14 May 2015
Mr WILKIE (Denison) (14:17): My question is to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, federal government subsidies for Bass Strait will be pocketed by the Port of Melbourne in skyrocketing port fees. This is in addition to the licence fee imposed by the Victorian government, which is a tax on interstate trade and unconstitutional. The previous Tasmanian government was of that view but too spineless to act. Prime Minister, will your government intervene and bring the shysters in Victoria to heel by forcing them to drop their unconstitutional tax?
Mr ABBOTT (Warringah—Prime Minister) (14:18): I do thank the member for Denison for his question.
The SPEAKER: Prime Minister, I would say that I am allowing the question to stand although it does tend to ask for a legal opinion, which is not in order, so you can ignore that part of the question and answer the rest.
Mr ABBOTT: Thank you, Madam Speaker. It is good that you have extended some licence to the member for Denison because he has asked a question which I think is of interest to a number of members of this House, certainly the members for Lyons, Braddon and Bass, all of whom have been fighting hard for the people of Tasmania. As a result of their hard work for their constituencies and the people of Tasmania this government has extended the freight equalisation scheme to the ever-growing exports of the great island of Tasmania, the ever-growing exports of that great state, beyond Melbourne and beyond the Australian mainland. That is what we want to do. We want to encourage Tasmania to be an exporter not just to Australia but to the wider world. That is what we want to do and that is why we have extended the freight equalisation scheme to exports.
This coalition that I lead is a very good friend of Tasmania. It was the Fraser government that first introduced the freight equalisation scheme. It was the Howard government that helped the movement of passengers from Tasmania. Now this government has extended the freight equalisation scheme to exports beyond the mainland. So it is a very good initiative from this government. It was worked for by the members for Lyons, Bass and Braddon and I know it was welcomed by the member for Denison.
There is an issue. The member for Denison is quite right—there is an issue. The Victorian Labor government is slugging the exports of Tasmania. That is the only way to describe it. The Victorian Labor government is penalising the exporters of Tasmania by ever increasing the fees and charges in the port of Melbourne. I share the member for Denison’s dismay and I share the dismay of all the Tasmanian members of this House at what the Victorian Labor government is doing.
If the Leader of the Opposition really wants to be useful, as well as telling us his plans for Australia tonight he will get on the blower to Daniel Andrews this very afternoon and say, ‘Stop ripping off the exporters of Tasmania.’ Suddenly he is interested in his notes, isn’t he? It is funny how he looks down and starts playing with his papers whenever he is asked to do something useful. Pick up the phone to Daniel Andrews and get these unfair taxes and charges dropped.