Deputy Speaker Tuesday night’s budget was obviously very disappointing for Tasmania. There was hardly anything in there for my home state, despite the billions of dollars being splashed around on mainland infrastructure projects. Yes, the Federal Government says there’s $1.1 billion for Tasmania. But frankly that’s all old news, such as the continued Mersey Hospital funding and the Launceston City Deal.
Deputy Speaker, responsibility for this shambles doesn’t rest simply with the Federal Government because it’s the State Government that must also shoulder the blame. Indeed the State Government should be doing its job, knocking on the doors of their Liberal Party colleagues in Canberra and fighting for our fair share of the big money on offer.
But alas it’s simply not the case because the State Government continues to show, time and time again, that either it doesn’t know, or doesn’t care, about all this potential federal investment.
Deputy Speaker the best example of what I’m talking about is the University of Tasmania’s visionary STEM proposal for the Hobart CBD. This project would be transformational for the university, for Hobart and for Tasmania and create a significant economic boost, both during construction and on completion with the thousands of staff and students who would occupy the new facilities. Infrastructure Australia, no less, have assessed the proposal and given it a glowing endorsement.
That’s why I’ve taken this proposal to the Prime Minister personally and he’s left me in no doubt that he understands the value of the project, but also that any formal approach for funding must be driven by the State Government.
But Deputy Speaker, when I’ve communicated this to the Premier’s office, directly and in the media, there’s been a deafening silence because state parliamentarians simply don’t get it, or their staff are running the show and running it badly. Or, that the lot of them regard the public interest as some sort of political plaything and are leaving the big federal funding announcements until closer to the state election.
Light rail is another example Deputy Speaker. Indeed a northern suburbs link would be a tremendous benefit to greater Hobart and link communities, save money, ease traffic congestion and help clean up the environment. And all this when we have a Prime Minister who’s so openly enthusiastic about rail, and who understands so clearly the benefits it would bring.
Except here we are, in the afterglow of a budget that saw billions spent on rail, and not one cent of which went to Hobart and the restoration of passenger rail.
And why Deputy Speaker? Simply because the current Liberal State Government, like the Labor government before it, has failed to put in any funding submission to the Federal Government.
Moreover just last week Deputy Speaker, we saw the extraordinary revelation from Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne that Tasmania could be missing out on defence contracts because the State Government isn’t coordinating the sector.
So valuable defence contracts, for example at Prince of Wales Bay, are going begging despite the fact that this is a world-class defence manufacturing precinct, and suppliers like Incat and Taylor Brothers have the capabilities and the skills to deliver defence work.
And there’s more Deputy Speaker. For instance there’s no money in the budget for the Bridgewater Bridge upgrade and nothing for water infrastructure. Frankly the community want to see a government that fights for its fair share of federal funding. And you would think having a Liberal government in Hobart and another one in Canberra would work in our favour. But obviously it doesn’t.
Instead we have pathetic scenes like yesterday when the State Government’s response to criticsm was to say that Tasmania had got plenty of investment, and that anyone who says otherwise is, and I quote, “dishonest or delusional”.
The Tasmanian Government has also lashed out over education and claimed that the state will receive the greatest share of federal education funding per student, despite the fact that state funding is simultaneously being gutted with the result that net funding for public schools is actually going down.
Deputy Speaker the community deserves much better than such personal attacks and lies. No wonder then why, just yesterday afternoon, a constituent, who is a person of considerable standing in the community, summed it up when he texted me to say, and I quote, “Absolute incompetence. Farcical really. How incredibly short-sighted.”
Deputy Speaker this isn’t hard stuff. But too often it’s all just too unfathomable and difficult for Tasmanian state parliamentarians. But I suppose that’s OK for them because they’re well paid and their needs are met. Why should they worry about looking more interested in the community, they would be thinking, when the state election is probably not until next year?