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Ministerial Statement – Marinus Link

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 5 September 2023

Tags: Marinus Link

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, we had a breathless announcement from the minister on the weekend that Tasmanians had a great deal. It was a 'ripper deal' he said, that the two 750 megawatt Marinus Link cables that he has been talking up for years now will be reduced to just one for the same price that we were going to pay for two $3 billion to $3.3 billion. In Estimates only two months ago, and in the Budget papers, we were told directly by the minister that the price would be up to $3.8 billion.

We are now expected to be excited about the fact that we will get one cable for the price of two. Only in Tasmania could you call that a great deal. Only in Tasmania under this Liberal Government could you call that a great deal. We have been told for years now that Tasmania has so much energy that we could be the battery of the nation and help the mainland get off coal and gas. All we need is a shiny new Marinus Link and a 1500 megawatt extension cord and big dollars will flow to Tasmania. However, we have had this 100 per cent reversal and we are told that Tasmania does not have enough power. This is a new narrative that the minister has started this year where, according to the minister, we are desperately short of power and we would have power shortages unless we import power from the mainland.

This is more 'mission creep' under this Government and it is changing goal posts every six months. We could not do without two power cables but now we can settle for one. We were also told by the minister on the weekend in part this is about hedging against Basslink redundancy but Basslink is obviously not redundant because the Tasmanian Government must have supported the company in their bid to the Australian Economic Regulator for that cable to become a regulated asset. What is going to happen is that Tasmanians have already paid once for Basslink and now consumers are going to pay twice. We have an existing Basslink cable that the Government is backing to become a regulated asset and that means that TasNetworks will be able to charge us through our power bills to pay off the cost of that asset.

No one seriously believes that mainland Australia needs Tasmania's energy. We are pursuing through this minister a financial millstone around our necks. The Greens are really concerned that it has been a decade of circular discussions about an energy solution for Tasmania and what we have got through the minister's statement is 'everything is dependent on everything else'.

We will have the North West transmission corridor, do not worry, there is a process in place where we can all have a say, a process for consultation, and that is dependent on Marinus Link but do not worry, we can have a conversation about that too, and we will also have Battery of the Nation and that is going to feed the process. Every single part of that process apparently is all tickety-boo and we are all going to have a say, according to the minister.

However, what he said in his ministerial statement is that there will be a business case completed and independently reviewed at least 30 days before a final investment decision is due and it will be made publicly available. Well, when will that be made publicly available? After the investment decision has been taken to go ahead with the project? What about the cable that is apparently being procured by the Commonwealth Government now in advance? We heard the minister say in his statement that there is an underwriting process from the Commonwealth Government for that cable. Why was the minister able to provide us with a cost estimate in the Budget papers in the budget process at a time that he said it was a commercial-in-confidence and procurement issue? It is in the Budget.

According to the minister, today is the day he is allowed to speak. He did a media storm on the weekend with the federal government and somehow it has made it okay again to talk about the cost estimate for a process. We are talking billions of dollars that Tasmanians are going to pay for, but it was in the Budget papers and you cannot tell us that this so-called commercial-in-confidence process was not in train just two months ago, so what is it? You did not answer questions when they were asked by the Greens and the Opposition and Independent members of this House in Estimates for hours about this process. You do not tell Tasmanians what is going on. You wait until you have it sorted out internally and you can sense the real pressure that is coming on you and the Government.

Last weekend was all about saving you from the fact that you have defied an order of the House to provide us with the answers that we rightfully demand on behalf of Tasmanian consumers and all people who care about a renewable future. That is what this is about. Come back and tell us why it was okay to give a cost estimate in July but it is not okay to say it in August. It does not stack up. It is a stinky, slippery approach that this minister takes to all of his portfolios. We do not buy it. We have only started asking questions, so get used to it and try giving us some straight answers for a change.