24 May 2024

Topics: Hobart stadium and GST exemption

E&OE

 

Mel Bush:

Jonathon Duniam, the Tasmanian Liberal Senator, he’s previously spoken up against any Government funding for the stadium but it seems he may have changed his tune. Jonathon Duniam, welcome to the program.

 

Senator Duniam:

Hey Mel, good to be with you.

 

Mel Bush:

The Federal Treasurer, Jim Chalmers, he says this is one hundred per cent consistent with the way that these kinds of urban renewal projects are treated, you know, unless you’re the Olympics for example, or Commonwealth Games. So why don’t you accept that argument?

 

Senator Duniam:

Well, I would accept it if it were fact. I mean it was only in 2012 when Anthony Albanese was the Minister for Infrastructure that they were able to exempt from GST calculations the money used to remediate the Macquarie Point Precincts site. That was to dig a big hole and treat the soil. I mean, I’m not quite sure how somehow that’s eligible for a GST exemption but the project that the Tasmanian Government has been working with the Australian Government on is somehow not. It doesn’t stack up and frankly it is not good for Tasmania and, really, anti-Tasmanian.

 

Mel Bush:

So you’re saying that that $50 million was not part of the GST carve up.

 

Senator Duniam:

So the $50 million that the Tasmanian Government received from Canberra in 2012 was exempt from their calculations, so it did not come off our GST receipts. The request from Michael Ferguson and from every member of the Australian Parliament that comes from Tassie, except for Labor members, was that the $240 million that the Commonwealth Government, the Albanese Government, is giving to Tassie for the Macquarie Point Precinct doesn’t come out of our GST share. That’s all we were asking for because, to your original point at the beginning of our interview here, you mentioned that we weren’t keen on funding going to the stadium. I would just have one caveat. We weren’t keen on funding going to the stadium only in the case where it came away from health or education, that would be a bad deal. What we are now seeing is funding going to the stadium…

 

Mel Bush:

That was you specifically, wasn’t it Jonathon Duniam? It was you specifically that didn’t want any, you know, Government funding going to the stadium.

 

Senator Duniam:

The federal opposition did not believe that with finite resources that is taxpayers money which doesn’t grow on a tree, that we should just be handing it over to something when we know there’s health, education, roads, housing, domestic violence support, all of these things that need money. We said if you’re going to fund the nice-to-haves you must fund the must-haves and what we’re seeing now with GST exemption not being applied to this funding, we are now having money going from Canberra into that project at the expense of other things.

 

Mel Bush:

Senator, can I put to you there is a great deal of difference between $50 million as it was for the precinct when, as you mentioned, Anthony Albanese was Infrastructure Minister, a big difference between that and $240 million. Can I put to you the inconsistency here with other stadiums? Mr Chalmers has pointed out that the Townsville Stadium in his own state was also not exempt from GST so why should Tasmania be that special case?

 

Senator Duniam:

Well, I would argue Tasmania is a very different economy from Queensland for a start. We’re much smaller and we rely on GST much more than Queensland. I might also point out that Mr Chalmers while making that argument didn’t highlight for people who might be interested in this than in his own electorate of Rankin he exempted from GST calculations a stadium which he somehow spuriously linked to the Brisbane 2032 Olympics from GST calculations, All up funding for infrastructure for the 2032 Olympics is going to cost taxpayers $3.5 billion, all of that exempt from GST. So we’re asking for $240 million to be exempted from calculations. The Treasurer, including in his own seat in Queensland, was able to exempt from GST calculations $3.5 billion dollars for the state of Queensland. So if he wants to put those facts out there, he should put all of them out there. Tasmanians have been dubbed by him.

 

Mel Bush:

If you’ve just jumped in the car and you’re heading home, it is fourteen past five on Drive around Tasmania and your guest, Tasmanian Liberal Senator Jonathon Duniam. Don’t your state, Jonathon Duniam, don’t your state Liberal counterparts wear a little bit of the responsibility for this because they didn’t formally request an exemption until after the AFL deal and federal funding had been announced. A little too late.

 

Senator Duniam:

No look I don’t buy that at all and I’m certainly aware of the fact that informal indications had been provided from the Commonwealth to Tasmania that you would expect and that they would deliver on GST calculations not being applied to this funding. The fact is now, after all of this time, they’ve reneged on that and Tasmanians are going to be $240 million worse off as a result. So, it’s not good news for them and I don’t put this at the feet of the Tasmanian Government, they’ve been calling on this for well over a year now and the answer is no and that is at the feet of Jim Chalmers and Anthony Albanese.

 

Mel Bush:

So you don’t think it was a mistake for Treasurer Michael Ferguson not to secure this guarantee before announcing the deal with Anthony Albanese in April last year?

 

Senator Duniam:

As I say, indications were that we would receive the exemption as part of the process of securing the funding. That deal has been reneged upon and it is on Jim Chalmers to explain why, while he indicated ahead of time that we would be taking care of in that respect, why now we have not been provided that funding. It it’s not up to the Tasmanian Government to make a call on GST exemptions, requests have been made. Jim Chalmers has made the decision in response to those requests, and the answer is no Tasmania, you can’t have what you deserve and that is the crying shame in all of this.

 

Mel Bush:

It is sounding a little like an election campaign, I must say. Are you planning to carve this out as a campaign issue in the federal election, Senator?

 

Senator Duniam:

Can I make a point, there’s a letter that was sent last September to Jim Chalmers from eleven of the seventeen federal representatives in Tasmania. They included the Greens Senators Peter Whish-Wilson and Nick McKim, included Tammy Tyrrell and Jacqui Lambie, it included Andrew Wilkie, included all of my Liberal colleagues as well, and so that is a fairly diverse group of people who represent a fairly diverse group of Tasmanians, all calling for the same thing. It was only the Labor members of Parliament and senators who refused to sign it because they knew exactly what was going to happen here. So you betcha this will be a part of the campaign moving forward. Whenever the election is called, it’s in their court, but we’re going to make sure all of us across the political spectrum that Tasmanians get their share and we’re not ripped off as Labor are now making us be.

 

Mel Bush:

Senator, thanks for your perspective. Appreciate your time.

 

Senator Duniam:

Thanks Mel.