One of the latest buzz phrases creeping into political speak, in Australia and internationally, is strategic growth.
Our Tasmanian Government now has a Strategic Growth Portfolio with Sarah Courtney as minister.
But what does strategic growth mean and does it matter in Tasmania?
Strategic growth first popped up in Tasmania when it became apparent that the benefits of economic growth in recent years were not being evenly shared across Tasmanian communities and businesses.
The further you live away from a city, especially a capital city, the less likely you are to have a full time job, the older you will be and less educated.
If you are an employer it will be harder to find skilled workers and them to find you.
You are more likely to be underemployed and less healthy.
Tasmania is the most decentralised state in Australia with over 60 per cent of the population living outside the Hobart area so it's a big deal here.
It has also become clear that many regional investments don't always leave vibrant sustainable communities.
Indeed many investments grow wealth but not people, especially in rural areas with the trends being:
One lesson from early wind farms (such as Little Mussleroe Bay) is strategic growth has to be planned, it just doesn't happen.
Despite the overall benefits to Tasmania and wealth generated, there are not a lot of signs of strategic growth in Gladstone or Herrick or Pioneer.
Wherever the wealth went not a lot has remained in the local communities and much of the maintenance work is fly-in fly-out.
George Town punches well above its weight in contributing to Tasmania's wealth, but was the most disadvantaged community in Tasmania at the 2016 census.
Wealth and people seem drawn to cities even when much of the work generating that wealth happens in regional communities.
In the last West Coast mining boom the main beneficiary was Burnie, not the West Coast, with many workers travelling daily or weekly down and many mining businesses based in Burnie.
Then Premier Will Hodgman said the role of strategic growth was to unlock the potential of our regions and create even more jobs, so local people had the best chance to live and work in the place they called home.
So a strategic growth perspective would take a long, hard look at the Battery of the Nation proposal to ensure the construction processes and ongoing operations maximise Tasmanian business involvement and attract and retain migrants in all parts of Tasmania.
From a Northern perspective we might ask how we ensure our fair share.
During the first phase of hydroelectricity development in Tasmania most workers were in the North, but many then moved south, along with most of the hydro infrastructure, leaving ghost villages such as Gowrie Park and Poatina.
We can expect the strategic growth agenda to play out in various ways in Tasmania over the next few years irrespective of the politics of the state government of the day.
Firstly an emphasis on local economies and specific local strategies to build sustainable economic activity.
This is likely to include more actions that support and connect local jobseekers with local employers and more investment in local start-ups to create work whether as a for-profit or a social enterprise.
Secondly a focus on digital inclusion, measured by access, affordability and ability. In Tasmania the further you live from Hobart the more likely you will be disenfranchised from the internet.
Hobart has an inclusion index of 64.2 and the regions much lower on 56.1. If you are employed you have a inclusion index of 66.1 compared to 51.7 if you are unemployed.
This gives some credence to the premier's claim that there are regional workers out there unable to access work.
One reason is digital exclusion. The NBN trickle out has reduced the digital divide, but we are still below other states and territories.
Strategic growth is also about being more inclusive and the idea has been kicked along during COVID because of the very different impacts in the regions.
While there have been regional job losses, especially in tourism and hospitality, there is some light on the horizon.
Job ads for the regions nationally are up by 30 per cent from 2019 as 'regional movers', mainly 25- to 35-year-olds are trickling out of cities, more and more into Tasmania.
The challenge for Tasmania is to make sure there are enough jobs and work-from-home opportunities (for example reliable internet) to keep them there.
Importantly this cohort fits the profile for hospitality and tourism.
COVID-19 may have a silver lining after all. Let's see if strategic growth can work for all Tasmania, making it a fairer place.
It's early days yet but watch this space during the upcoming elections.
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