The Three Amigos — federal MHRs Andrew Nikolic (Bass), Brett Whiteley (Braddon) and Eric Hutchinson (Lyons) — entertained TCCI members and guests at the Country Club in Launceston and addressed a raft of questions on both local and national issues.
The federal budget was also addressed, but it was far from the dominant issue of the day. Issues raised by the audience included:
■The Liberal Party move to remove charity status for eco-charities amid claims of funding illegal activism;
■A move supported by the three Tasmanian members to allow full exemption from renewable energy targets for aluminium producers, such as Bell Bay Aluminium, which would reduce costs by $8 million a year;
■The damage caused to the Tasmanian economy and tourism industry from excessive penalty rates and the need for reform; and
■The continuing fight to remove billions of dollars of wasteful and unnecessary regulation and the continual push to create jobs.
The announcement of the federal back benchers’ move to scrap the renewable energy target payments for the aluminium industry, and the fact that Bell Bay Aluminium was the function sponsor, was pure co-incidence, according to all involved.
However, while Bell Bay general manager Ray Mostogol backed the push by the local members, he didn’t hold back when advising the trio that he believed they hadn’t yet done enough to remove significant barriers on freight, high electricity prices and renewable energy targets.
The trio reacted positively to the sting from Mr Mostogol, with constructive answers to all but the freight issue, which was also the final question from the floor and was answered with a clear handball, passing it back to the state government.
Earlier in June, the Tasmanian Premier, Will Hodgman, highlighted his government’s achievements in its first 100 days since the March election at functions held in Hobart and Launceston.
The events were also welcomed by large audiences, particularly when the Premier was able to announce that the 40 items promised during the election had been delivered, with the exception of one, which would be delivered on the 99th day — and it was.
For the record, the events were held on a Thursday at Wrest Point and Friday at Launceston Country Club on days 97 and 98, with the 100th day being a Sunday.
The Premier left audiences in no doubt as to who was leading the state, with strong answers to questions, no side-stepping, no apologies and no ‘‘weasel words’’.
He added humour to his engagement with the audience, revealing that he was looking forward to answering questions after having spent eight years asking questions as Opposition Leader.
The Premier was joined in Launceston by Treasurer Peter Gutwein, who confirmed the Premier’s comments that the August state budget wouldn’t be a slash-and burn exercise, but acknowledged it would be tough.
Both ensured it wouldn’t impact on the less fortunate in society; nor would it attack business confidence.
All will be revealed at the TCCI’s budget function Friday, August 29, with the Treasurer detailing and analysing his budget at a breakfast in Hobart, luncheon in Launceston and dinner in Devonport.