Do you play WORDLE?

I will happily admit I do. It’s a great way to start the day with a mini-mental workout. If you haven’t played Wordle, it’s all about five-letter words. When you type in your guess, you pause hit enter and wait with bated breath as the squares around your letter change colour, hoping that you’ve found the right word and all the squares turn green. This may or may not be followed by a brief episode of happy dancing.

And the five-letter word GREEN is becoming more important by the day. According to the Bureau of Meteorology, our nights in January were the warmest on record and our days were the third warmest on record. In the same report, Launceston had the warmest days on average at 27 degrees. We need to cool our city and region down; this is why the Chamber has such a passion for Urban Greening. There is a huge amount of evidence that Urban Greening has a triple-bottom-line benefit:

Environmental: Urban Greening will help cool our city and suburbs, and increase our biodiversity.

Economic: Increased property values, increased foot traffic and the time people spend in the city will lead to increased sales.

Social: Improved physical and mental health and improved community connectedness.

At yesterday’s Tamar Valley Leaders Lunch (LUNCH is another great five letter word), it was fantastic to hear that the University of Tasmania is contributing to a greener Launceston with sustainable, environmentally friendly developments as part of the Northern Transformation project.

Another five-letter word is LOCAL. Last year we encouraged everyone to Buy, Support and Eat locally. Supporting our local businesses is still extremely important as we navigate our way through the current health and social situation. Buying local is the best form of stimulus. Revisit this blog post for more details and suggestions.

Our next five-letter word is YOUTH. To quote Austrian novelist Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach “in youth we learn; in age we understand.”  If there is a young person within your organisation that’s learning their profession and could use some more business connections, why not bring them along to a Chamber event? Attending a Chamber event will allow them to make valuable new connections and gain insights from the keynote speaker.

Our final five-letter word is ISSUE. If there are any issues your business is facing that you need assistance with or need advocacy for, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


An obstacle for skilled migration

During a recent conversation with a group of members it was revealed that potential staff intending to relocate to the region to take up positions, after successfully navigating the recruitment process and accepting the role, were unable to as they couldn’t find somewhere to live or stay on a long-term basis. The members in this conversation were primarily from the Health and Community sector, which just happens to be the largest industry in the region* and also the sector that’s experiencing a significant labour shortage.

In an article in today’s Examiner, the private rental market has been described as near impenetrable [with a] vacancy rate that’s basically 1% and according to a table published with the report, 51% of houses sold in the last quarter were to 2+ Home Buyers.

While the Tasmanian Government has a plan to increase housing supply, which will increase housing affordability, what can be done to house skilled migrants who are needed in our region?

  • It’s been suggested that more student accommodation in the CBD could free up housing in the northern suburbs.
  • Inner City Living or Infill projects like those underway by Chamber members such as Tas City Building, and S. Group could be a path forward. (Stay tuned for future Infill-related news).
  • Is there potential for hostel-style accommodation for incoming skilled migrants? Keeping in mind the construction industry in Tasmania is currently at capacity (something it is hoped the TasTafe reforms will address) any construction will need to ‘join the queue’.

While there isn’t a clear solution at the moment, it is paramount that housing and accommodation isn’t an obstacle in the relocation of staff and skilled migrants to the region.

What are your thoughts on this issue?
Do you have any ideas you’d like to share to solve the problem?
Please let us know…


Support Local

In our weekly eNewsletter dated the 21st of October, we encouraged members to embrace a new mantra for modern times: Buy Local, Eat Local, Stay Local, Event Local and Support Local.

Today we’d like to focus on Support Local.

With one week and one month until Christmas (gasp!) our calendars are filling up, our ‘to do’ lists are getting longer and we’re all looking forward to a festive break. During this busy time it can be easy to overlook the less fortunate in our community. Thankfully we have some wonderful organisations in our community and amongst our membership that are there to assist the vulnerable people in our community.

Would you or your business like to support local at this time of year? There are a number of ways we can suggest:

  • St. Vincent de Paul Society are running their annual Christmas Appeal, where for as little as $40 you can help deliver hope and the Christmas Spirit in the form of nourishing meals, hot drinks and snacks via their Soup Vans.
  • City Mission are also running their annual Christmas Appeal, where your donation will help provide meals, grocery supplies, food vouchers, clothing and household goods to those in need. It also assists with purchasing Christmas gifts for families.
  • The Examiner has launched their 113th Empty Stocking Appeal to raise funds for those in need via their charity partners – the Benevolent Society, the Salvation Army, City Mission and St Vincent de Paul. All funds raised are passed on to these organisations and as it says in the launch article; …every cent makes a difference to someone’s life. It can be the difference between a smile or a tear for someone this December.
  • The Launceston City Community Christmas, a city-wide Christmas lunch event hosted by a number of community organisations in partnership with the City of Launceston are seeking donations and volunteers. The Launceston City Community Christmas provides families and individuals with the opportunity to connect, provide encouragement and build community at Christmas. Last year saw approximately 250 seats filled with people who may have had a much lonelier Christmas.
  • Another opportunity to support local, that’s very close to our hearts, would be to support the David Peach Fund. The David Peach Fund is part of the Men’s Table charity, a charity that creates a unique environment for men to share openly about their lives, their challenges, their highs and lows with a group of men who they learn to trust and accept.

Please consider supporting local this festive season.


From Paddock to Plate… to the World!

It’s official. After a mammoth effort by Launceston Gastronomy and the Creative Cities Steering Group, Launceston has successfully bid to be designated a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy. Launceston will be one of 49 cities joining the global network. This is a pivotal moment for Launceston and a significant step up to the plate as one of the great regional cities of the world!

In the official media release issued by Launceston Gastronomy yesterday, Mayor Albert van Zetten said the project would cement Launceston’s identity as an internationally recognised region for food and beverage production. “The UNESCO brand is recognised worldwide and is a marker of the very highest quality,” Mayor van Zetten said.

Over many years, Northern Tasmanian has consistently demonstrated expertise in the development of agriculture, food processing, wine and beverage production, tourism and agritourism. Now that we have been recognised and listed as a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy, it will contribute positively to our regional economy and create new jobs in food-related industries and activities over the coming years. In addition, it formalises Launceston’s identity as one of the world’s great regional food cities.

The media release also stated that The City of Launceston will contribute $25,000 towards the implementation of Creative Cities related projects. Six other Northern councils have also collectively committed more than $28,000, including Break O’Day, Dorset, George Town, Meander Valley, Northern Midlands and West Tamar.

The Chamber is and has been a strong supporter of the UNESCO Creative Cities bid for a number of reasons:

  • It helps connect Northern Tasmania to the world via food.
  • It places Launceston as one of the great regional food cities of the world.
  • It provides a platform for food sustainability in a mixed agricultural and urban context.
  • It creates an interplay between local agriculture in our Tamar Valley backyard; Agriscience that combines the best of agriculture teamed up with start-up and established technologists, hospitality that thrives with the abundance of local produce and destination tourism that underpins a vibrant visitor economy – all hallmarks of a growing and thriving city.

Launceston Gastronomy Chair (and Chamber President), Andrew Pitt, said of the announcement; City of Gastronomy status will become what Launceston and Northern Tasmania is recognised for nationally and globally. For some time, we have been lacking a cohesive, accessible and intuitive identity for our city. Now we have one. The activities and projects that underpin the bid will de-silo our food system from paddock to plate, adding value, providing jobs and careers, improving social outcomes, and helping to implement the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. It’s all about local action with global collaboration.

We at the Chamber wish to congratulate Launceston Gastronomy and the Creative Cities Steering Group and we can’t wait to see what happens next. Depending on when you’re reading this, please raise your glass (or other drinking vessel) and join us as we toast Launceston, international city of Gastronomy!


A New Mantra for Modern Times

In a March 2020 Facebook post, we shared the image below with these words:

Keep Calm and Spend Local

In 1939 during the toughest of times, the British government produced a poster to motivate the public. The message was clear; Keep Calm and Carry On. It’s now 2020 and right here in Launceston we’re facing our own tough times. So, with some help from our friends at Think Big Printing and Cityprom we have a message for anyone who isn’t self-isolating. Keep Calm and Spend Local – whether you’re purchasing for yourself or your business, the local choice is the best.

With the sad announcement that the Festivale Organising Committee has been forced to cancel next year’s event (a decision that we, the Chamber, appreciate must have been incredibly difficult), it’s another reminder that COVID-19 is still affecting our events calendar, businesses of all sizes from any sector and our daily lives. With this in mind, we encourage you to:

  • Buy Local
    • With Christmas just around the corner, summer holidays and a new calendar year, there will be a great number of opportunities to buy local.
    • Christmas Gifts (and staff appreciation gifts) from local retailers and Gift Vouchers from local stores, cafes and entertainment venues give the gift twice. Buy local.
    • Need new office stationery for the new year? Buy local.
    • Need some new technology for the office? Connect with a local.
    • Business cards need an update? Have them designed locally and think “local print” instead of online print.  
  • Eat Local
    • Support our local cafes, bars and restaurants.
    • Remember! Life’s too short for instant coffee.
    • Need a break from cooking? A local venue will provide a much better dining experience than many of the national fast-food chains (the burgers aren’t necessarily better…)
  • Stay Local
    • Need some time for yourself? Want to really hit the town and not worry about getting home? Why not treat yourself to an overnight stay in one of our many wonderful accommodation providers?
  • Event Local
    • Support as many local events as you can, for example North food festival is on at the moment in venues in and around central Launceston and the Chamber has a number of events planned for the remainder of 2021.
  • Support Local
    • Don’t forget Christmas is a difficult time, particularly for those in need. If you’re in the position to, please support one of our local charitable organisations.

In 2020 we all saw how well Launceston supported each other by Keeping Calm and Spending Local, with 2021 coming to a close it’s so important we see that community spirit once again. So, remember the mantra, Buy Local, Eat Local, Stay Local, Event Local and Support Local.


When surveys get weird

Or… No Jab, No Job Part 2

I don’t know about you, but I barely recognise the Australia we see in the media this week. The anti-vaccination riots in Melbourne, if nothing else, indicate what a divisive and emotive topic mandatory vaccinations in the workplace are, and we’ve seen similar trends in the data collected around that topic from last week’s newsletter. I thought I’d share the results with you. 

We asked three anonymous questions: the first asked the respondent to indicate whether they were an employee or an employer. The second asked ‘do you support mandatory vaccination in the workplace?’ (Yes/No), and the 3rd simply asked for the reasoning behind that answer. We did not ask for responses on vaccinations efficacy, trial status, or personal liberties.

The results were interesting. In the five days, the survey was open for submissions; 91 respondents provided answers.

The bald numbers show 52% against mandatory vaccination in the workplace and 48% supporting it.

The slightly more nuanced version shows different ratios:

  • Employers > 50 employees: 66% Yes, 33% No. (13% of all respondents)
  • Employers < 50 employees: 49% Yes, 51% No. (22% of all respondents)
  • Employees – Private:             33% Yes, 66% No. (44% of all respondents)
  • Employees – Public:               64% Yes, 36% No. (12% of all respondents)
  • Employees – Other                64% Yes, 36% No. (9% of all respondents)

Self-categorisation was mandatory, but no proof was required so a respondent could identify as any category. As a result, the result sets may be imperfect.

It gets more interesting when we time sequence the data. Last Thursday we published the newsletter at 2 pm. In the 3 hours to 5 pm the same day, we can pretty reliably match click-through rates from the embedded link in the newsletter to responses received from the survey, suggesting the initial reactions were direct recipients of this newsletter. Asked Friday morning by one of our members how the results were tracking, my email back noted a nearly 90%:10% tilt in favour of mandatory vaccinations. The language used in the “why” responses was straightforward, pragmatic and brief, irrespective of the answer to the question of support either way.

Then things got weird when the Facebook effect cut in.

We’d shared a link to the newsletter on the Chamber’s Facebook page, and it received >400 interactions, (meaning they clicked on the post for more detail). We can’t tell who they were or where they were located. As it’s a public page, interactions could come from literally, anywhere. Analytics data on the Chambers website where the newsletter was linked matched the Facebook interactions, with a sharp lift in the newsletter/blog post readership after the Facebook post was published. On Friday morning, while we’d received zero comments on the Facebook post itself, we received more than 50% of the total survey responses in a  roughly 1.5 hour period between 8:42 am and 10:30 am. Each of them was a ‘no’ response accompanied by impassioned language in the ‘why’ section that was, in a couple of cases, almost essay-like and repeatedly emotion-charged; speaking to issues of human rights, constitutional rights, trial vaccinations, self-autonomy over vaccinations etc. The survey results also capture the internet IP address of the respondents. Using a reverse IP lookup query tool, it was easy to determine that many of the responses came from the mainland and most correlated to Melbourne. (We of course, cannot see individual results, just an approximation of the ISP location.)   My conclusion was that the link to the survey might’ve been shared on a page/site that was anti-vaccination in disposition.  We can’t ignore those responses as they’re perfectly valid, but they do skew the results and affect the relevance of the survey to Launceston based businesses, which was our intent for the survey.

So make of this what you will, but it’s an interesting exercise in survey-making.  What has come out of it, though, are a couple of additional resources worth sharing as this is clearly a contentious subject and is expected to be for some time yet. 

  • The Australian government has now (21st Sept) published a page on vaccinations in the workplace with some valuable Q&A. It’s here:
  • The CSIRO has published a science-based report that looks at vaccinations and their efficacy against the Delta Variant. It’s here:

We encourage all members to be across this issue armed with facts and information.


No jab, no job?

Over here, we’re asking a three-question, 100% anonymous survey on the topic of mandatory vaccinations. We need your opinion on the issue of compulsory vaccinations, but please, read on first…

Mandatory Vaccinations in the workplace. It’s a complex and vexed issue, but with less shifting of priorities amongst eligible vaccination groups, more access to vaccines etc., the timeline towards all businesses confronting this issue is getting shorter. As much as we’d love to keep the borders closed and stay healthy forever, the need to open up to the mainland and a few selected international routes is an economic prerequisite. Continuing a trade-before-aid theme, we can’t rely on government stimulus forever.  It does, however, make the eventual likelihood of a Delta incursion more probable. 

Against that, we can’t have an economy without public Health, and seemingly, we cant have public Health without elevated vaccination rates. It’s that simple. Mainland hospitals are full of COVID cases, the majority of which are unvaccinated. Hence, as Tasmania pushes through the 50% double vaccinated score, something else will likely be needed to move us toward the 70/80/90% we need to open up. I suspect that impetus will come from the private sector, as always; and the questions around ‘no jab, no job’ will become more persistent.

This week, two important milestones have been achieved in the fight against a Delta variant getting loose In Tassie. Yesterday, we passed through 50% of the eligible population having been double-vaccinated and earlier in the week, it became possible for anyone aged 12 or over to access a COVID-19 vaccination. With vaccine supply issues now seemingly ‘sorted’, the nation’s drive toward an 80% double vaccination rate seems suddenly more achievable. Mainland leaders’ mindset is moving from “suppression” to “living with it”, evidenced by some small restorations of personal freedoms in parts of the mainland for those who’re double vaccinated. 

Hopefully, at some point, COVID will be relegated to the same level of concern the flu gets every year. It won’t shutter businesses, alter family celebrations, or be the fuel behind angst-ridden neighbourly disputes. Someday. But for now, as we continue the climb toward Tasmania’s aspirational 90% double vaccination requirement to open the borders, we need to recognise that the Tasmanian experience has been different. Lauded as one of the safest places to be on the planet, our lives have been comparatively more straightforward than our mainland and overseas friends, especially this past winter with the ravages of the Delta variant. We’ve absolutely had fallout from decreased mainland visitation, but we’ve not had community infection now for over a year. By contrast, the eastern mainland states have been in very real, very personal lockdowns for months.  That simple fact changes everything, especially how we approach the question of mandatory vaccination.

As employers, how do we feel about imposing a mandatory vaccination requirement in the workplace? Do we even have the ability to do that? And if we do, how would we ensure it gets adhered to? The Tasmanian government has already mandated that health care workers and aged care workers must be vaccinated to enter the workplace. The list of affected roles is surprisingly large – details here. But what about in a private setting? A setting where it’s the business owner’s capital on the line, with a need to simultaneously keep the doors open, balance employee & community health, compliance requirements, and all the moral & ethical issues, while seeking to be a good employer?

Following a National Cabinet meeting on 6th August 2021, Prime Minister Morrison confirmed Australia’s policy remained that vaccines (including COVID-19 vaccines) should be voluntary and free and that in the absence of specific public health orders, an employer can only mandate that an employee be vaccinated through a lawful and reasonable direction. The Prime Minister said that ultimately employers need to consider these issues and make their own decisions appropriate to their workplace.

That’s not especially helpful…

OK, What do the legal-eagles have to say on the matter? Does an employer actually have the legal capability to compel an employee to get vaccinated in order to continue employment? An article by Sydney law firm Coors has considered it and come to the conclusion that the legal hurdles are not insurmountable, but encouragement is ultimately better than coercion. It’s a lengthy read, but it explains some of the legal reasons as to why employers might be able to take a ‘No jab, no job’ approach. 

Has anybody tried it yet? 

Yes. SPC (Shepparton) will be the first Australian company to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for staff and visitors by November 2021. Along with some other food processing companies, Qantas, Google, Facebook and Deakin University are also considering mandatory vaccinations. SPC employees have spoken of being “steam rolled” and the younger staff voiced concerns they were ineligible for Pfizer but as of this week, that much is no longer the case. 

Companies such as Wesfarmers, NAB and Commonwealth Bank of Australia are considering carrots rather than sticks to encourage vaccinations, and some mainland tech firms are providing paid leave to employees who receive the jab.

So, there’s precedent, but only amongst some very large businesses. For small to medium businesses, it’s a little more vexed.

What to do next?

  1. Initially, a review of Worksafe Tasmania’s page on the topic here is worth a read. It concludes that for most Tasmanian businesses, mandatory vaccination won’t be a requirement, but note that as at today, the page hasn’t been updated since March 2021 which was back in ‘pre-Delta’ times.  As has been oft-quoted in media , “..Delta changes everything..” 
  2. Consider a risk management and mitigation approach, emphasising positive and facilitative messaging and decision-making, rather than negative, coercive messaging and employer ultimatums. This might include:
    1. genuine worker consultation. Encouraging and then considering employee input (possibly adjusting the phasing or the timing of mandatory vaccination), may result in greater uptake of voluntary vaccinations, or less resistance to mandated policies once introduced.
    2. early announcement of your vaccination policies (including offering vaccination leave and other leave in the event adverse side effects are suffered);
    3. utilising relevant resources to disseminate accurate up-to-date information; and 
    4. other financial and non-financial incentive offerings to staff. 
  3. Also consider the position of vulnerable employees before imposing any blanket policies which may unintentionally breach federal or state privacy, discrimination or human rights laws. Employees with disabilities or medical conditions, pregnant employees and visa holders, may have difficulty readily accessing vaccinations even if they are eligible. Even if (eventual) vaccine mandates become lawful, facilitative measures are more likely to be more effective initially. 

As you can appreciate, it’s a complex and probably inescapable decision that needs to be contemplated by business owners soon. If you’re seeking advice, we recommend that you contact any of the following Chamber members for advice.

Simmons Wolfhagen

Bishops -Barristers and Solicitors

Rae & Partners

Quartz Consulting

And a reminder: Over here, we’re asking a three-question, 100% anonymous survey on the topic of mandatory vaccinations. We need your opinion on the issue of compulsory vaccinations to inform our policy and advocacy position.


Feast your eyes on this…

Earlier this week, Launceston Gastronomy officially launched its bid to join the ranks of UNESCO’s creative cities network – a collection of 250 Cities globally that have identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development. The cities which currently make up this network work together towards a common objective: placing creativity and cultural industries at the heart of their development plans at the local level and cooperating actively at the international level. Unsurprisingly, Launceston’s bid has its roots in the gastronomic virtues of the region.

Gastronomy: To grow, cook & serve. A philosophy that underpins the paddock to plate phenomenon that has become so popular worldwide in recent years, but Launceston’s bid goes beyond that. More ‘soil-to-stomach’ or ‘grape to glass’; it embodies the whole relationship between food and local culture, the art of growing, preparing and serving food, the cooking styles of our region, and the science of good eating.

This bid is remarkable and worthy of the city’s support, but not because it helps to connect Northern Tasmania to the world via food, which it does. And not just because it positions Launceston as one of the great regional food cities of the world, which it also does. And not even because it provides a platform for food sustainability in a mixed agricultural and urban context. It does all of that and creates an interplay between local agriculture in our Tamar Valley backyard; agriscience that combines the best of agriculture partnering with a start-up ecosystem of technologists and educators; hospitality that thrives with the abundance of local produce; and destination tourism that underpins a vibrant visitor economy – all hallmarks of a growing and thriving city. It’s a lesson in collaboration and focuses some of our most experienced business and community leaders around a shared goal, and that’s great for our city.

Looking externally, UNESCO’s endorsement of Launceston as a Creative City of Gastronomy will provide entrance to a network of like-minded cities, a hive-mind to solve complex problems around the world’s many food security issues. Fingers crossed for a favourable outcome! As the world emerges from a post-COVID stupor, the benefits accrue beyond Launceston, and we have a role to play.

1 2 3 4 5
Article Categories

© Copyright 2021 Launceston Chamber of Commerce. All Rights Reserved

Privacy Settings
We use cookies to enhance your experience while using our website. If you are using our Services via a browser you can restrict, block or remove cookies through your web browser settings. We also use content and scripts from third parties that may use tracking technologies. You can selectively provide your consent below to allow such third party embeds. For complete information about the cookies we use, data we collect and how we process them, please check our Privacy Policy
Consent to display content from - Youtube
Consent to display content from - Vimeo
Google Maps
Consent to display content from - Google
Consent to display content from - Spotify
Sound Cloud
Consent to display content from - Sound