PM hopeful energy sell-off will happen

Treasurer Joe Hockey, Prime Minister Tony Abbott, and Lyons MHR Eric Hutchinson.

Treasurer Joe Hockey, Prime Minister Tony Abbott, and Lyons MHR Eric Hutchinson.

PRIME Minister Tony Abbott said a $600 million incentive to sell off energy assets would allow the Tasmanian government to ‘‘intensify’’ its infrastructure investments.

Speaking from Hobart Airport yesterday, Mr Abbott, accompanied by Treasurer Joe Hockey and Lyons MHR Eric Hutchinson, said the federal government was trying to maximise economic activity by offering states a 15 per cent inducement to sell off assets.

However, in Launceston Premier Will Hodgman and state Treasurer Peter Gutwein were adamant state-owned assets, like Hydro and TasNetworks, would not be up for sale.

‘‘When you privatise, you generate activity,’’ Mr Abbott said.

‘‘When you reinvest that money, you generate activity.

‘‘That’s why this is a very important part of the economic revitalisation of states like Tasmania.’’

Despite the state government’s stance, Mr Abbott said he was still hopeful a deal could be done.

Mr Hockey said the asset recycling program was gaining momentum in other states.

‘‘They’ve got to look at their election commitments but from a national economy perspective, this is why we’ve laid down this new pool of funds, because we’ve got to get on with building things,’’ Mr Hockey said.

Mr Hodgman said the Liberal party took a firm commitment to Tasmanians during the election.

‘‘We believe what you tell Tasmanians you’ll do, they’ll expect you to keep that and we’re serious about delivering all of our promises and will not entertain breaking them – and I don’t believe anyone is suggesting we should do that,’’ Mr Hodgman said.

Mr Gutwein said the only exception to any asset sale, would be that of the Aurora customer list.

‘‘We are going to fix the budget day by day, dollar by dollar and selling state assets – income-producing assets – to fill a budget black hole left by Labor and the Greens, is not part of that,’’ Mr Gutwein said.

He said Hydro boss David Crean’s departure in six months was by mutual agreement, although he had not completed his contract and would not be paid out.

The Asset Recycling Fund has stalled in the Senate, but the funds may be sourced elsewhere.

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