The Gutwein Government is milking state-owned energy companies for cash and driving up debt, Shadow Treasurer Shane Broad says.
Dr Broad said Premier Peter Gutwein had turned Tasmania's government business enterprises in the energy sector into cash cows and "as a result doubled their debt levels".
"Borrowings across Tasmania's energy businesses are now 54 per cent higher than they were when Mr Gutwein became Treasurer, with TasNetworks now having a debt to equity ratio of 200 per cent," Dr Broad said.
He produced figures that said since 2014, when the state government was elected and Mr Gutwein became Treasurer, total debt across Aurora Energy, TasNetworks and Hydro Tasmania had increased from $1.82 billion to $2.8 billion.
"Hydro and TasNetworks are being asked to provide dividends every year and are having to take on more debt to pay for them, which doesn't seem to concern the Premier," Dr Broad said.
"It is deeply concerning that a GBE would have to sink further into debt just to provide dividends.
"This comes on top of the budget highlighting the Liberals plan to borrow $2 million a day, every day, for the next four years, with little to show for this growing debt."
Energy Minister Guy Barnett said Dr Broad clearly did not understand how GBEs worked.
"Dividend recommendations are made annually by the GBE boards, based on a number of factors and depending on the prior year's profits," Mr Barnett said.
"Net debt, however, is impacted by a number of considerations, including the corporations' operating cashflows and ongoing capital works program, with any cash shortfall as a result of all of these factors funded through new incremental borrowings.
"I would again urge Dr Broad to stop playing politics in an area he doesn't understand."
The figures Dr Broad produced showed that between 2014 and 2021:
- Aurora Energy's net debt decreased from $717 million to nothing;
- Hydro Tasmania's net debt decreased from $851 million to $731 million; and
- TasNetworks' net debt increased from $664 million to 2.04 billion.
Labor Leader Rebecca White and Shadow Finance Minister Dean Winter during estimates hearings on Tuesday quizzed Mr Gutwein about GBE debts and dividends paid to government.