House debates

Thursday, 11 February 2016



10:06 am

Photo of Julie CollinsJulie Collins (Franklin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Regional Development and Local Government) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to talk about a very serious issue affecting Tasmania. It is the ongoing energy crisis that has been mismanaged—appallingly—by the Liberal state government. Just before Christmas, Tasmanians found out—thanks to state Labor—that the Basslink interconnector cable was down. That is the cable that connects Tasmania to the national electricity market. Members in this place might know that Tasmania produces more than 80 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources, from hydroelectricity, but we are connected to the national grid through this interconnector.

This interconnector has been down since 20 December. Tasmania's electricity is hydro. That means we need rain and water in our dams. We have also been going through, as the state government described, drought like conditions. So we have had our dams being run down. They are, as I understand as at two days ago, down to around 18 per cent, only, of their levels. We have a very serious issue in Tasmania. It is not raining, the dam levels continue to drop and the Basslink interconnector still has not been repaired. We also had a backup energy system of the Tamar Valley Power Station—a gas fired power station—that the state Liberal government mothballed. So here we are in Tasmania without Basslink, without the backup gas fired power station and with no water going into our dams. It is a very serious issue, indeed.

Will Hodgman, the state Premier, and the state government minister Matthew Groom, have been mismanaging this from the very beginning. They have kept Tasmanians in the dark. They have not been telling Tasmanians what has been going on. In January we had the minister come out and say 'It will all be okay. We are praying for rain. Everything will be all right. There will be no need to ration electricity. Everything is going along just fine. Nothing to see here.' But on 4 February we had Tasmania's largest electricity user, Bell Bay Aluminium, agree to reduce their power consumption by 10 per cent for four to five months. We also found out that Hydro Tasmania is in discussions with the other major industrials to reduce their electricity consumption in Tasmania during this period. I thank those companies, particularly the employees of those companies, for doing the right thing by Tasmanians.

This is a really serious issue in Tasmania. We still do not know when the Basslink cable will be fully repaired and up and running. We understand that the ship has found the area of the fault, and they are looking to repair it, but it is a very serious issue. Today, after many months of this, we found out that the state Liberal government is calling on the federal government to fund a second Basslink interconnector, a billion-dollar power cable, to go under the sea. If there is a plan to do such a thing, I call on the state Liberal government to brief both parties—in what is an election year—because this is too critical for Tasmania. (Time expired)