Timing of report dubious: O'Byrne

INFRASTRUCTURE Minister David O'Byrne has accused the federal government of attempting to influence the state election by timing the release of a report into Bass Strait shipping to the same month Tasmania is set to got to the polls.

But the federal government says it is fulfilling an election promise by completing the review within six months of its own election.

The terms of reference for the Productivity Commission inquiry were announced on Friday and submissions close next week. The final report is due before the federal government on March 7.

Mr O'Byrne told a parliamentary inquiry into government-owned business TT-Line this morning that he was ``cynical'' about the timing, given Premier Lara Giddings's commitment to hold a March election.

In a statement to The Examiner , Mr O'Byrne said the outcome of the inquiry appeared pre-determined. 

``The timing for completion of the federal government's report, just prior to the state election, isn't surprising,'' he said.

``If this report is going to be seen as anything more than a cover for Will Hodgman before the state election, the federal Liberal government must actually consult.''

Mr O'Byrne said he had written to Treasurer Joe Hockey and Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss to request an extension to the submission period and extend the process to include the release of an issues paper. 

He told the parliamentary committee he was yet to receive the final report from the Freight Logistics Coordination Team, and the submissions deadline would not give the state government time to consider those recommendations.

Bass Liberal MHR Andrew Nikolic said Prime Minister Tony Abbott promised last year to conduct a Productivity Commission and ACCC review of Tasmanian shipping within his first six months of government.

``Our efforts in this area are strategic with a view to the long-term; David O'Byrne's focus is short-term with a view to the state election,'' Mr Nikolic said.

Mr Nikolic said it was unlikely the review would be ready for public release before the state election, as it would have to be approved by cabinet.

He dismissed concerns the short submission period would not allow time for proper consultation, saying government had consulted extensively.

Tasmanian opposition infrastructure spokesman Rene Hidding said Mr O'Byrne should ``stop complaining'' and adopt the state Liberal policy of $33 million direct support for an international container ship.

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