Future done on our terms
TODD Babiak is a smart guy. The Canadian-raised chief executive of Brand Tasmania has only been on the island for a year or so but already he has mapped out a very Tasmanian way towards future prosperity for our state.
The world has reached “peak beige”, Mr Babiak told associate editor Amanda Ducker in yesterday’s print edition – and yet Tasmania, almost uniquely, has managed to retain something different. And that, he says, is “a massive advantage at this moment in our history”. And that is what we should be selling to this hyper-connected world, where people are increasingly willing to pay overs for the “extraordinary”.
Our recipe for success into the future? Mr Babiak says it is actually something that comes naturally to Tasmanians: to opt to protect what we have that is special over just rushing in to make some fast cash. To resist becoming anything else than Tasmanian: “If it is extraordinary, people are willing to pay more for it.”
Mr Babiak’s economic prescription is a pretty solid scene-setter early on in the Mercury’s two-week exploration of Future Tasmania. This idea that never being able to compete on scale actually works in our favour and that we should focus on “selling 50 of something really amazing”. It’s all about the yield.
Babiak likes to use another analogy here too. A generation or two ago, he notes, Tasmania was marketed as the “Switzerland of the south” – all snow
OUR RECIPE FOR SUCCESS INTO THE FUTURE? IT IS SOMETHING THAT COMES NATURALLY TO TASMANIANS: TO OPT TO PROTECT WHAT WE HAVE THAT IS SPECIAL OVER RUSHING IN TO MAKE SOME FAST CASH
capped mountains and crystal-clear lakes. We still have those things, of course. But these days this likeness also has a much deeper meaning. Switzerland is, of course, also world renowned as the origin of the finest watches in the world – and also, therefore, the most expensive. To wear a “Swiss watch” means nothing. As Tasmanians we need to wake up to the fact that the same already applies internationally to what we produce. To drink a Tasmanian sparkling wine in Europe, for instance, has become meaningful – with what we produce here now considered by the experts to be just as good as that produced in Champagne. Tasmanian cherries in Hong Kong, meanwhile, can sell for $100 per kilogram. One hundred dollars! Tasmania is the Switzerland of the south? You bet. Let’s own it.
So perhaps Future Tasmania is less about being them and more about being us. To be Tasmanian means something. And that meaning is an increasingly valuable commodity. Let’s never lose it.
But let’s also be willing to learn. Demographer Bernard Salt suggests we see what lessons we can take from places like Iceland, New Zealand’s South Island and the Canadian provinces of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia – places that have similar demographic and geographic features. Mr Salt suggests: “Tasmania should be benchmarking itself with those provinces and comparing how they operate, what infrastructure they have been able to leverage. Tasmania (also) needs to be connecting with like-minded communities that have the same challenges, but have overcome those challenges.” But, we would add, to do all this our way.
Responsibility for all editorial comment is taken by the Editor, Chris Jones, Level 1, 2 Salamanca Square, Hobart, TAS, 7000