Tasmanian Country Article - 7th October 2022 - Plato had it right

07 October 2022

As featured in the Tasmanian Country publication 7th October 2022

Ian Sauer TFGA President

“The term “Government businesses” is a collective term that encompasses the two different types of businesses that are currently in Tasmania, specifically Government Business Enterprises (GBEs) and State-owned Companies (SOCs).” Tasmanian Government Business Governance Framework Guide 2008.

Once again I find myself in the midst of some very dry reading for this article, the “Tasmanian Government Business Governance Framework Guide 2008”, this document describes how GBEs and SOCs are run. Who is responsible for what decisions, how they report their activity and what documents guide them. As we know GBEs and SOCs as the definition states above, are government owned businesses, they are usually monopolies and usually only operate within the state. The Government owns these businesses for a few reasons – the ability to regulate services through public ownership, the need for continuity of the provision of essential services or sometimes ownership is historical. These businesses have boards but as far as I can read the shareholder Ministers are ultimately responsible for making sure they serve the Tasmanian community.

The Shareholder Ministers are responsible for monitoring the broader role of Government businesses, in terms of balancing customer and shareholder interests. However, ultimately the Shareholder Ministers are representatives of the owners (the Tasmanian community) and like the board of Government businesses will be held accountable to Parliament and the community through the channels provided by the Portfolio Act, ministerial charter, corporate/business plan and constitution.” Tasmanian Government Business Governance Framework Guide 2008.

A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers – Plato

Plato the Greek philosopher had it 100% right – a good decision is based on knowledge and not on just numbers. I think it also goes a step further and would say a good decision never results from a bad process, because how people feel about the journey will ultimately always colour the destination. Decisions are more than numbers, lines on maps or amounts of compensation, decisions are also about how those involved feel they are treated on the way through, for farmers we bear not only financial costs but unmeasurable social and emotional costs.

On multiple fronts currently the TFGA find themselves representing our members with issues dealing with the state’s GBEs. The GBEs to farmers can feel like juggernauts to deal with, they are large, well-resourced and have legislated powers far beyond a farming family. The saving grace is that they are answerable to us the Tasmanian community through our elected shareholder Ministers, yet in practicality they can feel like a law unto themselves with no checks and balances.

TFGA has called for a review compulsory acquisition legislation, as others have, to ensure it is ‘fit for purpose’, suitable for Tasmania’s current and future infrastructure developments.

Farmers have concerns and on behalf of them we have been writing letters, facilitating meetings and conversations. This week I have written to all my State Farming Organisation counterparts to see what is affecting them and if there is a national approach, we can take on all these issues, I shall keep you informed.

However, we need Governments to step-up and take a tight grip on the reins, on how we make decisions, it is important not leave people feeling stripped of dignity and powerless as the GBEs lumber on their uncompromising path.

There will always be someone justifying the end decision is the right one, but this is merely a matter of perspective. The right decisions, especially in cases where there is such a disparity of size and power are decisions that have been made with transparency, dignity, and fairness.

Good decisions, in fact the best decisions, are more than numbers, they are, and must be made with compassion to people and community.