Unique lifestyle can fuel economy

LIKE most Tasmanians I would like to see a strong, vibrant Tasmania with excellent services and jobs for all those who want one.

Unfortunately, many factors combine to present us with challenges to achieving this. Australia is facing similar challenges with a relatively small population and remote geographical location making it difficult to build sustainable industries that can compete on the world stage.

Our natural resources have been protecting us from external pressures for a long time but this seems to be diminishing as other countries expand resource development.

Tasmania faces perhaps an extreme version of what is happening nationally with an even smaller population and greater remoteness.

The problem of our remoteness is further compounded by protectionist industrial relations policies that increase wage and freight costs and make it impossible to compete with overseas companies.

Unfortunately, despite their possible good intentions, many environmental groups seem intent on destroying Tasmania's image. Many around the world have a vision of Tasmania as an island being destroyed by mining and forestry.

Those of us who live here understand that we have, in fact, one of the best protected environments on the planet.

I don't envy the job of our government in finding solutions to our problems. I certainly don't have the answers but I believe we need to begin by making our state an attractive place to do business for those industries that can be competitive here.

Many businesses can now be conducted largely over the internet so preferred location becomes less dependent on access to cheap labour and freight costs and more to do with a place where people want to live.

This is where I feel we really can compete.

Things like our natural environment, safe, uncrowded cities, cheap housing and stable population are very attractive to many.

The widespread view of our climate also never ceases to amuse me. While large amounts of the world's population live in cities like New York, Paris and London, where the climate is far more extreme than Tasmania, people still seem to believe that Tasmania has a climate only marginally better than Iceland.

Our very even, temperate climate should be promoted as a great positive to living in Tasmania.

One good suggestion I heard recently was that of targeting advertisements in mainland cities whenever their temperatures topped 35 degrees espousing the mild weather here.

The compounding effect of people relocating even small businesses here should not be underestimated. The flow on effect to other small businesses is what drives the economy and produces jobs.

Similarly, mainland retirees who move here to escape the hustle, heat and high prices of mainland cities provide a tremendous stimulus to many parts of our economy.

We certainly feel this in pharmacy where mainland immigrants become good and loyal customers.

This brings us to our health system, which also suffers from a small population that is more decentralised than other states.

The result is fragmented services that are expensive to deliver. This, combined with an aging population, presents a major problem for the future.

The more efficient delivery of health services, better utilising the combined skills of our health professionals, is essential if we are going to be able to deliver the level of care that our residents will require in the future.

Representative organisations such as the Pharmacy Guild have an important role to play in working together with government, including Medicare Locals, to ensure that services are delivered in a coordinated, cost-effective manner.

•John Dowling is president of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia (Tasmanian Branch).

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