24 May 2024

Topics: Hobart stadium and GST exemption, multicultural community, immigration, housing, nuclear

E&OE

 

Senator Duniam:

The GST is a lifeblood when it comes to funding essential services in Tasmania and for nearly a year now, we’ve been asking the Federal Labor Government to ensure that the funding that was given to the Tasmanian Government for the Macquarie Point Precinct to be exempt from GST calculations. That means the money would not be taken away once funding was received or promised for, effectively, the Macquarie Point Stadium. Just yesterday, the Treasurer finally responded to at least four letters from the Treasurer of Tasmania, Michael Ferguson, and at least one letter from every single member of the Tasmanian contingent that goes to Canberra across the entire political spectrum minus Labor senators and members requesting that exemption be granted. He has dudded Tasmania. Tasmania is now without $240 million of GST receipts we are entitled to. Jim Chalmers has gone and exempted a sporting precinct in his own electorate of Rankin from GST calculations because, he argues, it’s part of the infrastructure for the Brisbane Olympics. But that argument does not stack up when you look at all of the other infrastructure projects and payments that have been exempted from GST overtime at the request of the Treasurer. The Tasmanian Labor team here, Brian Mitchell, Julie Collins, Helen Polley, Anne Urquhart, Catryna Bilyk, Carol Brown, all of them had one job and that was to ensure that their Treasurer, the bloke who sits down the front of their party room, made sure Tasmania was not dudded. Today they’re making excuses and they’re standing idly by while we are $240 million worse off. They’ve sided with Canberra, not with Tasmania, and they need to reverse this decision urgently.

 

Journalist:

What do you think of some of the flow and consequences of us not having that exemption?

 

Senator Duniam:

Well firstly, it sets a precedent. Anthony Albanese when he was Infrastructure Minister last time around in 2012 exempted the money for Macquarie Point’s remediation work, $50 million from GST. We were able to in the last Government exempt $730 million odd from GST for the Mersey Community Hospital. It sets a precedent that Tasmania will stand idly by and allow Canberra to take money due to Tasmania out of its coffers. It’s not ok. But at the end of the day, the rubber hits the road when it comes to provision of essential services, health, education, roads, housing, all of that money, $240 million taken out of this state’s capacity to deliver those essential services for Tasmanians while Queensland, Jim Chalmers’ own electorate is able to keep money that he is able to spend on a stadium that has no reduction in GST. It’s a bad precedent, and Tasmanian Labor members and senators know that this is the case, and they should change this decision immediately.

 

Journalist:

Michael Ferguson said last night he’d be raising this with the Federal Opposition Leader and seeking a discussion regarding a future election commitment. Will you do the same?

 

Senator Duniam:

Absolutely. We’ve been calling on this Government to make sure Tasmania is looked after and we will go to the next election making sure Tasmania is looked after. It is incumbent upon any Federal Government to look after smaller jurisdictions. I’ve got one job and this letter, this letter signed by every member and senator except for the Labor members and senators proves that first and foremost, we’ve got to do one thing – look after Tasmania rather than our own political patch. We’re on Tasmania’s side. Jacqui Lambie Network’s on Tasmania’s side, Andrew Wilkie, the Greens, we’re all standing up for Tasmania. Where were Labor when they had that one job to stand up for their state. They failed.

 

Journalist:

It’s not a job for the Tasmanian Liberal Party to lock in that exemption while the deal was actually being negotiated?

 

Senator Duniam:

Well, requests had been made by the Tasmanian Government prior to the deal being inked, and assurance was informally given, but they’ve been reneged upon. It is now over to the Federal Government to explain why, after four letters from the Deputy Premier and Treasurer after a series of questions in the Australian Parliament through Estimates and Question Time, correspondence from every single Federal Member of Parliament minus the Labor team here in Tasmania, why they refuse to do what is right. And so, Tassie’s done its bit. We know where the Tasmanian Government stands. We know where most members and senators from Tasmania stand. We now sadly know where the Federal Labor Party stand and it is not with Tasmania, it is with Canberra and the bean counters in the beautiful, carpeted, air conditioned buildings, not for Tasmanians who need every dollar of this GST.

 

Journalist:

Does the Federal Liberal Party now support the stadium and you said that you would give an exemption as well, so you now support having a stadium there?

 

Senator Duniam:

So, ever since the deal has been done to ensure we get a team, have committed to ensuring that nothing is done to unpick that deal. We will not stand in the way of Tasmania getting its own football team. We will honour the commitment that’s been made in terms of funding toward a stadium. So yes, therefore we do support that and we think it’s important that in doing so, the GST share for Tasmania is protected. That’s as I said before, before me being a shadow minister, before me being a Liberal, I’m a Tasmanian. And I will stand up along with my colleagues, to make sure we get our fair share of GST.

 

Journalist:

Given that this money’s all now going to come out of the state budget and will reduce the amount of money available for health and education, shouldn’t we just say thanks but no thanks to the Federal Government grant?

 

Senator Duniam:

Well, I’m a believer that as a Tasmanian we can have all of it. We don’t have to forgo one over the other and I don’t think any Tasmanian wants to give up the team that everyone has fought so hard for, just because Jim Chalmers and Anthony Albanese and Brian Mitchell and Julie Collins are too stingy to give Tasmania what it is owed. They’ve promised us this funding for the Macquarie Point precinct, but they should also do the must-haves on top of the nice-to-haves and that is GST funding for health, for education, for roads. So, I don’t believe it has to be one or the other. They’ve committed the money over there. They should also do their job for Tasmania and commit the funding for the GST.

 

Journalist:

When were assurances given before the deal? That’s not something I’ve heard before.

 

Senator Duniam:

Well, I understand there are a range of conversations between the Federal Government and the State Government indicating that Tasmania would be looked after and it is up to Jim Chalmers to explain why he’s not honoured those indications. It’s up to Jim Chalmers to tell us why he thinks it’s ok to indicate everything will be looked after and I dare say to his own Tasmanian colleagues and then after the election here in Tasmania, decide that they won’t honour Tasmanians by giving them their fair share of GST.

 

Journalist:

This list, it’s largely critical infrastructure and things that states genuinely seem to need. Do you think that this this isn’t necessarily critical infrastructure and that’s why it’s not a getting GST… and it is Tasmanian Government’s fault for prioritising this over other things and it’s their fault they’re not getting this.

 

Senator Duniam:

Well, if this isn’t critical infrastructure and it doesn’t get GST exemption, then I’d love to hear Anthony Albanese’s explanation as to why digging up soil and remediating a block of land gets a GST exemption. In that list also you’ll find offsets for reductions in GST receipts, a range of projects covered that I don’t think would fit the bill when it comes to ‘critical infrastructure’. Tasmania is a small jurisdiction and a bit of help from Canberra to build infrastructure that would help drive economic activity I don’t think he’s beyond the pale. And so, in getting that help from Canberra it should not come at the cost of providing for essential services. What Anthony Albanese and the Tasmanian Labor team have done is given with one hand and take them with the other. And they now need to change that decision, honour Tasmanians, and give us what we due. If Julie Collins and Brian Mitchell can’t do that then they are dudding Tasmanians, standing with Canberra, and abandoning our state.

 

Journalist:

If there is a future Federal Liberal Government, have you sought any assurances that that wouldn’t impact the future of the stadium?

 

Senator Duniam:

Our commitment is that we will not do anything to jeopardise Tasmania having a team. One of the conditions of having a team is having a stadium. So we will support that project. A deal’s being done. We’ve come this far. Not many people swim halfway across the river to swim backward again, back to where they started. We will finish the job. It’s what’s needed to get a team. Tasmania deserves it. But the one thing we will do differently is ensure that Tasmania does not miss out on what it is owed and that is GST funding.

 

Journalist:

And I’ve just got a question around multicultural issues. There’s been a spike in attacks on members of the multicultural community and the chair of the Multicultural Council of Tasmania on radio this morning said that the comments of the Federal Opposition Leader could be inflammatory towards the multicultural community. What do you feel about that?

 

Senator Duniam:

I’m not familiar with the comments that are being referred to there, but as a Tasmanian who has married someone from another country who has a different cultural background, and Peter Dutton who comes from an electorate that is made up of a large multicultural community, none of us want to see anyone attacked, vilified, ridiculed, harassed because of their racial or ethnic background. Australia is a tolerant country where we should respect everyone regardless of where they come from, what they believe, what they look like. That includes whether you’re an Israeli with Jewish beliefs or someone who comes from Palestine. We need to respect everyone, no matter what they believe, where they come from, what they look like, or any other characteristic. That is what is so good about Australia and I don’t believe that comments made by the Opposition Leader would in any way inflame tensions of that nature.

 

Journalist:

You don’t think that he’s somewhat demonising migrant communities for the housing crisis by his public comments?

 

Senator Duniam:

No I don’t believe that at all and we do need to look at the facts. When we are bringing in in excess of 1.6 million new Australians to this country at a time when we can’t provide housing for the people that already exist here, we need to deal with the issues that are causing a delay in people being able to access housing. It is one thing to try and build houses quickly to accommodate those who need it, but when you’re bringing more people into this country at a rate we cannot actually physically accommodate, we then have to slow the number of people coming in. That’s what our policy is about. It is not about attacking people because of where they come from, who they are, what they look like or what they believe in. It is dealing with the reality to ensure that those who need houses – women fleeing domestic violence, people who can’t afford their rent – making sure housing supply comes on for those who need it is important. And part of that is ensuring that we manage the number of people that are coming into this country, not because we don’t like them, but because we want this country to be able to cater for those who are here and those who will ultimately come under a more sustainable immigration intake.

 

Journalist:

Do you accept that maybe that that way of thinking isn’t cutting through? The feedback from the community is that there is the perception there that the Opposition (inaudible) contributing to the housing issues.

 

Senator Duniam:

The numbers speak for themselves. The reality is we need to be able to provide housing here for those who need it already, as at today, and we are not keeping up with that. Targets around the amount of housing to be built are not being met. Therefore, people who need houses aren’t getting them. This is not about targeting people who come from overseas. This is not about vilifying particular people because of their religious beliefs or ethnic background. This is about dealing with the reality. You go out and talk to people that can’t find housing, you go out and talk to people that can’t afford their rent, you talk to women fleeing domestic violence w