Andrew Wilkie 6 Jul 11 - Three Minute Statement
Mr Deputy Speaker I wish to express my despair with the collapse of good governance in my home state of Tasmania.
Mr Deputy Speaker the Tasmanian Government is poised to lend an undisclosed amount of taxpayer’s money to a newly registered $24 company so it can purchase Gunns’ foundering Triabunna woodchip mill.
And this is outrageous, because the handout would be just another thinly veiled payout to the company struggling to manage its daily cashflow, let alone build its stinking Tamar Valley pulp mill.
That this deal is even being considered dashes the hopes of us desperate to believe new Premier Lara Giddings would do things differently, or that the Greens’ elevation to State Government would curb Labor’s appetite for dodgy deals.
Apparently the loan has been all but signed off. But the Government, true to form, is refusing to tell us how much of our money they’re pouring into the deal and under what conditions.
Mr Deputy Speaker Tasmanians are used to watching in disgust as their Government tramples on proper process and shows contempt for the community’s demand for competence and transparency.
But this deal is particularly distasteful because it comes at a time when the Labor-Green Government is so cash-strapped that it has been canvassing the idea of closing some of our best schools and is set to cut nurses and police.
This is relevant to the Federal Parliament, because since my election there has been a line of community groups calling at my office for support after their long-term State Government funding has been slashed or axed completely.
Just last week, for example, the Federal Government needed to intervene and grant $50,000 to keep Sustainable Living Tasmania afloat. And in April $350,000 in Federal funding was provided to allow the Holyoake organisation to revive its drug, alcohol and gambling addiction service.
I despair that I’ve got a long list of other worthy Electorate causes in need, most of which must go unmet.
Mr Deputy Speaker the Tasmanian Government keeps telling us there’s no hay in the barn for such groups but yet it doesn’t hesitate pouring money into football sponsorships and now this proxy loan to an old forestry mate.
And in another stunning measure of the Government, this year $11m was allocated on the sly for a racetrack, despite the State Government preparing to bring down a horror budget.
Frankly Mr Deputy Speaker, in Tasmania we’re exhausted by the endless displays of government dishonesty and ineptitude, not to mention the complete abandonment of the public interest in favour of vested and party political interests.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Thank you Mr Deputy Speaker.
Tasmanian economy in trouble
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Reporter: Martin Cuddihy
The Tasmanian economy is in trouble. More than 60 per cent of the state’s funding is from the federal government and there is an unwillingness among investors to do business there. A tougher budget has been put in place but some say the situation could get worse before it gets better.
LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: One federal politician thinks Tasmania is in as much economic trouble as debt-riddled Greece.
The state is arguably Australia’s worst financial performer, although to be fair, unlike Athens, there’s no rioting on the streets.
Commentators say Tasmania needs to do much more to attract investment, because at the moment, the state relies on Federal Government handouts for almost two thirds of its income.
Martin Cuddihy reports.
MARTIN CUDDIHY, REPORTER: You don’t have to look far to see signs of a stagnating economy in Tasmania. Warehouses lie abandoned, perhaps evidence of the private sector’s reluctance to do business in the island state. Unemployment is at 5.7 per cent, almost a full percentage point more than the national average. It was comments from Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett that threw the spotlight on Tasmania’s plight.
COLIN BARNETT, WA PREMIER (April): Tasmania’s become Australia’s national park. If they continue to reject any sort of development, well, what right is there simply to take the spoils of hard work in other states?
MARTIN CUDDIHY: Fellow Western Australian Liberal and federal backbencher Don Randall has now gone a step further.
DON RANDALL, WA LIBERAL MP: Greece is the basketcase of Europe and I suspect Tasmania is sort of our basket in this neck of the woods.
MARTIN CUDDIHY: That label, Tasmania as the Greece of Australia, doesn’t sit comfortably with you then.
LARA GIDDINGS, TASMANIAN PREMIER: Well I don’t think it’s true.
MARTIN CUDDIHY: Initially, it looked like the Global Financial Crisis had passed by Tasmania. But now it’s caught up and the effects linger. So while the boom states of Queensland and WA rumble back into life, it’s the slow lane for the island state.
LARA GIDDINGS: We are in danger of ending up in some form of crisis here in Tasmania and it’s our duty to ensure that we avoid that at all costs.
MARTIN CUDDIHY: The economic woes of Tasmania are to a large degree self-inflicted, according to Don Randall. He believes the state relies on federal funding too much. For every dollar Tasmania pays the Commonwealth, it gets $1.60 in return.
DON RANDALL: In a perverse sort of way, it’s rewarding bad behaviour, bad economic behaviour.
MARTIN CUDDIHY: 60 per cent of Tasmania’s income is actually Commonwealth revenue. Do you think that’s good enough?
LARA GIDDINGS: Well it’s what it is. Basically here in Tasmania, we are a small economy, we’re 500,000 people, we do rely largely on GST receipts more than the larger states.
MARTIN CUDDIHY: The facts and figures show Tasmania’s economy is in real trouble. Retail sales have fallen in four of the last five quarters, construction is slowing and the influx of tourism dollars is drying up.
Tasmania has overtaken SA as the oldest population in the country, and almost a quarter of the people who live here have some sort of disability.
TONY MCCALL, POLITICAL SCIENTIST: We will be a mendicant state for some time. We will be reliant, we will continue to rely on the Australian Government for the vast majority of our revenue.
MARTIN CUDDIHY: Most commentators agree the state urgently need to attracts business investment, but that’s difficult when the average weekly wage is nearly $300 lower than in WA.
TONY MCCALL: Most of the major projects that happen in Tasmania are subject to a political dispute and conflict. This makes it easy for investors to look elsewhere. It’s just too hard.