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Monday, 1 June 1987
Page: 3749

Mr HODGMAN(10.42) —The front page headline of last Tuesday's edition of the Canberra Times said it all:

Axe Hardest on NT and Tasmania.

The leading newspaper of the one area in Australia not directly affected by the Premiers Conference, Canberra, pointedly noted:

The two regions with no Labor members of the House of Representatives, Tasmania and the Northern Territory, have been hardest hit by the cuts at the Premiers Conference.

Emphasising the obvious, the Canberra Times article continued:

The one Northern Territory House of Representatives seat is held by the Liberal Party, as are all five Tasmanian seats. Consequently, the Commonwealth has nothing politically to lose.

An analysis of the attached table says it all, and I seek leave to incorporate it in Hansard. That has been agreed by the Minister for Social Security (Mr Howe) and the Attorney-General (Mr Lionel Bowen).

Leave granted.

The table read as follows-


Commonwealth grants to the States and State borrowings, 1987-88

























Western Australia...





South Australia...















Northern Territory...










Mr HODGMAN —Tasmania was slashed harder than any other State-a massive 9 per cent cut in grants and borrowings. This compared with a cut of only 4.9 per cent imposed on Labor Western Australia. Only the Northern Territory was hit harder than Tasmania with a cut of 10.1 per cent. The most cruel aspect of all was that Tasmania had already been severely cut by Canberra, prior to last week's Premiers Conference. Our State had been cut to the bone while New South Wales and Victoria still had plenty of fat to be trimmed if the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) and the Treasurer (Mr Keating) had mustered the will to do so. The stark figures prove the political bias of the Hawke socialist Government, and confirm the forebodings that followed the secret meeting held between the Prime Minister and the Labor State Premiers at the Lodge prior to the Premiers Conference itself.

Let the figures speak for themselves, and let us note the chronology of deliberate fiscal discrimination against Tasmania. At the Premiers Conference in May last year, Tasmania's funding was slashed by $91m in real terms-a 6.5 per cent reduction. That followed the May 1985 mini-Budget when Tasmania lost $20m, and the Premiers Conference in the same month when Tasmania was cut by $28.7m If we add the $13m cuts to Tasmania in the August 1985 Federal Budget, Tasmania began calendar year 1986 a massive $61.7m behind the eight ball. By May of last year it had suffered a staggering $152.7m reduction in Commonwealth assistance and spending in just 13 months.

In the last Federal Budget Tasmania lost a further $50m at the hands of Prime Minister Hawke and Treasurer Keating-and last week's Premiers Conference saw the final cut of $111m in real terms. Since May 1985-just two years ago-Tasmania has been slashed by Canberra to the extent of a mammoth $313.7m. That is the worst treatment our State has ever received from any Commonwealth government since Federation. It is not only unfair and unjust-it is cruel. Canberra has declared financial war on Australia's smallest State. It is clear that Prime Minister Hawke has written off Tasmania. That is his political judgment and he may well pay a heavy price for it. Abandoning any hope of the Australian Labor Party winning any of the five Tasmanian House of Representative seats is one thing. The Prime Minister seems to have overlooked the fundamental fact that the Senate vote in Tasmania at the 11 July Federal election may well prove crucial in the political history of Australia.

In human terms the suffering deliberately imposed on Tasmanians by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer will be substantial. As Premier Gray has correctly stated, 2,000 Tasmanian jobs are now on the line as a direct result of the cuts at last week's Premiers Conference. Significantly, nobody on the Labor side of politics has challenged this assessment, or even quibbled with it. Starkly, this means that 2,000 Tasmanians-many with families to support-are now headed for the unemployment scrapheap, thanks to the Prime Minister. In financial terms the cost in unemployment benefits can be measured. In terms of pain and suffering, the cost to individual Tasmanians cannot be measured. They will know, however, that they were innocent victims of the heartless political judgment of a Prime Minister who said he would be `for all Australians' who has now decreed that Tasmanians do not count.

The case against Prime Minister Hawke is overwhelming. The facts and figures are all public and authentic, and speak for themselves. They eloquently confirm the validity of the Mercury editorial published the day after the Premiers Conference under the headline `Vicious blow for Tasmania'. The blow was vicious; the cuts are brutal; hardly an area of Tasmania's economic life will remain untouched. Fortuitously, the people of Tasmania are now to be given an earlier than expected opportunity to vent their rage through the democratic process of the ballot box. Time will prove that the Prime Minister has made the greatest political mistake of his life.