Interview with Brian Carlton on Tasmania Talks

28 June 2016

TRANSCRIPT OF SENATOR THE HON RICHARD COLBECK

MINISTER FOR TOURISM AND INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION

INTERVIEW WITH BRIAN CARLTON

TASMANIA TALKS PROGRAMME

Subjects: Senate voting reforms, Cradle Mountain Master Plan.

EO&E...............................................................................................................................

BRIAN CARLTON:

Joining me now is the Liberal Senator for Tasmania and also the Tourism Minister, Senator Richard Colbeck is on line, g'day Senator, how are you going?

RICHARD COLBECK:

I'm not too bad, thanks Brian.

BRIAN CARLTON:

That's the way. Now can we get politics out of the way first and then we will have a chat about Cradle in a second which is, arguably, well not necessarily, the more important issue. Now you came in at number five on the Liberal Senate ticket which some people are saying is a winnable position, some people aren't. You'd have to argue though that the recent changes to the voting system in the Senate has made it a little easier for what you might say are candidates lower down the Senate ticket to secure a one, two or three vote. Now, I'm right there aren't I? You do have a better chance under the current voting model than you did under the previous one of being returned?

RICHARD COLBECK:

What the changes to the voting system do is to make it easier for people to vote below the line, there is no question about that. They don't have to number the whole ticket they only need to number up to twelve candidates.

BRIAN CARLTON:

Twelve, yeah that's right.

RICHARD COLBECK:

Which is the number of candidates being elected. So that does, I think, make it people more comfortable in voting below the line so that does increase the opportunities for people to do that and I've had that sense moving around the state over the last eight weeks or so but I think the primary vote above the line still will have a significant influence in the overall vote.

BRIAN CARLTON:

Yeah I spoke to Phil Diak from the AEC yesterday and he seemed to indicate about 30 per cent of Tasmanians already vote below the line. I would expect a bit of an uptick in that off the back of the changes that we have discussed. So, look, it does make it a little easier for some of the lower placed Senate candidates, like Lisa Singh for example in the Labor Party, same kind of thing, she's been relegated to number six on the ticket and there's a bit of a move amongst Labor voters, I understand, to place her as the number one, fill out the other eleven numbers below the line and there's your vote. So you lower ranked, I hate using that term but you know what I mean, the lower ranked Senators on each ticket have a capacity to do a little better. Okay, look let's leave that aside.

The Cradle Mountain Master Plan we've been banging on remorselessly about here for a long time on the show. There was some disappointment now, not some disappointment, Richard, there was a huge amount of disappointment, amongst the tourism industry and those plugged into the economy in the North West who were terribly disappointed that you couldn't match the Labor commitment for $15 million for the Cradle Mountain Master Plan. Can you just talk through your reasoning for the $1 million business case funding?

RICHARD COLBECK:

Sure, look I understand that disappointment but as I said to you last time we spoke on this that I am supportive of the plan, I'd like to see it happen and I'd like to facilitate it happening. If you look at the $15 million that the Labor Party put in they basically dropped $15 million on the table because that's how much the state had put in and I don't think that's the basis for a funding decision. What I'd like to be able to do is to work with the State Government, with the Cradle Coast Authority and the tourism industry generally to actually facilitate this.

So we had a really good look at the report. As, I think, I indicated to you last time we spoke we've had our officials at Austrade, where we've got investment specialists and we've also got a Major Projects Facilitation Unit that, I think, this could fit in once it gets to the stage of being ready for that process to attract some major investors into this project.

It also identifies in the Master Plan a number of things that need to be done before this project can go ahead. So there is some local government issues, the hotel that is proposed, for example, in the Master Plan doesn't fit within the Kentish Council's planning scheme at the moment. There is some work to do there and I'm sure that the council will be happy to do that but if you look at environmental approvals there's flora and fauna, habitat, aquatic, historic, indigenous, geo-conservation, visual amenity studies to be done. The money that we have put on the table can go towards that process and bring the project up to investment level.

If you look at the key elements of the project, there are three of those. There's the cable car which is slated to cost about $60 million; there is other infrastructure around the park at about $41 million and then there's a major hotel development at $62 million. Now we can put the hotel aside because that's effectively a private sector investment. The other developments, at about $41 million in the plan, are expected to be equally funded between State and Commonwealth Government so there is a requirement there and then there is the cable car which in the Master Plan is listed to be fully funded by State and Commonwealth Government. Now, in my view and in the view of others that I have spoken to, there is an opportunity for that to be a fully private commercial investment. So if I can get a commercial operator in there, some private investment to actually make that happen, that saves taxpayers $60 million. It makes the total investment required from Government at about $41 million, so about $20 million each, and that is to make this whole thing happen and so the advice that I've had is that it could be a commercial investment. So I'd like to be able to have the opportunity to investigate that and to facilitate the other investment that might be required and make the decisions based on how much we actually need to spend.

Now I know that the tourism industry, Cradle Coast Authority said they'd like $30 million from each, the State and the Commonwealth, and that's fine, that was their ask but when you actually drill down and look at the opportunities here it might be that we only need to spend $40 million all up of taxpayer's money but still get the same result and I think that, if we can do that, that would be absolutely terrific.

So for me to be able to say to the Tasmanian people I'm prepared to do some of the work that will facilitate getting to that stage of attracting the major investor, using the services of Austrade which has a global reach into investment circles and you know we've done a lot of work in attracting investment into the tourism industry nationally over the last three years and so we've got a lot of good contacts and we also know potential project proponents. So the project doesn't have a proponent yet and if we can work to assist in that space we will do that.

I'd really like to see this project happen, we understand, very much, how important Cradle Mountain is to this state as an iconic tourism attraction and so I think what we have done is a responsible approach to the project. We will stay very close to the Tasmanian Government, Cradle Coast Authority, who I have had a couple of conversations with about what we are looking to do, and also the rest of the industry so that we can actually make this what it should be, which is a world-class visitor experience and the report actually says it really hinges around the cable way. An important element of that and so let's see what we can do to make that happen and do the studies that take away any potential inhibitors.

BRIAN CARLTON:

When I was up at Cradle last week there were some mutterings that perhaps the model could work, rather than the way you've described, is perhaps the state government makes an investment in the construction of the cable way and then leases it out for operation, maintenance purposes et cetera to a private operator. Would that be a Plan B perhaps?

RICHARD COLBECK:

Well I think that is the point, let's investigate what is possible.

BRIAN CARLTON:

Yeah ok.

RICHARD COLBECK:

If we can save taxpayer's money I think that would be a responsible thing for us as Government to do, whether it's State taxpayers or Commonwealth taxpayers for that respect. If we can facilitate this happening without having to put taxpayer's money in well that's fine. If we can't and we have to make some contribution well let's look at that, but let's put in what we need to put in, not a number that's basically determined beforehand.

BRIAN CARLTON:

I just think everybody wanted the idea - you know get a bit excited about a second major project for the North and North West. Obviously the UTas is very exciting in both Launceston and Burnie and there was just a sense that, you know, the Cradle Coast area kind of missed out a little bit and it would have been nice to see that funding as we rolled into the campaign. Senator, I'm afraid I'm out of time but I really appreciate you coming on to explain that because it makes a whole bunch more sense to me than it did a week ago, to be fair. I know I gave you a little bit of a whack the other day but it was just, it was just that profound disappointment because it's just such a no-brainer to me. The capacity to upgrade Cradle Mountain to the state we are talking about here would be a fundamentally wonderful thing for Tasmania.

RICHARD COLBECK:

I agree with you, Brian, that upgrading the visitor experience at Cradle is something that we should do and what I'd like to do is to facilitate that. I mean, I'm a big boy, I can handle a bit of frank conversation, I'm more than happy to engage in that and I appreciate the opportunity to come on and just explain the perspective that we are bringing to the project.

BRIAN CARLTON:

Happy to have it. Good luck for Saturday.

RICHARD COLBECK:

Thanks very much Brian.

BRIAN CARLTON:

Senator Richard Colbeck there, the federal Tourism Minister and of course number five on the Liberal ticket for Saturday's election in the Senate.

(ENDS)

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