Tasmanian rail closures – Labor’s relation with big business on the wrong track

Just when the Tasmanian Labor Government of Lara Giddings had thought the dust had settled on the furore following Federal Group’s retreat from it’s involvement in the management of the rail operations in Tasmania’s west, reports have emerged showing that the impact of the rail closure may be greater than we had been led to believe.

Federal Hotels Group was given an exclusive 20 year lease on the rail line along with a very lucrative poker machine license, yet has chosen to renege half-way through the lease on the rail line. This decision has resulted in the loss of 48 jobs directly in an area of the state that can least afford it, with flow-on effects expected once the rail link ceases operations.

The Government continued to wring its hands in anguish over the effect the closure would have on tourism in western Tasmania, not surprising considering the rail line has handled over 400,000 passengers, most of whom had come from overseas or interstate. However, in the wake of reassurances that the government would “find a solution” came news of the flow-on effect of government inaction and lack of intestinal fortitude on the issue.

Not only is the rail link a major drawcard for tourism in the west, but the use of the rail brought further economic benefits to the region.

The train link was vital for small businesses in the area, being utilised to transport salvaged Huon pine for processing into furniture and also being used by primary producers involved in the production of Tasmania’s world-renowned Leatherwood Honey.

One local company had invested over $500,000 in their operations in order to utilise the wilderness area, based on the understanding the rail link would be there to gain access to the vital region. Without guaranteed continued access, Leatherwood producers will have to scale back production, resulting in loss of contracts, reduced exports and income in a state desperately needing economic growth.

Australians need governments willing to defend the interests of our nation’s greatest asset – it’s people, and politicians to have the intestinal fortitude to hold big business to their word.

Leave a Reply