Tassie – the tipping point? OPINION

Plenty to take pride in for Tasmanian horticulture | OPINION

On the up: Wine in the Tamar Valley. Photo: Tourism Tasmania & Ilona Schneider

On the up: Wine in the Tamar Valley. Photo: Tourism Tasmania & Ilona Schneider


Things are looking up for Tassie ag, according to Dr Walker.


“TASMANIA is at the bottom among Australian states on virtually every dimension of economic, social and cultural performance.” 

“It doesn’t matter which measure is chosen, Tasmania will finish last.”

“The underlying problem is simple but intractable: Tasmania has developed a way of life, a mode of doing things, a demographic, a culture and associated economy that reproduces under-achievement generation after generation.”

“Everyone knows the problems: they are manifest, reported every day.”

“The reality is that Tasmania has bred a dominant social coalition that blocks most proposals to improve.”


I could go on, but this is enough to give a flavour of what Jonathan West in his essay entitled Obstacles to progress – what’s wrong with Tasmania, really? in Griffith Review 39, Autumn 2013, the title of which graces this column as well.

West’s conclusion then was that this meant: Down. Five years later, my conclusion is this means: Up.

I refreshed my memory of the Review as I was collecting my thoughts for my review, of my columns in 2018.

The refreshment was triggered by my March column, How Green was Tasmaniawhich is the core of the dominant social coalition referred to by West.  

Back to West: “Tasmania’s unemployment rate in October 2012 stood at 7.7 per cent by comparison to the Australian average of 4.9pc.

In 2012, the poor performance of the Tasmanian economy was a dominant topic in local public discussion.

“It felt depressed (however) the evidence suggests that opportunities abound in Tasmania.”

“My colleagues and I identified six main areas of opportunity: wine, dairy, aquaculture, horticulture, mining and tourism.”

There is a lot more negative comment about Tasmania, but let’s fast forward.

Tasmania’s unemployment rate in October 2018 stood at 5.6pc by comparison to the Australian average of 5pc.

POSITIVE: The Tasmanian Food Guide 2019 is full of good stories.

POSITIVE: The Tasmanian Food Guide 2019 is full of good stories.

In 2018, the great performance of the Tasmanian economy is a dominant topic in local public discussion. It feels optimistic.

It’s difficult to pinpoint the reasons, but there’s no doubt, life feels good at present.

The six main areas of opportunity have all been taken up.

Wine and horticulture were mentioned in May, July, October and were the focus of last month’s column together with whisky. There has been a surge in all three.

For example, there are now more than 50 vineyards in the Tamar Valley alone, and, while the first whisky distillery was set up 15 years after we arrived here in 1979 by Bill Lark, there are now 36, with an estimate of 50 by 2020.

You can read all about it in the Tasmanian Food Guide 2019. You won’t be surprised to find that it’s another quality Nine publication.

Tasmanian readers will have received a free copy in their local Nine newspaper. Mainland readers can find out how to get their copy by emailing the editor, Maeve McKenna at maeve.mckenna@fairfaxmedia.com.au.

In February I had a look at Consultation (when legislation is being developed), in April the origins of Australian agriculture, and in June ways to improve biosecurity. 

Then in August the history of the TFGA and in September issues related to climate change.

This year (2019), the focus will be on the parsley project proposal.


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