"JOBS, jobs, jobs" has been Premier Lara Giddings' mantra for quite a while.
She's been busy talking jobs (times three) since January last year and these days it's more like jobs with a capital J times 10.
Not that it's a particularly original focus, especially in politics. Yesterday, Prime Minister Julia Gillard embraced the theme wholeheartedly. Apart from a tour of Dunalley to view its progress since the January bushfires, Ms Gillard's busy schedule was packed with jobs-related events. She officially opened a jobs expo before heading to Vodafone's headquarters, which is adding 750 more jobs with the help of $4 million in federal funding. As the PM declared: "Today, here in Tasmania, it's all about jobs."
As the state's unemployment rate hovers between 7 and 8 per cent, it's not surprising that all parties at both state and federal levels are busy scouring the state to ferret out any glimpse of hidden job opportunities and whack it in a comprehensive package/strategy/ vision.
At the federal level, the four Liberal Tasmanian senators have been assigned the task of creating an economic plan for Tasmania. It was due yesterday, but their lenient boss Tony Abbott has kindly given them a one-month extension.
The Greens will also attempt to woo voters with their economic credentials and job-creating ideas. Not only are the Tasmanian Greens preparing an economic plan spearheaded by Tim Morris, his colleague in Federal Parliament, Tasmanian Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, is working on his own 20-year strategy to boost Tasmanian jobs. Both are set to be released soon.
The State Government unveiled a $24.5 million jobs package in December and the state opposition's plan for a "brighter future" constantly relates its policies back to their job-creating potential.
The party that can convince voters it's the one to lower the unemployment rate will get a huge boost. So with so much staked on the success of these job-creating packages, plans and strategies, how do we assess which is better?
In the case of the State Government's 18-month jobs package, it should be easy. It is meant to create 3300 jobs. Sounds simple enough. How refreshing, some would say brave even, to have a government prepared to set a definitive goal against which we can assess the success or failure of a policy.
But it's not as simple as it sounds when it comes to compiling and interpreting jobs figures.
Take for example the jobs impact assessment of the Tasmanian Forests Agreement released this week. Judging by the two major parties' reactions, they appeared to each be reading a completely different report. Labor used a comparison with a possible scenario based on life without an agreement to claim they were saving 500 jobs by pursuing the deal (never mind the report's authors warning not to compare the two scenarios). The Liberal Party immediately used the figures in the report showing up to 400 jobs could go under the agreement as evidence of what they have long been calling the "job- destroying deal".
Most people look to the Australian Bureau of Statistics unemployment levels as a reliable indicator of the jobs market. The question then is, how long should it take for the government's package to make a difference? The state opposition has already labelled it a failure when the January figures worsened - a ridiculous claim given some of the measures only came into effect at the start of the year.
The Greens are also at pains to stress the importance of the quality and type of any new jobs. While Ms Giddings talks up the mining potential with Venture Minerals' Mt Lindsay project set to create 1000 new jobs alone, the Greens are quick to point out that the bulk are short-term positions that will disappear after the construction phase.
The uncertainty won't stop the jobs talk, if anything it will just intensify it. For each new policy and plan released in the lead-up to the election, the first question is not how much will it cost, but how many jobs will it create?