Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 24 August 1983
Page: 138

Mr NEWMAN(10.06) —Mr Speaker, following what can only be called a regrettable decision by the High Court of Australia, the Hawke Government has forced the Tasmanian Government to stop construction of the Gordon below Franklin Dam. That decision has been reluctantly accepted by the Tasmanian Government and by the Tasmanian people in general. But in accepting that decision there was a full expectation that the State and its people would be justly and fairly compensated. I think that that is a proposition that any fair minded Australian would accept. It is one that Tasmanians thought that the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) also accepted, given his many public statements on the matter. It is difficult to quantify what the compensation should be. But there are four factors at least upon which compensation should be calculated. These factors provide the framework upon which the just compensation to which Tasmania is due should be calculated. The four factors are these: Firstly, the return of money for that work, whether it be research, planning, construction or the purchase of materials which has already been done on the Gordon below Franklin Dam; secondly, that employees and sub-contractors of the Hydro-Electric Commission who were put out of work because of this decision by the Government should be re-employed; thirdly, given that 70 per cent of the remaining hydro potential of Tasmania has now been blocked in its use and that any other scheme, whether it be further hydro power or a thermal power station, will mean higher costs of production, Tasmania should be compensated for the difference between what the price would have been from the dam that has been stopped and what it will be from any other means of producing this electricity; and fourthly, that the value of the resources that have now been locked up in the south west heritage area, timber, mineral or whatever they may be, should be calculated and paid for by the Australian people.

It would appear that the Prime Minister in his many statements on this matter has accepted those propositions. To give honourable members some idea of what the Prime Minister has said, first of all in relation to providing alternative programs, on 28 June he said that the Commonwealth would accept in good faith Tasmanian cost estimates. He said:

We are not going to be difficult about this.

On 11 February he said:

My government will be not only prepared but we will be wanting to negotiate with the Tasmanian Government to fund in the transition period and beyond construction work which would use the considerable skills of the HEC work force . . .

On the guarantee of jobs, on 26 May Mr Hawke said:

We accept responsibility to employ those who would otherwise be unemployed.

On the third factor, future power requirements and the need for compensation to make up the difference between the price of power produced from any other scheme and that which would have come from the scheme that has been stopped, on 22 June his Minister Walsh said:

I believe the Commonwealth would be agreeable to underwrite the difference between power which would have been generated with the GbF Scheme as against that which may be generated by some other project.

Mr Hawke himself echoed that sentiment on 11 February.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Bass knows that it is the custom of the House to refer to the Prime Minister as the Prime Minister or an honourable member by the name of his electorate. I have let him go a couple of times but I would ask him to observe that custom.

Mr NEWMAN —I apologise. On 11 February the Prime Minister said:

We will assist in the construction of (power) alternatives which will provide all the power and beyond which will be needed by Tasmania up to and beyond the end of this century.

This is an unequivocal promise. They are clear promises. They are commitments made by the Prime Minister himself. But, unfortunately, there has been no action to parallel all these mighty words and heavy rhetoric. It is apparent that this is just one more deceit on the Australian people which this Prime Minister has perpetrated month after month after month.

What are the facts? What sort of action matches this rhetoric by the Prime Minister? Let us look. First of all, there has not been one penny spent-not one penny given to the Tasmanian Government-to employ Hydro Electric Commission workers and subcontractors who no longer have jobs. The Tasmanian Government had been placing HEC members in other hydro schemes. That is well and good. But it means that other Tasmanians are missing out on jobs that would have been available in those schemes. How does that situation measure up against what the Prime Minister said? Let me give another example. On 28 June, he said:

. . . programs for alternative work will match the timescale of the dam.

Not one penny was given to Tasmania. That clearly is a broken commitment. Another element is the obvious attempt by Ministers of this Government to cloud the issue about what they really are doing to compensate Tasmania. There is a clear attempt to gloss over the commitments which they have made and to give the appearance that they are in fact providing just compensation. Let me give two examples. Senator Grimes in the other place trumpeted the fact that $3m was to be made available for the strengthening of the Hobart Airport. That promise was made two years ago, and the Tasmanian Government could reasonably expect to get that money in the normal course of events through Government appropriations. It was made clear yeterday by the Treasurer (Mr Keating) and by the Minister for Transport (Mr Peter Morris) in the Budget Papers that this was a Commonwealth program of $90m-odd to upgrade airports all over Australia, and Tasmania could reasonably expect to have Hobart included in that program. It is a sham to say that somehow that is compensation.

Again, the Minister for Administrative Services (Mr John Brown) announced that certain office blocks were to be constructed in Hobart and Devonport. Once again the claim was made that somehow this was to be a special payment for compensation to Tasmania. We saw in the Budget Papers yesterday that again this is a Commonwealth program spread right across every State, and Tasmania would have justly expected to receive its fair share of that money which was being spent on the construction of office space. It had nothing to do with special compensation for Tasmania.

Now I turn to the Budget itself. This Budget has treated Tasmania most shabbily . It is a mean Budget as far as Tasmania is concerned. Worse, in the longer term , it may well be that this Budget is extremely destructive to the Tasmanian economy. Why do I say this? Let us consider a few facts one by one. In 1977, an investigation by Sir Bede Callaghan into the economy of Tasmania found that there were special disabilities that warranted special assistance from the Commonwealth. As a result of that, the Commonwealth put in place the so-called Callaghan plan. Since 1977, $40m has been spent on special assistance to Tasmania-tourism, special industries, roads and all the rest-to try to overcome those disabilities so clearly defined by Sir Bede Callaghan. There was a clear commitment by the last Government that $5m to $8m would have been spent on upgrading Tasmanian fishing ports to aid the fishing industry. What has happened ? In this Budget, there is no provision for the Callaghan plan. It has been axed . This special program which existed for the last six years has disappeared. So much for a climate in which the Government was to have kept its promise to help and compensate Tasmania.

Freight equalisation, which was introduced by the previous Government, is the key to the Tasmanian economy. It allows producers in Tasmania to compete fairly by compensating them for the special costs of moving produce over the waters of the Bass Strait. What is the result of the Budget? It has slashed last year's appropriation of $32m to $23m this year. The effect that this will have on the Tasmanian economy is almost incalculable. It will have an extremely destructive effect because the existing rates of assistance need upgrading; they are out of date. The proposed appropriation will prevent such an upgrading occurring. One must suspect that the Government is to review the whole scheme anyway. It will destroy the confidence of manufacturers, farmers and everybody else who benefits from this program and have an extremely bad effect on Tasmania. So much for the compensation that the Government is giving the State. It has destroyed one of the major special assistance programs to Tasmania and has dealt the State a savage blow.

I turn now to the development of the South West. The previous Government promised a $50m program of expenditure over five years to turn the South West national park into a major park of world renown and reputation. Not one cent has been provided in the Budget for the special development of the South West park. The Government promised $5m over the next two years for the development of Queenstown, but nothing has been provided for the park, not a cent. What of all the grand rhetoric of the Minister at the table (Mr Cohen), who has talked about the development of that park? He has provided not one dollar.

Even worse is the amount that has been provided in the Budget for compensation to Tasmania-$30m. Its paltriness is breathtaking. The minute amount of money the Government has provided is outrageous. The situation worsens when we look at how the $30m stacks up. The Government knows-it has been warned already-that the Tasmanian Government is to seek reimbursement for work done on the HEC scheme and the dam site. A $60m claim is coming forward. The Government expects to receive the claim in a month. How will it assess and meet that claim out of $30m ? A better basis for comparison is that the HEC in 1983-84 was to have spent $ 54m on work on the dam. How does $30m in compensation stack up against that figure?

The picture becomes worse still when we look at what the Government has taken away from Tasmania. I refer to the $5m to $8m that it should have received under the Callaghan plan, the $9m lost under the freight equalisation scheme and the fact that $10m is not now to be spent on Wynyard airport development. My colleague, the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom), will have a few words to say about that, I am sure. What the Government has really done has been to give Tasmania $30m on the one hand and take it all away on the other by way of its destructive policies on these important special assistance programs for Tasmania. It is an absolute sham. Worse, when we reflect on what the Prime Minister has said over all these months, it is an absolute reflection on his honour. In a Nationwide program recently, he said:

I want to get on with the job of honouring the commitment. That's what I'm about -that's what my Government's about. And it is about time Mr Gray and others stopped playing politics on this.

Playing politics! This Prime Minister has dishonoured every promise and commitment that he has made to Tasmania. The Government in this Budget, is not being fair to Tasmania. The Prime Minister is not honouring the promises that he has made on so many occasions. As a matter of urgency let this government now rethink its Budget and make proper provision for Tasmania both in its special assistance programs and its compensation measures. Let the Government enter into a real and practical discussion with the Tasmanian Government. Let the Government put in the hands of the Australian people the real cost of its action in stopping this dam enabling them to assess the real and just compensation that is due. Finally, let the Government honestly and fairly meet its obligation to provide just and reasonable compensation for the people of Tasmania. If this obligation is not met let me warn this Government of what will happen. This Prime Minister will go down as a man without honour; he will go down as a cheat; and, worse than that, the result may well be that the Tasmanian people will start to query the value of staying in the Federation.