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Thursday, 26 June 2014
Page: 4056

Tasmanian Shipping and Freight


Senator URQUHART (TasmaniaDeputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (14:13): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Abetz. I refer to the Productivity Commission review of Tasmanian shipping and freight commissioned by the Abbott government. Does the minister agree with the finding of its review that the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme, the Bass Strait Passenger Vehicle Equalisation Scheme and the Tasmanian Wheat Freight Scheme are 'not the best way to advance Tasmania's economic development'?


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:13): As the honourable senator would know or indeed should know, this is a report to government, not a report of or from the government. The government made it perfectly clear that it was absolutely committed to the maintenance of the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme and the Bass Strait Passenger Vehicle Equalisation Scheme. The first scheme was introduced under the Fraser government, the second scheme under the Howard government. Coalition governments are very proud of those initiatives and this successor coalition government is similarly proud of those initiatives. What we want to do is to ensure that those schemes work to the maximum benefit of the Tasmanian economy. That is why we commissioned the review. We are now considering the review's proposals but I assure Senator Urquhart and indeed all Tasmanians that the government is absolutely committed to the scheme.

In relation to the last scheme to which the honourable senator referred, the Tasmanian Wheat Freight Scheme, that is a scheme that has fallen into disrepair through nonusage over the last two years, if I recall correctly, because most of the wheat is no longer being taken to Tasmania by bulk but in containers and it therefore falls under the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme. In those circumstances, and the government has not fully determined its position, if a scheme is no longer being used, having been superseded by a newer scheme, namely the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme, there may possibly be an argument for it to no longer continue because nobody is using it anyway. Having said all that, we are absolutely committed to the Freight Equalisation Scheme and the Bass Strait Passenger Vehicle Equalisation Scheme.


Senator URQUHART (TasmaniaDeputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (14:15): Mr President, I have a supplementary question. Does the minister agree with the findings of its review that the privatisation of TT-Line and TasPorts should be on the table?


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:16): The privatisation of ports and the privatisation of TT-Line is a matter completely within the province of the state government, led so very ably by the Premier, Will Hodgman.


Senator URQUHART (TasmaniaDeputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (14:16): Mr President, I have a second supplementary question. I refer to the position of the Tasmanian infrastructure minister, Rene Hidding, that the privatisation of state assets is 'not necessary'. Does the minister back Mr Hidding or the outcome of the government's own review?

Senator McEwen: That's a conundrum.



Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:16): For Senator McEwen, no, it is not a conundrum. This is not a report from government—it is a report to government. It is, as I said also in the first supplementary answer, the case that all these matters of privatisation lie in the field of the state government. If the state government has made the announcement, then that is the way it is going to be. We do not run TasPorts; nor do we run TT-Line. That is very simple.