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A geopolitics of vulnerability and resilience: island status and Tasmania’s struggles for sustainability Elaine Stratford University of Tasmania November.

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Presentation on theme: "A geopolitics of vulnerability and resilience: island status and Tasmania’s struggles for sustainability Elaine Stratford University of Tasmania November."— Presentation transcript:

1 A geopolitics of vulnerability and resilience: island status and Tasmania’s struggles for sustainability Elaine Stratford University of Tasmania November 2004

2 Locating Tasmania in debates about economic globalization and sustainability Part I

3 One needs to start, I think, in ’89. One needs to start a long way back, actually. This island has always had a population that has been spoiled and that’s a product of the extraordinary dispersion of the population across the State; the development of regional and community loyalties, jealousies, competition … The Tasmanian Dis-ease?

4 Research design 12 in-depth conversations – September/October key informants –3 politicians in the Field Government, –3 senior advisors to politicians, and –6 senior public servants, various questions – background, evaluation of policy effects, islandness transcription, assent and unattributed quotes thematic analysis secondary materials – local and international significance

5 …desperation … I’ve looked back on it and asked ‘were there alternatives?’ and there weren’t. … which puts politicians … very close to relatively small communities of people … governments shied away from areas of decision-making that would prove dangerous …[and] transferred power [to those organizations] … It meant that gradually government lost control of its own infrastructure and the directions of development.

6 … its own statutory authorities as … money-laundering machines … impose a significant tax [on] the Forestry Commission … and leave [it] to borrow money … So it would borrow and increase its debt and the State would [take the] money to … do something to get the forty six votes needed to get the party’s candidate across the line at the next election.

7 He couldn’t believe what he’d been given. He had it checked … opened the books to all-comers. They all came to the same conclusion – the State was bankrupt … the interest payments on accrued public sector borrowing plus salaries for the public service were estimated in 1989 would amount to 125 per cent of total state revenue by 1992.

8 That was a very real possibility if we couldn’t find the way, because states cannot renege on debt … and certainly we were looking at that as the worst case scenario … [because] there comes a time when the bills are due and you have to pay them. If you can’t it’s all over.

9 … live within your means … and use your surplus to pay off debt as rapidly as you can … re-engineer government business enterprises and trading enterprises [and hold them] accountable for discharging their accrued debt over the 20 year period … fully fund superannuation of public servants … reduce the annual interest bill to accelerate the debt repayment program … adjust the rate so you could reinvest some money into your infrastructure … on track for an absolutely debt free state by 2007/8 … but for three years we did not have a single cent.

10 It was just the right time … we needed a change. We had certain policy commitment under the Accord and … the viability of the Government depended on it. … presented a different culture by virtue of the content of the legislation and gave access to new ways of thinking about environment and planning … a new threshold for public consultation, and gave us the capacity to have a more strategic approach.

11 … ambitious and too much so for Tasmania, and it was decided to move reform in bite size bits. To get the legislation through a Parliament and Legislative Council that had no history of supporting the Government, we needed to make pragmatic decisions about what were reasonable achievements. There was to be ‘no die in the ditch’. It was about international thinking. We wanted to put Tasmania at the forefront with significant legislation. It was a big deal … deliberately intended. The New Zealand Resource Act was an inspiration; it moved us from a state planning model to resource management and its fair allocation.

12 We were crusaders, intent on making a massive legislative breakthrough, and I am proud of that. The RMPS was highly significant and, in terms of Tasmania’s natural resource management to that point, it was radical.

13 Retrospective on the development of fiscal strategies and the RMPS Part II

14 Forestry is the signature conflict and is played out in religious style among all parties. Dialogue is difficult because it is ideologically fraught and does not involve an assessment of opportunities for post- materialist or post-extractive economies. Now, the issue is not resolvable – there is no trust among the parties, and forestry is beyond conversation because positions are so strongly held.

15 Resilience Vulnerability Triple bottom line sustainability Environmental basis of economic activities --- economic globalization Citizenship, Sovereignty, Identity Engagement Scale, Access/Accessibility Fragmentation, Adhesion, Integration Composite Themes Tasmania as island sub national jurisdiction

16 Citizenship, sovereignty, identity … this is a far more open and far more consultative, collaborative system than [in] the ‘80s. There was a time when people would sit back but that’s gone and they will ask for more of this. This is important for any isolated people, not just islanders.: having people as part of the solution. Our identity as islanders means that we have a love of being different, of our environment, of our clean and green image, if you like. We are not as vulnerable as many because much ecological risk has been dealt with, but there is still lots to do …

17 Prospects for sustainability in Tasmania via the gains from its fiscal strategies Part III

18 The fiscal strategies have not set out to do X or Y in terms of resources. Indeed, the former may have had negative effects on aspects of sustainable development, especially where forestry’s concerned. Choices were made to achieve budget surpluses instead of fund services, and Tasmania has fallen behind on these relative to other states. We now have a $330 million surplus but elderly people are going months with no denture service. … financial viability is a necessary but insufficient condition for sustainable development and that, poorly understood, sustainability suffers from existing ranking processes within and across agencies. The means to determine its importance isn’t there.

19 Sustainability remains inside the logic of a market economy and, in island places such as Tasmania, without leadership to foster active citizenship, sovereignty and strong shared identity, the effects may continue to jeopardize our individual and collective capacities for resilience in the face of the worst expressions of economic globalization.


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