IT’Sgranted that a state with four marginal electorates is going to get a lot of visitors from Canberra during a federal election campaign.
Whether it’s popular parliamentarians coming down in an attempt to make their local candidate appear more favourable to voters, or funding announcements designed to curry favour and swing votes–Tasmania’s seen it all before.
Tuesday night’s federal budget, through the ambiguity around exactly where funding allocated to Tasmania will go, and the lack of big ticket items, means Tasmanians can strap themselves in for two months of flesh-pressing, grant announcing fun.
Analysing what the budget meant for Tasmania was more about what wasn’t included than what was.
It didn’tinclude funds for the University of Tasmania’s Northern Cities Project that would allow the Cradle Coast campus to move to West Park or a statewide sewerage infrastructure upgrade.
A feasibility study for a second Basslink cable, already announced by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, wasn’t in there either.
From a North-West perspective, there was no federal funding to roll-out a fibre National Broadband Network connection to the West Coast, no money for Coastal Pathways or the Cradle Mountain Master Plan.
Then there’s smaller priorities also left out of the budget; such as funding for the Circular Head pool or an upgrade of the Burnie tennis courts.
Granted, not all of these projects will be funded, but plenty will be.
It means rampant speculation,visits from ministers andfederal leaders, such as Labor Leader Bill Shorten’s flying tripto pledge $150 million to the Northern Cities project, and lots of announcements designed to win your vote.
And we haven’t even got to things like where money allocated under categories likeBlackspot funding or New Investments might go to yet.
Just to highlight what will become a norm during the two-month-long campaign, Labor’s Infrastructure and Transport spokesman Anthony Albanese joined Franklin MHR Julie Collins and Lyons candidate Brian Mitchell in the state’s southon Thursdayto announce a Labor government would spend $32 million to upgrade the Hobart Airport roundabout, easing traffic congestion in Midway Point, Sorell and Forcett.
You can bet your bottom dollar there will be more.
With three seats with a margin of four per cent or less all in a two-hour radius of each other inBass, Braddon and Lyons, Tasmania’s North and North-West in particular can expect plenty of attention prior to July 2.
The only Tasmanian electorate set to miss out on the allsinging, all dancing election extravaganza is Denison, where Independent Andrew Wilkie has a firm grip on the seat with a marginof 15.5 per cent.
In Braddon, where Liberal Brett Whiteley holds the seat by 2.6 per cent ahead of a battle against Labor candidate Justine Keay, there will be plenty of action and lots of jostling for funds.
Mr Whiteley’s confident Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull understands the importance of providing a fibre NBN to the West Coast, and the Liberals look odds-on to announceNorthern Cities funding in the next six weeks or so.
Where the rest of the North-West fundingpriorities fit in, only time will tell.
But until then, there will be plenty of baby kissing and handshaking as the parties look to secure crucial Tasmanian seats.
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