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Wednesday, 6 December 2017
Page: 9856

Senator URQUHART (TasmaniaOpposition Whip in the Senate) (13:56): I was going to use my five minutes to speak on a different matter but, given the short time that's left because of the late start of Senators' Statements, I will share with the chamber some news that is just out of Tasmania. It has been revealed in Tasmanian estimates not long ago that the state's energy minister, Mr Guy Barnett—who was a former senator in this place, as I'm sure many people will remember—has directed the Tasmanian energy retailer, Aurora Energy, to spend half a million dollars mailing out 80,000 cheques worth $125 each. They are mailing out 80,000 $125 cheques to Tasmanian households, instead of giving eligible customers credits on their bill. Wouldn't it have been easier to give them a credit on their electricity bill?

Senator Bilyk: It would have been cheaper.

Senator URQUHART: Much, much cheaper. It wouldn't have cost half a million dollars. But, oh, no; they didn't do that. He claimed to have advice that posting a cheque—posting a cheque in today's email and e-system society—was actually cheaper and the most efficient method to make a payment than crediting the accounts.

An honourable senator: Don't you want them to get the money?

Senator URQUHART: We're very happy for them to get the money, but we're asking why the Tasmanian government would spend half a million dollars mailing out cheques worth $125 when they could just as easily have allowed the electricity provider to credit these people's accounts for that exact amount, $125. During the estimates, Mr Barnett gagged the Aurora CEO when asked if Aurora had provided the advice. The Aurora CEO was asked whether or not they had provided advice on the most efficient method to do this, and the CEO was gagged during the process. This is a clear misuse of public funds and the Tasmanian Liberals should stand condemned for this shocking behaviour.

As the recent Pembroke by-election clearly demonstrated, Tasmanians are awake to these weak political tactics of the Tasmanian Liberals. They've run our health system into the ground. Not able to operate in a modern society, they spent half a million dollars mailing out 80,000 $125 cheques to people, when they could have had a credit put on those people's electricity accounts. It would have made a lot more sense for those people to have had a credit put on their account and for them to see that their account had been reduced by $125. But, no, it was apparently easier just to pay 80,000 cheques of $125. Half a million dollars is just nothing to the Tasmanian government. They run the health system into the ground but spend half a million dollars doing that. The people of Tasmania will be absolutely appalled at the Tasmanian Liberal government.

The PRESIDENT: It being 2 pm, we'll move to question without notice.