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Wednesday, 14 March 2012
Page: 1744

Senator COLBECK (Tasmania) (15:12): I too rise to take note of answers given by government ministers today, in particular those by Senator Kim Carr in relation to the proposed changes by the government to the proposed shipping reform package—in particular, the impacts that are becoming available as a result of the release of the Deloitte Access Economics report this morning.

I first put to bed the myth that is being peddled by Minister Albanese that provisions that are considered as part of this report are already in place. This report specifically deals with further restrictions that will apply as a result of the new reforms. Minister Albanese would like to misrepresent what the report is actually saying, but it is quite clear. Here is the report. I have had a look at it and it clearly says—despite what Minister Carr said today and what Minister Albanese is saying—that it deals with further restrictions placed on industry as a result of the new reforms proposed in the legislation.

It would be of great concern to me—and I know that it would be of great concern to you, Mr Deputy President—if Tasmania were to suffer an inconsistency of supply with doubt about the price of fuel. The price of fuel in Tasmania is already a concern, given that we rely on coastal shipping to get it to Tasmania. The prescriptions that are in the proposed legislation create severe doubts. I do not say that as a result of just the report; I say it as a result of talking to the fuel companies. They say that Tasmania is extraordinarily exposed to the vagaries of supply and price as a result of this. That is not a circumstance that we can allow to occur. My question to Minister Carr today, which he failed to answer—not that I am surprised about that—was: what is the government going to do to ensure that Tasmania is not extraordinarily exposed in relation to both supply and price? It is a very fair question for us to ask. I also asked Minister Carr to tell us about why the additional imposts are being imposed on Tasmanian businesses. I will give you an example of something that occurred this morning during some discussions I had. I received an email this morning from a vegetable grower in Tasmania, before they had heard of this additional potential impact of the legislation. It said, 'I don't think we'll be sowing any onion seed in two months time.' They are already making decisions because of the cost impacts and the other economic impacts that this government is applying. They are going to suffer the cost of a carbon tax as of 1 July. They are already suffering from a high dollar. We have seen the loss of international shipping services out of Tasmania, which is imposing significant additional costs on our exporters. We are seeing an additional cost come through as a result of the actions of the Victorian government and the Port of Melbourne, and now we have a further increase of up to 16 per cent in the cost of freight out of Tasmania. Why would people not be concerned? Why won't the government answer a question as to what they might do to mitigate that? All they are interested in is applying additional cost to Tasmanian business and industry.

As I said in my question to Minister Carr, we have Rio Tinto at Bell Bay under review. We have BHP's Temco plant at Bell Bay currently closed and under review. This legislation applied particular pressure to Cement Australia at Railton and Nyrstar's plant in Hobart. It applies particular pressure to those. It also has the potential to apply pressure to grain being imported and exported out of the state, particularly in bulk. Why should we not ask questions about the impact of that, and why wouldn't the government answer those questions? The Tasmanian economy is currently in a very parlous state. That is accepted. The Labor-Green accord in Tasmania has made the investment profile down there completely and utterly toxic, and yet here we have the Labor government applying even more cost. They might have a shipping industry but they will not have anything to move around the country, because they will be closing down manufacturing because of it. (Time expired)