THE Australian Government last week reaffirmed its commitment to Tasmania, with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, Warren Truss, announcing that the government will deliver on its pre-election commitment of providing more than $100 million in an economic package for Tasmania.
Mr Truss said the $100 million economic package, along with other initiatives associated with the government's Economic Growth Plan for Tasmania, will fund projects aimed at stimulating Tasmania's economy by supporting economic growth and jobs.
Major initiatives under the Economic Growth Plan include $38 million to expand Hobart International Airport and $24 million to establish a new Centre for Antarctic and Southern Ocean research to help secure Hobart as a world centre for Antarctic and Southern Ocean Research.
The government will also invest $400 million in the upgrade of the Midland Highway and create a Tasmanian Major Projects Approval Agency to act as a 'one-stop-shop' for new major projects requiring Australian Government approvals.
"Through the Economic Growth Plan for Tasmania, we will implement a jobs program that will provide a payment of $3,250 to Tasmanian businesses hiring long term unemployed job seekers," Mr Truss said.
"We will implement a Productivity Commission review into Tasmania's shipping costs, the competitiveness of Tasmania's freight industry structure and the equity and effectiveness of the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation and the Bass Strait Passenger Vehicle Equalisation Schemes.
"We will also maintain support for long term regional Forest Agreements, promote the expansion of the fruit and vegetable industry by creating a Fruit and Vegetable Industry Taskforce and protect Tasmania's share of the GST," Mr Truss said.
Mr Truss said the Plan would be supported by the creation of a joint Commonwealth and Tasmanian Economic Council that would include the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and representatives of Tasmanian business and the State Government.
"Funding of a long list of planned projects supports the economic development of Tasmania and provides much needed certainty to local businesses and communities," he said.
"All projects will be subject to the Government being satisfied that the project represents value for money following an assessment and risk analysis.
"My Department is currently in discussions with the Tasmanian Government to settle the most effective manner to progress grant approvals," Mr Truss said, with project proponents to soon be advised of how projects can be assessed and implemented in a timely manner.