Burnie port and wages cap on budget wishlist

Release Date: 8/06/2018
I am waving my business and industry magic wand ahead of next week’s State Budget.

And my first wish is a major upgrade of TasPorts infrastructure at the Port of Burnie.
We have to focus on the best freight pathway for all of Tasmanian business — and Burnie is where it’s at.

We need to be able to hit mainland markets in the most effective way and Burnie to Melbourne and then to Sydney is the dream run.

Both Melbourne and Sydney are predicting population growth of 2 million per city in coming years. If we can get the freight pathway right for Tasmania, we probably don’t need to stress as much about our own population growth, which I know is a State Government policy and goal.

Burnie needs the road and rail links to its port to be the best we can provide — there is an argument the Bass Highway between Devonport and Burnie is the best road in Tasmania, but it can always be better.

I know this push for the Port of Burnie may be met by resistance or criticism from my northern colleagues, but Bell Bay is both a shallow and tidal port — inferior to its brother on the North-West Coast.

Bell Bay does need a new connector to the Bass Highway, because the Biralee Rd shortcut from Westbury to the Frankford Highway is verging on dangerous.

On a serious note, the Government must continue with its 2 per cent wages growth policy for the State Public Service. Yes, our economy is growing, but recurrent spending is the greatest danger to the terrific services our state servants deliver every day. An increasing wages bill can only lead to job losses.

Continuing on the infrastructure wish list, I want Government — with the support of the Opposition — to develop and deliver a 10 to 20-year state infrastructure plan.

For too many years, too many governments and too many budgets, business has been caught out in the past with the ongoing boom-bust cycle of Tasmanian infrastructure spend. Business and industry need certainty to invest, which will lead to job certainty and jobs growth.

We have seen funds in the Federal Budget for the Bridgewater Bridge and support across the board for the first tranche of $100 million for the Cradle Mountain Masterplan.

The Cradle Mountain development can become the Mona of the North-West Coast if it’s handled sensitively and sustainably.

It will keep people in the region — right across the North-West — for longer and is a shining example of the new, long-term tourism “product” we need to continue our tourist numbers growth.

I would also like to see a focus on the North-East.

It’s one thing to have great irrigation, but without a safe, efficient way to transport product to market it’s next to redundant. In other words, we need to fix The Sideling. The long detour around the North won’t cut it anymore.

And while establishing the Great Eastern Drive on the East Coast is a start, we need to properly upgrade the road from Orford to the Bay of Fires. This “trail” has the potential to equal if not better Victoria’s Great Ocean Road (without the Pillars), but it’s stunning coastline all the way and beyond.

The state infrastructure plan needs to include the collaboration and leadership of TasWater and the major GBEs — Hydro Tasmania, TasNetworks and Aurora.

We know energy infrastructure is high on the state agenda but we need to ensure the electricity GBEs — connecting new wind farms and the second Basslink to name but two — have the best technology and procedures.

We need to streamline how these key state businesses work to make them the drivers for the modern Tasmania of the next 10, 20 to 50 years.

Michael Bailey is chief executive of the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

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