Leading economist Saul Eslake says he takes "personal offence" to comments Infrastructure Minister Michael Ferguson made about a report he wrote.
The report, which the Labor Party commissioned, found the state government's decision to explore opportunities for an Australian shipbuilder to construct the replacement Spirit of Tasmania ferries could cost taxpayers up to $350 million each year the build is delayed.
Mr Eslake said this could be the "most financially ill-advised" decision made by the government in decades.
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But Mr Ferguson told a budget estimates hearing he was "disappointed" with the report, which he said was "out of date" and "based on rumour and assumptions".
The minister said it appeared Mr Eslake had made assumptions "on the instructions of the client".
The economist, however, strongly denied that Labor had influenced the contents of his report.
"I flatly and emphatically refute, frankly, an imputation I find personally offensive," he said.
"This is something I feel very strongly about and I have resigned from jobs where people have tried to tell me what I can and can't say.
"I wouldn't have taken the brief if there was any suggestion as to what I could and couldn't say."
I flatly and emphatically refute, frankly, an imputation I find personally offensive.Saul Eslake, economist
Mr Eslake said he commended the government in the last paragraph of his report for being a "careful steward of Tasmania's public finances". "If the Labor Party had wanted to tell me what to say, they would have told me to take that paragraph out," he said.
Labor infrastructure spokesman Shane Broad said Mr Eslake's analysis was based on TT-Line's own demand forecasts and that the minister was "impugning" the economist.
"I'm definitely impugning the Labor Party in Tasmania, which was once the party of the working people of the state," Mr Ferguson shot back.
TT-Line had initially recommended the new Spirits be built in Europe, and a memorandum of understanding had been signed with Finnish shipbuilder Rauma Marine Constructions.
But earlier this year, the government went against this recommendation, walking away from the MoU and establishing a taskforce to identify opportunities to build parts or all of the new ships in Australia.
Western Australian shipbuilder and defence prime contractor Austal is pitching hard to carry out the project, and is being aided by Liberal-linked lobby group Font PR in its efforts to persuade the government.
Both Labor and the Greens have questioned whether Australia yet has the capacity or expertise to build a monohull steel vessel.
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