RACING INDUSTRY SHOCK
As Labor Government Continues Asset Fire-Sale
Kim Booth MP
Acting Greens Leader
Thursday, 8 January 2009

http://www.tas.greens.org.au

The Tasmanian Greens today expressed shock at the Bartlett Labor Government’s sudden decision to sell-off TOTE Tasmania, just seven weeks after assuring Parliament, the racing industry and the wider community that “TOTE will continue to exist as a State-owned company”.

Acting Greens Leader Kim Booth said that despite repeated commitments to government ownership of TOTE, and repeated denials of the intention to sell, it is now clear that the Bartlett Government is continuing the decade-long fire-sale of Tasmanian assets to prop up a budget burdened by Labor’s ill-conceived projects.

“Racing participants from all three codes tell me that they are shocked at the sale announcement and hold grave fears for the future of racing and grass roots participation,” said Mr Booth.

“Why is it that Tasmanian assets are now being sold off before the government wields the axe through a few of their ridiculous projects, or the dozens of spin doctors and advisors that now populate Ministerial offices, Government Departments and Business Enterprises?”

“The financial position facing Tasmania must be dire if the Bartlett Government is moving to sell-off a valuable cash-generating asset just weeks after denying that it was even considering such a move.”

“Treasurer Michael Aird needs to explain whether the government lied to both Parliament and the industry last year, and if not, what has occurred to suddenly change their minds.”

“The Treasurer also needs to be more honest about the government’s true financial situation, and assure Tasmanians that he will not waste the proceeds of this sale on propping up the current bottom-line or on some other ill-conceived Labor splurge.”

“Why must taxpayers sell the silverware while those in power continue to employ more staff?”

“If TOTE is sold there needs to be full agreement from all codes and an assurance that the money will go to health or some community benefit rather than the shameful waste of public money on projects such as the promotion of Gunns pulp mill,” said Mr Booth.


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Tasmanian Racing Minister Jim Cox, Wednesday 19 November 2008, RACING REGULATION AMENDMENT (GOVERNANCE REFORM) BILL 2008 (No. 79), Second Reading, [12.08 p.m.] Parliamentary Hansard - Part 2 - Pages 27 – 98, http://www.parliament.tas.gov.au/HansardHouse/isysquery/0f22e5eb-e799-497e-a96f-ccb823b59294/1/doc/



Jeremy Rockliff MP
Deputy Leader of the State Opposition
Shadow Minister for Racing
Thursday 8 January 2009

TOTE Tasmania sale – desperate and deceitful

The State Government’s sudden back-flip decision to sell TOTE Tasmania smacks of a desperate fire-sale to plug up holes in the State Budget, Shadow Racing Minister Jeremy Rockliff, said today.

When the State Opposition expressed the concerns of many in the Tasmanian racing industry that TOTE might be sold, Government Minister Jim Cox told Parliament “as the Treasurer and the Minister for Racing has said numerous times before, TOTE is not for sale.” (20th November 2008)

Racing Minister, Michael Aird, gave an explicit assurance in the Legislative Council as recently as 4 September last year that “TOTE is not for sale”, but this blatantly false assertion is contradicted by the State Government now seeking to sell off the profitable business.

“Tasmania’s racing industry is the fourth-largest industry employer in Tasmania, injecting around $90 million a year into the Tasmanian economy and yet the Minister is perfectly content to sell TOTE Tasmania based purely on “preliminary” advice,” Mr Rockliff said.

“The Minister needs to immediately explain to the industry how this sudden sale will affect them and why he has made such a decision when the industry has only just been subject to recent reforms.”

TOTE has returned a significant revenue stream to the Tasmanian Treasury amounting to tens of millions of dollars, some of which has gone to promote and support the important racing industry.

“Why would any sensible government sell off a significant revenue earner, contrary to its commitments to Parliament only weeks ago.  Were these lies?  If not, what has precipitated this fire-sale?” Mr Rockliff said.

Mr Aird must immediately explain the impact to the budget, not only in regard to the expected sale price, but also in regard to giving up a guaranteed – and growing – revenue stream.

This decision totally beggars belief, especially as Tasmanians all know the State Budget is facing significant pressures from the global financial crisis.

“In the State Government’s preliminary mid-year report released in December, the State Government expenses have blown out by nearly $200 million and the Tasmanian budget is sliding into deficit. I am concerned the sale is purely a band aid measure to temporarily compensate for Labor’s fiscal mismanagement,” Mr Rockliff said.

The racing industry receives significant financial support from TOTE Tasmania. Now the Government is saying it will fund racing from the State Budget – which is a perilous position itself due to the economic downturn, and the government’s failure to implement measures to stimulate the economy.

This will spell significant uncertainty for racing industry, which directly employs 3,000 Tasmanians, and indirectly benefits many more, right at a time when they, like everyone else, are experiencing financial pressures.

Even the timing of the decision is suspicious. Surely, if the government was looking to maximize returns to taxpayers, then it would not be offering this business for sale at such a depressed economic time.

Mr Rockliff said the decision smacked of a government desperate to plug holes in its budget, which begged the question of how much the situation has deteriorated since the government released its out of date budget update in December forecasting a Budget deficit of more than $90 million.

“It seems the government’s main response to the global economic crisis has been to start selling off the family silver (despite promises that it wouldn’t) and that just highlights what poor economic managers Labor are,” Mr Rockliff said.

“They failed to fix the roof during ten years of economic sunshine, and they’re still refusing to take decisive action to secure the economy which is only making the situation worse.

“Tasmanians will see right through this desperate measure from Labor. The government must start implementing measures to cut waste and stimulate the economy, as the Liberals have been demanding.

“What we don’t need is the government desperately trying to scrape through until the next election, doing untold damage to our long term economic prospects in the process, and without revenue streams such as those provided by TOTE Tasmania, to turn to in the future.”

Ref…TOTE.jan8.ewj

 

 

 

 

 

Kim Booth Greens MR
Acting Greens Leader Kim Booth said that despite repeated commitments to government ownership of TOTE, and repeated denials of the intention to sell, it is now clear that the Bartlett Government is continuing the decade-long fire-sale of Tasmanian assets to prop up a budget burdened by Labor’s ill-conceived projects.

Jeremy Rockliff Libs MR
The State Government’s sudden back-flip decision to sell TOTE Tasmania smacks of a desperate fire-sale to plug up holes in the State Budget, Shadow Racing Minister Jeremy Rockliff, said today.