Liberals must commit to $60M port upgrade now or watch King Island living costs go through the roof

Independent Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie has demanded that both Liberal state and federal governments co-operate and commit to a deal with the residents of King Island which sees a minimum of $60M invested in the island communities’ deep water port at Grassy.

Senator Lambie released an interview of the meeting she recently had with the co-chair of the King Island Shipping Group, Jarrod Reeman.

“After my recent visit to King Island, I am shocked at the complete lack of planning by both state and federal liberal governments - which means that King Island now faces the loss of its only shipping service in approximately 12 months time.

``I still can’t understand why the Liberals want the residents and businesses on King Island to suffer so much stress and harm. Is it a lack of care, is it incompetence - or are the Liberals deliberately out to harm King Island’s prospects for economic growth and prosperity?” Senator Lambie said.

“By their own inaction and incompetence, the Liberals have created a shipping and freight cost crisis where every organization and group on King Island is crying out for help.

``Whether it’s the mayor, councilors, business leaders or workers – everyone has told me that the shipping crisis is the number one problem to solve – so why haven’t the Liberals solved the problem?

``They have been in Government both state and federally long enough now, not to blame Labor for the mess that shipping and freight transport is in on King Island,” Senator Lambie said.

“The co-chair of the King Island Shipping Group, Jarrod Reeman summed the current shipping and freight cost crisis up when he told me that:

Worse case scenario - we continue with the current freight rate and freight rates increase. We have no leverage over freight rates and we have no leverage over our economy. We can’t change our inbound freight costs so we can’t grow, we will be stagnant, we won’t be able to grow our produce, we won’t be able to grow our community, we won’t be able to grow our economy because the restrictions on the current port restrict the type of vessel and we are locked into certain agreements with vessels we have no leverage or control over.

General cost of living will increase exponentially and the costs will go through the roof, we won’t be able to grow because the current freight scenario is supported by the outbound growth so whatever we ship out is what is supporting the current service. “When I asked if King Island was getting a fair share of the current freight equalisation scheme, Mr Reeman also told me that:

In short no, because the current freight equalisation scheme is based on the mainland and Tasmanian rates and we are separate to that, we are in a smaller percentage that sits on a higher cost bracket that doesn’t attract the same level of subsidy. ``It’s now time that mainland and even Tasmanian Liberal politicians realised that King Island must have an urgent upgrade of their port  - and a greater and fairer share of the freight and transport subsidies under the TFES. King Island primary producers, businesses, and residents should be allowed access to the same subsidies as other Tasmanians,” Senator Lambie said.

“I again repeat my call for the liberal federal and state politicians to support my call for a feasibility study for a fast cat service that would be able to quickly and reliably link King Island to Victoria and Tasmania. Every resident I spoke to supported the idea of a feasibility study – and recognised that the best prospect for a sustainable and affordable shipping connection in the future was through the establishment of a fast cat ferry service,” Senator Lambie said.