The Tasmanian Liberal Senate Team has demanded the Federal Government act immediately to remove any threat to funding of the three vital Bass Strait transport schemes that underpin Tasmania's viability following the High Court ruling in the case of Williams v the Commonwealth.
The High Court's decision this week brought into question the power of the Commonwealth to fund programs without legislative support.
The Bass Strait Passenger Vehicle Scheme, the Bass Straight Freight Equalisation Scheme and the Tasmanian Wheat Freight Scheme are all now vulnerable, Senator Richard Colbeck said on behalf of the Tasmanian Liberal Senate Team.
"Advice provided to the Tasmanian Liberal Senate Team has cast doubt on all three Bass Strait transport schemes as the programs all run on "Ministerial Directions" and have no legislative backing," Senator Colbeck said.
"The advice we received concludes:
"It would appear questionable whether or not the three Tasmanian transport schemes are valid in their current form. Whether this means that they are now void, or just are susceptible to being prospectively declared void, is not clear."
"These schemes could be challenged by any business seeking to put a Tasmanian competitor at a substantial disadvantage.
"Major Tasmanian employers benefit from these equalisation schemes, including farmers and food processors like Simplot, Cascade, James Boag and Cadbury, and manufacturing companies like Norske Skog. The Passenger Vehicle scheme is a fundamental pillar of our tourism industry.
"These three schemes fundamentally underpin Tasmania's economy and any question over their validity must be remedied immediately.
"The Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme alone contributes about $100 million annually, in 2010-11 the Passenger Vehicle Scheme was valued at $36.5 million and the Wheat Freight Scheme is a further $1 million, plus there is then a multiplier effect.
"The Tasmanian economy cannot afford any period of uncertainty given its current fragility, which is the result of combined poor efforts from Labor-Green governments at both State and Federal levels.
"The Federal Government must move immediately to assure Tasmanians and Tasmanian businesses that these schemes will be made secure," Senator Colbeck said.