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Tuesday, 24 September 2002
Page: 4792

Senator COLBECK (8:11 PM) —Yesterday, the member for Braddon made representation in the other chamber calling for an extension to the Bass Strait Passenger Vehicle Equalisation Scheme to cater for motorcycles with sidecars and trailers. He said:

There should be equity and equality across Bass Strait. The federal government must finish the jigsaw by putting in the last piece to make it fair and equitable—and bring those thousands of cyclists with thousands of sidecars over to Tasmania.

Unfortunately, the honourable member had not done his homework. As a member of this federal parliament and a representative of Tasmania, he should have been well aware of the provisions of the Bass Strait Passenger Vehicle Equalisation Scheme. He claimed in his speech that previously he had been accused of political opportunism, but I will not accuse him of that, because this attempt is too inept even to qualify and, to be frank, I would have expected better of him.

The member for Braddon had only to read the brochure distributed by the TT-Line—the Tasmanian government owned company that operates the new twin ferry service to Tasmania—to find:

The Federal Government provides a rebate of $75 for a motor bike and motor bike with sidecar, $150 for a standard vehicle, and a maximum of $300 for a vehicle towing a caravan and a motorhome or campervan, against the fare charged by the Spirit of Tasmania to transport an eligible passenger vehicle across Bass Strait. These rebates have been deducted from the rates shown below.

The real thing that concerns me about this representation is the message it sends about Tasmania. I have said before in this place that I was not another Tasmanian here with an upturned hand seeking handouts. It is claims such as this that perpetuate the view that Tasmania is always looking for handouts. How can we legitimately lobby for benefits for Tasmania when we have elected representatives who stand up in the parliament and ask for things that we have already been granted?

I agree with the member for Braddon that motorcycles with sidecars should travel free. Why? Because the federal government has provided a rebate for them to do so. It is the Tasmanian government and its company, the TT-Line, that treat motorcycles with sidecars differently, not the Howard government. If you look at the situation in space terms, a motorcycle with a sidecar takes up about 50 per cent of the space a standard vehicle up to five metres takes up, and the federal rebate is $75—50 per cent of the $150 rebate for a motor vehicle. No rebates are provided for trailers. However, with the rebate for a motorcycle being $75 and a motorcycle with a trailer taking up about 50 per cent of the space that a car would take up, one could realistically argue that two motorcycles with trailers attracting a rebate, in total, of $150— that of a car—and taking up the same room should be treated in the same way by the Tasmanian government and the TT-Line.

The member for Braddon talks about equity for motorcyclists. The federal government has provided that, as it did in the recent decision to provide a rebate for cyclists. I might add that a coalition government instigated the scheme and provided all the enhancements to the stage where this scheme has played a significant part in the very competitive fares that have made the two new vessels such an outstanding success, where your car, caravan, motorhome, motorcycle or pushbike can travel free for up to 45 weeks of the year—an expenditure of $26.6 million this year, providing a total fare inclusive of your car for as little as $100 each way. I would suggest to my colleagues in this place that they might like to try it out.

The Tasmanian Liberal senators and members fought hard to achieve the Bass Strait Passenger Vehicle Equalisation Scheme, and it is of significant concern that the member for Braddon seeks to claim something that has already been provided. As I said before, this sort of action diminishes the capacity of any Tasmanian member or senator to represent a case for our state. I would be more than happy to join with the member for Braddon in making representations to the TT-Line and the Tasmanian government, where this issue belongs, to allow for motorcycles with sidecars and/or trailers to travel free. It is the TT-Line and the Tasmanian government, not the federal government, that discriminates against motorcyclists with sidecars.