Published: 02 June 2021

Stoking the fires of parochialism is easy. Anthony Haneveer's commentary on May 29 ("We love you Hobart, but get over yourselves") could be seen to perpetuate parochialism.

In response to the alleged noisy whingeing from Hobartians via their local newspaper about government largesse bestowed on those in the North and North-West, concluding with "(W)e're sick of the racket".

Being "sick of the racket" and the silly parochial games many in this state are so fond of, is where I find myself in complete agreement.

However, some points distract from, rather than contribute to, the understanding of how federal government spending impacts on the state's revenues.

The reality that Hobartians drink chai latte is irrelevant as people everywhere do. Used as a metaphorical device to paint Hobartians as elitist is a little disingenuous and risks distraction from the real issue.

More concerning is the question, "why don't Hobartians wake up to themselves and elect someone who will channel more their way?" I have heard this suggestion from others in the North and believe such a suggestion is unhelpful and would actually make the situation worse.

Having additional grant money channelled to any part of the state, without understanding the impacts of this on the state revenues is fraught.

The common good of all Tasmanians won't improve were that to happen. Rather we are more likely to witness greater inequities, with the squeakiest wheels getting all the attention.

Rather a contest of ideas and long term strategic planning for needed infrastructure spending, resulting in better public policy and outcomes for us all, is surely preferable.

Using a parochial approach, spending our money on projects in Hobart is characterised as another handout to Hobartians.

The argument shouldn't be about whether the money is spent but how the government claws back some of the benefit so they don't all accrue to a few.

The argument should be about how we support the common good to maximise the benefit to all Tasmanians. That's the public policy discussion we should be having.

There is a lack of understanding about how government grants work, making these policy discussions more difficult. This risks the voters being more likely to be captured by the promises of money for their pet project in a federal election.

Very often we will see federal politicians or aspiring politicians promise, for example, more spending at hospital X or new sports stadium Y.

Unless these projects are specifically quarantined from GST calculations, it's not extra spending as the state will receive less in future years from the GST pool. It's robbing Peter (the GST pool) to help Paul get elected.

Overall, it doesn't help Tasmania. It promotes inequities across the state. It's short-sighted and divisive.

Much of federal road funding is similar. The more we get for a particular project, the less GST Tasmania will get in the future. It's as simple as that. The lack of awareness of the longer term impact is deeply concerning.

Of late there has been an increasing tendency for federal grants, the sports rorts grants and community safety grants for instance, to be handed out, often as election bribes, which don't affect future GST share as they are 'quarantined'.

Why not include all grants in the GST system? This could lead to a better understanding of how the system works, may lead to less bribes to buy particular seats and result in more money available to be spent on Tasmanians in general? Isn't that why we have state governments?

It's important we understand how the grants system works. The last thing I wish to see is a dog-eat-dog melee amongst Tasmanians, a beggar thy neighbour approach, fuelled by parochialism.

We need to acknowledge that we are a small state of just over 500,000. Decentralisation of many services, even in post COVID times, won't lead to better outcomes.

We know from the Commonwealth Grants Commission it is costlier to deliver the same services in Tasmania as elsewhere in Australia, on average.

Despite modern economies being heavily dominated by services, the thesis sometimes promoted by some is that Tassie is shaped a little like a funnel, and that all the wealth is produced in the North and is drained out by the Southerners. It's a nonsense assertion, partly based on the outdated view that our economy still rides on the sheep's back, so to speak, and that services have little value and are a drain on the economy. Our economy is broader than that.

As Tasmanian we need to work together. Parochial arguments based on an incorrect understanding of how the system works will only serve to divide and disempower the community. United we can achieve more.

The Advocate, 2 June 2021


Go Back