Why Do You Hate Tasmania, Hawke Is Asked In Parliament

This transcript and partial audio of Prime Minister Bob Hawke’s response to a question about Tasmania from the member for Franklin, Bruce Goodluck.

The question came in the House of Representatives the day before both coalition parties replaced their leaders. It was just five day to Tasmanian state election on May 13, at which the Liberal government of Robin Gray was defeated and replaced by a Labor-Greens coalition.

Bruce Goodluck was the Liberal member for Franklin. He was first elected in the anti-Labor landslide of 1975. He retired in 1993 and subsequently briefly entered state parliament as an independent.

  • Listen to Goodluck’s question to Hawke (2m)

Hansard transcript of Bruce Goodluck’s question to Prime Minister Bob Hawke.

Mr GOODLUCK —Prime Minister, why do you hate Tasmania?

Mr ACTING SPEAKER —Order! Is the question of the honourable member for Franklin directed to the Prime Minister?

Mr GOODLUCK —Yes, it is to the Prime Minister.

Mr ACTING SPEAKER —You might preface it with words which show to whom you are addressing it.

Mr GOODLUCK —Yes. Why do you hate Tasmania, Prime Minister? I have not finished yet as there are a few questions to ask the Prime Minister. Why did the Prime Minister stop the dam? Why did he stop the mill? Why all of a sudden at this time does it have to be an unbleached mill? Why was that not announced when the mill was stopped before? Why have Federal jobs in Tasmania been reduced? Why have Federal works for Tasmania been reduced, and why have Federal funds to Tasmania been reduced? The other thing I want to refer to is the honourable member for Denison trying to promote a Russian fishing fleet to Tasmania. If that is to the Right I disagree with it. Does the Prime Minister agree with that or not?

Mr ACTING SPEAKER —I hope nobody takes a point of order and asks the Chair whether the question is in order.

Mr HAWKE —I welcome the question, and I thank the honourable member for Franklin for it. I shall first give a blanket answer, before going to the specifics: not only do I not hate Tasmania but it is the State of Australia where for the past two years, at the end of a long parliamentary year, I have chosen to go to have a brief holiday. The fact that I have chosen it for a holiday place for two years in a row is not consistent with any proposition that I hate Tasmania. On the contrary, I think it is one of the most beautiful States in Australia, inhabited by some of the loveliest people in Australia and, if it makes the right decision next Saturday, it is faced with a glorious future.

As to the specifics of the honourable member’s question, firstly, he asked why I stopped the dam. The Government stopped the dam for the very good reason that it was economically unnecessary and environmentally obscene. Indeed, the judgment that we made was subsequently confirmed-and from what source was that? It was from the Hydro-Electric Commission (HEC) of Tasmania. In the period leading up to 1983 it had been saying that it was economic doomsday, that it would be the end of Tasmania if the Franklin River was not dammed and the opportunity for future generation of power not provided. That was what was poured out.

We were very sceptical indeed about that. All the analysis that we undertook showed that that was not the case. One did not need very much analysis to know that the proposition was environmentally obscene. Of course, it is now a matter of great comfort and joy to us-and I think now to the great majority of Tasmanians-that we took the principled and determined stand that we did because, as I say, the statistics that were produced by the HEC were shonky. They did not stand up and, had we gone ahead with that environmentally obscene proceeding, Tasmania would have been given a source of power generation that it did not need. That is the answer to the honourable member’s first question as to why we stopped the dam.

Secondly, the honourable member asked why we stopped the mill. We stopped the mill for a very simple reason: we were not prepared to see 13 tonnes of organochlorines pumped each day into the ocean. We made the decision for a number of reasons. Obviously, it was environmentally unsound for that to be happening, but we did not rely on our own predilection in that matter. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)-that independent body-provided us with a very clear indication that it would be an act of dereliction of Government duty to allow the mill to go ahead on those terms. On the side of the House on which the honourable member sits, the Leader of the Opposition, when the Government made that decision, said that it was a tragic outcome. On 15 March he made the following statement:

It’s a tragic result . . . a criminal failure of national leadership. After all, the environmental guidelines laid down by the Tasmanian Government were already very strict.

That may have been the opportunistic political judgment of the Leader of the Opposition, but much more important to us than that political opportunism was the judgment of the CSIRO that the project would have been environmentally unacceptable. That is the answer to the honourable member’s second question as to why we stopped the mill.

Thirdly, the honourable member asked why we went for the unbleached mill. A very sensible proposal has been put to us that we should examine whether it is technically possible and economically acceptable to have an unbleached mill. As honourable members will appreciate, the problem with the current kraft mill process is the chlorine that is used in the bleaching process. If we can take the chlorine out of the bleaching process and have unbleached products, the environmental problem will be resolved very substantially. It makes eminently good sense for us to examine whether it is technically possible to have such a process in Tasmania and, in association with that, whether in economic terms there will be a market for such products. When the Leader of the Labor Party in Tasmania who, as distinct from his political opponents, is concerned with the proper blending of economic growth and protection of the environment, put that proposal, I said, `That makes a lot of sense. I have a team going overseas; I will add to the terms of reference so that it can see whether it is technically possible and whether the market is there’.

Fourthly, the honourable member asked why we had cut down on Federal jobs. I will tell the honourable member what I have done in regard to Federal activity in Tasmania. When we were considering where we were to put the school for Federal civil aviation air officers, the bureaucrats and, if I may say so without shedding any Cabinet secrets, some of my intensely and consistently economically rational Ministers, said, ‘The school should not go to Tasmania. It should be kept on the mainland’. In a sense, there was a range of economically rational arguments as to why that course should have been followed. But such was my concern for Tasmania-I remind the honourable member that Tasmania does suffer from some disadvantages including, may I say so, in some of its representation, but we will try, whenever the next Federal election is held, to rectify that problem-that I said that even if, on economic considerations, there were a marginally better case for putting the school on the mainland, we would still have it in Tasmania. As a result of the decision that I took, I received the unqualified praise of the people of Launceston. I am very thankful to them and I hope that in the appropriate way and at the appropriate time they will repay me for what I did there.

Finally, I come to the question of Soviet fishing. I am not quite sure of the thrust of the honourable member’s question.

Mr Goodluck —I don’t want it.

Mr HAWKE —I see. Now we know. I was hoping with that subtle question I would elicit that response. We can now tell the good people of Tasmania that if the Federal Government makes a decision that there will be an agreement between Australia and the Soviet Union which will facilitate Soviet research fishing, and if the Soviet Union expresses a view that it would like to be able to use a Tasmanian port for the purposes of refitting its vessels and servicing its crews, which will bring additional employment to Tasmania, their worthy representative in the Federal Parliament from the electorate of Franklin will take the view that they should be denied that employment opportunity. So I am grateful in all respects for the question from the honourable member for Franklin.

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