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Project Marinus - Cost Estimates

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 16 August 2023

Tags: Marinus Link, State Budget, Transparency

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, I cannot promise to get quite as many laughs across the Chamber. That was pretty good, Mr Tucker.

I will start by speaking to the amendment that the Government has put here. It is outrageous. Mr Barnett's speech was trying to paint the narrative that we are all simpletons in here and so are Tasmanians. Trust us, he said, we are doing deals on your behalf behind closed doors. We could not possibly talk about it to you because anything we could say might break confidence, legal privilege and all the other big scary words that he used. What he has tried to remove from this motion of Labor's, which we support, is the important stuff. His amended motion says, 'the Tasmanian Government, recognising probity, commits to table the cost estimates for each of the below projects following the completion of all relevant procurement processes'.

We understand there is wide speculation from many places in Tasmania that this minister, Marinus Link, TasNetworks, Hydro are in secret deals to sign our state up to a procurement tender process for cables worth in the order of $1 billion to $2 billion. If he is waiting to tell Tasmanians what he signed up to until he has finished inking his signature on a contract that is going to put us in a debt that we do not know about, he can think again.

We will not put up with it. Our job is to scrutinise the Government. This is the most enormous debt that this minister and this Liberal Government is proposing to take on behind closed doors in Tasmania's history. I cannot imagine another time where this much money has been talked about. Not only the Government going into debt but telling nobody anything about the details and the cost.

He is going to do an advance purchase procurement. He has never denied this, under repeated questions from the Greens and Labor in Estimates the last couple of years. I asked the minister nine times about the costs for Marinus and about whether there was this procurement process in train. He refused to answer. That is what he does. He does not answer but he is responsible as a minister of the Crown for being honest in this place, being transparent. This parliament has a right to order the Government to table the documents. To table all the expenses they are proposing to sign up to and to understand the separate cost estimates for Marinus Link, the North West Transmission Line and Battery of the Nation.

We heard at Estimates from Mr Voss that the range of cost for Marinus Link would be $3.1 billion with an upper range of $3.8 billion. Now we have heard that the most credible estimate is it would be in the order of $5 billion to $5.5 billion. That is just for Marinus Link. We have not heard about the North West Transmission Line.

This is an enormous step for the state to consider taking on. That is a big deal. It should be something that the whole of the community has a considered discussion about.

Marinus Link, if it ever were the right way to go, has now lost the race because it has been blown out of the water by the advancement of battery technologies. The original agreement that Victoria signed up to before the federal election was a sweetener that the Labor Party was requiring the Victorians to sign up to before the Victorian election. That required them to sign up to a 6.5 per cent contribution towards the equity in Marinus Link.

That was not in Victoria's interests. The Minister for Energy in Victoria, Lily D'Ambrosio, has released the Victorian Government's commitment to a 100 per cent renewable energy plan. No part of that plan mentions importing renewable electricity from Tasmania. It is not in their equation. It is because they have gone with the pathway that many large businesses and state jurisdictions are going with: investing in large-scale batteries. These provide the firming capacity and short-term or increasingly longer term storage options for excess electricity that is generated from wind farms and solar.

It gives those generators the opportunity to produce and put power into the grid. When they have excess they put it in the batteries and release it later on. The Marinus business case has been blown out of the water by the advancement in large-scale batteries. It has also been blown out of the water by the costs that we are hearing of and the lack of discussion about how that debt would be placed on Tasmanians; how long it would last for and how much we would be paying back each year. There will be a debt on the state and there will also be ongoing costs each year for servicing that debt.

The Liberal Government has never provided a business case. They like to say that they are the best economic managers but they are the worst. They cannot tell Tasmanians how much they are going to spend and they cannot tell us how long we will be in debt for. The cannot even tell us where the money is coming from. They cannot tell us how much they are seeking from the federal government. That is not business in confidence. That is just openness. There is no legal danger by telling Tasmanians what their intentions are with getting a loan from the federal government. That is just straight dealing.

A minister of the Crown has refused to tell Tasmanians whether or not he signed up to an advance tender contract to procure a cable - an advance down-payment. We would like him to respond by the end of today. He can come back during the adjournment to do it, since he has now run out of time, and tell us whether he or his Government or his GBE has signed a procurement contract for a cable - and, if so, for how much?

There is no opportunity here for the Government to hide on this. The parliament is very determined that these large sums of money cannot be extracted from Tasmanians without our understanding and without our agreement.

Labor has outlined a process here to order the Government, to order the minister, to provide the letter that was sent by the deputy premier Michael Ferguson, and by himself, to the Prime Minister in July, and to provide the details about the North West Transmission Developments and the Battery of the Nation projects which that leader says are subject to cost escalation, and to outline the Government's concerns, which the letter ostensibly contains, that the projects are currently not able to be effectively managed within the fiscal capacity of the Tasmanian budget.

We want to see all of the information surrounding the conversations with the federal government around this matter, and we want all of the latest cost estimates and any contracts that are being considered or are in the process of being signed at the moment - and we want to have them today.