Battle for Braddon heats up as Turnbull comes to Tasmania bearing gifts
Turnbull will be offering to put $30 million towards the Cradle Mountain upgrade. (ABC News: Shaun Kingma)
The battle for the Braddon by-election is about to heat up, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull making a flying visit to the hotly contested Tasmanian electorate today.
He is bound for Cradle Mountain, where he will announce a $30 million contribution towards a proposed $160 million upgrade of the tourist destination.
Turnbull’s arrival will be the second high-level visit by the federal Liberals to the state’s north-west in two days — a sign they are desperate to see Brett Whiteley win back the seat he lost to Labor’s Justine Keay in 2016.
Not to be outdone, Labor is jetting in deputy leader Tanya Plibersek today as well on a mission to boost Ms Keay’s campaign.
Ms Keay holds the seat of Braddon by a slim margin of 2.2 per cent.
Tasmania’s tourism industry has high hopes for the Cradle Mountain development. (Supplied: Cradle Coast Authority)
She was forced to finally resign due to her dual citizenship status after her colleague Katy Gallagher fell foul of the High Court’s ruling on her eligibility for Parliament.
The Federal Government was criticised in the lead-up to the 2016 election for offering up just $1 million towards a study.
The Cradle Mountain upgrade includes a new visitor centre and a cable way.
‘Tasmania won’t get a cent less GST’
On Tuesday, federal Finance Minister Mathias Cormann dropped in to Turners Beach to announce $4.8 million of funding for the Cradle Coast pathway.
The West Australian senator was also grilled about the Productivity Commission’s much-awaited review of the GST carve-up, which was handed to the Federal Government yesterday.
Flanked by a nodding Mr Whiteley and independent senator Steve Martin, Senator Cormann was careful with his wording.
When asked if the report would be bad news for Tasmania, he said:
“The guarantee that we can give to all Tasmanians is that Tasmania will not get a cent less than what has been committed after we have responded to the Productivity Commission report.”
Senator Cormann was asked to clarify if Tasmania would be worse off.
“What I have said is the Government gives this absolute guarantee to Tasmania that Tasmania won’t be a cent worse off at the end of this process,” he replied.
He then reiterated the Federal Government’s commitment to what was in the budget — $190 million extra in GST revenue.
‘Cormann’s being a little disingenuous’
Treasurer Peter Gutwein, who in October said Tasmania would be up to $1 billion worse off under changes to the GST formula, seized on Senator Cormann’s comments.
“The Finance Minister of this country has today given a cast-iron guarantee that Tasmania will not even be one cent worse off and we intend to hold them to that,” he said.
Economist Saul Eslake was less enthusiastic about Senator Cormann’s comments.
“I think Senator Cormann was being a little disingenuous,” he said.
The budget papers only contain details of GST revenue sharing for next financial year, stating that estimates beyond that were dependent on the Productivity Commission’s review into the GST distribution — something Mr Cormann yesterday was yet to read.
“Senator Cormann isn’t giving any guarantee, and he can’t give any guarantee on what Tasmania’s share of the GST is in 2020 or beyond,” Mr Eslake said.
Mr Eslake said although the Treasurer would not be worried about the implications for next year’s state budget, they should be worried.
“The possibility of adverse changes to Tasmania’s GST share arising from changes to the formula … are the biggest potential fiscal risk that the Government faces here over the medium term.”