Thursday, 4 February 2021
Questions without Notice
Bass Strait Passenger Vehicle Equalisation Scheme
My question is to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, I'm aware of allegations that TT-Line, a Tasmanian government business, is ripping off consumers by not passing on the federal government's $6 million temporary increase to the Bass Strait Passenger Vehicle Equalisation Scheme, known as the Bring Your Car For Free promotion. Yes, vehicle charges have dropped. But, at the same time, it seems TT-Line is jacking up passenger and cabin fares, so it can cost more to sail with a car than it did before the promotion. This would be state sanctioned misuse of federal funding, a rip-off and another blow to the Tasmanian economy and tourism sector. Prime Minister, will you do something about this? Will you investigate the matter urgently?
I thank the member for his question. The pandemic, as he and I both know, severely impacted the number of people travelling across Bass Strait to Tasmania. At one point 85 per cent of passenger travel on the Spirit of Tasmania was cancelled. As a result of that, the Deputy Prime Minister, in working with the Tasmanian coalition MPs and senators—in particular, the members for Braddon and Bass; I commend them for the great work they've done here—as well as the Tasmanian Premier and his government, and the Tasmanian tourism sector, announced further support through the Bass Strait Passenger Vehicle Equalisation Scheme. We did that on 7 January this year to encourage more Australians to travel to Tasmania. This support consisted of $6 million to increase the rebate and make it free to take a car or a motorbike across the Bass Strait—a saving of $240 for return passengers. The rebate was to apply to a new booking for travel from 1 March until 30 June, or until funding was exhausted. I'm advised that, when travellers book their ticket, the rebate automatically applies to the purchase price of the ticket. I will ask the Deputy Prime Minister to add further to the answer.
I thank the member for Clark. Member for Clark, if you have any specific allegations in relation to this that you would like to be investigated, I would be very, very happy to look at them. On 7 January I announced—
Mr Marles interjecting—
I'm happy to see members in my office. I do that all the time, Member for Corio—yours, ours—to get things done. That's what the parliament's for; you may not know that. On 7 January I announced the full subsidisation of the cost, as the Prime Minister said, of transporting a standard car or bus across Bass Strait under the existing Bass Strait Passenger Vehicle Equalisation Scheme, which has been successfully operating since 1996. COVID-19, of course, has significantly affected tourism in Tasmania and the number of passenger vehicles travelling across Bass Strait, which is why we've committed $6 million to bring more travellers to Tasmania, providing the kickstart to 2021 that Tasmania so desperately needs.
I met with Premier Peter Gutwein the other day whilst I was in Tasmania. Of course, I had representations from the members for Bass and Braddon and from our senators as well in the other place, who very much advocated this. Tourists who arrive on the Spirit of Tasmania stay longer, spend more and disperse further throughout Tasmania's regions. I know you would appreciate that as much as any member in this place, Member for Clark. While sea arrivals account for only 12 per cent of all visitors to Tasmania, they contribute 20 per cent of all annual visitor spend. But, I say again, if you've got any specific allegations, I'd like to hear them.