Tasmanian bosses demand more handouts

Wednesday, August 14, 1996

By Iggy Kim

HOBART — In the face of a continuing decline in profits, bosses in Tasmania have sounded a strong warning to the state government.

An end of June survey of employers by the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TCCI) and the Trust Bank revealed that the profitability of nearly 85% of respondents in the new June quarter either stayed the same or declined; average selling prices fell; and a greater number of respondents reported a deterioration in general business conditions. These results coincided with greater export sales and higher expenditure on plant and equipment.

While these are merely survey results, not a verified analysis of actual performance data, the TCCI is using the bosses' responses to urge further austerity action by the government.

In the July-August Tasmanian Business Reporter, head of TCCI Tim Abey stated, "In terms of the enhancement of Tasmania's competitive position there is no substitute for reducing the cost of doing business in this state.

"Specifically, this means attention to the following: Hydro-Electric Commission tariffs ... workers' compensation, public holidays in excess of the national norm, and the cost and efficiency of state and local government services."

Tasmanian bosses are agitating for restricted common law access by workers claiming compensation — despite the TCCI admitting that "excessive profit margins" in the insurance industry are a key factor in high workers' compensation premiums.

In a direct attack on the current wages campaign by Tasmania's teachers and health workers, Abey stated, "The government must also avoid inappropriate wage settlements for its own employees". Of course, this does not apply to all public servants: the government has made a submission to the Tasmanian Industrial Commission supporting the present level of MPs' salaries — including the controversial 1994 rise of 40%.

On July 29, the Rundle Liberal government announced a major "cost efficiency" review of TAFE and adult education and the possible part-privatisation of national park services. On August 3, possible state public sector sackings of up to 300 were announced. The State Public Service Federation has responded with warnings of major industrial action.