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August 2014

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Last Saturday The Mercury published an interview Matt Smith did with the Treasurer Peter Gutwein.  Smith did a good job - he managed to expose Gutwein's blandness, his intellectual vacuity, and his lack of policy courage.  Despite constantly harping about the  'Labor-Green mess' he has inherited, Gutwein gave no indication he had any interest in seriously addressing Tasmania's absurdly large state sector and the drain it represents on the State's budgetary position.

According to Mr Gutwein state ownership of power and transport assets is a good thing!  The budget will not be back in surplus for six years, Gutwein told us.  In a world where a week is a long time six years is the never never.

There was no sense in the interview that Gutwein had any philosophical underpinning to policy.  Like the Premier Will Hodgman he stands for very little other than reactionary illiberal policies on the power of the state.

Contrast this with Michael Field.  On being elected to office in 1989 Field as the first Labor Premier in almost a decade took seriously his other role as Treasurer.  In language described by the media as 'remarkable' for its honesty and policy integrity, Field outlined the urgent need for Tasmania to reform itself.  Before being voted out in 1992, having paid a high price for his policy courage, Field produced budgets that slashed the size of the over weaning Tasmanian state.  He adopted the reformist policies of New South Wales Liberal Premier Nick Greiner in areas such as GBE accountability and financial management.  Field did so with the background of a shaky accord with 5 Green MPs.

None of this for Mr Gutwein.  Despite years in opposition this man and his Party has no economic policy framework.  It defaults to a populist left position on asset sales and its only budget policy of note is to freeze the wages of public servants.

And this is in the context of Gutwein's first budget - the one where he has the best chance of making his mark.  If only he had 10 percent of Michael Field's vision.

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