You are here

Censure in the Minister for Energy

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 8 August 2023

Tags: Marinus Link

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, this minister is very fond of talking about working in Tasmania's best interests. We have heard this repeatedly over the last couple of years - and that is really why we are here today. We have no faith that he is working in our interests, and we would like him to explain to us what he thinks our interests are.

Every time we ask a direct question about how much money he is committing Tasmanians to paying into the future for Marinus Link and other large energy investment projects, he says 'We will be working in Tasmania's best interests'. It is deeply concerning when he is talking about committing us to $3.8 billion worth of debt - which is what it was two months ago.

Two months ago, when I asked the minister this question about how much the Marinus Link project was going to cost, I finally got a very direct answer from him, which was that it would be $3.8 billion - but just last week, we heard the Government's estimate is $5.5 billion. We are talking here about a $1.7 billion difference. That is utterly concerning for Tasmanians.

Let us put this into perspective. Tasmanians are absolutely outraged at - and there is majority opposition - spending between $750 million and $1.5 billion on a stadium that we do not need and that the majority of Tasmanians do not want.

Imagine, once Tasmanians actually get to internalise that this Government has been working on a project in secret for years, they have established a whole body called Marinus Link, paid them a fortune - we do not know how much, but obviously highly paid consultants have been working for years -

Mr JAENSCH - You do not know how much, but you know it is a fortune?

Dr WOODRUFF - Well, Mr Jaensch, we would like to hear the minister tell us how much because we have asked the question and he has now answered. We have been paying a group of people an enormous amount for years and all the minister can tell us - two months ago - is that it will be $3.8 billion, but last week we hear it is more like $5.5 billion.

How can there be a $1.7 billion underestimate in their calculations? The difference is more than half. The project costs have increased by more than half in two months. They could not even foreshadow, at that point, that they were concerned about the prices going up - so whose interests are they working in?

It really feels like the only interest Mr Barnett is working in is his own, and the Liberals'. It is about political security. It is about staying in there and trying to hide the reality of the real costs.

The other question we asked is what the annual running cost would be. We have heard speculation there is a pre-commitment being made to buy a cable put at $1 billion to $2 billion - we would like to know the answer to that - as a down-payment on a cable, because of the long chain-of-supply issues, and the fear that Marinus Link is signing up Tasmanians for a huge amount of money before a federal decision has been made on whether Marinus Link would be a regulated asset.

In light of that, you would think it would be reasonable - given the minister is acting in Tasmanians' best interests - for us to understand what the annual running cost would be, and what it means in real money.

Well, the answer to that was from Mr Voss - who answered it on behalf of the minister - that it is still to be determined. Obviously, he said, it has not gone through a regulatory process as yet.

Bingo - Mr Voss said it perfectly. That is exactly true. It has not gone through a regulated process. The Treasurer was dishonest with Tasmanians when he said to us last year that a deal had been signed with the federal government, that the regulated assessment process had been sorted. We asked what it was, and he has not told us. Well, obviously he has not told us, because it does not exist. It clearly has not been signed yet. We know it has not been signed, because the Victorian government has not made a statement about it being signed.

It clearly has not, yet what we are talking about in that agreement between the Commonwealth and Tasmanian and Victorian governments is about billions of dollars of debt - and who will pay for it.

So we have no confidence in the minister when he says he is acting in our best interest. We do not believe him. We have not believed him for years - and every time we ask him another question in Estimates, he gives us more reasons not to believe him.

We, and the majority of Tasmanians, are deeply concerned about the money that the Government intends - or would like - to spend on a stadium, when it should be spent on housing infrastructure and on new hospital beds. These are critical issues for us today and they are absolutely related because we have an overshoot of $1.7 billion in two months on a project Tasmanians know nothing about.

Why would we not be concerned with how else that money should be spent if we are going to go into more billions of dollars of debt? The Greens have never had a problem with taking on state debt for publicly owned infrastructure when it is used in a crisis situation and when Tasmanians are part of the conversation.

That is the point here. The Liberals have, for years, been using Marinus Link as a campaigning tool to bring out at election times. What we need to know is whether this minister is capable of being honest about anything at all, and we do not have confidence in that.

We think he should be censured, and we think Tasmanians deserve to know about every dollar that they have paid for renewable energy and whether it is going to be well spent.