The Tasmanian Government says they want to build the new Spirit of Tasmania ships in Australia to boost Australian jobs. Good thing too - if it's possible.
Independent economist Saul Eslake's report on the Spirits states the recent decision to cancel an option to outsource some of the construction overseas could be the most 'financially ill-advised' decision by a Tasmanian Government in four decades.
I'm a big believer in building everything we can, here, but when economists say a decision could cost the state $350 million each peak tourism season, you sit up.
We know what happens when programs blow out. Take our submarines for example.
We were told these 12 new Attack Class submarines were supposed to cost $25 billion back in 2016. Then the Government said it was $50 billion. What's a cheeky $25 billion between friends?
Then the head of the submarines program said it was $80 billion. But, who hasn't been wrong by $30 billion before?
(All for submarines unlikely to be ready for another decade.)
I don't want this to happen to Tasmanians when it comes to the new Spirits.
The consequences of having this dragged out is already being felt in some towns. I've been told that some business openings have been put on hold, with owners worried their investment will sink without the new ships to boost tourism numbers.
We need to face the facts: it's unlikely that the ship's hulls can be built in Australia. The only promising option is Austal in Western Australia, who has never built a hull like this before, and by some accounts, it will just outsource the work to Asia or Europe.
So we don't get the jobs, or the investment. We just get the bill.
We have to keep in mind the benefits from the build aren't just from the construction, but from actually having the ships being ships. The sooner that happens, the better. Just choose the quickest option with the most benefit to Tasmanians, even if it means having some work done overseas.
It's not a write-off when it comes to local jobs either. Once the ship's skeleton is done, I see no reason why the ship's fit-out can't be done in Tasmania - we've got the skills and businesses keen to give it a go.
This is the best outcome to maximise job potential for Tasmanians - not just from the construction, but getting the ships online as quickly as possible to bring more visitors and business investment to our towns. But the longer the decision takes, the more local businesses and communities will suffer.
- Jacqui Lambie, Tasmanian Jacqui Lambie Network senator