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Expand public sector employment to boost economy and jobs

It has been a year like no other. Nobody could have predicted that in just a few months what we all thought was normal would be thrown on its head and we would see governments deliberately shutting down business, closing our borders and curtailing our movements.

As a state we can be proud of what we have achieved together during this pandemic. We had the outbreak in the North-West but that was jumped on very quickly and avoided the catastrophic situation we are now all witness to in Victoria. We have been united and, apart from a few cases of looking after mates, the rules have applied to all.  

Premier Gutwein has proven to be the right leader for the time. He’s been accessible, he’s been decisive, he’s been consistent, he’s shown empathy, he’s put aside politics and he’s listened to the experts and followed their advice. Some say this is exactly what we should expect from our political leaders at all times, but it certainly isn’t what we get.  

The real hero of the pandemic is our public service. Everyone pulling in the same direction, resources moved to where they are needed, complex problems analysed and high-quality solutions implemented quickly. Individuals have put the needs of the collective ahead of their personal health and safety.  

The greatest change has been our leaders’ willingness to listen to the frank and fearless advice of the experts and act on it. No focus groups, no polling, no political spin – just listening and acting in the best interests of Tasmanians. For the public good.   

Soon Premier Gutwein will need to swap hats and become Treasurer Gutwein and it will be interesting to see what he has learned from his recent experience. Will he undergo a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde transformation, or will he continue to listen to the experts and act on their advice in the interests of all Tasmanians?  

Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe has been clear in his advice to state and federal governments, advising to “dramatically lift spending and run deficit budgets to get the economy out of the coronavirus recession”. He’s talking about governments like ours using their upcoming budgets to get people back to work and back spending.  

Private employers are too worried about what is coming next (both epidemiologically and economically) to undertake significant investments or expansions. Incremental subsidies or tax preferences won’t make any measurable difference to that reticence. The most effective way for Treasurer Gutwein to reduce unemployment is by expanding public sector employment.  

Taking this road ensures we have the capacity to continue to fight this virus while helping those impacted by the economic downturn to train for their next career and it ensures that initiatives to support business are not delayed by a lack of staff to undertake approval processes.  

It means we can reverse austerity measures such as the privatisation of services to our most vulnerable – in aged care, disability care, child protection and family violence and the contracting out of our thinking to the Big Four accounting firms, policies that have arguably made management of this pandemic more difficult.  

Has Treasurer Gutwein learned anything from Premier Gutwein? If his budget invests in public services then we’ll know he’s a changed man but if it focuses on wage freezes, job cuts and austerity then we’ll know he’s learned nothing, and the spin doctors are back in charge.

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