A council tasked with advising the government on the state’s recovery from COVID-19 may make recommendations at a later date in relation to the decision to explore alternative shipbuilders for the new Spirit of Tasmania vessels.
During hearing of the Public Accounts Committee, Premier’s Economic and Social Recovery Advisory Council chairman Don Challen was questioned over a recommendation made by the council for TT-Line to lead not lag passenger capacity into the state.
Mr Challen said airlines watched TT-Line’s fares closely because they were in competition.
“It’s possible TT-Line will use reopening [of borders] to make a lot of money but in these circumstances we need TT-Line using its capacity to put pressure on the airlines,” he said.
Mr Challen said government business enterprises usually acted commercially but they sometimes forgot they were there to look after the interests of the Tasmanian community.
“There are things that GBEs can do that go beyond narrow commercial objectives,” he said.
Responding to a question by Labor finance spokesman David O’Byrne about concerns around the delaying of the Spirit of Tasmania vessel replacement program, Mr Challen did not rule out the council making recommendations in relation to this in its future reports.
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The committee also heard the council had a process in place to manage possible conflicts of interest held by members who were invited to be a part of PESRAC by Premier Peter Gutwein.
Mr Challen said every member of PESRAC had been appointed in their own right meaning they were not representing an organisation.
“We have a declaration of interest process as to each member of the council has filled out a form declaring all their relevant interests which were shared with the council,” Mr Challen said.
“We haven’t had any issues to date.”
Mr Challen said to his knowledge there was only one member of the council who had also been involved in preparing a submission for PESRAC but that submission was prepared by the statutory body the member, Commissioner for Children and Young People Leanne McLean, was employed by.
“Her conflict in relating to the content of that submission has been identified and is obvious to the council,” he said.
Mr O’Byrne also questioned if it was unhelpful PESRAC had not been directed towards certain recovery pathways by the government.
“It would be unhelpful if the government gave us too much direction like that because it could be wrong,” Mr Challen said.
To date, PESRAC has delivered an interim report with Mr Challen indicating its next report would be delivered in February.