Tassie projects wrapped up in red tape

*Speech delivered in Senate on 21st March 2023.

Bureaucrats are costing investment in Tasmania and Tasmanian jobs.

All because they keep changing the goalposts.

There are some projects in Tassie that have been gathering dust on the desks of state and federal ministers for five years. Five years since they submitted their paperwork and they still can’t get any developments approved.

Some of them do get an approval, and just while they’re popping the champagne, along comes a new email with a new condition. 

A new hoop to jump through. 

So they drop everything, go back to the bureaucrats, blow out the timeline and the project keeps grinding its gears.

Businesses are getting to the end of a marathon, and the finish line is in sight, but just when they’re about to break that ribbon, it gets yanked back another few hundred metres. 

They’re always told, ‘it’s with the minister’, or ‘it’s with the department’. And that’s where it stays: in that black hole of bureaucracy. 

I’m not saying companies shouldn’t have to go through the checks and balances for these major projects. 

Of course they should. We have guidelines in place for a reason. But they’re decision guidelines. Because at some point, you’re supposed to make a decision.

Now, I’m not naive. Things don’t move quickly in political circles. 

But some projects are over five years in, have spent millions of dollars, and still haven’t turned a sod of dirt. This red tape is holding up projects for years. It’s costing us hundreds of potential jobs. 

Take the proposed tailings dam at MMG. 

You talk to the locals in Rosebery and they’re all for it. They know the town needs the mine. They’re one and the same. You can’t have one without the other.

Every time I go to visit, it seems like another shop has closed down. The mine has hundreds of employees, most of whom drive in and drive out every week for work. 

Without the mine, the place will be a ghost town. 

And if a decision on the project isn’t made by the State and Federal Governments soon, the decision will be made for them. 

Because it’ll be too late. 

MMG says the mine - and the 500 jobs with it - will not survive beyond 2024 without this new tailings storage solution. But they haven’t got a decision, and crunch time is closing in. 

Jacqui and I can’t get a straight answer about who exactly is holding up the process. The State Government says it’s the Feds. The Federal Government says it’s the state.

It’s the same with the Robbins Island wind farm down Circular Head way.

ACEN Renewables spent more than four years working with the Environment Protection Agency. They worked to try and make sure the project could still go ahead without hurting the environment.

Out of the blue they’ve been hit with a condition that says they have to shut down for five months of the year. 

Find me any business, any industry that can shutdown for five months of the year and not operate at a loss. It’s ridiculous. It’s like a business getting approved to operate, so long as it agrees to go bankrupt.

The project is currently going through an appeals process about this five-month condition. 

That’s more time. More delays. They won’t wait forever. They can’t. But if we lose them, we’d be losing up to 400 construction jobs. 65 ongoing jobs.

I’ve spoken to three world-class businesses who want to bring work to Tasmania. 

These are large projects with hundreds of jobs attached and a lot of money behind them. They want to be here, and we need them. 

But they’re worried. They’ve seen what’s happened with other projects. They don’t want to get years in and have nothing to show for it - they need to get moving now. 

These businesses are really questioning if it’s worth their time and money to build in Tassie. We need to find a way to cut red tape. To stop moving the goalposts. To stop adding track to the end of the marathon. 

No business can afford to spend five years and millions of dollars trying to get a project up. 

And even if they do, they risk getting approved with conditions that make it impossible to operate anyway.

Who would invest in Tasmania if we’ve got bureaucrats doing everything they can to make the process as painful as possible? 

We aren’t the only state that needs investment. 

We’re just the only state that makes it impossible to invest here.