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Independent Member for Clark, Andrew Wilkie, delivered the following speech to the Federal Parliament. Please see above video for full speech.

“I was alarmed to read in the media last week that the Western Australian Government is looking to snatch the Australian Antarctic Program away from Tasmania. Alarmed because Hobart has long been Australia’s gateway to the Antarctic and Southern Ocean, and all that could now be at risk due to the bumbling incompetence of the Tasmanian Government and the greed of TasPorts.

“The problem is that Macquarie Wharf 6, which is the icebreaker Nuyina’s home berth, is riddled with concrete cancer and now can’t even sustain the weight of a Toyota Hilux. But this hasn’t popped up overnight, Deputy Speaker. No, the Australian Antarctic Division and others have been warning TasPorts for years that the current infrastructure is inadequate.

“Hence in 2018, TasPorts launched its Port Master Plan to improve Hobart’s port infrastructure, with Macquarie Wharf being identified as a critical site to upgrade to help grow the Antarctic sector. Moreover Infrastructure Australia’s projects page shows that in 2021, a five-year timeline was allocated to the Wharf redevelopment with a price tag of $150 million.

“No wonder I was shocked when I heard that the Federal Environment Minister had sent a letter to Premier Jeremy Rockliff accusing TasPorts of price-gouging and for the State Government to intervene in the stalled negotiations between Tasports and the Australian Antarctic Division. And price gouging it is, because to demand the Federal Government provide $515 million for upgrades to the Wharf is ridiculous, especially when the fault lies solely with TasPorts and the State Government for letting it get to this stage in the first place.

“Deputy Speaker the Antarctic Program is vital to understanding the frozen continent, and Hobart is recognised internationally as a centre of excellence for Antarctic science and research. Indeed, Tasmania has the world’s best Antarctic scientists, and the Program provides many hundreds of jobs in the state. But the cracks are starting to appear, and if Tasmania were to lose the Antarctic Program it would genuinely be a dreadful blow to the Tasmanian economy and community.

“But Deputy Speaker I actually don’t doubt that all parties want to keep the Antarctic Program in Hobart. It’s just that the impasse between the Federal and State governments over the facilities for the Nuyina, and the attempt by TasPorts to price-gouge, is threatening Hobart’s status as the Australian, and indeed, key international gateway to the Antarctic and Southern Ocean.

“Now while I do urge the Federal Government to bring more to the table, they at least have said they want the vessel berthed in Hobart, and have committed $240 million for work at Macquarie Point. Which means the onus is well and truly on the State Government to intervene and direct TasPorts to reach a compromise with AAD.”