Government ministers pull out of Tasmanian parliamentary inquiry

The two Tasmanian Government Ministers scheduled to appear before a parliamentary inquiry into the state’s energy crisis have both pulled out at the last minute.

Energy Minister Matthew Groom and Treasurer Peter Gutwein were both set to appear before the inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the state’s energy crisis, caused by a failure of the Basslink power cable that coincided with record lows in Hydro Tasmania’s dams.

In a dramatic twist, both pulled out last night.

The State Government released a statement that it had taken advice from the Solicitor-General:

“The Government considered it necessary to request a rescheduling of tomorrow’s Public Accounts Committee hearing to enable arrangements to be put in place to protect the state’s interests in the context of contractual matters related to the BassLink failure,” the government said.

“The Government has also requested to meet with Public Accounts Committee on the 15th of August to discuss these arrangements.

“The Government is committed to working with the Public Accounts Committee to arrive at a mutually acceptable outcome.”

It comes after the CEO of Bell Bay Aluminium, Ray Mostogl, yesterday said he was “alarmed by the decisions and messages being made about the energy assets in Tasmania“, and that they had been “floundering for the last six years”.

He has warned the state government it needed to deliver on its energy strategy “or stand aside and let someone else who can”.

Mr Mostogl was critical of a decision to decommission the Tamar Valley Power Station and said big energy users were not warned it was to be decommissioned despite it presenting a risk to business.

Lindsay Ward from Tasmanian Gas Pipelines has told the inquiry it was a failure in risk management to decommission the power station.

“Importing diesel generators is not the way to provide energy to a state,” he said, as reported by ABC News.

“It is the way you provide energy to a mine site in the middle of nowhere. The cost of that is a million dollars a megawatt hour.”

Mr Ward said a second Basslink cable was not the answer.

“We don’t think it’s economic, it’s a billion dollars and it’s 10 years away.”

He joined the Tasmanian Minerals and Energy Council in its calls for a long-term future for the Tamar Valley back-up generator.

The CEO of Hydro Tasmania, Stephen Davy, told the inquiry the contract to supply gas ended next year, but he was taking a cautious approach.

“We need to be very mindful that we don’t lock in Tasmania into long-term arrangements that then become a cost to the state, so we’re being careful that we’re entering into interim arrangements that maintain flexibility into the future,” he said.

Deputy Premier Jeremy Rockliff would not be drawn on the long-term use of the back-up power station.

“This is why we have the inquiries,” he said.

“Clearly selling the Tamar Valley Power Station (TVPS) was not in the best interests of Tasmania. That’s why we did not sell the TVPS.”

The Government said it would closely consider recommendations that come out of the inquiry.

Both Labor and the Greens will still appear later today.

It is unclear if and when the government will front.