Why do we have to wait…?

The City of Launceston’s City Heart 2 project is out for public consultation at the moment, but only until this Friday, so you’ll need to respond quickly if you want to have your say. There’s not one bit of it we don’t applaud. It continues the People, Place and Lifestyle masterplan adopted some years ago; and builds on it to deliver a city centre that will be more attractive, more accessible, more walkable, and much more liveable. It’ll be a City Heart for which Launceston will be famous and will truly contribute to our vision for Launceston to be one of the great regional cities of the world.

Aside from traffic changes, an overt urban greening program is a noticeable feature of City Heart 2. Until this, urban trees and green spaces have been neglected aspects of urban amenity and liveability; yet the best streets in the best cities are usually tree-lined. Trees in cities centres encourage foot traffic, create economic activity, and increase property value. They provide shade, help moderate temperature, and beautify cityscapes by softening the hard edges and hard surfaces. Established street trees are a great asset to any city, so the Chamber is working with the City of Launceston, technical experts at UTAS, and Cityprom to build momentum for a more aspirational program of city greening.  We encourage future CBD regeneration projects to invest heavily in street trees in St John St and Cameron St. Street Trees that are appropriate, that don’t cause footpaths to be broken and dangerous and remain green all year round. Can you imagine how wonderful it would be to walk through a green corridor linking City Park to Civic Square and onward to Royal Park. Wouldn’t that be something?

While patience may be a virtue, when it comes to improving our city, it’s not a virtue we possess. Three years is just too long to wait. There are circumstances outside the Councils immediate control, but we urge them to do all things necessary to bring forward the scheduled commencement of the City Heart 2 project.


Casual Conversations…

With the firehose of terrible news gushing from the mainland and its COVID lockdowns, human misery in Afghanistan and localised business downturns across some sectors, you could be forgiven for having missed a critical HR decision handed down by the High Court of Australia recently. It’s important because of the increasing casualisation of the workforce and by an increase in underemployment; trends that have increased over the past 18 months as employers have had to grapple with changing economic conditions. Sectors such as Hospitality, Tourism, Agriculture, Arts & Events rely on armies of casual employees and may not be across the newest legislation.

The detailed findings of the ruling are here as interpreted by law firm Minter Ellison. It’s a longish read, but its theme is that casual employees need and have a right to predictability in the employment contracts issued at the commencement of employment. At first, that seems at odds with the whole idea of ‘casual’ employees, right?  The devil is in the details. It’s not about the predictability of shift entitlements; it’s about predictability in the nature of the employee engagement. Very meta!

The recommendations for those who employ casuals are to review those employees’ contracts to ensure they satisfy the casual definition test. They should contemplate matters such as:

  • Written contracts with a specific casual engagement statement – Employers might provide a written employment offer for casual employees and include a statement such as, “This is an offer of casual employment, as such we are unable to give you a firm advance commitment to continuing and indefinite work”.
  • Expressly state that a casual loading is being paid and what it covers – within the written casual contract, include a statement such as, ” a casual loading is being paid in lieu of all entitlements that would otherwise apply if the employee were not a casual. This includes, but is not limited to, personal and annual leave.”
  • Casual loading is separately identified in payments – is advisable that you can clearly identify that a casual loading has been paid within the remuneration and as such there is no entitlement to leave payments. Ideally this should have been stated within the initial employment letter and preferably a casual loading payment should be identified in the employee’s payslip advice.    

This comment is provided for the benefit of Chamber members, but we encourage you to consult with an HR professional or employment law specialist to ensure your contracts are adequate. 

Chamber Platinum Member, Simmons Wolfhagen Lawyers, have a team of experienced employment lawyers.

Chamber Gold Member, Bishops Barristers + Solicitors, offer employment law services.

Chamber Gold Member, Quartz Consulting are your local, leading provider of workplace relations consultancy services.


Damned if you do…

There’s a comprehensive article in the Examiner today about the legal battle over the acquisition of the Paterson Street central car park site. A year on from the Creative Precinct’s announcement, there’s still a car park there and no sign of that changing anytime soon.

An artist’s impression of the Launceston Creative Precinct

Without doubt, there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes and ultimately, you have to let these legal processes run their course. Frustrating as it is, the Chamber would never endorse a position where the current owners receive a return on their investment less than it’s worth, but equally, there’s that and holding up progress. It’s hard to see a solution that doesn’t somehow wind up costing the City more than anticipated; and they’ll be pilloried if it does…  We KNOW they want progress as much as anybody else but they’re between a rock & a hard place. Any one of the options – a protracted lengthy legal battle, a cave-in to an inflated purchase price, or any other solution exposes Council to cost blowouts… but what is the price of progress?

You see, it’s not just about the car park… It’s about what it unleashes… It’s the relocation of the bus stops in St John Street to a newly created Bus Terminal on that car park, It’s the pedestrian thoroughfare between Paterson St and The Mall, it’s the opening up of St John St with the City Heart 2 project and associated greening & traffic calming initiatives; it’s the Creative Precinct that positions Launceston as a city of arts; it’s the pent-up private capital investment that’s wanting to invest and reinvigorate the Launceston CBD… It’s all the things we want for Launceston and the car park acquisition is the Keystone. 

We wish Council nothing but success here. We need Council to prevail – If it’s not solved soon, impatient investors will look further afield for opportunities and Launceston will be worse for it.


Trending changes: Mental Health in the Workplace

Commissioned by Atlassian Corporation and conducted by PwC Australia, the second annual Return On Action Report shows the extent to which expectations of employers have changed, with 77 per cent saying that businesses should speak up on societal issues, up 10 per cent on last year’s iteration of the same report. Notably, workers are prioritising their mental health more than ever before with measurable shifts attributed to work/life changes bought on by the pandemic

Mental health first

  • Over 50 percent of employees surveyed say they’d consider changing jobs to access remote work opportunities, and even more are willing to forego a promotion to safeguard their mental health. Takeaway: To attract and retain suitable employees, access to flexible work arrangements will become normalised.
  • More than 60 percent of workers also want their employers to take action on social and environmental issues like climate change, equality, and poverty. Takeaway: These are no longer just societal issues. Employers are increasingly expected to be part of the solution if they hope to attract quality talent.
  • The report shows that ‘mental health and wellness’ has overtaken ‘cost of living’ as the number one concern of employees, whereas it only ranked in fourth place in 2020. Takeaway: This change suggests that the majority of workers have shifted from a “live to work” to a “work to live” mindset.

“The consequences of inaction are very real. We’re in a global war for talent and employees want change,” Scott Farquhar, co-founder and co-CEO of Atlassian, said. “There have never been higher expectations on business, and how we respond as leaders is crucial. If this groundswell of support for action is ignored, it will open businesses up to the risk of alienating the emerging workforce.” 

So, given those shifts in perception, what can you/we/us be doing about it as employers? Where do you start? There are a number of local resources available you immediately:

  • For you and your staff:  a Free resource from The Mental Health Council of Tasmania. It’s a wayfinder to help locate and access all sorts of resources to create and support a mentally healthy workplace.
  • Knowing what you don’t know and then closing the gaps is a great place to start also. Head 4 Work is a resource free to Tasmanian registered businesses:
  • If you’re in the Hospitality sector – checkout a resource created and delivered by Bianca Welsh (Bbhavsc) from Stillwater and Black Cow Bistro, (and of course, Chamber Board member)

TEMT: A vision at last

We’re pleased to see that the Tamar Estuary Management Taskforce (TEMT) vision has been released and are pleased with the initial results. The Chamber has been advocating for some time, a vision that delivers ‘triple bottom line’ value – economic, community and environmental benefit, and we believe this vision is a great start. The report has collated the science gathered over many years to outline a strategic path to a better, healthier estuary with improved utility, replacing the ad-hoc efforts of years past.  kanamaluka/Tamar River is part of the fabric of Launceston and its inhabitants want to see real action to restore and improve the estuary.

This is a great opportunity to create a world-class wetland experience that compliments the natural beauty of the Cataract Gorge and the Tamar Island Wetlands. Please click here to see the vision.

The question now will be how best to deliver that vision? 

The question contemplates TEMT’s ability to bring it to fruition. Likely (hopefully?) to be funded under the City Deal second stage we’ll be advocating to ensure that an appropriately resourced authority is established that builds on TEMT’s vision and to contract and legislate for its achievement.  The Federal and State Governments now need to commit to this plan and ensure funding is consistent and sustained so that work can be undertaken strategically.


Launceston – where all the cool kids are coming

You may have heard us say it before… the Chamber’s view is that Launceston will inevitably take its place as a Great Regional City of the World. A superior place to work, live, play & invest.

Well, it seems we’re not the only ones… While the mainland grapples yet again with COVID lockdowns and closures, Tasmania’s perception as a safe haven continues to rise and Launceston made it into the top 5 of the Regional Movers Index, a document created and maintained by the Regional Australia Institute. (Full report here). It measures population outflows from capital cities to the regions and vice versa. In it, Launceston recorded the highest quarter on quarter growth of any of the surveyed cities – showing a nett increase in the March ’21 Quarter of 88%. Year on Year growth is a more moderate 34% but still a very significant figure. 

As a relative newcomer, I can attest to the fact that Launceston’s allure is a unique mix of heritage and forward-looking entrepreneurism served up with a healthy dose of self-assured confidence. A city where there’s opportunity, you can get things done; and with none of the congestion, agro and hassles of big-city living. Scratch the surface and there’s a LOT more going on than you first imagined. No wonder our numbers are up…

The attraction of skilled migration to Northern Tasmania has been a bugbear for some time. This new information seems to suggest that the problem is morphing, but where are we going to put these people? Property prices are rising sharply in response to increased demand, and chamber members in the property management field, report long lists of quality and eager tenants seeking, yet unable to secure appropriate accommodation.  Building approvals are up, yet access to new land releases is becoming more difficult. Finding trades is a challenge – their order books are full. Add in access to materials stymied by supply-chain issues and you get build costs escalating quickly; all of which is becoming a disincentive to investment.  We’ll be taking all this up with the Premier in the coming week.


Well Done, Launceston!

Well done, Launceston! You managed to fill the biggest breakfast event of the year this morning in a showcase event ‘Breakfast with Grace’. Co-hosted by the Chamber with TasICT, the event was sold out at 270 guests in just 72 hrs a few weeks back, dwarfing the Hobart running of the same event. 

The 2021 Australian of the year, Tasmania’s Grace Tame was the drawcard and did not disappoint. In a frank and quite candid interview, Grace was unguarded but also quite upbeat in recounting of her previous struggles with sexual abuse. She had an amazing cut-through with the audience. Her messaging resonated deeply,  and the audience rose to give her a standing ovation. As I looked around the room, there were more than few teary eyes.

Thank you Grace for coming to town; your strength and resilience were inspiring.


The Business of Health

The Chamber maintains a number of standing sub-committees that pull together some of the region’s best people around specific topics, to examine areas for improvement, and identify paths to success. One such committee is the Community & Health Industry Committee (CHIC) where we examine the ‘business’ of the health & allied Industries. I’m pleased to be able to say that the committee includes the CEOs of many of the major health providers across the north. Typically the health industry does not imagine itself as a business; so CHIC’s role is to look at the health & allied industries sector through a business lens, borrowing on lessons learnt in other sectors. Topics under the microscope include skilled staff attraction, supply-chain mapping, just to name a few.

For as long as anyone can remember, CHIC and others have been advocating for the co-location of the Launceston Calvary (Private) Hospital with LGH. Wherever co-locations have happened elsewhere, the outcomes have been unrelentingly positive. So yesterday’s announcement that the Tasmanian Government has completed an MoU with Calvary (as promised during the recent election cycle); has paved the way for a $120M co-located hospital with LGH with land in Frankland Street allocated to the project under the MoU.  Obviously, there’s a long way to go, but this is great news all ‘round.

An artist's impression of the co-located Hospital.
An artist’s impression of the co-located Hospital. Image courtesy of The Examiner
  • It adds to the pile of construction and infrastructure builds in the North that will keep the construction industry in work for years to come. That creates demand for apprenticeship schemes, which filters down into school -> employment pathways. Estimates are (aggregate) 1400 jobs in construction from this project.
  • It creates demand and positions for Health & Allied workers; one of the hardest sectors to recruit for; especially by creating new roles for specialists across a variety of health disciplines. That gives rise to Population Attraction schemes where we will seek to attract and retain skilled professionals to the region, which in turn adds to economic activity in the North.
  • It allows load-balancing between Public & Private health patients which ideally frees up public beds for those patients unable to access the private system
  • It offers the opportunity to cooperate on critical services. Areas such as the public ED, radiology and intensive care benefit from co-location, by improving the economy of scale, funding, and ultimately the overall number of specialist doctors and nurses available.
  • All of which creates better health outcomes for Launceston and the North.

Note: The announcement comes on the heels of the LGH masterplan which was released for public commentary. You can have your say here :

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