Bert Kelly, “Tassie should cut the painter,”
The Bulletin, March 8, 1983, p. 100.
I tried to get Eccles excited about the election but he thinks he is above menial matters such as party politics. “I do not claim to be able to solve all the world’s problems as you used to do,” he said with unusual modesty, “but I could certainly solve Tasmania’s if they would only do what I say.”
When I pressed him further, he said that Tasmania must secede from the Federation — then it would bound ahead as Hong Kong and Singapore have done. Both these tiny city States have no resources apart from their freedom and their determination to get on but they have progressed far faster than we have — indeed faster than neighbours who are far larger and have far more resources.
“Why, both Singapore and Hong Kong hardly have enough water of their own to drink, while Tasmania has plenty of water, or so I am told,” Eccles explained. “If only Tasmania could be freed of the shackles that Australia has put on it, it would develop so fast that we would hardly see which way it went. The standard of living in both Singapore and Hong Kong is rising far faster than is ours. Tasmania’s would, too, if only it could govern itself.”
It is certainly an interesting prospect. Tasmania would immediately be freed from grip of the do-gooders who think they know how Tasmania should conduct its affairs. Tasmanians would be able to manage their own heritage which they would do far better than people who live in Melbourne. It would be free to build its own dam on its own river and even make its own mistakes instead of ours.
Eccles says that Tasmania would certainly be able to afford to build its own dam without having to come crawling to the Commonwealth because, if it became a free trade island, people from Australia and New Zealand would pour into it as they pour into Singapore and Hong Kong.
“And just think of the tourist trade that would follow,” Eccles said gloatingly. “Tourists already go there in large numbers because Tasmania has many tourist attractions in its scenery and gambling casinos. If to these could be added the inducement of free trade goods, there would be no limit to the tourist trade that would suddenly appear.”
The more you think of it, other advantages spring up everywhere. For instance, Tasmania would be free to pursue an open-skies policy instead of being held in the iron grip of our two-airline policy. And it would cease to be clobbered by our awful Navigation Act which forces it to use the most expensive shipping in the world.
Under the stimulus of free trade, Tasmania’s manufacturing industries would blossom because it would have access to cheaper raw materials. For instance, it would be able to buy its steel at world prices and cheap textile yarns also. Before long its industries would be expanding as are those of Hong Kong and Singapore. And just think what it would mean to be able to buy its cars at a $3000 discount! Tasmanians would even get their reaping machines at 15 per cent less than we poor mainland farmers have to pay. And they would not be cursed with our system where, when wages go up, tariffs have to leapfrog upwards to keep our industries competitive with imports.
The idea has many other advantages. Tasmanians would not be lumbered with our prehistoric industrial relations system which gives the unions the power to hold us all to ransom. And they would not be cursed with a Federal system of government which forces them to accept charity from statesmen in Canberra who do not know what is good for Tasmania anyway. And they could have their own constitution which they could alter as they wish so they need only have one election every five years, if they do desired, instead of being pestered by elections and politicians almost all the time.
Tasmanians could also have their own income tax Act instead of our present monstrosity. This and the prospect of a lower cost structure brought about by free trade would lure businessmen from the mainland and New Zealand in a great flood.
Both Western Australia and the Northern Territory have been tempted to secede from the Federation but they have had border difficulties which Tasmania, being an island, would not have. And Tasmanians would not even have to get their knickers in a knot trying to think up a name for the new nation. They could probably use our old flag, as I understand that we are going to be forced to have a new one soon.
If Tasmania does secede, I will be the first mainlander to become a citizen of the new country. Just think of the joy of living in a land not dominated by government or by union.
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