One of the most disturbing aspects of the savage cuts applied to the public service in Tasmania is that skilled workers, desperate for work, leave the state to find employment.
This has a cumulative effect on the economy. Not only do we lose skilled employees vital to the prospects of the state but we lose their spending power. With each employee lost, we lose a rental tenant or a buyer in the housing market. With each job lost interstate or overseas, we lose money to be spent in supermarkets or on laundry or car sales or on entertainment like movies or the theatre or playing or watching sport.
Tasmanian graduate nurses leave state to look for jobs
Take for example Tasmanian graduate nurses who are having to look interstate for jobs. Full-time positions have been cut by two-thirds. Only 41 of 275 Tasmanian graduate nurses got full-time equivalent jobs in Tasmania this year. Figures show that of 188 nurses who applied for jobs, 41 got full-time work and 65 won part-time positions. As a result, nursing graduates are heading interstate. Australian Nursing Federation state secretary Neroli Ellis revealed that full-time positions for new nurses were cut by more than two-thirds from last year, when 169 graduate nurses were employed in full-time-equivalent positions.
``The Government says the nursing workforce is sustainable. It's sustainable to meet the Budget, but it's not a sustainable workforce,'' she said. Ms Ellis has a point. The truth is that while shedding public service jobs is in the best interests of the state in the short term because it will help the State Government balance the books the snowball effect of Tasmanians having to leave the island to find work is arguably more destructive than a Budget deficit.
With each nurse who leaves the state, can go a family, including partners and children leaving Tasmanian schools. The chain reaction from young families leaving the state means that the real estate market loses momentum. It means schools lack numbers. It means local supermarkets lose trade. It means the hardware, corner stores and all manner of local commerce lose customers.
Budget cutting costs alone is a foolhardy approach
Few prudent judges would suggest the State Government, facing dramatically reduced revenues, did not need to significantly reduce its expenditure. But cutting costs alone is a foolhardy approach which, like a self-fulfilling prophecy, will strangle the economy. The Government needs to continue to invest wisely, and provide a stable platform for private investment to be attracted to the state.
Forestry is in freefall managed investment schemes that drove expansion in plantations have collapsed and native forest logging has been nobbled by markets shunning old-growth woodchips and only the blindly optimistic or politically motivated is suggesting the industry can return to what it was. Many foresters have left the state with their families. Tasmania cannot withstand much more of this.
It is critical the State Government applies itself to attracting investment because that is the other side of the coin when it comes to being fiscally responsible.