Tuesday 28 April 2009
Hansard of the Legislative Council

Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Madam President, this issue has been complex and complicated with twists and turns and compromise.  I appreciate the input from the racing industry and the community and we have had plenty of contact, briefings and phone calls, particularly at the last minute.  I am going to be brief because I am sure that my colleagues will want to cover off on a lot of detail during the second reading speech and also through the Committee stage.
Madam President, governments around Australia are facing a dire budget situation as Tasmania's Treasurer knows only too well.  In a recession, as consumer demand falls, so does GST revenue to the States and Tasmania is likely to face falling GST income for probably another two budgets.  It also faces lower revenue from other sources, including gambling.  The State Government has to do what households and businesses do when they face a period of low income - cut spending and realise assets.  If there is a choice between selling a State-owned asset such as TOTE or cutting public sector jobs or government spending on health and education, I think it is a no-brainer.  I would be very reluctant to stand in the way of a logical sale of assets to help Tasmania's budget position.  However, I did, until today, have serious concerns about the process.
I was concerned about long-term funding for Tasmania's racing industry and its suggested 6 000 jobs and a lot of those jobs in regional areas.  However, I think the industry will be more certain about their future in receiving the 20-year guarantee of funding that they have received today in the deed.  It could be argued that it can feel more secure over its long-term funding if TOTE is sold than it was before.  After all, there is no certainty about TOTE-style gambling in the future with the increasing move to Internet-based betting.
I was concerned about the sale process.  Are there enough potential buyers out there to ensure a full market price?  No-one seems to be able to agree, Madam President, on what TOTE is worth.  Estimates vary with hundreds of millions of dollars.  If we approve this bill, I know and I understand that we are putting a great deal of trust in the Treasurer and his advisers.  However, the briefings that we received today about the deed tend to reassure me.  I will be listening to the debate with interest to see if my colleagues have been similarly reassured.