Tasmanian Executive Director of the Property Council, Brian Wightman, has raised concerns over the suspension of Parliament during a significant crisis.
“While the Property Council applauds the significant support package announced yesterday by the State Government, the announcement has been soured by the fact that Parliament won’t sit again until August. The Government granted itself a range of sweeping new powers this week and we need to ensure there is proper scrutiny of the decisions it takes in coming days. Despite the best of intentions, no Government gets it right all the time and that’s why Parliament’s checks and balances are vital,” Mr Wightman said.
“The Government should be using the current time of crisis to plan for the recovery that will be needed in the months and years that follow the current social and economic crisis, not putting Government business into hiatus for four months.
“The need to continue legislative reforms that reduce regulatory handbrakes to that recovery could not be more urgent. Significant progress towards the implementation of a streamlined state-wide Tasmanian Planning Scheme and statutory decision-making frameworks must remain a priority, with the importance of simplified processes key to supporting recovery following this challenging period.
“There is also no more important time than now to bring forward infrastructure projects that will facilitate the State’s recovery. TasWater and TasNetworks must be urged to begin capital improvement projects immediately with the benefits then available during the recovery period.
“And while the support package announced yesterday is a good start, simply delaying future increases in utility bills and rents is not going to cut it. Property owners in Hobart, for example, received land tax bills this week. The fact is that many households and businesses won’t be able to pay these bills at all, and property owners will not be able to absorb rent relief without support, and there was nothing in yesterday’s package to offer comfort that the Government is prepared to step in and help them. Similarly, offering discounted loans is risky. Businesses don’t have the cashflow or appetite at this time to take on more debt and these loans will create a timebomb that will damage businesses when they should be focussed on recovery.
“As the Property Council has made clear this week, Tasmania needs meaningful reductions in rates, taxes and utility bills in addition to other support. The total value of the package announced yesterday is equivalent to between two and three per cent of the total Tasmanian economy. To put that in context many European jurisdictions are implementing relief packages that are equivalent to 10 to 15 per cent of the value of their respective economies. Parliament needs to be looking at these examples as a guide to how Tasmania can best build its capacity for recovery. Quitting for four months is an unacceptable response and will damage that recovery.
“While the Property Council supports the Government’s plan to flatten the COVID-19 infection curve and make Tasmania the first Australian state to emerge from lock down, we all need the Government to urgently focus on steps that will help Tasmanian businesses rebuild a shattered economy. If we are going to rebuild, we need to make sure that as many businesses as possible can survive the lockdown. The Government’s work is only half done in this regard and doing nothing more until August or later is unacceptable.”