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Taking a bite of the apple

By Greg Barns - posted Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Former Queensland premier Wayne Goss once asked: "Will the states survive as viable political entities into the 21st century?" Some might, but unless Tasmania considers becoming a part of Victoria, it will die a slow but inevitable death as a viable state in the course of the next 50 years.

And Victoria should welcome such a move because it could benefit economically by gaining access to the key strengths of the Tasmanian brand.

It's a win-win for the people of both states.


Imagine being able to market Victoria to overseas and domestic tourists by inviting them to visit the stunning World Heritage areas of the Franklin River and Tasmania's southwest.

Then there is Tasmania's clean, green image, a key selling point for its agricultural and seafood produce. This image is worth billions of dollars in a world where product differentiation is the key to success.

And in the highly competitive world of education, Tasmania presents a market growth opportunity for Victorian universities and schools.

That Tasmania, with a population of only 480,000, is a state in its own right does not make sense today.

If you had the opportunity to redraw the Federation with the aim of efficiency in mind, then Tasmania would become part of Victoria.

A recent report by a Tasmanian Government advisory group on demographic change says Tasmania's population will age faster than any other state. According to the report, the ageing of Tasmania's population will constrain economic growth. Currently, there are two people of working age for every one retired person. By 2046 the ratio will be 1:1.


But one does not even need to gaze into a crystal ball to know that in important areas such as health care, law and justice and education, Tasmania is not even delivering the quality and diversity of services Victorians enjoy today.

Take health care. Tasmania does not have specialist hospitals for children or cancer patients. If, however, Tasmania were part of the Victorian health system, would there not be an opportunity for internationally renowned Melbourne institutions such as the Royal Children's Hospital and the Peter McCallum Cancer Centre to establish centres in a key population centre such as Hobart?

Similarly education, particularly in the areas of higher education and private schools. If you want to send your son to an all-boys school in Tasmania, there is only one school that provides that opportunity. Many Tasmanians envy the number of universities available outside Melbourne. If you live in a regional centre such as Ballarat, there is the University of Ballarat, Deakin University in Geelong an hour south and a campus of La Trobe University in Bendigo to the north. In Tasmania there is only the University of Tasmania.

Take out the considerable cost of having to deal with two state bureaucracies and there is an incentive for one of Victoria's five universities to set up shop in Tasmania.

And by joining Victoria, Tasmania could kill off the cancer that strangles reform: too many politicians. Believe it or not, on this island of 480,000 people there are 29 local councils and 40 state MPs. In a Victorian Parliament, Tasmanians would be represented by five Legislative Council seats and seven or eight Lower House members.

To put it in business terms, if Victoria were a corporation, Tasmania should become a well performing subsidiary.

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First published in the Herald Sun on May 2, 2007.

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About the Author

Greg Barns is National President of the Australian Lawyers Alliance.

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