A Tasmanian Liberal senator and assistant minister appears to have put his weight behind Incat’s bid to build the replacement Spirit of Tasmania ferries.
Assistant Minister for Regional Tourism Jonathon Duniam’s comments come after it emerged last month that Austal, the nation’s biggest defence exporter, had its own ambitions of manufacturing the new vessels.
The state government has established a taskforce to determine the best way forward for replacing the Spirits. It includes representatives from TT-Line and state and federal government departments.
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Senator Duniam said Incat was a “world-leading and innovative boatbuilder”.
“I will always back Tasmanian businesses and jobs,” the senator said. “I implore the state government’s taskforce to take a team Tasmania approach and put local jobs and businesses first.”
Austal says it would build the ships’ hulls in the Philippines but the fit-outs would be done in Australia.
However, Incat says it could manufacture the entirety of the ferries in Tasmania, with the potential to create at least 2000 local jobs.
Claire Chandler, another Tasmanian Liberal senator, believes that a temporary solution could be to keep the existing vessels, which will be functional until 2028 at least, and have Incat build a catamaran to add to the route so as to address capacity issues on Bass Strait.
When she learnt the Tasmanian government was seeking to involve local companies in the replacement process for the Spirit of Tasmania ferries, Senator Chandler said she met with people at Incat to ascertain whether it would be possible for it to build a vessel in Tasmania.
I implore the state government’s taskforce to take a team Tasmania approach and put local jobs and businesses first.
Jonathon Duniam, Tasmanian Liberal senator
“The great news is they can,” Senator Chandler said in a speech to the Senate late last month.
“To have thousands of Tasmanians working for the next two years on a new vessel built on the River Derwent, with components manufactured across the strait, is exactly the type of local manufacturing outcome we need right now.”
Meanwhile, in Question Time in the House of Assembly yesterday, Labor infrastructure spokesman Shane Broad asked Infrastructure Minister Michael Ferguson how many times the taskforce had met, who it had met with and whether or not its final report would be made public.
“We’ve outlined the membership of [the taskforce] and we’ve outlined the reporting timeframe of between 3-6 months,” Mr Ferguson said. “And I’ve also indicated that we will share the findings with the community when the time is right.”
“I’ll go as far as to say this much about the activity of the taskforce: it has established, it has met and it is taking advice.”
Dr Broad said the government was “playing Russian roulette with the future of our tourism and freight sectors”.
“It is totally unacceptable for Michael Ferguson to push this process out for six months and keep this vital information secret, given the importance of this investment to the Tasmanian economy and job creation in the tourism and fresh freight sectors,” he said.
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