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Agriculture, TasNetworks and Project Marinus

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 19 October 2022

Tags: Marinus Link

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Deputy Speaker, the motion that has been put forward by Ms Finlay is entirely reasonable. The only issue that the Greens have with it is the last line which promotes the state Government AgriVision 2050 target of a $10 billion farm gate value by 2050. That is a political position. It is not a position that is grounded in science. It is not based on evidence that it is sustainable for the agricultural sector on an island of this size to have a farm gate value of $10 billion by 2050 unless prices are so much higher then that that is just a consequence of rising prices. Apart from that, this is a motion that is put forward in good faith that recognises the very significant impact on farmers, land owners and primary producers of the transmission line infrastructure that will be associated with the increase in renewable energy and energy generation in the north west as well as the Marinus cables.

Despite the questions that were asked both by the Opposition and the Greens this morning there is still no clarity on the finances for the Marinus Link project. We, on behalf of Tasmanians who want to understand these finances and want to understand how funding for this project will impact on them, want to see the Government release all the details of the funding arrangements around Marinus Link. We think that is a baseline and a bottom line.

The concern is, and it is a legitimate concern, that Tasmania will subsidise the $4 billion Marinus Link with very limited benefit to the people of Tasmania, higher power prices potentially all while we are lining the pockets of multinational corporations.

Talk to young people, talk to people who understand the science of climate and they all want to see a sharp increase in renewable generation because they know unless we get off fossil fuels for energy we are knackered as a species. As Carl Sagan, the great philosopher and thinker, has said: 'In the course of the Earth's history, extinction is the norm and survival is the exception'. On our current trajectory, humanity is heading ultimately towards extinction if we do not sort it out. There are hard choices to be made and Marinus Link is obviously an example of those hard choices coming to a pointy place.

Let us just separate for a minute all the question marks which are legitimate over the Marinus Link Project, the concern about the long-term economic consequences for the Tasmanian people and have a think about every landowner along the path of that transmission route. There is the transmission route linking Robbins Island to Hampshire. The Greens do not support, will never support, the Robbins Island windfarm. That is because Robbins Island by rights is a Ramsar-quality bird habitat of global significance. It is a place where windfarms have been proposed before and because of the environmental significance of Robbins Island, those preliminary proposals have fallen over. We will put that on the record here.

There are two proposed pieces of transmission infrastructure, the one from Robbins Island to Hampshire and then from Hampshire to Sheffield. As I recall, UPC is responsible for the Robbins Island to Hampshire section of the transmission line and TasNetworks for the Hampshire to Sheffield transmission line.

There will be along the path of those lines rich agricultural lands, wild lands, forested lands, a land of very significant environmental biodiversity. I agree with Ms Finlay when she asked the question: why are we not seriously looking at underground transmission infrastructure? We are told that the project would not be viable. That is because the backers of the project do not want to spend the extra money to put the transmission lines underground.

I do not understand why this Government, instead of wanting to put windfarms on Robbins Island, where they know it will have significant impacts on migratory bird species, are not advocating for turbines in Bass Strait. Offshore wind - have a look at Scotland.

We need to recognise the very real impact on landowners. Landowners who ever since this project came up have expressed an increasing level of anxiety about the compulsory acquisition of their land, the impact of the transmission lines on their primary production and a very valid concern among many people along the lines of those proposed transmission lines, the impact on the landscape. There is nowhere on earth like this island. It is unarguably one of the most beautiful and rare places on this planet. We risk here killing the goose that laid the golden egg. We have to be mindful of the scarcity of unspoiled landscape. The sacredness of this island.

We also need to treat our primary producers and private landholders with respect. If I just remove myself from concerns about the viability of Marinus, and the impact of the transmission lines, the outdated Land Acquisition Act is not going to treat those people fairly if this project goes ahead. The Land Acquisition Act provides for a one off payment to a landowner. They basically have no rights; no rights at all. Once Government decides it wants to acquire land, it uses the mechanisms under the act and it says to the landowner, 'We are taking that land and we will give you a reasonable price for that land. It is a one off payment'. So the landowner never has that land again. It is taken away. There is one thing about land - they are not making any more of it.

Along this transmission line, there will be many impacted landowners and primary producers. There is a compelling argument, and this is the case whether it is a transmission line or other infrastructure, for ongoing compensation. A compelling argument for government to rent the land, not take it and pay potentially market value or a bit less for it but to rent the land from those landowners.

I do not understand why Mr Barnett is uncomfortable with supporting this motion. It seems to me that Ms Finlay has written this in such a way as to secure Government support because she pumps up their tyres at the end over the $10 billion AgriVision by 2050.

I can only assume there are two things happening here. One is sheer pig-headedness, because how on earth could the Government bring itself to support an Opposition motion? The other is the signal it will send about the need for ongoing compensation to landowners. It should be ongoing, because otherwise, in many ways, it becomes a land grab.

We know that behind these projects and behind these transmission lines are large multinational companies. It is a legitimate concern that this Government is selling out the interest of farmers and primary producers to multinational corporations for very modest benefit to those landowners. They will never get that land back. There will always be, as long as that infrastructure is in place, transmission lines on their land.

It will have an impact on agricultural production and the productivity of that land. It just will. You can see it as you come up the Derwent Valley, massive transmission line infrastructure all through glorious prime agricultural land.

The minister has not made an argument for not supporting Labor's motion. The minister has not addressed the issue of ongoing compensation for landowners. The minister has not acknowledged that the current framework is unfair, is unjust. It is very one-sided. It is all very well for this minister, in the amendment, to talk about ongoing conversations with landowners.

The minister notes that the Government will ensure TasNetworks continues to provide opportunities for consultation and input by landowners, the TFGA, and the community during the design and approvals for the north west transmission development. I might just stop there for a minute. It is not an approvals process. It is an assessment process with the view to minimising the impact of transmission line developments on agriculture.

That is meaningless. It is meaningless to those primary producers, that TasNetworks will keep talking to them. TasNetworks, the Government, has been talking to farmers along that proposed transmission line for the best part of six years. They are certainly not comforted to date. Mr Barnett needs to acknowledge that his Government, which tells us is the best friend Tasmania's farmers have, has a problem, because the dissatisfaction among rural communities and primary producers about this Government's approach to that project is manifest and is growing.

We encourage the minister to accept that all the consultation in the world to date has not worked. It has not eased the concerns of primary producers. There needs to be a modernisation of the Land Acquisition Act. It needs a new name because it should not always, by necessity, mean taking away someone's land, acquiring it on the part of government, or a corporation. That is what would happen here. A private corporation would own transmission infrastructure and the land associated with it, as I understand it, from Robbins Island to Hampshire.

We do not support the Government's amendment because Mr Barnett has not made the argument for it. We will grudgingly support Labor's motion, because apart from the last line there is nothing to argue with here.

The House should be very clear that it supports primary producers. I urge the minister to commit to examining ongoing compensation for landholders and primary producers in relation to this project and potentially to other projects where the Land Acquisition Act, as it is now, might apply. I also strongly encourage this minister to dust off that act and have a good look at it. It is outdated and some of its provisions are just not fair.

We will support this motion. I hope the minister pauses for a moment, because just saying you are the best friend farmers have does not make you their friend. If you are going to take something away from them and give them very little in return, you are not their friend. We largely support this motion. I have not proposed an amendment because there are amendments flying all over the place and we are running out of time. I encourage the minister to understand farmers need better than they are getting now.