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Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 9 August 2023

Tags: Marinus Link

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, people in Tasmania, particularly anyone who has been watching politics over the last couple of decades, could see this disaster coming years back. The Greens were on the record back in 2016-17 when this Government started talking about another couple of cables that they wanted to string across to the mainland as the sole focus of our renewable energy response in a climate emergency.

We were very concerned then that there had been no information made available to the public about the extent of the scale of the project they were looking at and that there was no advance planning with communities of interest about the project. Since then we have seen the rush to roll out unplanned - and certainly unconsulted with communities of interest - transmission lines across the whole of the north-west through what we know are endangered and threatened forest communities, through landowners' properties, where we have heard many times about local communities and landowners being specifically isolated in the consultation process, kept separate and pressured to sign up to agreements for infrastructure on their land.

The issues are so important and that is why we are so concerned that the minister has failed to have an open process for planning large-scale renewables in Tasmania and we have the debt bomb in front of us and that is what is exercising people so greatly at the moment. We simply do not have many dollars to spend in this space. Every dollar needs to be spent with perfect focus and utter transparency to Tasmanians about what we are doing with their money.

We have already seen an example of major large-scale renewable energy infrastructure that was pushed through. Tasmania is replete with them in our history, but the most obvious one is Basslink in its recent history. The whole development of Basslink involved wild claims about profit-making for Tasmanians and the minimal facility fees we would pay. It was going to be a boom for jobs and a boom for Tasmania, but what we have seen since is that Basslink has gone broke. It has been put into administration and has cost the state millions of dollars in legal time and fees. It was bought for $773 million and is now pending an assessment of whether it will be a regulated asset. The investigation that will be done in that process will be very interesting because it might be an opportunity for Tasmanians to understand the long-term costs of these projects and for us to consider them in light of Marinus. We will be paying for Basslink for decades to come and no one is being held to account for the spin and outright lies that accompanied the decision making on that project.

Now we have Marinus. It is the same old dishonest story being told to Tasmanians again, media opportunities for this minister and previous Energy ministers. Even federal Liberal election campaigning has been part of the road show to try to gaslight Tasmanians into thinking that this is going to be the one big thing that is going to save us and provide jobs forever into the future.

What we heard was that the outside cost of Marinus would be $3.8 billion. The lower estimate, the one that Mr Voss in Estimates gave to the Greens when we questioned the minister repeatedly about it, was that Marinus would cost $3.1 billion. That was two months ago. Now we hear the speculation, which is yet to be disproved by the minister, is that it is in the order of $5 billion or $5.5 billion. No wonder the Premier is finally pausing this project.

Peter Gutwein, when he was minister, promised Tasmanians that we would only pay 10 per cent of costs because we will only get, he said, 10 per cent of the benefit of Marinus Link. Forget that. What we know from the Premier and the minister is that they are prepared to borrow 80 per cent of the cost through a loan. The state would be making further injections of 6.5 per cent in equity.

We still have no handle on the real costs and the risks because of the secrecy the minister is sticking to. Because of cable supply pressures and the commitment that would be required by a federal investment decision, there is real pressure to make an advance commitment to cable supply. That is so dangerous for Tasmania. It would lock us into paying a minimum of $1 billion towards the prepurchase of a cable before an investment decision has been made.

The Greens are so concerned that this Liberal Government is driving up the debt in Tasmania. It is fiscally irresponsible in a climate emergency. We have to be looking at the debt that is sustainable for the state and delivers us outcomes that are going to be good for investment here on island. Let us not forget that when we are exporting electrons, we are also exporting jobs. Who is working with the major industrials, who is talking to Norske Skog about how they can be sustainable in the future? They have not heard any good ideas from this minister. He is only out there for press conferences. He is clearly not grappling with the hard issues in Tasmania about security for major industrials - that is sustainable energy, working to create jobs and protect our environment.