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Wednesday, 21 September 1983
Page: 1070

Mr GEAR —My question is also directed to the Prime Minister. Can he inform the House of progress on negotiations with the State of Tasmania on alternative job projects and other matters following cessation of work on the Gordon below Franklin hydro scheme?

Mr HAWKE —As all honourable members will be aware, the Commonwealth can provide funds only on the basis of an agreement with the State. I must confess to being totally mystified by the attitude of the Premier of Tasmania on this matter. The facts are that on 1 July, the day of the historic High Court of Australia judgment on this matter, I gave the Premier of Tasmania a letter offering assistance from the Commonwealth to the State of Tasmania, firstly for some alternative job creation schemes, and, of course, also to cover employees and contractors who, in the event that alternative work could not be immediately found for them, would require carry-over assistance. In that letter, it was made clear that we would expect those arrangements, to which I alluded there, to be covered by an agreement, because that is the normal and proper practice if there is to be a transfer of money from the Commonwealth to the State. That was on 1 July. By the following week the officers of the Premier of Tasmania had received from Commonwealth officials a draft of the proposed agreement. So, that was at the very beginning of July.

We have stressed repeatedly, right from the outset, that the agreement about which we are talking is an interim one only. It is to enable the Commonwealth Government to make quick payments to Tasmania, including advances, to meet the costs of ensuring that any persons who had been employed on the Gordon below Franklin project would not be disadvantaged by the cessation of work on that project which followed from the High Court decision. Of course, I emphasise that our offer-in fact, our pressing of that interim agreement-did not preclude, and still does not preclude, the making of any other claims by the State of Tasmania . Despite all that, starting from 1 July, there has been, on the part of the State of Tasmania, delay after delay. While the Premier is delaying the signing of this agreement, drawn up in consultation between his officials and the Commonwealth officials, he insists on accusing the Commonwealth of withholding funds.

Mr Hodgman —I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister is misleading the House, because a meeting of officials is scheduled for Friday.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member will resume his seat.

Mr Hodgman —He is telling lies.

Mr HAWKE —I ask that that be withdrawn.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member knows that questions of misleading the House are matters for substantive motion. I ask him to withdraw the statement.

Mr Hodgman —The Prime Minister called the previous Prime Minister a liar.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! I warn the honourable member for Denison. I ask him to withdraw the allegation of misleading.

Mr Hodgman —I withdraw the allegation of lying.

Mr HAWKE —Mr Speaker, that was from 1 July. I thought that we had had the matter settled at the beginning of last month, because when I met Mr Gray in Hobart I handed him copies of the agreement as settled between his officials and the officials of the Commonwealth. I passed them to him then on the understanding that he would sign. He asked for more time to look at the matter, and, of course , I readily agreed that he should have that extra time. That was nearly three weeks ago, and the Premier has still not signed the agreement. The facts are overwhelmingly clear. We made the offer on the day of the High Court judgment. There has been agreement between the Tasmanian officials and the Commonwealth officials, and the only reason that this agreement has not been signed is that the Premier of Tasmania has no interest in the welfare of his State. He, in conjunction with his miserable cronies on the other side of the House, instead of trying to fix up this matter, is attempting to play miserable politics with the welfare of his own people.