WEEK in week out we hear about Tasmania's parlous economic position, by experts who are half-cup empty specialists. Tasmanians are being sucked into the vortex of their pessimistic spin.
Yes, we do have some problems with unemployment, and yes, some industries are either under- performing or going through a stage of decline that may never be reversed.
We do, however have very potent advantages as a state that could easily see Tasmania climb out of its economic doldrums and play a leading role in this nation's future.
Let's use water as one of the key indicators of our strength.
Tasmania accounts for 11.8 per cent of the total annual run-off for Australia, from less than 1 per cent of its land area. By comparison, the Murray Darling Basin accounts for 6.2 per cent of average annual run-off for 14 per cent of that land area. Only around 2 per cent of Tasmanian run-off was taken for consumption. Now, as we are developing this water capacity, we will be able to expand our dairy, horticulture, viticulture and irrigated agriculture sectors, generating more employment and greater community wealth.
Tasmanian farm businesses have taken up the challenge to diversify.
We have the fastest growth of any Australian state in the production of cherries. We export a large proportion of our crop. One of the largest producers in Tasmania produces about 1000 tonnes a year, much of it for export. Few would have predicted this a decade ago.
Aquaculture is another success story. The sector has continued to grow despite challenges of warmer water temperature. It is predicted that the value of its production will double by 2030.
I can't predict which exciting new crop will become another success story, joining poppies, pyrethrum, wine grapes, walnuts, olives, truffles and quinoa. I am, however, extremely confident there will be many more such successes. Our big successes will be in premium quality products that demand realistic prices from well-informed, demanding consumers.
I am also extremely confident that the Tasmanian dairy industry will grow exponentially and more dairy processing plants and jobs will find their way to Tasmania seeking reliable production and industry growth based on a reliable and plentiful water supply.
The NBN is an exciting development.
When completed it will generate jobs and even bring people here to work because of opportunities it will create.
Tourism has yet to completely fulfil its potential as an economic generator for the state and certainly hasn't provided the employment growth that should be available to it.
Seasonality is one of the limiting factors for growing the accommodation and restaurant parts of the industry. We need to develop the reasons for visitors to come to Tasmania year round.
In summer, accommodation demand is high, falling away through the cooler months. Hobart has recently experienced increased cool-season demand on the back of the wonderful drawing power of MONA.
We need other demand generators throughout the state, not just in one region. Our food and wine reputation is under- utilised in this regard.
We are not doing enough to create events that will draw participants from cities such as Sydney and Melbourne.
However, if there is one thing that would give the state a massive economic boost it is the allocation to Tasmania of its own AFL team licence. I applaud Hawthorn and North Melbourne's limited commitment to Tasmania.
However, they will not bring the number of visitors to this state for the games they play here that a Tasmanian AFL team would, because they will never bring the games that draw the big supporter groups here.
The financial support needed for some Melbourne clubs and the financial black hole that is the Greater Western Sydney Club will dictate that the AFL will have to move another club out of Victoria. Andrew Demetriou won't be around forever.
Tasmania has to be ready to grab the opportunity!
Kerry O'Brien is a former Tasmanian Labor Senator 1996-2011 and former secretary of the Miscellaneous Workers Union.