As we move into the next season of agricultural production, we are beginning to see the impacts that COVID-19 has had.
We are now looking at the need to supply somewhere in the vicinity of 8000 seasonal workers to assist with the fruit and berry harvest, as well as numerous farm-related jobs.
The state government has launched a campaign to attract Tasmanians to these roles, admirable and to be commended, however, it is clear that JobKeeper is a bias on the broader employment market and seasonal workers will be no different. Unfortunately, the safety net is now creating distortions within the employment market and this is flowing into our economic recovery, and therefore producing perverse outcomes.
For example, many entry-level positions remain unfilled as there is no incentive to seek them with JobKeeper remaining as it is.
There is a clear need for the federal government to make some significant structural changes to the support program.
These need to ensure those that receive support do so and that it is consistent with their pre-COVID-19 employment. The corporate sector needs further scrutiny to ensure that their claims are appropriate, we should not be seeing profit announcements, the bulk of which are receipts of JobKeeper.
Equally these same businesses should not be providing bonuses to their management.
Two key points that need to be made are one, we are only at the beginning of this pandemic and its consequential economic impacts and the idea that this will all magically disappear in 2021 is both fanciful and dangerous thinking.
We need to recognise that this virus and its consequences will be with us for some time and accordingly we need to develop strategies that have a mid to long term approach.
Secondly, the true economic impacts are yet to be felt, the initial impacts have indeed been severe, however, the more significant and long-term structural consequences are not yet upon us.
When the support packages and other economic props are inevitably removed, then the true face of the economy will be revealed, and it is likely not to be pretty.
The latest figures suggest that up to 26 per cent of household mortgages are being supported by JobKeeper and repayment holidays offered by the banks. When this ceases there is the potential for very real and wide-ranging asset revaluations.
Such a situation holds the potential to undermine confidence, something all economies rely upon for success and growth, the risks are very real and tangible.
Unfortunately, it does not end there, global commodity prices are receding, in effect, the global economy is in recession and the future appears very uncertain.
In times like this, the best option is to be fiscally conservative, plan for the worst and hope for the best.
- Peter Skillern, Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association chief executive