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Project Marinus - Cost Estimates

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 16 August 2023

Tags: Marinus Link

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, I have had a chance to briefly read the letter that minister Barnett tabled from the Marinus Link chairman, Roger Gill.

We are really concerned at the level of disrespect this minister is showing an order of the House. He does not seem to understand that he has now placed the Government in contempt of the House. It was an order that was collectively made from all other members - the Opposition, the Greens and the four Independent members to show Tasmanians exactly what the current cost estimates are for those projects.

We did not ask the minister to provide all the legal documents and all the advice and information around negotiations to do with purchase and procurement of parts of any of those projects. That is not what he was ordered to do. He was ordered to provide the latest cost estimates for Marinus Link, North West Transmission Developments and Battery of the Nation.

He has defied the will of the House and refused to provide the information that he was ordered to provide. He has assembled a grab bag of legalese to try to shroud the fact that he is refusing to give the latest cost estimates of these big projects after the Government has just acknowledged their concerns about the fiscal capacity of the state to pay for them.

We do not accept that there is not a capacity for the minister to come into the House and tell us what their estimated cost is. We are not asking about the precise contract or the process that is in play. There is no legal jeopardy or sovereign risk as the Attorney-General is pretending there would be. If we are already at that point, then as a House we have a right to ask the Government to defend itself to Tasmanians because Tasmanians have never signed up to this level of debt. We do not even know what the level of debt is.

I remember the first conversations around Marinus Link. They were in the order of $1.8 billion, back in the day, six years ago. That was the figure that was being bandied around. With each election cycle, each campaigning opportunity, each photograph with federal ministers and prime ministers where Marinus Link has been announced and re announced over the last six years, that figure has steadily increased.

In the last Estimates we had in a Budget scrutiny from Mr Voss and it was $3.1 billion for Marinus Link. Yet we have heard only two months after that it could be $5.5 billion. This was an order of the House. The letter that he has tabled from Mr Gill shows us that Marinus Link has begun a tender procurement with international supplies for the highly specialised cable and converter equipment necessary to deliver the project.

He goes on to say that they will not or cannot advise breaching what he says are:

highly sensitive contract negotiations by tabling commercially sensitive information that would compromise contractual negotiations and risk for each of our legal and confidentiality obligations.

He is only referring to the cable and to the converter equipment. There is far more in the Marinus Link project that has been proposed by this Government than those two items. There is the whole cost of construction. That is not referred to in the letter that Mr Gill has written. There is also the whole of the North West Transmission line. None of that is referred to in the letter. That is not what is in train at the moment. In train at the moment, we understand, is procurement for a cable - or two cables. We would like to know, one or two? When will they be delivered? On time? What will the cost be if they are not delivered on time?

We do not have any information from the Government to the question of the cost for the North West Transmission line or Battery of the Nation despite the fact they were ordered. The minister has defied the House's order in relation to Marinus Link to North West Transmission costs, to Battery of the Nation and here we are in a situation where Tasmanians know nothing except the fact that their power bills have been going up, year on year. They are so high at the moment and it is adding to the burden of people struggling to pay all sorts of bills.

The pre investment decision from the Federal Government will not happen until the end of next year. So, what we have is this Government is going ahead, behind closed doors, making secret arrangements that they are not revealing to Tasmanians and defying an order of the House. We want to know what they are spending on our behalf.