Ms O'CONNOR question to TREASURER, Mr FERGUSON
We know Greens Senator Nick McKim belled the cat on your ineptitude in Senate Estimates yesterday. Could you please tell the House exactly what date and time the letter to Treasurer Chalmers seeking a GST exemption for the stadium, but not York Park, was sent?
Mr Speaker, I thank the member who asked the question. I wrote to Dr Chalmers on 9 May 2023 and I will be tabling this letter for the House.
Ms O'Connor - What time?
Mr FERGUSON - I am comfortable to say to the member that I transmitted that letter in the afternoon of 9 May, 2023. I am not embarrassed about the fact that the letter -
Mr SPEAKER - Order.
Mr FERGUSON - Mr Speaker, they have nothing - no policies, no plans, and they went to Canberra arguing against funding for Tasmania.
Mr SPEAKER - Order. The Treasurer should be heard in silence.
Mr FERGUSON - I will be tabling this letter because it actually undermines the case made by Labor and the Greens today, that somehow we responded only to Question Time. Very clearly, discussions had been had between the Premier and the Prime Minister well before any issues were raised in this House. It is a standing matter that the Australian Government to this day has still not made that decision in Tasmania's interest. I want to see that decision made in our state's interest.
This side of the House is very clear on what we are calling on the Australian Government and the Australian Treasurer to do, noting, as I have said in this House on numerous occasions, there is only one person legally able to provide that GST exemption. It is not the Premier of Tasmania and it is not the Prime Minister of Australia. It is only the federal Treasurer, Dr Chalmers. My letter reads as follows:
I am writing to you regarding the funding that the Australian Government has committed to provide for Tasmania for the development of the Macquarie Point precinct and the GST treatment of the relevant Commonwealth payments.
Further to our recent discussions, I am now formally requesting you to write to the Chair of the Commonwealth Grants Commission to request that these payments are excluded from the calculation of GST relativities for the 2024 update.
I would also appreciate your confirmation that you will amend the terms of reference to include this direction. I note that a formal direction of this nature will be required in the terms of reference for each GST relativity update for the duration of the funding agreement that will support the delivery of these payments.
I table the letter for the House. I normally would not do that because I like to try to protect good engagement between the state and the Commonwealth government -
Ms Finlay - After the deal is done.
Mr SPEAKER - Order, member for Bass.
Mr FERGUSON - but in Senate Estimates a member of the Department of Treasury discussed that letter. So, in the interests of full transparency, the public should see the full contents.
We have been standing up for Tasmania continually through this time, not just in respect of securing the funding for the Macquarie Point Urban Renewal Project but also the Premier has been clear that he has been requesting a GST exemption from the Australian Government in those negotiations. The document I have just tabled backs that. It is further to our discussions -
Mr SPEAKER - Order.
Mr FERGUSON - The noisy Opposition would do well to follow in the footsteps of their friend, Senator Carol Brown who, in a different Senate Estimates discussion with Senator Duniam, who was pressing the point on behalf of Tasmania - that is, Senator Duniam, Liberal senator for Tasmania, was advocating for Tasmania -
Ms Butler - Was he not against the stadium?
Mr SPEAKER - Member for Lyons, order.
Mr FERGUSON - Mr Speaker, you always know when you are under their skin when they get a bit chirpy over there. These interjections and that pretend laugh.
Ms Finlay - Like your narkiness yesterday.
Mr SPEAKER - Order, member for Bass. That is three times.
Mr FERGUSON - Senator Duniam was pressing the Assistant Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, Senator Brown, on the matter of the GST exemption and whether or not the Labor senators and MHRs have been doing what we have been doing - seeking the exemption.
In a series of questions and answers it emerged that the Labor senators had not, at that time, advocated. Senator Brown was good enough to say that she is going to look into it and said, 'I am happy to have a conversation with the Treasurer'. She later said, which was a development of things because that work had not been done, 'as a Tasmanian senator I would absolutely like to see the best possible deal for Tasmania'. Defending herself against an accusation from Senator Duniam that she had not done enough, Senator Brown later went on to say to Senator Duniam, 'You criticise me for not doing it prior, even though I knew the Tasmanian Treasurer was doing it on behalf of Tasmania'.
I encourage Ms White to have some gumption, swallow her pride and acknowledge that, even though she went to Canberra to try to convince Albo to not support our funding, to put that behind her -
Mr SPEAKER - Treasurer, it will be the Prime Minister when dealing with -
Mr FERGUSON - The Prime Minister, affectionately known only by that nickname but I respect his title as Prime Minister.
I encourage you, Ms White, to do the right thing and swallow your pride, even though you went on the anti trade mission, and instead advocate for Tasmania and do your part to help get that exemption for Tasmania. That is in Tasmania's interests.