The Liberals have been accused of “playing politics with Bass”, after the Prime Minister did not commit to jointly funding a Tamar River clean-up if Labor wins the election.
During a brief visit to Launceston on Friday, Malcolm Turnbull committed to provide half the money to fund 12 key recommendations made by the Tamar Estuary Management Taskforce if the Liberals were re-elected in Tasmania.
Treasurer Peter Gutwein said the federal government “has now locked in its funding commitment”.
“It is now up to Labor to explain where they would find the cash, in their budget blackhole to fund the projects,” he said.
Deputy Opposition Leader Michelle O’Byrne said Labor endorsed each of the taskforce’s recommendations “on face value”.
While Mr Turnbull said half the funding would be provided by the federal government if the Liberals were re-elected in Tasmania, he did not confirm whether the same deal would stand if Labor won the election.
“The one thing I can guarantee to you, if the Hodgman government is returned, these projects will go ahead,” he said.
Opposition treasury spokesman Scott Bacon accused the Liberals of “playing politics with Bass”.
“This issue is too important to be held to ransom by [Premier] Will Hodgman and Malcolm Turnbull,” he said.
“Labor would have expected to have been briefed on a federal funding commitment of this size during caretaker mode. This has not been handled appropriately.
“We will work with whoever is in government federally to improve the health of the Tamar.”
The taskforce released the report on Thursday, with an estimated $94.6 million price tag on the 12 recommendations.
The projects included $10 million of “catchment actions” across dairy, grazing and urban areas, and $84.6 million of “priority projects” within the combined system.
Launceston mayor Albert van Zetten said the recommended projects were “definitely a first step”.
“This is going to help some 70 per cent of the sewage going into the river, which is very significant, and would mean at times when we have extra water flow down the Gorge, you’d see that the water would be looking absolutely fantastic.”
Alderman van Zetten said the City of Launceston had discussed the issue of the Tamar’s health with federal and state politicians.
“The City Deal is important to both the Labor Party and Liberal Party,” he said.
“We know the Liberal Party have been committed to it... and I’d say that I believe very strongly that the Labor Party would also be very willing.”