An agonising wait for government action

THERE are a few signs that the wheels of government are slowly starting to turn again with their new leader in the driver's seat. But it's taking far too long for many.

The business community for one, public servants for another.

Having heard the plans to cull the public service by 500 positions (more like 1200, according to worried unions), it's understandable that they want details about what the new government has in store for them.

Practically every day a different lobby group comes out demanding action or details on the promised funding/projects/legislative change the Liberals announced in opposition.

At this rate those groups will need to be patient for a while yet.

Partly because the Liberals are still well short of having a full team of ministerial staff in place and partly because there's no particular urgency.

As frustrating as it is not to have questions answered - just ask any journalist in the state right now - it is not unexpected or unwise for the new government to adopt that strategy.

Having romped it in at the election, they can afford to cop heat over delaying the budget by almost three months and the lack of details.

Besides, they've copped criticism about the absence of details in their policies ever since they released an alternative budget almost a year ago, and it clearly didn't make a dent in their popularity.

Even the Liberals' most ardent opponents would concede it's better to take the time now to get things right for the next four years.

That means not rushing into hiring the first people to knock on the door or announcing ill- thought-out decisions that could haunt them for the rest of the term.

A new government can't win either way really.

Forestry policy is the notable exception to the slowly-but-surely approach.

It was one of the first pre- election slogans that was fleshed out within the first 30 days.

New Resources Minister Paul Harriss actually spelt out what "tear it up" would mean for legislation and wood supply to the industry.

Immediately he copped a backlash from industry upset that the Liberals had rushed into it and not allowed enough time for consultation with key stakeholders.

That's one criticism we're unlikely to hear again.

The thing that makes the general go-slow hard to swallow is the Liberals' repeated claim that they have been "upfront and transparent" with Tasmanians.

That is flat out wrong.

They say they've outlined $500 million worth of savings, but these are lucky to come with a sentence about how they will be implemented.

Hence the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the union representing public servants would like to know what these line items in the alternative budget will translate to in the real budget.

Hopefully, they and the broader public won't have to wait until August 28 when the state budget is slated to be handed down for the answers.

Treasurer Peter Gutwein is expecting to get more advice on "risks" to the budget position in the next couple of weeks. Treasury's quarterly budget update is also due by the end of the month.

This will reflect the lower than forecast GST revenue flowing to the state and likely add to pressure on Mr Gutwein to outline his plans to rein in spending.

We're now in the 31 to 100 section of the Liberals' first 100 days plan, which has more measurable tasks rather than just meetings and briefings that dominated the early days.

Achieving these tasks will provide some visible signs of action and decision-making, which will provide a useful distraction from the big-ticket items that the new government needs as much time as it can get to work out.


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