Tasmanians should reject Tony Abbott’s attempts to bully them into selling Hydro Tasmania to raise money for infrastructure projects and demand he reverse road funding cutbacks in his 2014 Budget.
Despite promising before last year’s election to lift infrastructure investment, Mr Abbott’s 2014 Budget did not provide an extra cent beyond that which had been allocated by the former Labor Government.
In fact, the only change was a $100 million cut to previously allocated investment for the upgrading of the Midland Highway.
Now Mr Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey are pressuring Tasmania to sell public assets like Hydro Tasmania to qualify for infrastructure grants from their proposed asset recycling fund.
Tasmanians including the Liberal State Government have made clear they do not want to sell Hydro Tasmania. It provides a valuable revenue stream for the state.
Mr Hockey’s proposed privatisation fund is simply a device through which he is attempting to avoid his own responsibility to fund nation-building infrastructure projects.
He wants credit for infrastructure investment but expects the states to do all the heavy lifting.
Mr Hockey apparently does not care about the arguments for or against these asset sales. He wants a state fire sale at any cost.
Ports, railways, roads, Hydro Tasmania; Mr Hockey wants the whole lot privatised.
What next, the Snowy River Hydro scheme?
Labor believes in Commonwealth investment in the roads, ports, railways and other infrastructure that will drive future productivity gains and jobs growth.
Labor opposes indiscriminate sales of public assets like Hydro Tasmania and treats privatisation proposals on a case-by-case basis.
While there are circumstances where asset sales make sense, governments must carefully weigh the windfall gain against the loss of revenue streams the assets provide.
Mr Hockey and Mr Abbott have made no such distinctions.
They just want the states to sell everything to get them off the hook for investing in nation-building.