Speaker my home state of Tasmania is the best place in the world to live. But its governance is appalling, and if you hand a Tasmanian state government a great wad of federal cash for a project you can be pretty sure they’ll stuff it up. Doesn’t matter if they are Liberal or Labor, because when it comes to project management Tasmanian state governments have displayed breathtaking incompetence in delivering vital infrastructure projects.
Take the redevelopment of the Royal Hobart Hospital, the biggest infrastructure project in the state’s recent history. In 2010 I negotiated $340 million for the rebuild and the new K-Block was due to open May 2015. But here we are, five years later, and we’re still waiting. Yes the Labor state government messed up the first half of the project terribly, but regrettably the more recent Liberal state government has continued down the same sorry road with the latest farce being lead contamination in the water supply, like what happened at the new Perth Children’s Hospital which resulted in a three-year delay. No wonder frustrated medicos have thrown up their hands and pretty much given up on K-Block being open for the influenza season this winter. Of course other states have built hospitals in much less time, and China just built a hospital in ten days, not that I’m advocating that sort of haste.
And Speaker how about Macquarie Point on Hobart’s waterfront? It’s been described as the most exciting urban renewal project in the country, and I secured $50 million from the Federal Government to kick-start this redevelopment eight years ago. That was about three times the amount the consultants said was needed for remediation. But since then all the Government’s been able to do; apart from build some garden beds, a bike path, a couple of sheds and some power points to charge cars; is pay bureaucrats millions of dollars in salary and do three onsite office refurbishments. Good grief this whole sorry saga has been one long farce as the much needed federal handout was followed by years of government ineptitude. In any other state the project would have been sorted years ago.
And then Speaker there’s the much-lauded $1.6 billion deal Hobart City Deal which was supposed to transform the city and deliver a new Bridgewater Bridge, ferries on the River Derwent, international flights out of Hobart, action finally on light rail and a fix for the traffic congestion. But after 12 months the only movement on the $576 million Bridgewater Bridge has been local mayors coming together to question its value for money, and Infrastructure Australia raising concerns about the risk of a cost blowout.
In fact one year on, the only progress in the City Deal has been the $30 million social housing package I brokered and insisted go to the non-government sector because I knew the State Government would almost certainly stuff it up. Well one of the more than 130 dwellings to be delivered in that package has already been opened, putting the State Government to shame, not unlike the University of Tasmania which is rolling out federally funded accommodation blocks and a world-class performing arts centre, on-time and on-budget.
Speaker this background helps explain why I’m so concerned now to hear that the Marinus Link, to make Tasmania the battery of the nation with a second Bass Strait cable, is also stuck in the slow lane due to more State Government incompetence. The Federal Government is keen on the project to sure up power to Victoria as La Trobe Valley coal-fired power winds down, and last year announced $56 million for the next stage of the project after a feasibility study showed it to be commercially viable. But, despite all this, I’ve been told that the deal would have been signed by Christmas, but that still nothing has progressed because the Tasmanian Government hasn’t done the paperwork.
Yes that’s right Speaker, another once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create jobs and revenue for the State going begging because the clowns who populate the State Government are incapable of seeing the potential to unlock up to $5 billion in renewables investments and fast-track Australia’s transition away from coal.
For goodness sake Speaker something’s really got to change. Tasmania is the jewel in the country’s crown with enormous untapped potential. But none of this is possible while our dunderhead state politicians continue to bumble along like an episode of Utopia. Frankly they’re holding Tasmania back and it’s time they shaped up or shipped out, so long of course that the ferries they’re still talking about are actually ordered, delivered and seaworthy.