the Australian Senate is now considered a shamble, with a mixture of big and small parties and independents. While they aren’t assassinating House of Reps members they do love killing Government legislation.

The need for long term policies became the most supported of major discussions at a Business Leaders’ Summit in Canberra last week.

The Summit, organised by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), attracted record numbers of political and business leaders, policy makers, regulators and influencers to discuss and address the key challenges facing Australia’s business community.

It was also made crystal clear that political leaders need to understand the risk to confidence in the nation when politicking is put ahead of policy making and certainty.

ACCI’s Duncan Bremner said there was an overwhelming desire for sound long term policies that would help business deliver the jobs, living standards and opportunities to which Australians aspire.

“In recent years we have fallen out of the top 10 of the world’s most competitive economies and now we perch just inside the top 20 as globalisation has dramatically altered the way we all do business,” Mr Bremner said.

“To make Australia the best place in the world to do business, Australia’s businesses need policy certainty, to give them the confidence to take risks, to invest, to grow, to create more jobs and to better compete in the global market.

“With an election due within the year, the Australian Chamber wants to see the Government led by Prime Minister Morrison recognise, with the Opposition led by Mr Shorten, that national leadership is a long distance race, not a sprint.”

Again, the result is in the hands of the Parliament which has the responsibility to look after Australia and its people and plan for the future, not today or tomorrow.

The development of Tasmania’s hydro power system, the best in the world according to many, was encouraged by bipartisanship on key issues in the Tasmanian Parliament. This was one hiccup in the 80s, but overall hydro was enriched by government and opposition.

Weekly weigh-in: The ABC

ABC logo


The sacking of ABC Managing Director, Michelle Guthrie and the resignation of ABC Chairman, Justin Milne four days later, creates an unexpected opportunity to re-build a once respected and loved media organisation.

There’s no need for an inquiry about Aunty’s headache of this week because the answer is already sitting in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Act 1983.

But first let’s understand what happened, starting from Monday morning this week and how flip flop of ABC staff the process was.

On Monday, Chairman Milne announced the sacking of Managing Director, Ms Guthrie, saying little about the departure except that the board felt her leadership style was not what the ABC needed.

The next day media reported that ABC staff had gloated over Guthrie’s departure saying “she was never their champion.”

A day later, ABC Chairman Justin Milne was under the pump when secret e-mails became very public about Mr Milne telling his MD to “get rid of” economics correspondent Emma Alberici and to take    action against political reporter Andrew Probyn and Melbourne broadcaster Jon Faine.

While the reasons for this action varied, including Alberici publishing an error riddled analysis of proposed company tax, revelations now suggest Mr Milne had made it clear that the government didn’t like the three journos.

By Wednesday, the ABC team was feeling so sorry for Ms Guthrie and horrified by the political interference, that 350 staff called for Milne’s sacking, holding placards reading: ‘NO POLITICAL INTERFERENCE’ and ‘HANDS OFF ABC’.

Yes, we make errors, hate Liberal Governments Federal and State, can’t spell the balance or business, but just leave us alone to do what we want to, not what the majority of Australians want.

So now let’s read section 8 of the ABC Act ‘Duties of the Board’, which is very clear in the first three points:

  1. a) to ensure the functions of the Corporation are performedefficiently andwith the maximum benefit to the people of Australia;
  2. b) to maintain the independence of the Corporation;
  3. c) to ensure that the gathering and presentation by the Corporation of news and information is accurate andimpartial accordingto the recognised standards of objective journalism.

No doubt, the golden section for the ABC staff is the independence of the corporation for obvious reasons when you read section c.

If news and information was accurate, impartial and recognised the standards of objective journalism, section b would be irrelevant.

No need for inquires, just employ a media background person who hasn’t worked at the ABC or Fairfax for the last 20 years and a chairman who works with his managing director to introduce and change their culture through section b of the board’s duty.

If the culture change doesn’t happen with this new team, it won’t happen for a generation.

Weekly weigh-in: Non-urgent hospital patients



While the media and unions continue to attack the so-called overflowing emergency departments in Hobart and Launceston, a major part of the problem is being overlooked.

And by the way, research reveals that crowding in emergency departments (EDs) has become an international dilemma. The problems vary nation-to-nation, but there are several contributing factors such as ageing populations, increased rates of chronic disease, sporting accidents and the newbies – drug overdoses and alcohol.

But the real problem is the growing number of non-urgent patients attending the ED. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing, numbers are increasing annually.

It’s no surprise that non-urgent patients being dropped into ED is the second highest number in Australia with the Launceston General Hospital (LGH) ED handling 56.5 per cent of non-urgent patients.

There are a number of reasons why non-urgent patients attend the ED, including (in order of percentage) convenience (42.3 per cent); the perceived need; GP not available; told by GP or nurse to head to ED; and, the ED is more available than the GP.

In Australia, the triage system is used to assess how serious the condition of the client is and the system is used to guide hospital staff to prioritise ED patients according to how sick they are.

The five-level triage system runs from Life Threatening at Level 1, through to Non-Urgent at Level 5, where a patient “needs treatment when time permits”. The major health issue for non-urgent patients is musculoskeletal, such as pain or injury to limbs, joints and back (31 per cent) and the second largest cohort were those with non-specific complaints such as fever, headache, non-specified pain and chest pain (14 per cent).

The research shows that at the LGH, an average of 71 non-urgent patients per day are processed through the triage system. And if the system isn’t followed, no matter how minor the non-urgent patient’s problem may be, the hospital will certainly end up in the local media.

Doubling or tripling the size of the emergency department isn’t the answer because of the continued increase of non-urgent patients. With convenience the most common reason for non-urgent patients turning up at ED and the majority being under 25 years of age, maybe it’s more of an educational issue than a health problem.

A reliable health consultant believes there is now a new patient group a long way down the triage list from the non-urgent. I can’t share the name of the level but it’s not a great surprise.

In the middle of life and death, nurses are now spending time with young patients selling their illness story and demanding a bed instantly, which occasionally can happen but certainly not ahead of levels one and two.

By morning, the young patient has miraculously recovered and enjoyed the bed for the night.

The most frustrating issue for the Health Department back in 2011 or 2012 was the George Town ambulance taxi.

Actually, the ambulance wasn’t based in George Town, but the “patient” pick-ups were from George Town.

As it went, an urgent call came from a dying patient insisting on the need for an ambulance to the ED at the LGH. The round trip is about 100km, taking at least 90 minutes.

The ambo’s back door opened and the dying patient bolted down Charles Street, never to be seen again. Some of his mates were also successfully chauffeured for a night out in Launceston, much to the frustration of all in health.

At least, according to a government health adviser at that time, one of them acted like a gentleman and thanked the ambo staff as he walked away.

Weekly weigh-in: Spiked strawberries and cartoon outragestrawberries01-md.jpg


Beware of the strawberry.

When the front page of The Herald Sun, the country’s biggest selling newspaper, says ‘SPIKED BERRIES ATTACK’ you know the nation’s going down the drain.

Police are now urging buyers to throw out strawberries bought from Woolworths after shoppers in Queensland and Victoria found sewing needles in the fruit. Police suspect the ground-down needles were planted in the punnets by someone intending to cause “grievous bodily harm or other objectives”.

Whether it’s a payback from a disgruntled ex-employee, or some other idiot hearing messages from above, it highlights how vulnerable we are to neurotic behaviour.

And what about the US approach to Melbourne cartoonist, Mark Knight, for his superb portrayal of tennis star, Serena Williams throwing a tantrum.

The global Twitter tsunami from the US claimed it was racist, with millions venting their outrage online.

Knight’s take on Williams’ brain fade showed the 23-time Grand Slam winner finger-pointing and threatening a much smaller male umpire before destroying her tennis racquet.

Her performance was a shocker and made John McEnroe’s outbursts look soft.

A genius cartoonist, Knight has a host of Melbourne friends and colleagues who are happy to put their hands up to support a terrific bloke.

He drew the cartoon on Sunday night after seeing the US Open final and the world’s best tennis player have a tantrum.

“The cartoon about Serena is about her poor behaviour on the day, not about race. The world has just gone crazy,” Knight said this week.

Another explanation suggested the tidal wave of international condemnation was sparked by Americans wilfully interpreting it as an example of historical persecution of black sports champions.

The cartoon was labelled “vile imagery”, an outrageous racist caricature, staggeringly unflattering and “a racist cartoon (that) portrayed one of the world’s best-conditioned athletes as a fat mammy character”.

As another cartoonist said while supporting Knight: “It’s getting harder to be a cartoonist in this crazy anxious world – in this fragile, angry, humourless environment where leniency and understanding are in dangerous decline and where psychic infections spread chaotically on social media with terrible consequences.”

I’ve worked with and known some of the outstanding cartoonists around the nation and while I didn’t always agree with their approach, they were inspiring professionals who so often grabbed an angle in the story which was overlooked by journalists and photographers.

Cartoonists are a different breed, but then again so is the newsroom and the photographer’s dark room of the past. I’m happy to offer 100 per cent support for Knight and his classic cartoon.

While ‘superbrat’ McEnroe entertained and horrified tennis fans for more than a decade, he also used his outrageous umpire attacks to put his opponents off their game and it worked.

He won seven Grand Slams (Serena has 23 Grand Slams) and continues his love of the game as an excellent commentator.

Serena’s attack of the umpire was a bullying approach, calling umpire Carlos Romas a thief and accusing him of sexism by saying male players would be let off which is nonsense. She was furious that the umpire had insinuated she was cheating, despite her coach admitting coaching from the stands which is a mortal sin in tennis.

Here’s a few of McEnroe’s classics from a staggering career which was punctuated by suspensions and disqualifications:

“What other problems do you have besides being unemployed, a moron and a dork?”

“You are a disgrace to mankind.”

“You can’t be serious, that ball was on the line. Grow some hair.”

“You are the absolute pits of the world.”

“Do you still have problems with your wife?”

“Answer my question, the question, jerk.”

Disgraceful but I can’t stop smiling!

Weekly weigh-in: Political bullying



Wow, the week of alleged political bullying continues, including the Federal Government, the Victorian Government and the Victorian Greens, yes, the Greens.

The allegations started around the happenings which led to the removal of former PM, Malcom Turnbull, two weeks ago with former Treasurer and our new PM, Scott Morrison cutting Peter Dutton who had instigated the spill.

Federal Liberal MP, Julia Banks, openly said she would quit parliament following the ousting of Turnbull because of the bullying within the party and from the Labor Opposition.

Turnbull also claimed Liberal MPs were bullied by the Dutton team to sign support for Dutton in order to get the numbers for the spill. Overnight media stories claimed Dutton bullied individuals to the degree of busting into their offices and not leaving until they had signed their support.

However, what’s happened federally looks like primary school activity when you look at this week’s headlines, including the Victorian Greens being overridden by bullying and an abusive internal culture.

The story in the Sydney Morning Herald from Lynette Keleher, an active Green for a number of years in a range of roles, warned candidates looking to the Greens as their hope for Australian politics to “stay away, far away.”

Keleher’s concerns followed her witnessing the take-down of Alex Bhathal, who failed to win the Victorian seat of Batman in March, having been dogged by internal leaks and complaints against her.

“Bhathal, a powerful woman and Greens figure who inspires many, is the public evidence of what many passionate and committed Greens members already know, that our party is overridden by an abusive and bullying internal organisational culture,” Keleher said.

“Racism is rampant in the party and embedded in its processes and structures. Bhathal stood up for me when I was bullied and she spoke out in my defence and raised her concerns with party leaders about the way I was treated.

“Stay away from politics, it’s a dangerous career choice that will lead to ruin and failure as the Greens Party is not doing politics any differently.”

And then there’s the former Victorian Greens Party leader, Greg Barber, who is now facing more claims of sexism following a settlement last year with a former parliamentary adviser who has now broken her silence, although there are still legal areas which she can’t discuss.

However, her husband can, and he’s revealing all, including Mr Barber’s alleged “men’s room” in his office which was a no go for women. He also revealed Barber did not talk to her for 12 months because she challenged him and that she was also told she couldn’t leave the office at lunch time and had to eat lunch at her desk.

Mr Barber is also alleged in the new claims of sexism to have referred to women in the workplace as “fat, hairy lesbians”, “power pussies” and “hairy-legged feminists”.

No comment.

Then there’s Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews, who is desperately fighting to retain his government in a November election and who unloaded 80,000 pages of documents online in a bid to damage Opposition Leader, Mathew Guy over a botched planning decision.

The bungled move to embarrass Guy has created the biggest back-fire in decades. Included in the pages and posted on Parliament’s website were the medical history and financial details of a lawyer and the health background of an academic.

The barrister, whose young daughter’s details were also posted online for more than two days, is now considering legal action against the state.

But it gets worse. Leonie Hemsworth’s personal details have also been publicly released which has now brought Hollywood into the game.

Hollywood superstars, Chris and Liam Hemsworth just happen to be the sons of the now stressed mother Leonie.

In his role as Thor, Chris is looked on as one of the biggest movie stars in Hollywood at the moment.

Watch out Andrew, Thor’s on the way.

Weekly weigh-in: Bad news blues, Fair Work Commission and a Federal Small Business Ministercereal with milk.jpg31/08/2018

Should I stop having breakfast, I always eat a healthy one of course, or should I stop reading newspapers and listening to the ABC?

Something is causing me severe indigestion and I don’t think it’s the cereal with Tasmanian milk.

So, let’s have a look at this morning’s stories.

The Australian, a broadsheet with up to six front page stories had the following main four: ‘Investment slump to stymie recovery’; ‘Murray-Darling is “leaking billions”’; ‘Turnbull ally wants plan for bullying’ (in the Liberal Party) and ‘Cricket Chiefs in bitter feud’ (Cricket Australia board blow-up).

The Sun went with: ‘Dutton intervened for AFL chief, emails reveal’. Evidently, AFL boss, Gillon McLachlan lobbied Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to grant a visa to a French national to work with Gillon’s cousin in South Australia. With no AFL games this week, obviously the Sun was desperate to keep footy on page one.

The Mercury chose: “I did not tell a lie”, with a large pic of Premier Will Hodgman. The Premier has denied misleading State Parliament over his role in the sacking of former Cricket Tasmania staff member, Angela Williamson. Ms Williamson claims the Premier was “lying” while the Premier says these are baseless allegations.

The Examiner decided to run: ‘BREAKDOWN’, a story about a baby on child protection alert born in the Launceston General Hospital suffering drug withdrawal who was permitted to leave with his mother. The baby spent 28 days in hospital and remained with the mother for 14 days before the Child Safety Service intervened.

A worrying story, but one that turned into a political fight with the Opposition launching an attack against the Government in a she-said, he-said battle. But there was no mention of an update on the health of mother and baby.

The result? We don’t have a single positive story on the front page of my four morning papers.

Add to this the ABC news from 6am to 7am which contained around 90 per cent negative stories aimed at national and state governments. The one positive story was about preparations for 10,000 to 15,000 people heading to St Helens for Triple J’s One Night Stand tomorrow night.

Should the stories be run? Absolutely.

Should they be page one? Questionable.

At least The Examiner had a terrific photo on the front page, of a Launceston brewer holding a stubby of the new James Boag light lager, Wild Rivers. An appropriate name and the first time in a decade Boag has released a new brew which will be rolled out nationwide.

It was interesting to see the Fair Work Commission (FWC) support an out of hours conduct matter which resulted in the dismissal of an employee.

The FWC decision has been highlighted by the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TCCI) Workplace Relations manager, Abbey George in her column for the September edition of the Tasmanian Business Reporter.

The out of hours conduct was found to be a valid reason for dismissal in the case of Oliver Bridgewater v Healthscope Operations Pty Ltd T/A Prince of Wales Hospital.

The applicant was dismissed for serious misconduct after being found to have breached the employer’s sexual harassment policy by sending a highly offensive and unwelcome message of a sexual nature to a colleague.

This was despite the message being sent out of work hours and not on work property.

A wake-up call for many.

Abbey also advises that employees covered by Modern Awards will have access to five days unpaid family and domestic violence leave where an employee is:

  • experiencing domestic violence; and
  • needs to do something to deal with the impact of domestic violence; and
  • it is impractical for the employee to undertake that outside their ordinary hours of work.

For further details, click here to read the September edition of the TBR – you will find Abbey’s column on page five.

In an update to members today, TCCI CEO Michael Bailey said the chamber is “rightly feeling extremely chuffed with the return of a Small Business Minister into Federal Cabinet”, also pointing out that it is “a real win for the Tasmanian chamber movement”.

Click here to read Michael’s full update.

Weekly weigh-in: Tasmania, Australia, the world gone mad



This week started off with an extremely good discussion about Tasmania going mad and by Wednesday Australia had gone mad. The rest of the world has already gone mad so no shock there.

But let’s start with Tasmania.

Why do great ideas get kicked in the backside before a common-sense discussion can take place?

Some major projects under attack are the Mount Wellington cable car project, the east coast Cambria Green development, along with hotel and conference projects in both Hobart and Launceston.

The hotel haters’ issues vary from height, size, design, colour or simply not wanting them for no sensible reason.

Many of the opponents are also screaming that there should be more homes for the homeless because rentals have been turned into Airbnb. Much of the growth of Airbnb accommodation is because of the shortage of hotel accommodation from the massive increase of tourism in Hobart and Launceston.

It doesn’t make sense.

The East Coast Alliance, along with several other community groups, packed the Hobart Town Hall on Wednesday to voice their concerns for the Dolphin Sands proposal.

Government Senator, Jonathan Duniam, called the community alliance the “anti -everything group”.

Former Tasmanian journalist, Martin Flanagan said the Chinese development would be the biggest change to the landscape since colonisation. In a Mercury story the next day he said the Chinese would be building a town in the middle of Tasmania. He acknowledged the pressing need for job creation on the east coast but said this project was the wrong way to go.

Mr Flanagan has lived in Melbourne for several decades and is an east coast shack owner near the proposed development.

It’s interesting that younger brother Richard, along with Bob Brown and other acolytes, are also leading the campaign against the Mt Wellington cable car project.

Most of the arguments have been heard over the years against a variety of proposed developments including; disruption of flora and fauna, destroying the appearance of the mountain, too many people on the mountain, the list goes on.

Many of the South Hobart activists aren’t sure why but they just don’t want it.

Change, such a small word, yet to make change or become different seems impossible for so many people.

The other crazy Tasmanian decision this week was the failure of Tasman Council to merge with Sorell Council.

The amalgamation process had been working well, with Sorell agreeing unanimously, but to the horror of the Tasman Mayor, the Tasman Council’s vote was a negative 4-3. Together they had a financial future but the consultants believe Tasman is now the walking dead and a difficult future for Sorell is also predicted.

It was a similar outcome for the northern councils, West Tamar and George Town. The process was strong, highlighted by West Tamar’s unanimous vote, only to be stabbed by George Town with their Mayor the only supporter of merging.

The beneficiaries of amalgamation are the ratepayers through more and better services as well as gaining some muscle to fight for development in their region.

So why would the aldermen vote against the merger? Surely it wouldn’t be self-interest such as an effort to avoid dropping $20,000 or $30,000 for their redundant roles.

I’ll finish with Australia going mad.

The suicidal attack on former PM Malcom Turnbull raises more questions than answers and it puts massive pressure on the former Treasurer, Scott Morrison.

Runner up Dutton is now history, which will enrage his leaders in Tony Abbott and Tasmania’s Eric Abetz.

The activity leading up to the Dutton challenge started back in July. Now the stories are doing the rounds. I certainly won’t be repeating the rumours, which unfortunately look like two and two make four.

Only recently we heard how the Richmond Football Club now has 100,000 members, a record. On the negative side we are seeing interest decline in areas such as politics, churches, community clubs, unions and other organisations.

The punters don’t mind a tough but fair game of football but they won’t accept the assertive approach of politicians yelling at one another and playing the man.

The instability of the last 10 years through PMs of Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull probably won’t be looked on as a period of visionary leadership for a different and better Australia.

But then again who is running the PM these days?

Weekly weigh-in: News ratings, north-west jobs and healthcare crisistv remote.jpgA co-incidence in timing, but the latest Tasmanian TV survey helps to understand the slashing of WIN’s news department.

The survey shows the massive viewing of Southern Cross news compared to the ABC Tasmania and WIN bulletins.

Southern Cross TV’s Sunday news attracts 87,918 viewers, weekdays 74,500 and on Saturday 66,271. They are also the top three programmes viewed on free to air stations in Tasmania.

The ABC news slots in at number 23 on the list of most watched programs, with their Saturday news attracting 33,985 viewers, Sunday news 32,600 (28th on list) and evening week day news 31,823 (31st on list).

WIN news rating starts down the list at spot 101, with WIN news weekdays capturing 14,476 viewers, and WIN’s Saturday and Sunday bulletins, which will no longer be produced, appear further down at 114 (12,367 viewers) and 131 (11,978 viewers) respectively.

The dominance of Southern Cross news is evident, with viewership figures almost triple that of ABC TV news and almost five times stronger than WIN, which is also doubled by ABC. While the ABC touts that it is the news hub in Tasmania, the figures certainly don’t support that argument.

Sadly, eight or nine reporters, presenters and camera positions at WIN are now redundant. The Tasmanian news service will be presented from Wollongong after the last Tasmanian broadcast tonight, with stories and video coming from two reporters and cameramen in the south and north.

The Australian Communication and Media Authority are very strict on local content obligations. Obviously, WIN’s new setup will see them working within the rules and meeting local content needs which means the battle is already lost.

With survey figures such as this, it’s hard not to think about what’s next.

This week’s development approval from the Latrobe Council now means full steam ahead for the development of BioMar’s $56 million aqua feed mill, or some may say a fish food mill, at Wesley Vale in the state’s north-west.

All environmental regulations have been ticked off, with warehouses on site refurbished and asbestos removed safely.

BioMar, an international company owned by Schouw and Co based in Denmark and with centres in the UK and now Tasmania, will announce the civil works contract to an Australian company in the next couple of weeks.

The 14-month development of the feed mill will employ 250 people during construction of the factory which will increase the permanent staff to 55. The majority of construction and factory roles will be Tasmanian employees, with expectations of majority northern staff.

The Environment Protection Authority has approved production of up to 110,000 tonne of feed a year. Imposed conditions to reduce odour and noise have not only been acted on by the company, but have been exceeded in search of stronger environmental conditions.

Apart from local clients who are now importing BioMar feed from Scotland, the Wesley Vale factory will also supply the aquaculture industry through Australia and New Zealand. Tasmanian agriculture is another winner from the project with an already appointed raw material purchase manager meeting local grain and legume growers around the state to source high quality ingredients.

Another win for Tasmania.

While some in the state seem determined to create crisis in in our healthcare and hospital system, just take a step backwards and hear what a crisis is actually – I’m referring to the $2.4 billion Royal Adelaide Hospital which was only opened in September last year.

The new Liberal administration, which formed government from Labor in March, has already engaged private advisory firm Korda-Mentha to analyse the books.

Evidently, there’s a problem with the books in the form of a potential $250 million budget blowout on the hospital’s operating costs. Yes, a $250 million blowout.

Now try and analyse South Australia’s Treasurer Rob Lucas’s comments in the Australian: “I’m exploring the feasibility of a revamped operating model for the hospital because of its well-known challenges, on the facility’s constraints and the incompetence and mismanagement of contracts by the former Labor Government. We are intent in trying to avoid costly litigation but there is a relatively caustic process going on in a mediation-style process at the moment.”

And while the Treasurer is trying to find the answer to the $250 million blowout, a contractor responsible for managing and delivering services including catering, cleaning and maintenance is facing losses of $94 million in the next five years. The company, Spotless, claims it has been losing up to $6 million a month on its facility management services since the September opening.

If that’s not enough, the third little problem announced yesterday by the State Government and Adelaide City Council revealed the hospital would be subject to an updated fire engineering assessment because of its aluminium composite cladding.

Yes Minister couldn’t create this one. Which reminds me, I wonder how the patients are handling the problems, or maybe there are no patients.

Weekly weigh-in: WIN in Wollongong, Jarrod Lyle and John Lloydwin news


Two weeks ago, I wrote about the Fairfax takeover by Nine and how the Tasmanian Fairfax papers, The Examiner and The Advocate, had been gutted by the publishing company in recent years.

Now the pressure is on television in Tasmania. It seems the watering down of Tasmanian news production is set to continue, after WIN announced it will present the Tasmanian weeknight bulletins from the state’s newest city, Wollongong.

Thankfully, the weeknight content will still be produced in Tasmania and WIN News Tasmania management have told the media that no journalists or camera crew staff will lose their jobs. Hopefully that will be the case but unfortunately history says jobs will go.

Similar approaches have been introduced through regional stations in Victoria, the ACT and NSW over the last 18 to 20 years. However, the volume of stories tends to decrease over time.

The closure of WIN’s weekend coverage on the mainland signaled the start of a very wishy-washy approach to news coverage, as the resulting drop off in viewers shows. It’s a bit like dropping a couple of editions of a seven-day paper which inevitably becomes a disaster.

Good media companies spend a fortune on encouraging people to read or view their product daily, not just a couple of days a week. The idea is to create a habit and keep your clients happy daily.

On the lighter side, I’m looking forward to the varying pronunciations of Tasmanian place names and regions such as Breadalbane, Grassy, Ouse, Beulah, Fingal, Sorell and good old Launceston.

You can’t help but admire the decision of Australian golfer Jarrod Lyle to not fight a third attack of cancer. Having gone through two horrendous battles with the disease, he announced last week that he would cease the debilitating treatment to spend time with his wife and children.

The 36-year-old died in Melbourne on Wednesday surrounded by his wife, Briony and two daughters, Lusi, six and Jemma, two.

Looked upon as one of the good guys on the national golf circuit, Lyle was loved by all, whether on the US PGA Tour or at local club events. He fought and won his first battle with leukaemia as a teenager and won the hearts of players and spectators by fighting back to play in the US PGA Tour, the world’s most prestigious golf tour.

The second leukaemia attack was tougher, but again he fought and won. He kept playing and refused to become a cancer victim.

He asked his wife, Briony to provide a simple message on his departure: “Thanks for your support, it meant the world. My time was short, but if I’ve helped people think and act on behalf of those families who suffer through cancer, hopefully it wasn’t wasted.”

Lyle was an extraordinary young man who fought and won, but in the end took an equally brave decision to end the treatment and share his last days with his family.

Three cheers for John Lloyd, former Australian Public Service Commissioner, who has been flicked out of the public service following complaints of his dealings with the Institute of Public Affairs.

The cheers aren’t for his removal but his defiant valedictory speech, particularly a few paragraphs from The Australian.

“We are deluged at every turn by do-gooders telling us what we should eat and drink, how we should exercise, how we should think and how we should spend our money, what type of dwelling we should live in,” Mr Lloyd said.

“It seems every day is a world day for either genuine or mindless causes for good. Virtue signalling is rampant in some quarters.

“This concerns me. I think there is danger in the diversity of views and opinions that go to good policy advice could be stifled by pervasive groupthink, dictated by what is politically correct.”

Mr Lloyd’s comments suggest Australia is being taken over by do-gooders, particularly retired public servants who have a generous life pension and have very little else to do but moan and block developments which will create good jobs and incomes for generations.

A couple of examples of this include:

  • Tasmania’s lock down of forestry to the degree that timber companies are importing American Oak because there is no access to Tasmanian Oak.
  • Governments under pressure from environmental activists who have blocked dam building, meaning Australia has done nothing to drought-proof farmers throughout the nation and are now on the edge of failure after seven years of drought in NSW and Queensland. There are plenty of rain areas in these states, but without dams, the water runs out into the sea and so there is no backup to fight drought.

What’s happened to common sense?

Weekly weigh-in: Don’t poke the bear, tax cuts, and call for less councils



Don’t poke sticks at the animals is one of those sayings which if followed, can save unnecessary wars with family friends, community, or whatever.

It could be seen as a modern version of ‘don’t poke the bear’, because if you do, you’re in for a horrible beating – one which could also be avoided.

The Braddon by-election was a classic example of why you shouldn’t poke sticks. Fisherman Craig Garland was hoping to increase his vote from about 2000 in the State Election, a number which already surprised many, particularly the Shooters and Fishers party who attracted only 1611 votes, and the Greens who received only a couple of hundred more votes than Garland.

With the help of a $2000 loan from a friend, Garland went ahead with a very modest marketing programme consisting of some flyers and letters.

Suddenly he found himself on the front page of many papers, including The Australian, as well as appearing on ABC radio and national TV.

Why? Because somebody, or some people, poked sticks at Garland’s history of a questionable assault case 20 years ago and that really riled the fisherman who fought back with a very interesting story.

The uncertain voters said no, that’s not fair. The media continued with stories of the fight between Garland and the Liberal Party, which led to Garland making it very clear to the world that he would be pushing his preferences to Labor.

The result was 8000 primary votes which was treble the number from the State Election. This tally signaled the end for Liberal candidate Brett Whitely, who attracted 1000 more primaries than Labor’s Justine Keay, but the game was over with Garland’s preferences skyrocketing Keay to victory.

Yes, think before you poke sticks.

You can understand why the punters are grumbling about the Federal Government’s policy to introduce tax cuts for big business and banks.

It’s particularly upsetting for by-election voters in Braddon, where the Opposition claimed that the PM Malcom Turnbull and candidate, Brett Whitley were giving the banks $17 billion through the tax cuts, while cutting funding in health and education.

The statement was disingenuous but unavoidable as the advertisement jumped out of the screen every day from morning to night through the six week campaign without a counter attack.

Now the PM is considering changes to the tax cuts which is worrying major business groups who are now warning the government against the creation of a two-tiered tax system. The danger, according to business, is that a two-tiered system would put the nation’s largest companies at a competitive disadvantage while discouraging investment and job creation.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) is quite rightly calling for he PM to hold the line because of the need to “understand what was at play in these by-elections”, pointing out that a lot of them were fought on local issues.

The problem for Government is its inability to deliver the tax cut message to the broader community. There’s no simple message to the community explaining how tax cuts will help their daily life and that of their employer.

While business organisations are lobbying government, maybe they should also be sharing the opportunities for their business, the nation and their employees as a result of tax cuts.

Yes, we know we’re on the verge of being uncompetitive in the international market with the average tax rate in Asia and the US at 21 per cent, while the UK is moving to 17 per cent and France to 25 per cent. Australia’s corporate rate is now 30 per cent and the plan is reduce to 25 per cent.

Maybe it’s time business organisations and individual companies share the positive effect of tax cuts for their business and the country.

Maybe the boss will say that a five per cent tax cut means a company will be able to cut production costs to be more competitive against imports, resulting in increased volumes and the capacity to employ more staff including local university graduates and apprentices.

Maybe it’s time to make it clear how your workforce, the largest voting group in the nation, will also be winners from the corporate tax cuts.

Yesterday’s stunning story on the TCCI calling for three councils to replace today’s 29 councils in the August edition of the Tasmanian Business Reporter has created a massive response from the community.

To date, the business community, which is the client readership of the TBR, are very supportive of the change.

Read all about it here.

Weekly weigh-in: Fairfax takeover


The Fairfax publishing name may have died yesterday but much of the business will remain intact and hundreds of jobs have been saved.

In the end, the only option for Fairfax was to sell, which failed last year, or be taken over, which fortunately Nine did yesterday and saved the day.

Mind you, Channel Nine as we have known it as for so long, has been on the nose for the past few years. The $2.1 billion cash and stock takeover to create a $4.2 billion television and newspaper company must turn profits pretty quickly to ensure success or it faces a nasty future.

The opportunity is unlimited as long as television and print understand they are there to support one another and share the advertising revenues which will either make or break the organisation.

Imagine the strength of news via the metro teams of The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, Australian Financial Review and Canberra Times collaborating with Nine in Sydney and Melbourne.

I’m not sure of Nine’s political approach today, but they are probably a little to the right, while Fairfax journos sit very much to the left, which will make it interesting to see how this is handled by the new company.

The so-called Charter of Editorial Independence with Fairfax has been a failure when you consider their unbalanced approach.

However, our Tasmanian papers The Examiner and The Advocate, have been gutted by Fairfax in recent years.

Editorial numbers at The Examiner are back to about the starting numbers in 1842 and it’s a similar story with the Advocate which now has many new staff and only a handful of experienced journos in the newsroom. Sub-editing is now controlled through other states.

The two senior advertising managers at The Examiner were moved on two weeks ago, along with many other experienced sales people which was an interesting move when you realise that 75 to 80 per cent of newspaper income is created by advertising.

The loss of outside clients in Fairfax’s Launceston print centre has contributed to the printing of The Advocate and The Examiner becoming uneconomical.

Fairfax chief executive Greg Hywood said twice yesterday that the company’s Australian Community Media portfolio, or regional newspapers, was part of the takeover but it’s hard to imagine that the Nine board and management really want 170 regional community papers in their plan.

Decisions change after a takeover when the new owner has to pay the bills and take the responsibility for making a profit.

There are concerns about The Examiner’s future, with community leaders realising the loss of its daily paper leaves a big black hole for local stories and the voice of the community.

Already there is a dialogue with Fairfax for a potential offer for The Examiner by Tasmanian interests.

I’m unaware of any approach for the Advocate at this stage but its hard copy and on-line information certainly attracts strong support from the north west community.

A little history in the takeover around two papers, The Examiner and the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH).

The SMH is the oldest continual newspaper in the nation, with its first edition in 1831. The third oldest paper is The Examiner which started in March 12, 1842 and is now 176 years old.

These are two creative papers who have won the PANPA newspaper of the year award in their section and produced quality editors and journos.

The second oldest newspaper still running is the Geelong Advertiser, which started in November 1840 and unashamedly is the greatest supporter of the Geelong Football Club in the country – and that includes Tasmanian Premier, Will Hodgman!

Weekly weigh-in: BBQ ban, tourism boom and our growing population


A friend emailed me yesterday to say he was applying for a new job – a “barbeque shutter-downer”.

A what? Well, he explained that under the new Environment Protection Authority (EPA) draft regulations, Tasmanians cooking a few snags could be fined about $1600 if their barbecue emits smoke for more than 10 minutes and the smoke is visible from 10 metres away for 30 seconds or more.

He said it was backed up in yesterday’s Mercury and attacked by a variety of people including Braddon by-election candidate Brett Whitely, who called it “un-Australian” and Tasmanian Small Business Council CEO Robert Mallett, who described it as “laughable”.

Evidently, the EPA have said the regulations are to replace the expiring Environmental Management and Pollution Control Regulations, with an objective of limiting the emissions of smoke by heaters, outdoor cooking appliances and backyard burning-off in and around urban areas.

While my mate isn’t too worried about heaters and garden burn-offs, he reckons he can make an absolute prick of himself by closing down kids’ home birthday barbeques, school and church functions and he will even see if he can have a crack at the Bunnings snag barbecue because smoke is smoke whether it is created by gas or wood.

But he said his highlight would be closing down barbeques on Christmas Day and he would be happy to work 24 hours on December 25 if necessary, with no penalty rates. His other delights would be Australia Day (bad luck about the lamb chops) and of course the AFL Grand Final Day which attracts barbeques galore.

Despite hoping to recreate himself as a new-age Grinch, he’s happy to take a few bribes of quality steak cuts such as Cape Grim and the occasional snag when hungry. He was also boasting that he is a certainty to get the job because who else would take on the barbeque bully role – certainly not the EPA and definitely not Tasmania Police.

Let’s hope Minister Archer waters down the draft regulations, even though it may be the end of my mate’s new career!

It was fascinating to hear that Tasmania had the strongest international tourism growth in the nation over the year, with more than 300,000 tourists flocking to our unique island state.

In the 12 months to March, Tasmania entertained a 20 per cent increase from visitors around the world. Their $559 million, or more than half-a-billion dollar spend, also represents a record year.

The figures are a result of very strong increase in visitors from all countries including China (up 46 per cent to 46,000), the United States (up 22 per cent to 44,000), New Zealand (up 60 per cent to 23,000), Singapore (up 33 per cent to 17,000), France (up 83 per cent to 9000) and India (up 68 per cent to 9000).

The overall spend of international and domestic tourists combined contributed more than $3 billion to our economy and in 2016-17 tourism employed about 38,000 directly and indirectly.

Hobart and the south attracted the biggest numbers with 259,000 visitors spending $373 million and Launceston attracted 117,000 visitors spending $98 million.

It’s interesting when you break down the average spend per person, with Hobart and southern visitors spending $1440 while Launceston visitors spent $837. This variance in the average spend is a message for Launceston and the north to plan a strategy to entice visitors to stay longer and provide opportunities to spend more.

A great example is the Bridestowe Lavender farm which attracted 85,000 visitors in 2017-18, with about 60 per cent of these visitors of Chinese ethnicity. Big figures when you consider Launceston’s population is 66,000, although the greater Launceston/northern area is more than 106,000.

Overall, the international visitor numbers are extraordinary when you consider we attracted 149,800 in 2011, spending $254 each on average. Seven years later we are attracting double the volume and double the spend.

During the same period, Tasmania’s population has increased from 510,000 in 2011 to about 520,000 today.

Now comparing visitors to population may have naught practical connection, but wouldn’t you expect some of the 300,000 running around our state to fall in love with our idyllic island heaven?

Tasmania’s population growth is a conundrum when you consider we had 191,210 residents in 1911, 350,000 in 1961 and 510,000 in 2011. The forward estimates for population are 650,000 residents by 2050 and while this seems a big target, the maths since 1911 suggest it can happen.

Let me know the result!

Weekly weigh-in: Braddon by-election, Granville Harbour Wind Farm and Alastair Lynch


The June 1975 Federal Bass by-election was looked upon as the most significant by-election in the state and arguably the nation.

The by-election was triggered by the resignation of former Deputy Prime Minister Lance Barnard, who held the seat for Labor from 1954.

The result was breathtaking, with first time Liberal candidate Kevin Newman winning by 9000 votes and Labor dropping more than 17 percent of the vote from the previous election.

The Bass by-election was then looked upon as the beginning for the end of the Gough Whitlam Government, which was eventually dismissed from office six months later.

Launceston was flooded with politicians including Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, Opposition Leader Malcom Fraser, ministers, shadow ministers and a massive media pack – some who even lived in Launceston throughout the campaign.

Every day was a birthday, with promises from both parties as the nation became familiar with Bass through media coverage and some amazing stories which might well have been written by Hans Christian Andersen.

Now move onto Braddon, July 2018, with a by-election attracting national coverage and regular visits by Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull and Opposition leader Bill Shorten, who obviously has a rental in the north west somewhere judging by the amount of time he has spent on the coast.

While Braddon is sharing media coverage with five other by-elections on July 26, the cash promises are extraordinary. Good luck to Braddon and bring on the lotto-like wins which will deliver enormous economic growth for the region.

But like all money promises, in the heat of a tight battle somebody just steps too far and looks a little silly.

Yes, I’m talking about Bill Shorten’s promise of $25 million for a Tasmanian AFL club, with football commentators agreeing that if Tasmania is to have its own team we are looking at 10 to 30 years before it happens.

I love the story from a development meeting in Hobart this week with the group looking for financial support for their project. A bright spark found the answer: “Why can’t we change our name from Denison to Braddon and then we will have what we want.”

Private enterprise is also boosting the Braddon electorate, with yesterday’s announcement that the construction of the $280 million Granville Harbour Wind Farm will virtually start today following the financial sign-off by owners Palisade Partners.

Located on a 1200-hectare cattle form on the west coast, the 31-turbine wind farm will have the capacity to power more than 46,000 Tasmanian homes, equivalent to the total housing in the Braddon electorate.

The project will need at least 200 employees during the 18-month construction stage and 10 on-going jobs after construction.

The wind farm will produce 112 megawatts of power and will be injected into the Tasmanian grid through the Reece Power station which forms part of the Pieman River hydro scheme.

Palisade also owns the Tasmanian Gas Pipeline which plays a significant role in Tasmania’s energy sector by feeding gas into Tasmania’s bigger manufacturing industries and the Tamar Valley Power Station and saved the day during both the breakdown of the Bass Strait cable in 2016 and a drought seriously effecting the Hydro grid.

It’s good to have friends like Palisade supporting Tasmania.

While AFL star Alastair Lynch spent his career challenging opposition players around the nation, I now realise his biggest victory may well have been off the field.

The former Tasmanian was drafted by Fitzroy in 1988 before being poached by the Brisbane Bears for a record $2.1 million deal over 10 years and ironically re-joined some of his former mates when a merger with Fitzroy and the Bears saw the clubs united as the Brisbane Lions.

The new club surprised the league be winning three consecutive grand finals in 2001, 2002 and 2003, narrowly missing the fourth after a grand final defeat the following year.

But the biggest battle he faced was in 1995 when his body shut down and he couldn’t even get out of bed as we heard at a breakfast function in Launceston this week. After months of agony with his legs burning inside, his illness was diagnosed as chronic fatigue syndrome.

He was relieved to know his problem, but shocked to be told there was no cure which he discovered through visits to over 60 doctors, specialists and some very odd people with very strange ideas. He even headed to a US specialist but with no result.

His luck changed after a catch up with an Olympic athlete who had fought and won the battle with the disease and Alastair grabbed the opportunity.

He took control of himself, including taking up a diet responsive to his body and an exercise programme to build his body but not overdo it. It was a day-by-day programme with sometimes no reaction but at least he was not going backwards.

Equally as important as managing his body was managing his mental approach to remove all negativity and refusing to accept depressive moments when things weren’t working as he wanted.

This strong mental approach lifted his confidence and slowly his body was repaired to the extent where he could return to football 18 months later, eventually even starring in the Brisbane Lions’ grand final victories.

Alastair was guest speaker at the inaugural Clifford Craig Foundation and St.LukesHealth breakfast in Launceston this week to develop untapped health projects.

Alastair is also an Ambassador of St.LukesHealth, concentrating on improving the health of workers of all ages so they can enjoy their work and their life overall.

Weekly weigh-in: Tasmanian AFL team, GST distribution, coal and advertising



I’m sorry, but I can’t respond to the AFL’s plan to reignite football in Tasmania. The funding of two and sixpence, which the AFL thought was extremely generous, has not been very well received by the Tasmanian football family.

My next five paragraphs have been removed on legal advice.

While Tasmania appears to have received a good deal through the revamped GST distribution, it’s hard to accept that the change happened because of years of moaning from Western Australia.

Yes, WA’s GST share was skewed because of its mineral boom which created so much money that Government and the community didn’t know what to do with it.

The WA Government was certainly undisciplined, leaving record budget deficits and debt reaching $40 billion in the aftermath of arguably the greatest economic boom of the nation.

At least now there is more security for all governments through removing the loopholes which found WA on the bottom of the rank, receiving 34 cents for every dollar it paid in GST last financial year. WA’s return is set to rise to around 75 cents for each dollar by the middle of next decade and the days of being punished for success should now end.

If Tasmania has a boom through gas for example, the royalties will remain in the state and will not skew GST returns as has happened in the past.

Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison confirmed that he would fund a $1 billion a year top-up to the smaller states in perpetuity in order to deliver the long awaited GST reform.

This will keep the promise made by the Treasurer and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that no state would be worse off.

Time will tell, but I can’t imagine any state treasurer rejecting the change when they have an agreed GST return as they formulate their forward estimates.

Talking of mining booms, it’s surprising to hear that coal will regain its position as the nation’s biggest export earner through higher prices and surging Asian demand.

According to the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, figures show that coal exports are forecast to reach $58.1 million in 2018, overtaking iron ore (which has a forecasted $57.7 billion) for the first time in a decade.

The June 2018 Resources and Energy Quarterly shows total exports from the energy sector are on track to reach a record $226 billion in 2017-18 and will hit $238 billion in 2018-19, driven by strong demand for coal, liquefied natural gas and iron ore.

Interesting that coal is adding $58.1 billion to Australia’s export return, yet coal is now a dirty word with many, including Labor and the Greens who are pressuring the war on coal, including opposing the proposed Adani $16.5 billion Carmichael coalmine in Queensland.

It’s yet another example of the unavoidable facts surrounding energy. Supply and demand will dictate that coal will be a major part of energy mix in Asia for the foreseeable future, presenting an interesting contrast to Australia’s closing of coal power stations.

Hard copy newspapers are back in favour with Australian advertisers following a major drop of trust in social media.

The loss of trust in Facebook has been dramatic since the data privacy scandal sparked by Cambridge Analytica affected more than 87 million Facebook users worldwide who had their data sold through a third party.

The second Galaxy Research ADTRUSTS survey of 4200 Australians found that the majority trust Facebook less than they did six months ago. A whopping two thirds of Australians surveyed said they don’t trust advertising on Facebook.

The figures reinforce the finding of the first ADTRUST report which showed newspapers were the most trusted form of media with increases in radio, TV and news websites.

Now is the time for a few lessons from Ogilvy on Advertising, by the late David Ogilvy who was looked on as the Pope of modern advertising and traditional media, particularly for hard copy newspapers who now have the opportunity to get back on track.

Weekly weigh-in: Tasmanian AFL team and bank mistreatment



As the Melbourne Sun said this morning, troubled football state Tasmania will almost certainly be reviving its representative team in the VFL, of course, not the AFL.

It appears the AFL has finally realised that maybe they have overlooked the “troubled football state”.

Evidently the VFL clubs have been told a Tasmanian team will be joining the competition in 2021, or 12 years after the Tassie Devils wound up the original Tasmanian VFL club to concentrate on a state league.

The development comes as momentum grows to persuade the AFL family to give Tasmania its own AFL team and scrap the fly-in, fly-out model of Hawthorn and North Melbourne.

While there has been a vault of stories calling for an AFL team, a newsletter from former Government Minister Julian Amos who was also a board member of the Glenorchy Football Club really hit the bullseye.

Congratulating The Mercury newspaper for its campaign to have Tasmania recognised in the national football sphere, Julian added:

“The very fact that it needs to do so speaks volumes for the failure of the AFL’s approach to Tasmania over the last few years,” Julian said.

“It has been one of ignore and neglect and now the chickens are really coming home to roost.

“The approach by the AFL to football in Tasmania has been nothing short of bizarre. It has combined its desire of seeking talent through a very narrows lens with extraordinary choice of Chief Executives over the past few years.

“It starves the TSL clubs of funds and threatens their survival if does not meet criteria. It has been the case for many years now that the AFL Executive sits in judgement of the TSL clubs, full of criticism and low on encouragement, inducement and support.

“The present round of farcical behaviour concerns the former head of AFL Tasmania (Robert Auld) who is now back in Victoria. His failure was his lack of capacity or desire to sit with and meet the TSL clubs one on one and talk through the through the issue of concern to both parties.

“His attitude bordered on belligerence, fuelled by arrogance and that attitude has followed through this present day. He was unable to achieve a result with the TSL when he was AFL Tas CEO and so now, basically steering the board of inquiry into the future of footy in Tasmania he has taken the view the TSL is a lost cause.”

You certainly get a straightforward approach from Julian.

The story of Tasmanian farmers Dimity and Michael Hirst being “belted to bits” by the ANZ bank is horrible, but perhaps indicative of the treatment of hundreds, maybe thousands of farmers around the nation.

The Hirst family revealed the raw facts behind ANZ freezing their accounts and selling their business and all properties, at the banking Royal Commission’s hearing in Brisbane this week.

A successful beef, sheep and tree farmer, Mr Hirst began investing in the Tasmanian Forestry industry in 2006. In early 2011, an ANZ staffer took Mr Hirst to a decent restaurant, told him he had a very good business and said, “We want to see more of you and basically pumped us up,” according to Mr Hirst.

Later that year he was offered increased loans, but by the end of the year he was told to put the cheque book away because forestry company Gunns was in trouble and the forestry industry had collapsed.

The ANZ admitted its conduct between 2011 and 2013 fell below community standards and expectations.

The conduct included confirming the Hirst’s assets were $7.5 million and their loans were $4.86 million, although 12 days later a manager from ANZ said the asset value was now $4.76 million.

While this week the ANZ was prompted into an apology, Mr Hirst said the ANZ had never showed empathy or compassion in dealings with his family.

The irony of the Hirst’s treatment by ANZ was the connection between ANZ and Gunns, which was worth $1 billion in 2008.

However, the ANZ unexpectedly withdrew funds to support Gunn’s Tamar Valley pulp mill, following pressure from the Greens and opponents such as Jeffrey Cousins.

Without ANZ funds, it was the start of the end for the pulp mill, Gunns and the forestry industry.

Only now is Launceston and the north east overcoming the job losses and the same inhumanity suffered by the Hirst’s and so many other unfortunate farmers and forestry businesses.

Weekly weigh-in: Australian Senate and Ben Hills



The historic tax reform legislation has finally passed through the Senate thanks to the support of independent senators after Labor and the Greens opposed the Bill.

The $144 billion in personal income tax cuts for Australia’s workforce is looked on as the most significant tax reform since the GST started operation in July 2000.

While the future of the legislation is still questionable, with Labor saying it will trash the legislation if it takes government in the next election, Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull will now lead the Coalition to the July 28 by-election with a significant win on his belt.

It’s a big story, but so is the performance and future of the Senate through the eyes and ears of respected Paul Kelly, Editor At Large of The Australian.

Kelly believes the Senate needs to be reformed and questions why the public should be saddled with today’s imbroglio.

He has a series of concerns, but a significant point is that during the taxation debate the responsibility for such momentous decisions fell to “a bizarre collection of cross-benchers and party-crossing desperates, some diligent, others consumed by a panicked quest for survival.”

He made the point that since Federation in 1901, there hadn’t been a Senate that had witnessed such individual ineptitude, so many breaches of section 44 (citizenship) and such a huge turnover.

Since the 2016 double-dissolution, 16 of the 76 senators elected have departed, such chronic changes and swapping of party allegiances and such sustained contempt for the original expressions of voters.

“Our democracy has become a sham. The entire crossbench should have obligations to the nation – but it is doubtful if this cross bench can rise above its squalid dysfunction,” Kelly said.

“Of the 20 crossbenchers elected in 2016 election, only 11 are left – that’s a dropout rate of 45 per cent in two years.

“There have been seven changes of party or allegiance in this Senate. These senators change their parties like they change their underpants. Loyalty, fidelity – forget it.”

Wow, definitely food for thought.

It was sad to see the passing of possibly Australia’s best investigative reporter, Ben Hills.

Interstate media connected him with 60 Minutes and Fairfax papers The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.

He won Australia’s iconic media gold medal, the Walkley Award, for exposing a $70 million sting on the Swiss Banking corporation in an investigation that spanned three continents, probed Victoria’s Tricontinental Bank, leading to its collapse, and broke a series of other quality investigative stories.

What hasn’t been mentioned is that Ben cut his journalistic teeth at The Mercury in Macquarie Street, Hobart in the late 1960s, the same time I joined The Examiner in the Hobart office around the corner in Collins Street.

A great description of Ben was the obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald last Friday from a friend Ian Verrender.

“Hills was a contradiction; a complex dilemma of a human being, oscillating between irascible, opinionated and cantankerous to erudite, funny, warm and occasionally incredibly generous,” Mr Verrender wrote.

Well he certainly got that right. You were never quite sure whether Ben was going to attack you or buy you a beer.

He didn’t run with the pack, he fought and challenged the pack.

He created and wrote stories that others didn’t, wouldn’t, or failed to see through the other layers present.

The subject didn’t matter – time after time he would dig out a brilliant angle which no one, including the police, politicians, business had discovered, much to their annoyance.

As a young journo, if you didn’t learn something from Ben, you didn’t understand journalism.

A tough editor from The Age, in its heyday, told a friend in Melbourne that Ben Hills was the best journo in Australia. I certainly won’t argue.

We did have quite a social life in those days with the compulsory Thursday night poker game starting after the House of Assembly rose at 6pm and stories were completed a couple of hours later.

Ben’s performance as usual was unpredictable, except for his ability to bluff and then laugh as he took your money.

But the most social night we had was an unplanned gathering after a heavy week in parliament when the acting Speaker invited us into the Speaker’s room for a sip, or two.

The acting Speaker left reasonably early and generously handed the keys to the Legislative Council member of Huon Michael Hodgman, who after two years in the Parliament had pretty well taken over the place as only Michael could do.

The other three were Ben Hills, Peter Simunovich, a Mercury sports writer who went on to the VFL senior football writer for the Melbourne Sun before heading to New York where he still lives, and yours truly.

The gathering passed midnight thanks to generosity of the Speaker’s alcohol cabinet.

That morning the ABC ran a story about an unusual happening in the Parliament House gardens overnight.

Evidently, a mask was placed over the face of the statue of Albert Ogilvie and when removed, the material turned out to be a Parliament House serviette.

A police patrol call had seen four people in the area but who were well dressed and didn’t appear to be breaking the law.

So whodunnit? With only two remaining who plead not guilty, the masker may never be named.

Weekly weigh-in: Tasmanian State Budget



It was nice to hear Treasurer Peter Gutwein correcting the employment growth figure in Tasmania since the Liberal Party took government in 2014.

At this morning’s TCCI Budget breakfast the Treasurer explained that even up to a week ago he had proudly been telling the community that the job increase figure was 11,000.

However, a couple of days ago the ABS confirmed the numbers were incorrect and job growth actually numbered 13,400!

The Treasurer used the figures to encourage businesses, particularly small businesses, to have the courage to invest, borrow funds and take risks to grow their business and create jobs.

Talking about numbers, table 27 was missing four people. Looking at the table allocations the four missing were all Labor members, including Opposition Leader Bec White and Shadow Treasurer Scott Bacon.

TCCI CEO Michael Bailey explained he had been advised last night that the Labor members may not be appearing today because they would not walk over a potential union picket line.

At this stage no-one who entered the building saw, or were confronted by, a protest or picket line but that’s not necessarily to say such activity didn’t happen.

Some say Ms White was ropeable that the Federal Group fought so strongly against her pokie policy and evidently she is still angry. Time will tell.

The 2018-19 Budget has attracted a positive reaction from most media outlets. Becher Townshend’s following summary for Font PR certainly paints an accurate picture of what was brought down.

If the Tasmanian community voted for four more years of stable government and strong economic growth, they’re certainly well on the way to this with the 2018/19 State Budget.

Treasurer Peter Gutwein has delivered his part, with a beautiful set of numbers that at first glance appear to be too good to be true, but further scrutiny shows they are the real deal.

Economic growth is running at 3.25 per cent for the current financial year and predicted to level to 2.25 to 2 per cent over the Forward Estimates, while unemployment is predicted to remain stable at 6 per cent.

However, the real story of the success of the economy is a 35 per cent increase in exports, while tourism sees an annual local spend of $2.33 billion, which is up 8 per cent on last year.  On top of this, households are spending more and we have record business investment.

This strength of the economy, along with Peter Gutwein’s simple economic maxim of spending less than you earn, has resulted in a Net Operating Surplus of $75.3 million for this financial year, rising to $161.9 million for the Budget year and then well over $100 million over the three remaining years of the Forward Estimates.

There aren’t many who can be disappointed with these numbers and it has allowed the Government to deliver on their election promises and even look further to the future.

Headlining the Budget are some ambitious goals, such as an undertaking to have the lowest unemployment rate in the nation by the time of the next election, plus a 10-year infrastructure plan and a 30-year infrastructure vision.

These are lofty aims and come with $2.6 billion of spending on infrastructure, including $1.1 billion on roads and bridges and $475 million on improving hospital and health infrastructure such as the Mersey, the Royal Hobart and the Launceston General.

Education doesn’t miss out, with $200 million worth of upgrades and funding for two new schools, while the commitment to affordable housing has been funded with $100 million, as well as further funds for the third tranche of the irrigation scheme.

On top of this is $70 million for a southern remand centre and seed funding for a northern prison as well as $7.3 million for the Ashley Youth Detention Centre.

But there is more, small to medium business will get further relief with cuts to payroll tax on wages bills up to $4 million each year.

Elsewhere funding of recurrent services continues with record levels of cash for health and education as well as pledges to support a new private hospital co-located at the Launceston General.

Interestingly a foreign investor duty will be introduced, while further land tax incentives will be provided for those putting their properties on the long-term housing market.

For the booming tourism sector, there will be $72 million for Cradle Mountain, $16 million for regional tourism and a further $12 million to market our state, while the plush Treasury offices in the heart of Hobart will be open to expressions of interest.

Peter Gutwein says ‘we are entering a golden age of investment in this state and the Government will ensure that we firmly grasp and deliver on the opportunity for future generations’.

On reading the Treasurer’s 2018/19 Budget documents, that golden time may well have already arrived – how long it lasts, only time will tell, but long may it stay.

Weekly weigh-in: State Budget, Tasmania’s exports and the MCG



Without sharing the nitty gritty of next week’s State Budget, Treasurer Peter Gutwein is confident this will be the best budget he has delivered.

All components of the budget are in place, with expenditure for health, education and infrastructure hitting new record levels but still falling within the revenue stream which enables a surplus – the trump card for the Treasurer’s fiscal success.

Speaking to a business breakfast in Launceston yesterday, the Treasurer was confident his fifth budget will continue economic growth and job creation throughout the state.

His delivery to more than 60 people from all sides of politics was informative, entertaining and with conviction – certainly showing he is not nervous about this budget as the Opposition claimed this morning.

How has this government worked its way out of a recession left to them in 2014?

The Treasurer has no doubt why, explaining, “Confidence is the key.”

How true. Try building a state economy, a business, a footy team or taking on a new job without confidence, you are likely to fail.

As Virgil the BC poet said, “They can because they think they can.”

Welsh poet George Herbert said in the 17th Century, “Skill and confidence are an unconquered army.”

Tasmanian small business confidence levels went from last to first in 2016 according to the NAB quarterly research which shows Tasmania is continuing its king of the castle role.

While explaining the economy growth in the state, the Treasurer said Tasmania was now one of the hottest places in the universe.

Apart from records in tourism and population growth, with more people migrating to Tasmania than babies born in the state which is a significant turnaround, the state’s exports also continue to reach new highs.

Exports have increased by 36 per cent in the past 12 months with a return to Tasmania of about $3.5 billion, close to $1 billion more than last year.

Non-ferrous metals are still Tasmania’s biggest export earner and account for about 45 per cent of all exports, with other strong sales present in seafood which is now worth more than double cattle and sheep, as well as fruit and vegetables.

China is clearly Tasmania’s biggest export client and is also the biggest market for tourism, investment and international students.

All of Tasmania needs to understand this growing connection with China and realise this is for the long term and not simply a passing phase.

OK, what do you think has been the highest rating TV event on a single channel this year?

If you think the Royal Wedding, Commonwealth Games opening ceremony or AFL football you’re wrong.

The highest rating TV event on a single channel was Wednesday’s first of three rugby league State of Origin clashes between NSW and Queensland.

The State of Origin’s game at the MCG attracted a peak national audience of 3.9 million viewers.

The Royal Wedding attracted about four million across Nine, Seven, ABC and SBS but the highest single channel, was Seven with two million viewers.

The Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in April reached a peak audience of 3.2 million on Seven.

While the MCG is the home of the Australian Football League and Test Cricket, of course, the crowd at the ‘G’ on Wednesday night was 87,122 – the fourth highest crowd for an Origin match, which is remarkable for a code normally played in Sydney or Brisbane.

It was an amazing attendance in the heartland of AFL and another example of Melbourne’s ability to attract crowds at the MCG regardless of the event.

The record football crowd at the MCG is 121,696 at the 1970 VFL Grand Final, featuring Carlton v Collingwood, and just to remind the Pies fans, they were 44 points up at half time.

The 1956 Olympic Games attracted a 1,153,000 aggregate attendance over 15 days and confirmed Melbourne’s love of sport and the MCG.

The record Test match attendance was during the 1936/37 Ashes series when 350,534 supporters attended the ground over six days, with a 28 year-old batsman called Don Bradman hitting 270 runs of 375 balls helping Australia win by 365 runs.

The record attendance for one-day cricket is 93,000 at the 2015 World Cup final, and the record one-day Test attendance is 91,112 at the Ashes in 2015.

The soccer record is 99,382 when Manchester City played Real Madrid in the International Champions Cup in 2015.

But the biggest one-day crowd at the MCG is still the American evangelist crusader Billy Graham, who attracted 130,000 people in 1959.

There is still controversy over the attendance, with the traditional religions believing the numbers were exaggerated and other groups believing the crowd was closer to 144,000.

There can be no doubt the MCG is one of Australia’s icons.

Weekly weigh-in: Hobart’s new name, Silo opening and LGH survey



Who could forget the DJ voice of Robin Williams’ superb wake-up call – “gooooood morning Vietnam”, from the unforgettable movie of the same name.

It is a great movie with the late Williams playing the role of an American Army DJ assigned to host radio programmes for the US Army during the Vietnam War.

Now close your eyes and listen to the new wake-up call – “goooood morning nip-ah-loo-na”, the correct pronunciation of Hobart’s indigenous name, nipaluna.

The Lord Mayor of Hobart, or maybe soon nipaluna, Ron Christie, is the ideal person to deliver the call having spent many years in his younger days behind the microphone.

The response of introducing the dual name nipaluna/Hobart has certainly not impressed some of the southern mayors, ratepayers and politicians, and even the Aboriginal community is split claiming a lack of consultation throughout the process.

It will be interesting to see how the aldermen handle the discussion tonight, particularly when there are other major issues and opportunities on the table.

Ald Christie has fired back at the unconvinced mayors saying nipaluna was a gift to Hobart and not Brighton, or Clarence.

I’m thankful for not being on the Lord Mayor’s Christmas gift list.

For 36 years I’ve been convinced that the opening of the Country Club Casino would be the most fabulous hotel opening that Launceston would ever experience.

Well Friday’s night’s opening of the Silo Hotel certainly reminded me that sometimes it’s lovely to be wrong.

More than 1000 invitees from around the nation flocked to the North Bank hotel for a grand night and to celebrate the contribution to Launceston from local developer Errol Stewart and his wife Adie.

Who else but Errol Stewart could see the opportunity of spending $30 million to turn a derelict four barrelled wheat silo into a 108-room hotel with a superb restaurant, private dining rooms, bar and café along with gyms, a spa and conference rooms.

It will be an iconic landmark for Launceston and is a perfect example of creative thinking turning something unwanted into something brilliant.

The views from all levels are a reminder that Launceston has a lot more to offer than many people realise.

Silo Hotel and the continued development of North Bank will see the area become a hot spot in Tasmania.

The opening’s guestlist covered all sectors of life including many tradies and contractors who showed their profession and determination to meet deadlines.

Errol’s recognition of the workers was obvious when he was thanking the right-hand building manager Craig Wood and was silenced for a moment while he obviously had a frog in his throat.

He also made sure former Launceston City Council GM Robert Dobrzynski, who is now living in Melbourne, was on the top of the list along with Treasurer Peter Gutwein.

It is another great example of State and Local Government working together with private enterprise.

Premier Will Hodgman was genuinely impressed with the evening, the Silo Hotel and thankful that Launceston’s economy is heading in the right direction.

The Launceston General Hospital’s accreditation survey has hit a positive result however the public results won’t be released for some months.

All public hospitals are surveyed to maintain accreditation through the Australian Health Service Safety and Quality Accreditation Scheme. The assessment ensures hospitals meet national health standards.

According to media information a survey was conducted over four days by five representatives from the Australian Council of Healthcare Standards.

Alas, don’t expect to see a positive media story – instead perhaps a story which will grab the one minor problem and not recognise the 99 outstanding areas.

Weekly weigh-in: ABC’s journalism fix



Well, the ABC has certainly shown its cards in the long-running debate over the quality of today’s media through its decision to increase journalism training among its reporters.

According to The Australian, the ABC believes poor journalism is the reason for the declining viewership of its flagship 7pm news bulletin and it will now send journos to writing workshops in a bid to improve the program.

A strategy document leaked to The Australian revealed improving the storytelling on the news is the key strategic approach to re-connect with disgruntled viewers.

With more than 100,000 viewers from around the nation disappearing in the last 12 months, management came to the conclusion that a recently undertaken two-hour workshop in Sydney ran by a senior journo was the answer, with this program to now be rolled out across the nation to fix the problems.

According to some media outlets, the ABC has since come out and said the plan to increase journalistic quality was not a ‘rescue plan to lift dire ratings’ and was instead a part of normal program review processes.

Nonetheless, the ABC has realised something needs to change.

History has shown that the companies and private owners of newspapers who took the need for training seriously finished up with a continuous quality of writers and photographers in the newsroom.

The ABC is taking a very sensible approach to help writers understand what their clients are listening for and therefore retaining and increasing viewers.

However, 24 hours after the original story broke, some letters to the editor of The Australian suggested a different approach should be taken by the ABC.

Kate Foot from Sydney wrote: “The blatant lack of any attempt to report political matters with balance is there for all to see and hear on a daily basis.

“My husband and I belong to the to the main demographic of ABC TV news viewers, but we no longer watch any ABC news or current affair programmes.

“The cause of the biased reporting by ABC journalists can be found in the media courses in Australian universities; clear out those institutions of the lefties poisoning the minds of their students and there may be hope for balanced story telling at some time in the future.”

Ruth Bonetti, from The Gap, Queensland wrote: “ABC management and presenters might re-read and digest the terms of the charter that requires it to speak for a range of Australians, including those outside inner-city, green-left enclaves.

“They might direct more attention to the rural battlers who feel alienated by the lack of interest in their struggles.”

Peter D. Surkitt of Sandringham, Victoria wrote: “The ABC’s problem is not that its journos do not know how to write properly – although at times I wonder – it is their insistence on substituting opinion for factual reporting. All the writing workshops in the world will not change this mindset.

“The only way ABC journalists will increase their viewer numbers is to report the news, not present their idea of how the world should be.”

Peter Curlewis of Yass, New South Wales wrote: “Not before time, ABC management has decided to shake its evening news bulletin in the wake of failing ratings.

“In part, this is to remind reporters ‘what producers are looking for’.

“Surely listeners and viewers are more important than ABC producers, but perhaps the problem is more deep seated.

“Getting back to reporting unblemished news is surely the ABC’S remit, rather than the addition of sometimes sly commentary.

“Editorialising is for the commentary pages, not the news section.”

The ABC head of news Gaven Morris told The Australian the ABC needed a stronger brand of journalism and more impactful story telling across all platforms including the 7pm news.

His seven ways of rebooting journalism are:

1) Stories with impact;

2) Knowing the audience;

3) Exclusive stories;

4) An integrated news hour;

5) Greater variety of story selection;

6) Better storytelling;

7) Reaching the regions.

Maybe a call to the letter to the editor writers would be handy.

A well-known media consultant also suggested a call to Hans Christian Andersen might be useful too.

Weekly weigh-in: Cold Cradle and energy opportunities



It’s the story behind the story of the Federal Government announcement this week to match the state’s $30 million investment for the cable-way development at Cradle Mountain.

Premier Will Hodgman promised the state’s $30 million for the project last month and Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull came to the party at a 9am press conference on Wednesday at Cradle Mountain.

Three cheers all round on what was a clear but breezy Cradle Mountain day.

However, while the smiling faces were seen in the press photos and TV shots, a couple in the group realised they had misread the chill factor and dressed inappropriately for the weather.

No one believed it was four degrees and accepted at least zero must have been a more accurate temperature.

The Premier’s shirt, tie and not so thick jumper were not handling the zero degrees temperature, especially taking into account the wind – making it closer to minus seven degrees.

He suddenly realised that his chin felt like an ice block and his mouth ceased up. He also realised he wasn’t the only icicle, when another speaker simply missed words in his speech.

When it was the Premier’s turn, he was going ok until he stopped and announced his “mouth had stopped working.”

Later that day at a Devonport Chamber of Commerce function the Prime Minister mentioned how he had previous experience with the Cradle Mountain freeze and was surprised to see the Premier in such light attire, but he knew “he’s a strong Tasmanian.”

“But I did realise he was battling, so I gave him a hug which I really wasn’t sure whether I was trying to save Will, or myself.”

Also with a cold story, was Minister for Housing and Human Services, Roger Jaensch, who stood in for the Premier at the opening of the Costa Distribution Centre at East Devonport which was held in a fridge.

And you want to be a politician…

The Prime Minister seemed very relaxed at the Devonport Chamber of Commerce full house luncheon, supporting Brett Whiteley in the Braddon by-election and reminding the community that Tasmania will not lose a cent from whatever outcome arises out of the changes to the GST formula.

He outlined the opportunities for Tasmania and the north west, which are expected to attract 60,000 additional tourists with the Cradle Mountain projects and emphasised that economic growth comes from business.

But if you are looking for passion, then look no further than the energy opportunities for Tasmania and its place within in the national energy market.

He supports the Premier’s plan to withdraw Tasmania from the national grid and therefore allow the state to make its own decisions about prices and not be regulated by the National Electricity Market.

Tasmania was already self-sufficient but still has massive opportunities in wind power and upgrading hydro.

He’s excited about the opportunities of pumped hydro in Tasmania and with the help of a second Bass Link connector, to become a major player in the national energy market.

According to the PM, all Tasmania needs is three things “courage, imagination and investment and we’ve got all three.”

It is a gigantic prospect for Tasmania and the whole suite of energy opportunities including the feasibility studies for pumped hydro projects.

The PM may be our new Electric Eric, (former Premier, Eric Reece) who increased major hydro-electric power developments which enabled Tasmania to control the most powerful hydro system in Australia and some say the world.

Weekly weigh-in: Speaker shock, Tasmanian Health Service and TasWater



The Hickey upheaval was a shock on the first day of the new Government and there will be consequences and maybe the need for a new people management approach.

But despite the shock and uncertainty of the approach taken by the new Speaker Sue Hickey, parliament continued on Wednesday with the Government passing a new health bill on Thursday.

Premier Will Hodgman and Treasurer Peter Gutwein are reminding the parliament and media that the Government still has 13 members while Labor and the Greens have a collective of 12 members between them.

This is the approach the Government has to take to ensure its policies become legislation, as expected by its majority of Tasmania’s voters in the March election.

While the Government has to continue looking forward, there certainly needs to be an internal investigation as to why a new high-profile member like Sue Hickey could be seduced to vote with Labor and Green members.

Also, how could the Hickey-Labor discussions not leak in the political sector which is renowned for leaking?

Certainly, there were some bumpy times during the election with Ms Hickey, the former Lord Mayor of Hobart, feeling a lack of respect from some in the party. Not that it was a great surprise considering the long-term disagreement with former speaker and now Attorney-General, Elise Archer.

Discussions after her successful election made it crystal clear the new Denison member was keen for a Ministry.

As expected by political analysts, this didn’t happen, but Ms Hickey gained strong support for her position as Parliamentary Secretary for Small Business – a position which had previously led to Ministries for the previous small business secretaries, Adam Brooks and Roger Jaensch.

Insiders expected Sue Hickey would follow suit and be the next Minister in two years’ time.

Whether Ms Hickey votes against the Government and her 7142 Denison voters who loyally gave her their primary vote, will only be known by the Speaker.

To avoid such a decision, the Leader of Government Business, Michael Ferguson, will no doubt be sharing and explaining legislation before it’s introduced into the House.

Certainly, the 1 May return of Parliament isn’t what the Government expected but they are quickly moving forward.

Yesterday’s legislation passed by the House of Assembly is the start of a new approach for the Tasmanian Health Service (THS) and has been supported by most in the health sector, including the Opposition.

The Tasmanian Health Service Bill will abolish the service’s governing council and the role of Chief Executive Officer David Alcorn, in his third year of a five-year contract.

The Government took the policy to the election and was quick to get the bill moving, which will smooth the management of health and includes the THS now reporting directly to the Secretary of the Department of Health.

The bill introduces a leaner executive to focus on strategic issues and state-wide service planning while making sure hospital leaders have the best possible tools to deliver front line services.

While the Opposition supported the bill, there was criticism from leader Rebecca White that the government business was debated before new members had the opportunity to make their maiden speeches which was the traditional approach.

With the Opposition spending four years creating a Government health crisis, it would have been a surprise that such a significant bill would be playing second fiddle to a maiden speech.

The Hickey Speaker shock, also took the punch out of a couple of other major stories on the first day of Parliament, particularly the new agreement with the Government and TasWater.

In a smart move, Treasurer Peter Gutwein brought the toxic takeover approach to an agreement which gives Government 10 per cent of ownership but a 50 per cent vote in decision making.

Water and sewerage prices will be capped at 3.5 per cent in June 2025 and the government will contribute $200 million over 10 years from the 2018-19 budget.

Dividends for council will remain unchanged.

The agreement will see expenditure of $1.8 billion over 10 years which is a major boost to state infrastructure.

Weekly weigh-in: Bikie laws, Bell Bay Aluminium and Motor Neurone Disease



The Tasmanian Police have a very good reason for supporting and pushing for even more legislation than originally announced by the Liberals during the recent election.

The police don’t want Tasmania to be a safe haven for outlaw motorcycle gangs.

“These laws won’t affect law-abiding motorcyclists or motorcycling groups,” Assistant Commissioner Glenn Frame said at yesterday’s press conference.

“Outlaw motorcycle gangs are significant players in controlling the importation and distribution of drugs in Tasmania.

“Their business model involves serious violence and drug-trafficking and they are constantly trying to expand their numbers in Tasmania to increase their drug trafficking network.”

Assistant Commissioner Frame also indicated that outlaw motorcycle gang members were likely responsible for unsolved murders in Tasmania.

Many in the force who deal with bikie crimes and the hundreds of drug users who are now the sad clients of the bikies, believe the bikie gangs are the most dangerous criminals in the state.

They are smart, they are clever and they rule drug users lives before the users realise what is happening.

Gang members of the Bandidos, Rebels, Outlaws, Devils Henchmen and Black Uhlans have now reached about 260 state-wide and are growing.

The Australian Lawyers Alliance, Tasmanian President Fabiano Cangelosi disagrees saying proposed legislation to prohibit association between motorcycle club members is absolutely unnecessary and very, very concerning.

“That kind of thing is uncalled for, it is a fundamental violation of people’s rights and it shouldn’t be tolerated here,” Mr Cangelosi said.

“The experience of other states is that where the power is given to police, the police tend abuse that power.”

I’m not sure families living in fear and trying to manage their children’s drug problem would agree with the Lawyers Alliance.

I was fortunate to attend two significant and diverse events this week.

The first was the farewell of Ray Mostogl, the highly successful General Manager of Bell Bay Aluminium for 11 years during challenging times.

With the support of his team, the aluminium plant worked together to pull the business out of potential closure costing 500 direct jobs and hundreds of contractors which would have been a disaster for the North in particular and the state as a whole.

The restructure of the business happened in many ways but Ray’s inquisitive nature led to a major part of the restructure.

Meeting with the night production shift in the early morning, Ray realised that the car park was half empty compared to the day shift.

The night shift was producing as much aluminium as the day shift, but why were there so many more numbers on the day shift?

So, production workers aside, Ray asked what were the roles of the other staff members, and could they be more efficient, or necessary?

The result was a more efficient business, significant money savings and improved production.

And for anyone who understands Ray, it was no surprise the he put his position in the review along with all the others.

His respect was also recognised by attendees Treasurer Peter Gutwein, Minister for Agriculture Sarah Courtney, Legislative Council Member Rosemary Armitage, Opposition Leader Bec White, Deputy Opposition Leader Michelle O’Byrne and Federal Bass MHR Ross Hart.

The second function was a fund raiser for Motor Neurone Disease Tasmania, with a packed house and superb speakers including leading Australian horse trainer David Hayes and 19-year-old Georgie Baker, daughter of Catherine Baker who was diagnosed with MND.

Not only was the event a fundraiser hosted by Jackson Volkswagen, it also allowed developer Errol Stewart to introduce his new chef and team for the soon to open Grain restaurant as a major part of the Silo Hotel development.

You could hear a pin drop during Georgi’s interview and how her and her younger siblings’ lives have changed so dramatically since their mother’s diagnosis two years ago.

There were no warning signs before she was diagnosed except some weakness in her arms,” Georgi said.

“It’s my job to take care of my two younger sisters, driving them where they need to go.”

Catherine, daughter of Graham and Ann Page, is an ex-Launceston nurse, now living in Melbourne with her family.

A wonderful, friendly and generous group but a reality check for all.

Weekly weigh-in: Banks scandal, increased penalties and costly recycling



Today’s resignation, before some would say he was going to be sacked, of AMP Chief Executive Craig Meller, will probably be the first of many senior executive ‘resignations’ coming out of the top four banks and other financial organisations.

Meller’s departure follows this week’s bombshell at the financial services Royal Commission which revealed that AMP mislead the Australian Securities and Investment Commission 20 times.

It also comes off the back of a poisoned independent investigation commissioned by AMP last year on a “fee for no service” scandal which cheated tens of thousands of clients who paid fees but received nothing in return.

It was a similar story with the Commonwealth Bank, where it became obvious that clients were paying for fees but receiving nothing in return. A bank executive actually agreed that they would be a gold medallist if ASIC was handing out a medal for “fee for no service”.

The commission has also heard that the Commonwealth Bank has been charging dead clients fees for advice, with five planners admitting to knowingly charging the dead.

It’s so hard to accept that that our foundation financiers Westpac (who started in 1817 as the Bank of New South Wales), ANZ (1837), Commonwealth Bank (1912), NAB (1982, formerly National Bank, 1858 and Commercial Bank of Sydney, 1834) and AMP (formed in 1849 as the Australian Mutual Provident Society) could find themselves in such a grubby position.

It is no co-incidence that the Federal Government has imposed new and increased penalties for serious misconduct under criminal and civil law, including slamming major banks and financial services companies and individuals.

ASIC will be granted great powers to investigate and prosecute dishonest and criminal behaviour in the financial services industry. Bank executives and questionable advisers will be targeted with penal sentences.

Criminal convictions are a maximum 10 years in prison and a fine of $945,000. Corporations could be fined up to $9.45 million, or 10 percent of their turnover under the new reforms.

Maximum civil infringement penalties are a fine of $1.05m for individuals and $210m for corporations.

It’s a sad day that as a nation, we have to increase criminal penalties to keep our iconic financial corporations from systematic cheating and deception.

How have our boards and executives allowed the creation of such a toxic culture to poison the backbone of our economy?

It was no surprise, but disappointing to hear and read that ratepayers will pay the increased costs of processing recyclable waste as result of China banning Australian waste exports.

The full impact from China is still uncertain but other states have been advised of the ban which is expected to spread into Tasmania.

According to the Local Government Association of Tasmania the risk is that some Tasmanian councils would take the cheaper landfill path despite the councils being committed to recycling or sustainable waste management.

The result means that only a few councils are in a position to absorb the increase so the majority would need to increase rates or cut services which history suggests is highly unlikely.

So here we go again, the ratepayers who are already under the pump to pay their rates and charges bills will be hit again.

Government won’t be forcing amalgamations but ratepayers can’t believe that Tasmania can afford 29 councils.

A hike on garbage costs might be the straw that recycles some councils.

Weekly weigh-in: Our growing cities and understanding pressure



The last thing we need is more government federal inquiries on anything that moves, and state projects such as Tasmania Together, which spent millions with little return.

However, the House of Representative Select Committee inquiry into the Australian Government’s role in the development of cities certainly opens up opportunities for smaller cities such as ours.

The government is starting to question that if the nation’s population is doubled by 2075 then how in heaven will they manage this growth.

Yesterday’s inquiry hearing in Tasmania was seeking answers and ideas. The TCCI presentation by CEO Michael Bailey and Chair Susan Parr, concentrated on what could help Tasmania maximise the benefit of the massive population.

Two of the five points really stood out. The first was to support the movement of government workers to regions, through the relocation of government departments from cities such as Melbourne and Sydney which are already struggling with population issues. To date, forcing public servants to move from the city to the regions has failed, with the latest example in Armidale and then the several efforts to move people from Hobart to other parts of Tasmania.

The TCCI presentation to the inquiry by Michael Bailey said it could be a physical move or virtual one.

“For example, why not allow government call centre workers to work from home if they live in regional Tasmania? We have NBN connectivity and there are plenty of workers that would prefer the livability of Tasmania compared to the choking mainland inner cities,” Mr Bailey said.

The second point, which will no doubt attract the ire of local unions, is to provide different economic settings such as pay rates and penalties for regions, rather than have pay rates and penalties based on Melbourne and Sydney workers.

“How is the national wage case, based on the needs of workers in inner city Melbourne and Sydney, fair for a business in St Helens or Queenstown?  Why not return to the regional models that reflect the economic reality and supports local business?” Mr Bailey said.

“Why not trial different economic setting in Tasmania to support the movement of mainland business to our state? This could include different pay rates, penalty rates, hours of work and so on.”

Round one is not far away!

So, you think you’re under pressure because your footy team has yet to win a game or you get wet running to work this week, or even worse, you’ve broken a fingernail.  While there are genuine pressures which sadly can become very serious, many are manufactured by the individuals that we hear from daily.

But understanding real pressure was highlighted in a brilliant piece by Fairfax’s Managing Editor Mark Baker in The Examiner on Monday.

The story was based on the rebuild of culture for the Australian cricket team and Tasmania’s Tim Paine and his phoenix like resurrection as the ideal leader for the country. He also referred to the discussion about the bubble and pressure of international cricket.

As an avid soccer supporter and player, Mark commented in his article about the famous soccer quote around pressure “It is not a matter of life and death – it’s more important than that.”

His dig deep approach into the 1940’s and 1950’s discovered “the greatest captain Australian cricket never had – Keith Miller.”  Miller was an outstanding all-rounder, a star in Bradman’s great Ashes teams, a top player for St Kilda in the VFL and could have been an Olympic Games medalist if he had time.

It will come as no great surprise then that Miller earned a Distinguished Flying Cross in the Second World War as an RAF Fighter Pilot in the famous Spitfire fighter aircraft which took on the German Messerschmitt in truly life and death dog fights.  Miller had more near misses in the air than on the cricket pitch, was on the edge of dishonourable discharge for getting sloshed and unaccepted behaviour, and again in trouble when he broke away from a flying formation because he wanted to have a look over Bonn, the birthplace of Beethoven.

Which moves onto Mark Baker’s reminder of the greatest of Miller’s quotes when asked about the pressure of cricket “I’ll tell you what pressure is. Pressure is a Messerschmitt up your arse. Playing cricket is not.”


Weekly weigh-in: Tasmanian AFL team, rising costs and electricity



While the fight for a Tasmanian team in the AFL continues to bubble along, it’s interesting to look back at the survey conducted in 2008 by EMRS on behalf of the Tasmanian AFL bid.

The bid for a Tasmanian team to be included in the national competition was reignited by then Premier Paul Lennon after the AFL announced the league was expanding to include two more teams which were likely to be Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney.

Lennon pulled a strong team together and the bid was taken to AFL House but it became obvious that the deal had already been signed and Tasmania had no chance against Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney.

So furious were Tasmanian Senators that a Senate Inquiry was launched in 2008 but AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou and Chairman Michael Fitzpatrick declined to attend which sums up the AFL’s contempt of Tasmania.

The bid team were very impressed with the survey results but many others thought the findings were very negative, while a few found the results to be a total mystery.

The first question revealed that 48 per cent of Tasmanians supported a Tasmanian team in the AFL, while 42 per cent said no and 11 per cent were unsure.

With the noise created by supporters you would have expected 75 to 85 per cent to be in support.

The second question was a total knockout, revealing 23 per cent would consider becoming a member of the Tasmanian team while 69 per cent said they wouldn’t.

Four per cent were unsure and another four per cent answered “it depends”.

The third question revealed 23 per cent would consider signing up for membership but 69 per cent wouldn’t. Surely another knockout to the success of the bid.

Question four is a doozy, with 40 per cent suggesting they would attend games in Tasmania but 51 per cent stating they would not attend.

The fifth and final question discovered that 15 per cent would follow the team interstate and 75 per cent would not travel.

The regional breakdown of the findings unsurprisingly revealed that Hobartians gave the highest support for a Tasmanian team in the AFL (55 per cent) presumably based on the rumour that all games would be held in Hobart.

Yet a breakdown of the membership question showed that of everyone who indicated they would become a member, 25 per cent were from the north west, 24 per cent from the north and 22 per cent from the south of the state.

The home game attendance result was also spooky, with 45 per cent of north west respondents indicating they would attend Tasmanian games, yet the figure in the south was only 40 per cent and in the north only 39 per cent.

A former politician’s summary was that Hobart wanted a team but wouldn’t support it; the north wouldn’t support it unless it’s played in Launceston and the north west will support football and sport wherever it’s played.

I think it’s about time somebody opened the cheque book and engaged EMRS to ask the same questions today.

The increasing price of houses around the nation is hard to come to grips with but it’s not the only sector where $100 notes don’t go very far any more.

Petrol bowsers, supermarkets, bottle shops, tobacconists, clothing and shoe stores, the list goes on.

At least car prices have dropped dramatically as well as airline tickets on low cost flights.

But an example of how values have sky rocketed is tomorrow’s Doncaster Handicap race at Randwick which is worth $3 million.

When Tasmanian horse Piping Lane won the 1972 Melbourne Cup the race was worth $103,000.

Owner Ray Trinder of Devonport collected more than $70,000 which was life changing at that time.

Tomorrow’s $3 million is a long way behind the $6 million prizemoney offered at the Melbourne Cup and the $13 million at The Everest sprint in Sydney.

However, the reality of opulence has landed with model Jennifer Hawkins who will no doubt be wearing the most beautiful and expensive outfit and of course, the popular fascinator.

Oh, I forget to mention the fascinator looks stunning and so it should, it’s worth $3 million.

In today’s TCCI CEO Update, Michael Bailey tries to clear up a potentially confusing issue for Tasmanian businesses at the moment, electricity prices.

Mr Bailey points out that while reports about electricity seem to be all over the media, many of these stories are written by interstate journalists and reflect what’s happening on mainland Australia – not here in Tasmania.

“In the lead-up to the recent State Election, the Minister for Energy promised that by 2022 Tasmania would have the lowest regulated power prices in Australia.  The Government’s Energy Strategy also talks about restoring Tasmania’s energy advantage, and energy as a key economic driver for Tasmania,” Mr Bailey writes.

“A key part of delivering those outcomes falls to TasNetworks, the Government owned business that owns and operates the state’s electricity grid.”

TasNetworks submitted a five year plan to the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) in January 2018.

“If the AER accepts TasNetworks’ proposal, it will mean that for most business customers, network charges will return to 2009-10 levels and then increase at a rate only slightly above CPI,” Mr Bailey writes.

To read Michael Bailey’s TCCI CEO’s Update What’s really happening with electricity prices click here.

Weekly weigh-in: Legislative Council



Senior Legislative Council member Ivan Dean has opened a can of worms among some of his colleagues by reminding them that they cannot see themselves as the de facto government.

He has taken issue with his colleague Ruth Forrest who sought to assert that there is no-anti Liberal, therefore no anti-government voting bloc, in Tasmania’s Upper House.

As Mr Dean said in his op-ed piece in today’s Mercury; “It is quite clear there is. In fact, the ‘Left wing’ forms a majority of eight in the 15-member chamber.”

“I don’t disagree with Ms Forrest on the historical background of the council or its function as house of review in our bicameral system,” he wrote.

“What I argue is that it is no longer a true house of review.”

As political followers will have picked up during the Liberal Party’s government since 2014, four so called independent members, including Ms Forrest as well as Mike Gaffney, Kerry Finch, and Rob Valentine have blocked anything remotely controversial.

Examples provided by Mr Dean include forestry, mandatory penalties, education age changes, anti-discrimination, water and sewerage legislation (TasWater), which were all campaigned for by the Liberal Government and all defeated.

Mr Dean went on to write; “Ms Forrest argued that there had been no social licence for some of these measures and that’s why they were thrown out. The Liberal Party enjoyed 51.2 per cent public support and Labor 27.3 percent. If you have gained the support of the majority of Tasmanians, more than 50 percent, doesn’t that equate to a social licence?”

With this month’s election showing Tasmania voted 50.26 per cent Liberal 32.63 per cent Labor, it will be interesting to see how the house of review operates in this new term of Government.

TCCI CEO Michael Bailey said it would be very disappointing if the Legislative Council blocked Government policies when the new Government clearly has a mandate for a series of economically beneficial policies, including the takeover of TasWater and retaining poker machines in pubs and clubs.

“The voters supported the Liberal Party’s policy on poker machines rather than Labor’s policy of restricting poker machines to the state’s two casinos in Hobart and Launceston,” Mr Bailey said.

“Clearly these two policies were high on the agenda and were out there for the voters to make their decision which supported the Liberal Party.

“It will be interesting to see if the Legislative Council listens to the people of Tasmania – I and thousands of Tasmanians will be very disappointed if they vote against such policies.

“I believe that a suggested Labor bloc would be against the intentions of this important house – it is a house of review, not the Senate.”

See more of this story on page one and two of this month’s Tasmanian Business Reporter or by clicking here.

Weekly weigh-in: Football, politics and health


Well he came, he saw but was a long way short of conquering in the context of Wednesday’s flying visit to Hobart by CEO of the AFL, Gill McLachlan.

I have no doubt that he now understands that he faces history as being the man who overlooked the closure of football in Tasmania.

Saved it can be but crikey, the oxygen tanks are near empty.

You can’t have a Tasmanian AFL team without some Tasmanian players and that’s the 10 to 15 year problem to upgrade juniors and teenagers while trying to boost the failed State League competition. Failed in that it is running out of clubs, players and supporters.

The team to create the ideas and reignite Tasmanian football are genuinely Tasmanian supporters with three living in Melbourne and full on with with their media work, coaching The Carlton AFL club, an AFL specialist and the Tasmanian CEO is hardly the right team to understand the problems. The team needs to be in Tasmania for the long term talking with clubs, players, coaches, boards, schools both state and independent, government, councils and the broader community to dig out the problems.

It was encouraging to hear Tasmanian Senator, Steve Martin, have a massive blow at the AFL and its leader, Gil McLachlan, in his maiden speech on Wednesday night.

A very gutsy, but politically smart approach for a newcomer to take festering boil to the Nation.

Criticising McLachlan for dragging his heels for months and taking too long to help bleeding of a footy crisis can’t be argued. Nor can his comment that state football in Tasmania is a disgrace. The Senator lives in Devonport and the proud footy club had to withdraw from the league this year because of funds and playing numbers, you can understand the frustration and embarrassment that as the Mayor of the City, his club fell apart because the lack of AFL assistance.

Senator Martin also put his support to help clean up the mess: “Football played a critical role in making players more employable, socially connected and motivated to succeed. I am prepared to use all moral and political weight of my office to work on the issue. “

Well done Senator.

Fascinating to see the war of words between chiefs of staff to the Premier, Will Hodgman and Opposition leader Bec White.

The Premier’s right hand man, Brad Stansfield, threw the first hand grenade in Saturday’s Mercury, with a savage assessment of Labor’s election campaign. He highlighted the gamble of spending election money in October and November when everyone knew the election would be called for the second week in March.

He also made clear that it was Labor who made the decisions to invite the poker-machine industry into the election campaign “not us.” He added: “Labor now claims they are sticking with their pokies policy. Only a fool would say there aren’t a few hard-heads in Labor who know this policy was a giant cock-up.”

The Opposition’s minder, Michael Stedman, returned fire in yesterday’s Mercury and dug deep into his journalistic background claiming that while it is true that marketing themselves is what the Liberal’s do best ,“however, what we saw over the past four years – and what has already emerged since the March 3 (sic) victory – is what makes a good campaign does not necessarily make a good government.”

On the pokies he said there was no doubt the Liberals benefited from the millions of dollars spent by the poker machine lobby.

“That does not change the fact that the Labor’s poker machines decisions was the right one, morally and ethically.

Independent polling printed in this newspaper showed 57.1 per cent of Tasmanians support removing poker machines from pubs and clubs.”

Of course a lot more punches were thrown and landed and points won from both sides.

However, the referee in this case is the only poll than really counts – the March 3 election day. Tasmanian voters clearly decided they would give the Liberal Party another four years in Government.

Disappointing to see the Launceston General Hospital emergency medicine training hitting a hurdle but the problem can be fixed by a professional recruitment team.

What is equally disappointing is that media has decided that the training accreditation has been stripped, withdrawn, lost and suspended.

The official word from the Australian College for Emergency Medicine made it clear that the decisions was to suspend accreditation. The word suspend means temporarily prevented from continuing, not stripped, or lost, or disqualified.

Let’s hope it’s a short suspension.

Weekly weigh-in: Journalism disclosure, election coverage and sledging



A $15,000 payment by the Federal Government to the most senior political reporter of the Australian Financial Review has certainly opened a hot discussion questioning potential conflicts of interest.

The journalist, Laura Tingle, was paid $15,000 by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet for two days engagement at the ASEAN business summit to be held next week.

Tingle’s role is to host a Women in Business breakfast and round table discussion.

There is nothing noteworthy about the role if you’re on the speaking circuit, but a journalist being paid by a Government department will raise questions.

Added to the questioning is Tingle’s appointment to chief political correspondent at the ABC’s 7.30 which will certainly raise eye brows at the ABC.

The ABC claims to have strong editorial policies on outside work and conflicts of interest which could undermine the professional integrity and independence of the broadcaster and lead to a loss of community support.

While many would argue that the ABC’s policy is failing, all media should check their editorial policies on independence and integrity.

The fact it’s Government paying the journalist in this case isn’t the issue. A similar engagement and payment could be from big business, an organisation, or individuals and have been approved by management.

The tricky part is when a journalist later finds themselves writing a glowing story about the organisation.

Yes, it’s a genuine story but it can get smelly if the journalist doesn’t disclose the funding received from the Government or business.

Travel writers probably provide the best example of disclosure, recognising in the last paragraph of the story the airline, hotel group or tourism operator who invited the writers and covered their costs.

It can be managed but it can also get out of control.

Coincidence, but the Tingle story also opens up another independence and integrity question – the performance of the Tasmanian media during the state election.

The 2018 election was the first for many young journalists across all media, and hopefully they learned a lot over the last five weeks.

Understanding the need for balanced, unbiased stories was a challenge for some, which was obvious in negative stories, the failure to ask questions of the party in issues they supported and aggressive lines of questioning for issues they opposed.

Probably the main complaint I heard from readers and viewers was about the presence of commentary within a basic news story.

The result is a distorted story leaning to the opinion of the journalist and not the facts.

The accepted approach of news journalism is to write for your audience, your readers, but not for your personal opinions.

When the sledger is sledged and believes the sledging is over the line and he decides he has to punch the daylights out of the sledger, no wonder the cricket world is in a fight.

The heavyweight sledging championship of Australian vice- captain, David Warner vs South African wicketkeeper, Quinton de Koch, has certainly overshadowed the result of the first Test.

Yes, Australia won by the way.

Warner, a renowned sledger which is not part of his $5m earnings, spat it when a heavily sledged de Koch moved up from the four letter F word attacks to a level that Warner claimed was “vile and disgusting”.

If not for the intervention of Tasmanian, Tim Paine, the Australian wicketkeeper, Warner would have been punching de Koch which could have KO’d his cricket future.

A $13,500 match fee and three demerit points, which is one point short of suspension, was dished out to Warner.

The demerit points carry over for two years which means one more charge and he’s definitely declared out for some time. De Koch copped a $16,000 fine.

We didn’t hear the TV voice but the picture looked like one of those CCTC images outside a club, or pub and not like one of a team of world test cricketers.

So, will the International Cricket Council ban sledging which is part of the DNA of cricket, or develop a dictionary of what you can and can’t say?

Best of luck either way!

Weekly weigh-in: Betting agency bungle and Federal Government energy

Image result for online betting william hill


It’s not unusual to see businesses and companies wiping millions of dollars from their books through bad management, tight financial times such as depressions and recessions, a great financial crisis or simply finding itself redundant in a changing world.

But it’s hard to recall a loss as bad as a bookmaking agency paying $700 million (some say $800 million) for three betting agencies in Australia five years ago, and today selling the business for about $250 million.

The sale comes in the middle of a major explosion of racing and sporting turnover in Australia.

So how did British betting agency, William Hill, manage to turn a $700 million business into a $250 million business?

It wasn’t through a “dirty run” where punters hammer the bookies and not all survive.

The simple answer comes from Michael Sullivan, the former owner of Sportingbet, the biggest of the three betting agencies bought by William Hill.

“In a nutshell, English arrogance,” said Mr Sullivan, who is now owner of a national corporate betting agency, BlueBet, which is licenced in NSW and also fields on the Sydney metropolitan racetracks as part of the licence.

Sportingbet management spent time in the UK negotiating the $700m takeover and sharing information on the opportunities and approaches in Australia.

The William Hill approach seemed to be along the lines of; it’s ok boys, we’ve been in this business since 1930 we know what we are doing. An interesting approach seeing as they were still writing crayon tickets for the punters back then.

The two major errors they made were dropping the well-known Sportingbet name (the other agencies were Centrebet and TomWaterhouse.com) and using their own name, William Hill.

Also, discouraging the bigger $1000 to $10,000 punters and replacing them with $100 punters infuriated hundreds of clients.

The punters were also offered different prices online, so if you were on a winning streak you were offered a shorter price than less successful bettor.

But the name and brand were the killer, and appointing Tom Waterhouse as CEO wasn’t well received.

So out of touch was the William Hill brand, that focus groups thought the William Hill name was a variety of smokes!

Let the bungle serve as a reminder for businesses about the importance of brand, which creates loyal customers and loyal employees.

So, the bookie’s loss is $450 million at least. This has to be one of the biggest losing bets in the world.

The Federal Government’s $6 billion takeover of the Snowy Hydro company suggests that Tasmania will benefit from the takeover as part of a parallel energy project, also set to be funded by the Feds.

The Government signed the deal yesterday which means the Federal Government now has 100 per cent ownership, having bought out the shares of NSW ($4.1 billion) and Victoria ($2.1 billion).

The agreement is that the funds must be spent on infrastructure projects including roads and rail.

The Federal Government now has an open door to proceed with its Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro project which is set to generate more reliable energy, cheaper electricity and 5500 infrastructure jobs in NSW and Victoria.

The Government has also confirmed that Tasmanian project to be the ‘battery of the nation’ will be developed in parallel with the Snowy Mountain Hydro scheme.

The Federal government is working closely with Hydro Tasmania on the pumped hydro project and the second interconnector across the Bass Strait from Tasmania to Victoria.

While the Snowy Scheme will assist in meeting Australia’s growing power needs, the Tasmanian power input into the national grid is paramount, particularly to shore up the Victorian and South Australian energy base problems.

The future is bright, as long as the State Government ensures that Tasmanian energy prices, both business and domestic, are the lowest in the country.

The opportunity to attract more business to Tasmania is a no brainer.

Weekly weigh-in: Launceston Cup and Chinese trademark squatters



Spectators, participants and politicians have been left scratching their heads after Tasracing’s decision to change Wednesday’s Launceston Cup time.

The ten-race programme is now set to kick off with the first race at 1.17pm, compared to an 11.45am start last year, with Tasracing shifting the major race to 6.14pm from its former start time of 4.14pm.

The news came from The Examiner on Wednesday, explaining that Tasracing made the decision in an effort to maximise exposure on the Sky Channel Network, thereby increasing betting turnover and ensuring big dollar returns for the industry.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well for a start, the 12,000 to 14,000 people attending were stunned to read about the significant change just seven days before the race.

Others baffled by the news included Tasmanian politicians, who had planned the original race times as the last opportunity for TV election coverage before Saturday’s poll day.

It’s believed Premier Hodgman will probably not make the 6.14pm cup race now due to a commitment in Hobart, which further highlights the stupidity of not thinking the decision through.

Traditionally, the Governor of Tasmania presents the trophy to the winner of the cup at the Governor’s Luncheon, a convention that will have to go by the wayside due to a lack of forethinking.

The doyen of Tasmanian racing, The Examiner’s Greg Mansfield, posted the story on his Facebook page resulting in a social media outcry.

In fact, I believe the response was 99 per cent negative.

Like many major cups, including the Melbourne Cup, the crowds start moving after the cup for a variety of reasons including transport and family commitments after a long day.

Concerns over the late commute back to Hobart and the North West as well as excessive drinking due to the already locked in opening times of the club headlined the social media outcry.

There were also complaints surrounding the reality that many people would leave before the major race began, that the later times caused problems for families with young children, and that no coverage of the cup race could be aired on Tasmanian TV news bulletins.

Perhaps earlier notice from Tasracing would have minimised some of the disappointment.

After all, it is one of the greatest events on the social calendar in the state and not just a money grab.

An export company trying to break into China has been stung by a Chinese trademark squatter, costing the company thousands of dollars and serving as a warning to all Australian exporters.

The horrible experience resulted from a decision to exhibit at a trade Show in Hong Kong. The company manufactures a range of cosmetics using ingredients from aboriginal people in the Kimberley.

The company followed-up on the significant number of enquiries received at the trade show and then identified a suitable business they wanted to appoint as a distribution outlet for certain regions of China.

When the time came for the product registration in China, the trademark had already been registered by someone else who turned out to be trade mark squatter asking for  $25,000 to release the rights to the product in China.

There was no option but to pay.

You can read TCCI TradeStart Adviser Sally Chandler’s full story about the trademark robbery, originally published in the Tasmanian Business Reporter, here.

Weekly weigh-in: Roadblock, pokies and celibacy



Extreme weather like we saw on Wednesday morning, burst water mains, and roadworks can certainly clog up traffic, as Hobart is experiencing at the moment.

The Mercury’s front page revealed how the RACT will call for a tripartite approach to “tackle Hobart’s traffic chaos” after motorists experienced the city’s “worst congestion in years this week”.

And of course, there’s a ‘he said, she said’ in political policies which I’m definitely not going to delve too deeply into.

Fortunately, the story did include the common-sense paragraphs from Garry Bailey, Chairman of the Road Safety Advisory Council and former Mercury Editor.

Garry said infrastructure was only part of the problem.

“These are not accidents – they are avoidable if common sense, patience and courtesy prevail,” he said.

“Drivers intent on shaving seconds off their travel time by exceeding the 50km limit, switching lanes, blocking intersections, travelling too close to the vehicle in front and in some cases running red lights, are causing delays.”

Spot on Garry Bailey. Throwing tens of millions of dollars into infrastructure will help, but it won’t change the horizon until irresponsible drivers wake up to the fact that they are the problem.

Graham Richardson, senior minister in the Hawke and Keating governments and a regular visitor to Tasmania, has put his tuppence into the Tasmanian pokies debate in today’s Australian.

He goes into detail of pokies addiction, including his father’s gambling problem, but concedes there is the need for responsibility.

“Nonetheless, despite all that I have written above, I don’t believe that Labor and White are correct on this issue, even if I fully understand where they are coming from,” Mr Richardson said.

“For me, it comes down to personal responsibility and I have considerable experience in gambling addiction.

“Many people get a lot of enjoyment out of having the occasional flutter on the pokies and that is a right that should not be taken from them because some gamblers have a problem.

“We should never welcome government intervention into how we work, rest, or play. Good intentions are one thing, the right of free will is another.”

Yes, sex sells, as newspaper and media have realised for decades, maybe even centuries.

However, it’s not much fun when our Prime Minister, Malcom Turnbull, has to tell his deputy (Barnaby Joyce) that his affair with a former staffer was appalling and a shocking error of judgment.

The result; the Prime Minister declares an immediate ban on sex between ministers and staffers.

Embarrassing that adults have to be told where they can and can’t have a sexual relationship with other adults.

As author Henri Bergson said back in the 1930’s, “Sex appeal is the keynote of our whole civilisation.”

Certainly, living in Canberra 20 years ago, it became very obvious that there were relationships at several levels of parliament, including the politicians’ fraternity.

Maybe it’s time for a far broader sex ban which covers everyone who works at Parliament House.

Yes, for all politicians, staffers and the 5000 people who work in Parliament House on sitting days.

Celibacy for all at the Nation’s Parliament House. That will fix the problem!

Weekly weigh-in: AFL’s neglect, Airbnb and exports to India

North Hobart oval


I haven’t been a great supporter of the push for a Tasmanian football team in the AFL, mainly because of the massive yearly costs, but AFL management should be ashamed of its failure to support Tasmania’s state league competition.

It’s now a state league without north west teams, and a brother to the Australian Football League, which doesn’t include Tasmania.

When asked about Burnie’s exit following the departure of Devonport from the league, AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan responded that all was well in Tasmanian football, because you can always look at the issue through different lenses.

You would wonder what he had for breakfast.

Tasmanian football has gone backwards since the AFL has taken over, and that’s at all levels including independent and state schools’ rosters.

Through the AFL’s so called wise decisions, we lost North Hobart, the third longest running team in Australian history.

We have also lost the Hobart club, the Tigers, Sandy Bay (which the AFL may not have been the assassin), City South (the Launceston club, but again not the AFL’s doing) and South Launceston who were cut down by the Prospect Hawks, who themselves lasted only a couple of years.

Now, the proud Devonport and Burnie clubs have also withdrawn from this year’s state league.

Devonport ran out of funds, the $80,000 from AFL isn’t enough, and Burnie ran out of players.

How AFL Tasmania could allow this is a disgrace, unless I’m looking through different lenses than Mr McLachlan.

New AFL Tasmania Chief Executive, Trish Squires and Tasmanian State League General Manager, Carl Saunders have been left with an awful mess and with little finance to correct the ship.

AFL Tasmania runs on about $2.5 million a year, with $1 million shared between the former nine teams compared to the AFL’s 2017 funding of $45 million to the two Queensland teams plus further millions to other leagues and projects.

How can you have any confidence in the AFL and its leader, whose approach to Tasmania is one of arrogance to force Tasmania to accept North Melbourne as our future Tasmanian team.

While Airbnb hosts are counting their cash, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is doing the same as it prepares to provide a huge shock to Airbnb players.

The time bomb is the potential capital gains tax for people leasing out their houses, or part of their house such as rooms, or entire floors.

The cost explosion happens when you sell your house or apartment and the ATO slaps the capital gains tax on the portion of the house that was used for Airbnb, or leased.

One of the growing avenues for individuals, is using Airbnb to rent out their homes while they head off for holiday seasons.

Other homeowners simply lease out spare rooms.

Already Airbnb hosts have, without warning, found themselves in debt to the ATO.

For years accountants have been warning home owners who set up their home office that there is a tax deduction, but there is also an unpleasant capital gains hit when you sell your home.

Anyone playing in the Airbnb market or leasing part of a house should organise an appointment with their accountant sooner rather than later.

For exporters wanting to crack the very fragmented Indian market, I recommend reading Sally Chandler’s column in the February edition of the TBR.

Sally, the TCCI’s Trade Start Adviser, spent much of her working life in China, India and surrounds working face-to-face with potential buyers and government officials.

You can read Sally’s Page 8 column here.

Weekly weigh-in: ‘Cabinetgate’, unfair dismissal and wage increases



I have spent a few quid with quite an extraordinary business in Canberra which sold used office furniture such as chairs, desks, filing cabinets – you name it, it was there.

While reasonably cheap, the attraction was the quality of the out-dated material from the Federal Public Service and Federal Government offices.

The best buys were the “outdated” pieces still in the original plastic coverings which had obviously been forgotten and lived untouched in storage somewhere.

But hand on the Bible, the filing cabinets were terrific but empty, so was the desk and there was nothing stuck under the chairs.

The volume was unlimited and I can just imagine the pained public servants who had to clean out hundreds of filing cabinets, desks and shelves.

However, how 10 years of Cabinet secrets were not cleaned out of the files before going to the second-hand man and eventually being obtained by the ABC is beyond belief.

If I did find a file of gold, would I have passed the information on to my Canberra Times editors, Michael Stevens and Jack Waterford?


It certainly would have been a front-page story that we had found the files, but the confidential cabinet secrets contained in these files would have been passed back to the Prime Minister’s office.

I was staggered to read that in a nine-month period last year, there were 10,480 Unfair Dismissal Applications lodged with the Fair Work Commission, which averages out to be around 1,165 applications per month, or 292 per week.

Regardless of what employers think of the application, the process can be intimidating, time consuming and stressful.

Equally, the terminated employee has responsibilities to lodge the application within 21 days of dismissal, it must be covered by the national workplace relations system, and it must have completed the minimum employment period of one year for small business or six months for other businesses and must not have reached the high-income threshold of $142,000 for the 2017-18 financial year.

As TCCI Senior Workplace Relations Consultant Abbey George said, there have certainly been some valid unfair dismissal claims.

“But experience also shows that sometimes the reasons behind an employee lodging an unfair dismissal claim is not necessarily that they thought the dismissal was unfair, but that they are now without employment and have bills to pay,” Ms George said.

For further details, read Abbey George’s column on termination advice from the February edition of the Tasmanian Business Reporter here.

Tax cuts, not wage increases, are the answer to creating employment and balancing wages for low to middle wage earners.

Based on an Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) claim to the Fair Work Commission, phased-in wage increases totalling $194 a week would be required to meet a 60 per cent of median wage target for low to middle wage earners by 2020.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has estimated the substantial costs to small businesses would be billions of dollars annually, with this figure supported by workplace experts.

According to The Australian, workplace legal experts agreed that the costs of meeting the ACTU living-wage goal, which would potentially flow through to 2.3 million workers, would be in the billions of dollars.

A business leader suggested this morning that someone had pinched the economic notes of the late Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam.

Weekly weigh-in: Arsonists, Australia Day and local councils



I love the summer heat but I hate the damage and potential loss of life as a result of deliberately lit fires.

Accidents do happen, and we have no control over lightning from electrical storms which can start series of fires over large areas.

But to find your house and property has been destroyed by a deliberately lit fire is heart breaking for families, who are left destitute, and in many cases, mentally scarred for life.

Equally as damaging for Tasmanian communities are the statistics which reveal that around 45 per cent of all fires in Tasmania are deliberately lit.

Yes, 45 per cent are the work of arsonists.

A big tick goes to the Tasmanian Police, who shared a press conference with the Premier, Will Hodgman earlier this month and announced they would be knocking on the door of known and suspected arsonists ahead of Tasmania’s high fire danger season.

Deputy Commissioner Glenn Frame said ”We won’t take a heavy hand but we’ll let them know we’re about and that we’re patrolling. We’re keeping a bit of an eye on them and hopefully that will deter them from getting out and about and doing the wrong thing.”

Great approach.

For those enjoying Australia Day, just a reminder that you are part of an overwhelming percentage of Australians celebrating January 26.

The independent Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) poll showed 70 per cent of Australians supported Australia Day on January 26, and only 11 per cent believe it should be moved from January 26.

Only 23 per cent of Australians thought councils should stop holding citizenship ceremonies on January 26.

When asked for their views on Australian history and national pride, 76 per cent believe Australia has a history to be proud of and 11 per cent disagreed.

According to The Australian newspaper, the IPA poll is in contrast to the left leaning Australian Institute, which found that 56 per cent of Australians “don’t really mind” when Australia Day is held.

Enjoy your barbeque.

The Victorian Coalition is taking a much more serious approach with unpatriotic councils, declaring they will be sacked for refusing to hold citizenship ceremonies and celebrate Australia Day.

State Opposition Leader, Matthew Guy, has promised if elected, he would amend the Local Government Act and force councils to celebrate the day and hold citizenship ceremonies.

The Opposition also suggested councils should focus on delivering core services – roads, rates and rubbish, and not national concerns.

If councillors want to change matters of national interest, they should resign from councils and run for Federal parliament.

No lamb chops tomorrow for some Victorian communities.

Weekly weigh-in: Australia Day, complaints about free money and home phone disconnection



Best of luck to any Federal Government that wants to change the date of Australia Day from January 26.

If you take Christmas Day and Good Friday out of the equation, there are 363 potential alternative dates for the day.

Normally you would think 363 options should mean there is an easy answer for a new Australia Day.

However, there are few days you wouldn’t mess with, such as the AFL Grand Final, not to mention the argument of every Saturday and Sunday during winter when the AFL and NRL take over the days and nights.

You can also forget the first Tuesday in November as an option, which is locked in by the Melbourne Cup, and probably another half a dozen major sacrosanct race days.

Then we have MOFO and major art functions around the nation which are hands off.

Of course, there are also the untouchable days of other countries and cultures, of which millions observe in our multicultural Australia.

In today’s Australian approach, somebody or group will have a bone to pick.

What we don’t want to see again is the online trolls who subjected indigenous politician, Jacinta Price, to a torrent of vile social media abuse from anti-Australian day activists over her push to keep the national day on January 26.

The Alice Springs councillor and daughter of a prominent former Northern Territory politician Bess Price, was subjected to horrific messages including wishing her a painful death and insulting her disabled nephew.

Despite the political bun fight over the failure of some Tasmanians not receiving their $125 energy bonus to assist paying Aurora bills, Westpac admitted their error in the matter and apologised for the delay.

While people were unhappy, a letter to the editor in the Mercury’s Wednesday edition provided a compelling argument.

The headline was simple, ‘Complaints about free money’.

“You know you are in the age of entitlement when people feel than can self-righteously complain about the government sending them free money a few days late.”

Evidently, Westpac was also hammered by their clients who were most unhappy that the Westpac cheques still took three working days before they were cleared in their Westpac accounts.

I’m just waiting to hear that someone’s cheque has bounced!

Just a reminder to 1194 homes and businesses in Tasmania that are about to face a “formal disconnection” of your old copper landlines, so, no phone!

Under the terms of NBN, existing phone networks are to be disconnected 18 months after the NBN is available in your area. According to the NBN, close to a million premises will be disconnected unless they sign with NBN as soon as possible.

Some Tasmanians swore they would never swap to the NBN.

One, because they didn’t want to change, and two, because the network was flawed due to its inability to operate during power outages – unless you paid for an additional costly back-up battery which still wasn’t fool proof.

We read daily of six month waiting times for connection, or weeks of people going without NBN connections for a variety of reasons. It now looks like we will have another 1194 unhappy stories in the file.

Weekly weigh-in: Petrol prices, alcohol taxes and attacks on liberty



Ask any driver on the road at this time of year who the Christmas Grinch is in their life and the unanimous answer will be—— service stations, who gouge petrol and diesel prices over Christmas.

Yes, we hear it’s the fault of the cartel of exporting nations increasing prices, but a shock discussion with a service station part owner last week confirms what we had always thought.

While paying for a full tank last week, the pleasant female attendant had just finished a phone call as I mentioned the bouncing prices of petrol around the nation.

“Well, you are lucky that you are filling up today, I’ve just had a call that Shell has upped their prices by 5c and we will now be doing the same tomorrow,” she surprisingly shared.

“So is this a result of a Singapore or some other overseas increases in price?” I asked.

“All I know is Shell have just gone up and we follow tomorrow,” the service station attendant replied.

Service stations are definitely the number one Grinch.

Continuing the shock stories, is this week’s move by Federal and State Health Ministers to significantly increase prices for beer and wines under a proposal to cut Australian alcohol consumption.

It became very personal when the targeted areas are wines, which have a lower tax level, and beer with Victoria Bitter (VB) slabs as an example.

The announcement was released last month but only became public on Monday and is a draft national alcohol strategy chaired by Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt. It also calls for tough restrictions on alcohol advertising during sports, and laws to stop bottle shops from providing two-for-one offers and bulk-buy booze discounts.

Alcohol companies will also be asked to put readable, impactful health-related warning labels on their products.  Minister Hunt chaired last month’s ministerial forum which agreed to release the draft strategy for a final round of feedback after three years of consultation, with the aim of finalising the strategy by March 2018.

However within 24-hours of the strategies release, Mr Hunt distanced himself with a spokesman telling the Herald Sun “It’s not a Commonwealth initiative, or anything we are proposing to adopt. This would be a matter for individual jurisdictions.”

Another questionable approach by a senior politician who should be looking at education, not regulation.

So with alcohol under pressure, pokies disappearing from Tasmania’s hotels and clubs, cigarettes now $10 a drawback – if Labor wins next year’s election, what else will be on the attack list?

Another shock which the old Truth newspaper would have screamed: BRAINLESS ACADEMICS CALL FOR SEX BAN IN AUSTRALIA.

And Truth’s intro would have said: “The Academics at Melbourne’s RMIT University are calling for Australian universities to institute a blanket band on sex.” Correct to a point.

However, as the ABC story correctly said: “etc. etc. …………….calling for Australian universities to institute a blanket band on sex between faculty members and students.”

Unfortunately there’s no doubt that some unbalanced politician will suddenly advocate for the Truth approach which would be the start of the end of this planet.

I wish all a happy and holy Christmas and welcome in a fascinating 2018.

Weekly weigh-in: Scale of economies, recycling aldermen and job creation

Image result for melbourne west gate tunnel


The vulnerability of Tasmania’s economy was highlighted this week when it was announced the expansion of Melbourne’s West Gate Tunnel will now cost $6.7 billion, a blow out of $1.2 billion from the original budget.

This is just one of many infrastructure projects in Victoria, which has a population of 5.791 million, with 3.848 million living in Melbourne alone, a figure that is rising rapidly.

In comparison, Tasmania has a population of around 520,000 and a total annual expenditure of $5,819 million reported in the 2017-18 state budget.

The cost blow out of the tunnel is double Tasmania’s infrastructure spend this financial year, although the government did allocate $2 billion for the budget and the Forward Estimates.

Tasmania is geographically close to Victoria and we share so much of Melbourne’s facilities, such as the arts, international and Australian live shows and sport (AFL, cricket and racing). It’s a reminder of why the management of the state’s funds is paramount. By adopting the business type approach of not spending more than you can afford, Tasmania is now in its most viable economic position for years.

This approach means Tasmania doesn’t have $1.2 billion blow outs on projects. Instead, you create a spending environment which enables you to get back in the black while expenditure must hit the targets, which is now happening in schools, hospitals, health facilities, roads and rail, technology, tourism and assisting business opportunities. In addition, there are rebates for the community to assist with the cost of living including energy which is also extended to more than $120 million for business big and small.

Tasmania doesn’t have everything, but it’s pretty close, and you could argue that while we need more population, we don’t need Victoria’s 5,791 million.

The sacking of the 10 Glenorchy Aldermen had ratepayers cheering, after three years of war between many of the aldermen and some management including the General Manager, which left ratepayers to pick up the bill for more than $1.2 million worth of absurd legal challenges. One comment described the council as being beset by rivalry and spite.

The announcement of the new election, with voting taking place from December 19 to January 16, was a breath of fresh air for so many.

But the list of candidates has created disappointment from some ratepayers who now realise that many of the former aldermen are back in the hunt, despite a damning report of their behaviour which certainly wasn’t in the interests of ratepayers.

So how does a sacked council come to be potentially resurrected with possibly the same people from the previous council? Obviously, the result is in the hands of ratepayers who determine the winners and losers, but why allow sacked councillors a second chance?

Advice from local government experts revealed that changes to eligibility of candidates amongst other local government regulations were rejected by the Local Government Association of Tasmania.

The other argument is that while the Glenorchy aldermen were suspended for many months, most resigned their seat before the Minister for Local Government, Peter Gutwein, sacked the suspended councillors.

If there is to be change, it’s now on the shoulders of the Glenorchy ratepayers.

This week’s announcement of a $56 million state-of-the art fish feed innovation and production plant to be built at Wesley Vale by Danish company BioMar, is not just a boost for the North West, but also for job creation state-wide.  BioMar is fully owned by Danish conglomerate, Schouw and Co, which was founded in 1878 and listed on the Copenhagen Stock Exchange with a market cap of around $3.3 billion Australian.

Once the operation is up and running in September 2019, BioMar will produce up to 110,000 tonnes of high performance fish feed for Tasmanian grown salmon, as well as fish farms in other parts of Australia and New Zealand. BioMar currently delivers about $65 million of product to Tasmania from Edinburgh which cemented the decision to set up operations in Wesley Vale.

The production will create 55 full time jobs alongside a potential 80 contract positions around the state through operational, port services and logistical jobs. Construction is expected to employ 250 contractors when work is planned to start in May next year, depending on the finalisation of the development and environmental plans.

A couple of interesting statistics were shared at Monday’s press conference with Premier, Will Hodgman, Deputy Premier, Jeremy Rockliff and BioMar’s UK Managing Director, Paddy Campbell who is based in Edinburgh.

Explaining the significance of aquaculture in Tasmania, Mr Rockliff said that export income from the broader fishing industry in Tasmania was now bigger than the combined cattle and sheep income.

The second statistic came from a Government advisor while explaining the impact in the area of the 55 manufacturing jobs. The wage base for the 55 jobs is at least double the average wage of people working in the electorate.

The site is the former Specialist Veneers factory and management which closed eight years ago.

Weekly weigh-in: Cash payments, ‘free’ marketing and political correctness

Image result for australian cash payment


I’m not a dobber, but the days of paying tradespeople with cash for a significant price cut to the consumer and a tax-free transaction for the tradies, is again in the cross hairs of the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) – which is now trying to come to grips with an estimated $25 billion a year cash economy.

Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan has issued a passionate call to arms to Australians to stop paying tradespeople in cash as he confronts a host of black-economy rorts, which include the fraudulent misuse of the Bunnings ABN by service providers.

Mr Jordan said cash discounts were ripping “billions of dollars” out of the economy that should be supporting services such as schools and hospitals. In an interview with The Australian, Mr Jordan has made a direct plea to taxpayers to stop the “less for cash” mentality ingrained in the Australian psyche.

“Stop paying cash for a discount because you are effectively cheating the system or helping someone else cheat the system,” was the message from Mr Jordan.

“This is not a victimless crime. If you pay cash for a discount, in many cases you are effectively ripping off yourself as an Australian taxpayer, because this type of behaviour is what sees billions flow out of the tax system and into the cash economy.”

Hands up who hasn’t taken the cheaper approach for a house reno or landscaping job etc.? My experts assure me it’s not as relevant today as some years ago, when it was cash payment or “sorry, we can’t do the work.”

The ATO are up against a brick wall at the moment, but there are suggestions they will adopt a more aggressive stance on rorts, and will publicly name and shame offenders.

The thought process of some in this funny old world was highlighted in an e-mail yesterday titled “They walk among us.”

The story went along the lines that a guy bought a new fridge for his house. To get rid of the old fridge (still working), he put it in his front yard and hung a sign on it reading “free. You want it, you take it.”

For three days the fridge sat there without anyone looking twice.  He eventually decided that people were too mistrustful of this deal so he changed the sign to read “Fridge for sale $50.”

The next day someone stole it!

Political correctness can create the most stupid decisions, but when you run through the list of definitions you can understand why.

If somebody dislikes what you have said, you’re pretty certain to get hammered.

There’s a story a day of political incorrectness upsetting communities, be it an over reaction to a comment, or a decision refusing to allow an historic and accepted event such as Christmas to be celebrated.

When Service Tas offices around the state were told yesterday to take down Christmas decorations, I hope it wasn’t because someone who doesn’t believe in Christmas was offended by the decorations.

Whatever the reason for the decision was, political correctness has been taken to edge of the cliff.

Thankfully the Department of Premier and Cabinet introduced the common-sense approach, and now the decorations are back in the offices as they should be.

Last week, Millionaire Hot Seat compere, Eddie McGuire, found himself pilloried for some light-hearted banter with a contestant on the TV show.

“So, you have a Jewish father and a Scottish mother? I reckon it would have been hard getting pocket money from them.”

I’m not great supporter of Eddie, although we did share a very funny night in a Melbourne restaurant a couple of years ago.

Maybe this is because he’s President of the Collingwood Football Club, but regardless, was his comment worthy of the resulting uproar and media tirade?

With an Irish background, I could be claiming PC outrage daily for the number of Irish joke e-mails flooding through my laptop.

While they are pretty rough sometimes, I love them, and having caught up with relations in Dublin, they are actually often true!

I think one of a host of letters to the editor this week hit the target. “Now we are so sensitive that if you look sideways at someone, or say something slightly wrong, then you could be sacked from your job or face public ridicule by minority groups. We have lost touch with our humanity and we have lost all sense of freedom of speech.”


Weekly weigh-in: Tasmanian nepotism saga, banking Royal Commission and TV misconduct



The questions surrounding Tasmania’s nepotism sage were beautifully answered by a cartoon in Wednesday’s Mercury.

The cartoonist drew a before picture showing Tasmania attached to a strong winch based in Victoria. The after showed Tasmania connected to the rest of Australia.

The story was simple: how to solve Tasmania’s nepotism problem.

Just think how hard it is in Tasmania to employ or promote somebody you don’t know, or isn’t a close, or not so close, relation.

This is Tasmania, with a population of only 500,000 people – half of which have never been interstate, and many still waiting for their first trip to Hobart or Launceston, yet alone Devonport or Burnie.

Professional sectors such as legal, accounting, all sectors of health, and teachers are close groups. Some obviously closer than others, but they most likely know of one or the other.

Tasmanian Premier, Will Hodgman, a son and grandson of lawyers, studied his law degree through the University of Tasmania in the mid-90s and later practiced as a solicitor before an overseas stint, and eventually entering politics. There’s a fair chance he knows a few thousand people in the legal industry alone.

So, for politicians to suggest that a Supreme Court Judge was recently appointed because of his friendship with the Premier is a bit rough.

Yes, the appointee Gregory Geason, was the best man at the Hodgman wedding, as I’m sure dozens of legal friends were also part of the wedding party.

Tasmanian Bar president, Chris Gunston, was concerned by the comments of Greens Leader Cassy O’Connor, and commented that ”The most recent appointment of a judge of the Supreme Court was conducted in accordance with the Tasmanian Government’s publicly available protocol for judicial appointments.”

Mr Gunston was also scathing of Ms O’Connor for using parliamentary privilege in question time to undermine public confidence in the administration of justice and the supreme court in order to score political points.

The Premier said from the outset that he had stepped aside from the appointment interview and any process in his role as Attorney General.

Today we have a $75m Royal Commission to scrutinise the four major banks by looking at the nature and extent of misconduct, behaviour of business activity by financial services, the effectiveness of redress for consumers who suffer as the result of misconduct by an employee, and a raft of areas still to be completed for the terms of reference.

The banks have called for the Royal Commission after continued attacks on them by the Opposition and media which have been publicly hurting confidence in the financial service system. The Opposition and some National backbenchers have also called for the commission, leaving Prime Minister Turnbull with little choice but to call a commission.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions has already warned senators to be wary about the terms of reference, fearing it will become a witch hunt into industry funds and unions. This is an interesting little twist for Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who has been demanding the commission into banks for some time.

By the way, the banking industry has warned homeowners could face higher interest rates as a result of a royal commission according to The Australian. Why? Well, the banks say share prices are resilient, but something has to give in the face of a powerful, year-long inquiry into misconduct that could cost $50 to $100 million per bank.

Please, Mr Banker, you started this process through your questionable behaviour, so don’t start kicking your clients again.

But should we stop at banks? Why not create a Royal Commission to shake the skeletons out of all the cupboards?

Obviously, we also have a problem with television stars. Daily we are hearing of alleged sexual approaches, and lewd and inappropriate language in Australia, the UK and the US. The number of Hollywood stars now named by alleged victims is staggering and is now at the stage of ‘who will it be tomorrow?’.

The terms of reference we have to include should cover questions such as why victims held back for so long; why did managers and leaders who were aware of the problems do nothing; the same for boards; and, what is being done to ensure it doesn’t happen again?

We could learn a lot from the current Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sex Abuse.

Weekly weigh-in: Flight paths, cricket and investment


We want more and more flights in and out of Tasmania for interstate holidaymakers and to export fresh Tasmanian produce. Also, we want more national and overseas tourists into the state..

Obviously the planes have to land and take off which means they will need to fly over some houses in the regions or suburbs. Flight paths are created to allow the planes to land safely and not to destroy the environment of people living below the flight paths.

A decade ago, we stayed with close friends in Barnes, near Hammersmith in England for a couple of months.

At 5am the first morning I thought it was a second World War Luftwaffe airstrike but in reality they were international aircrafts preparing for landing at Heathrow Airport 20 minutes away by car.

They were so low you could see the brand of the tyres on the landing wheels (exaggeration).

Within a few days you knew the planes were still there but they didn’t wake you anymore and life was back to normal. The flight paths varied each week, sometimes no aircraft and other times limited numbers, which neighbours and friends around the area simply didn’t hear the planes.

On a much smaller scale we live under a West Tamar flight path which is probably about six minutes before landing. The Melbourne flights come directly over the house and suburbs while the Sydney and Brisbane flights come from the East and takes a tight left hand turn over our suburb.

Do you hear the planes? Not really but you are conscious of something up in the sky. Are you awoken in the night, or early morning flights? No. Even the cargo planes in the early morning are basically silent compared to the 80’s and 90’s cargo planes which previously attracted regular Letters to Editor complaining about the groaning cargos upsetting their sleep and making the dogs bark.

It’s a case of accepting change and living with the positive aspect and not the negative.

It was great to see a full house on the first day of the Ashes Test in Brisbane and even better to have a Tasmanian back in the Australian team.

While Paine is in great pain for dropping a fifty-fifty catch, the remainder of his wicket keeping was crisp and classy. We’ve been spoilt over the decades with David Boon, Ricky Pointing (captain), George Bailey, Xavier Doherty, Ben Hilfenhaus, James Faulkner, Alex Doolan and other Tasmanian players at the top end of international cricket.

I wasn’t surprised to hear that Australian vice-captain David Warner, may not play because of a pain in the neck. I thought everyone realised his problem, however it was a little embarrassing when I realised it was literally neck pain.

The ABC commentary team certainly isn’t a shadow of the past particularly with former cricketers employed on names not voices. Gerard Whatley and Jim Maxwell are certainly holding together but Tim Lane where are you?

Thank goodness for English BBC specialist, Alison Mitchell, who not only understands the game, but obviously does her homework as one of her colleagues discovered when questioning a comment. Interesting to see how the commentating team is functioning by the final Test.

Attracting interstate and overseas investors has been a high priority for governments, tourism organisations and local government for yonks. We’ve had success in recent years but support for development is a hungry giant.

One of the new investors is Singaporean billionaire, James Koh, who has opened his wallet for millions of investment into hotel developments in Hobart and Launceston.

He owns the Styles Hotel in Macquarie St, Hobart which was opened this year and waiting for further approvals, he recently bought out the development company building the Hyatt Centric Hotel, in the former Westpac building in Elizabeth St, Hobart.

The problems facing Mr Koh are the 210m and 94m hotel applications in Hobart and a sizeable hotel site on an historic block away from the CBD in Launceston is also creating grief.

Having attracted the investor, it would be foolish for both cities to kill the golden goose. The issue shouldn’t be high rise, it should be how can we work with the client who wants to spend millions of dollars?

Negotiation and creativity ideas from both parties can create brilliant results.

Weekly weigh-in: Turnbull’s slump, a premier’s wisdom and protecting the golden goose



No surprise to see the headline “Turnbull’s horror poll slump” in the Australian on Monday. Nor was the continued slide of the Coalition, which now trails Labor 45 to 55 per cent in two party terms, correlating to about 20 seats lost.

The Newspoll ‘better Prime Minister’ shows that Malcolm Turnbull has dropped from 41 to a new low of 36 per cent, and now only two per cent above Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten.

The PM’s support has now dropped from 48 per cent in July last year to today’s 36 per cent. Adding to the party’s anxiety is the ‘best Liberal leader’ poll which has Julie Bishop at 40 per cent, the PM on 27 and Peter Dutton at 11.

While the PM’s approval has dropped by 12 per cent you would expect his opponent, Bill Shorten, would be on the rise. Well yes, his rating has increased since July last year, but only from 31 per cent to 34 per cent.

So if Malcolm’s on the nose, Bill has a pretty nasty cold as well, and the nation is showing its frustration by supporting neither.

Sticking to the theme, Newspoll has listed the highest and lowest satisfaction ratings of PMs since its inception in 1985.

The top seven shockers are:

Paul Keating, 17 per cent,  August 1993; Julia Gillard, 23 per cent, September 2011; Tony Abbott, 24 per cent, February 2015; Bob Hawke, 27 per cent, December 1989; John Howard 27 per cent December 2001; Malcolm Turnbull 28 per cent, October 2016 and February 2017; Kevin Rudd, 32 per cent September 2013.

The top seven highest ratings are:

Kevin Rudd, 71 per cent, April 2008; John Howard, 67 per cent May 1996; Bob Hawke, 62 per cent, January 1987; Malcolm Turnbull 60 per cent, November 2015; Julia Gillard, 50 per cent, February 2011; Tony Abbott, 47 per cent, October 2013 and Paul Keating, 43 per cent, April, September and November 1994.

Wow, the highs and lows of politics.

When former Tasmanian Liberal Premier, Robin Gray, starts talking about his party at both state and federal levels, you know it’s worth listening. The calls I received after his ABC interview this morning suggests I’m not the only listener.

Growler, as he is known by so many of his friends and colleagues, was Tasmanian Premier from 1982-1989 during  a time of extraordinary political upheaval, including  the protests of the Gordon below Franklin dam, which became an international issue and was finally stopped by the High Court of Australia. Despite this loss, Growler was elected to a second term – the first time in 58 years that a non-Labor government had won a second term.

The basis of today’s interview was the call for senior Senator Eric Abetz to retire and Tasmanian Liberal Party Director, Sam McQuestin to stand aside to renew the campaign and strategy for the 2018 state election, probably in March.

The “yes” vote of the people for same sex marriage is an embarrassment for the parliament which avoided a vote for more than five years. Coalition pollies were not listening to their constituents including Tasmania which overall voted 63.7 per cent yes.

While there’s no suggestion that Senator Abetz should be shoved because of the same sex marriage vote, a series of questionable decisions have not sat well with the former Premier. As he said of Senator Abetz: “I believe that the party (state) has been in array for 20 years under his watch.”

Mr Gray is not suggesting sacking State Director, Sam McQuestin, who has attracted criticism for his handling of the recent Pembroke Legislative Council bi-election, but he is calling for a fresh approach for the 2018 election.

Feedback from the ABC interview strongly supported Gray’s suggestions with another twist. No matter how good the director may be, or the senior advisers, nobody really understands an election campaign except a successful candidate who has door knocked and connected to the community.

The clock is ticking for the Tasmanian election.

Weekly weigh-in: Clever CommBank, media migration mitigation and tax rate troubles

cash 2


While users of overseas call centres share stories of their frustrating interactions daily, the Commonwealth Bank has finally bitten the bullet.

Last weekend CommBank sent its message in a full-page advertisement through the Melbourne Sunday Herald Sun and a number of other interstate Sunday papers.

No photos, or graphics, just a poignant message of 20 words.

“Our customer call centres aren’t overseas, they’re over here, and you’ll be talking to CommBank people.

“That’s a welcome change.”

A beautifully crafted message which everyone understands without creating a potential racist argument.

The only reason Australian companies close down their local call centres is to save costs. Quality is way down on the priority list.

A very smart move by CommBank.

The move by CommBank also highlights the need for media to take a deep breath before blaming governments, both Federal and State, for not growing the workforce, or blaming businesses for moving operations offshore and cutting jobs in Australia.

While we hate to see it happen there are multiple reasons for the measure, including exorbitant payment agreements. Just look at the closing of the car manufacturing industry as a classic example.

But the Mac the Slasher approach of Australia media companies and the ABC in Tasmania has no bounds.

Fairfax has slashed employment numbers, particularly in regional areas including Launceston and Burnie.

Yes, advertising revenues have dropped dramatically, consequently reducing editorial and advertising numbers – probably two thirds less than the 225 of 15 years ago, including the advertising call centres which are now operating out of Manila.

The Mercury fought head office and submitted a business case showing it was cheaper to retain the current local employment and had the support of the Hobart community.

Within 12 months of The Examiner’s advertising call centre closure, the overseas call centre was costing significantly more than the once local and loyal team.

The Fairfax owned Ballarat Courier warned headquarters their classified clients wouldn’t accept the Manila centre. Within a few weeks of the change, the numbers of Ballarat clients using the call centre dropped from 75 per cent to 25 per cent.

Sometimes headquarters should listen.

Governments aren’t there to employ people but they can generate international investment and employment by ensuring company tax rates are competitive.

This is now going in the wrong direction with Australia heading to the highest company tax rate in the world. Australia’s company tax rate of 30 per cent has been out of touch since a decrease by the Howard government in 2000.

The average tax rate in advanced countries has fallen from 32 per cent in 2000 to 24 per cent. The US is currently 35 per cent with President Donald Trump planning reduction to 20 per cent, or realistically 25 per cent.

Australia’s problem is the Senate with Labor and the crossbenchers not accepting that the lower tax rate will loosen up business costs and create opportunities for expansion, ultimately meaning more jobs.

The Tasmanian Government’s 2017 budget tax incentive is such a paragon. The two schemes covered around 2500 payroll tax businesses and around about 32,000 small businesses below the payroll tax turnover.

The small business pilot program was capped at $2 million and provided a $4000 incentive payment to employ apprentices and trainees. When the cap of 500 jobs was reached last month, the government extended the program and added another $3 million to attract 750 jobs.

Five million for 1250 new apprentices and trainees is a great investment for the state and example of what could be created by a Federal government.

Weekly weigh-in: AFL neglect, bargain flights and a changing world



Good to see returned Hawthorn Chairman, Jeff Kennett continuing to support Tasmania, this time attacking the AFL over Hawthorn’s football fixture next year. And he’s spot on in accusing the AFL of treating the state as an “appendage to the competition”.

The reason for Jeff’s anger is that the Hawks will only play one Melbourne team in Launceston next season – a Saturday night game against St Kilda.

The overall fixture for Tasmanian games means only two Melbourne teams will make the trip, the other being Carlton vs. North Melbourne under lights in Hobart.

St Kilda aside, Hawthorn plays Port Adelaide, Gold Coast and Brisbane while North plays West Coast and GWS.

While the Brisbane game has some ginger with former Hawks star, Luke Hodge, tackling his former team, the stats show a dramatic drop in attendance since their halcyon days, and Gold Coast has always struggled to attract a crowd, which will be even tougher without star Gary Ablett.

As Jeff said:

“The AFL should be giving the community of Tasmania the opportunity of seeing a greater percentage of Melbourne-based teams. I’m reasonably happy with our total program, but I’m disappointed that the AFL continues to treat Tasmania as an appendage to the competition.”

Airfare bargain hunting Launceston flyers are now the smartest in Australia, following data from low cost carrier, Jetstar.

The data available honed in on the postcodes as the basis of the numbers of fares purchased under $100. Launceston, with 56,000 seats under $100 tipped Gold Coast with 51,000 and Cairns third with 32,000. The remaining top 10 in order was Melbourne, Werribee, Sydney, Mackay, Geelong, Ballina and Carrara.

Capital cities were the top destination for most of the bargain savvy suburbs with the exception of North Bondi residents who travel to Gold Coast.

The overall staggering information came from Jetstar Australia, CEO , Dean Salter, revealing that two thirds of all Jetstar fares were under $100.

The low-cost, domestic operator attracts its fair share of detractors slamming seat room, unhelpful staff, cancellations, and on-board costs, but the inarguable facts now show the arrival of Jetstar in 2003 was the birth of a generation of new aircraft passengers. The cost reduction was the magnet and overwhelms the failures.

Maybe a touch of exaggeration but if you flew out of Hobart or Launceston 30 years ago you would know 90 per cent, maybe more, of people on the plane. Today it’s closer to zero.

No wonder clients and the broader community battle with decisions by our four major banks.

Yesterday, the National Australia Bank released its massive $6.64 billion cash profit with some $5.3 billion in dividends delivered to shareholders. Oh, and now we’re going to get angry about costs and sack 6000 staff over three years says the NAB chief executive, Andrew Thorburn.

“What we’re doing is we’re simplifying the bank,” Mr Thorburn said.

“And as we simplify, we automate processes and things move to digital channels. We will need less people.”

While 6,000 front liners will be replaced by automation, NAB will hire 2,000 staff with different capabilities such as data scientists, robotics, automation, technology and AI. Basically, technology people.

I’m sure clients will be cheering now they have 6,000 less people they can actually talk to and another 2000 IT people who aren’t client facing.

NAB wants to become the best business bank in Australia. Very positive approach, but I hope somebody has been talking to existing and potential future clients.

Weekly weigh-in: Name changes, north west masters and conspiracies



Tasmania’s newest bank opens its doors next Wednesday, 1 November with an interesting name.

The B&E Building Society will now be known as the ‘Bank of us’ replacing the names of the Bass Building Society and Equitable Building Society, which has been operating for 160 years.

Respected CEO, Paul Ranson was certainly accurate when he said it would be a “different kind of bank.” The two key differences being customer-ownership, and the name, Bank of us. The marketing company is already back slapping as the name debate becomes the centre of discussion on traditional and social media.

I’m sure the 30,000 strong customer base will warm to the name as they realise customer service will continue at a high level and day-to-day transactions will remain unchanged.

Whether it becomes BOU, or Bou, is debatable and it certainly won’t be confused with other BOU’s around the world such as Bou, a town in France, the Bank of Uganda, Boulder Geomagnetic Observatory, British Ornithologists’ Union or the Basis of Union.

Names aside, it is a great asset for Tasmania to have a bank which returns profit to the state.

It’s hard not to admire the performance of so many competitors in the 16th Australian Master Games in the state’s north west this week as they break records, or simply do their best in a fun and healthy environment.

I’m sure there’s a terrific story behind every one of the 5000 plus competitors, but the star performer must surely be 90-year-old Heather Lees from NSW. Heather set a world record masters time of 24.56.97 minutes for the 90 plus, 3000m walk.

Her radio interviews were full of interesting information including her concerns about the warm weather and she certainly sounded like a much younger athlete.

A great example for all.

There are times when governments need to bite the bullet (no pun intended) and release information from significant issues and events such as the death of US President, John F. Kennedy. Like millions around the world, I can recall when and where I was when JFK was assassinated, or John Lennon, the car crash of Princess Diana and the tragic swimming death of Prime Minister, Harold Holt.

The official investigation says John Kennedy was assassinated by former US Marine Lee Harvey Oswald, who shot three bullets from a rifle as the President and his wife Jackie were riding in a presidential motorcade.

So unconvinced of the outcome of various inquiries, 60 per cent of Americans still believe a group of conspirators were responsible for the assassination.

The planned release of the last trove of secret files of the Kennedy’s murder was agreed 25 years ago.

Evidently there are some 2800 documents set to be released but after pressure from the FBI and CIA,  President Trump has reluctantly agreed to withhold 300 documents and guess what;  who wants to worry about the 2800 when the hidden 300 hold the nitty gritty.

Welcome to another 25 years of conspiracy theories.