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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 6170


Photo of Hawke, Robert

Hawke, Robert

Period of Service: 11/03/1983 to 20/12/1991

More information about Hawke, Robert on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 05/08/1983

Release Type: Correspondence

Transcript ID: 6170

FOR MEDIA 5 August 1983
The Prime Minister today sent the attached letter to the Tasmanian
Premier, Mr Gray.

August 1983
My dear Premier
I have your letter of 3 August protesting about the
Commonwealth's decision to terminate funding for the
Crotty Road project, and your telex of that date in which
you seek a meeting between Commonwealth Ministers and
myself on the one hand, and yourself, the Commissioner of
the Hydro-Electric Commission and State officials on the
other. It is putting it mildly to say that I regret that you
have chosen to write in this way and to impugn, totally
without foundation, the approach of the Commonwealth to
this matter. There has never been any question of our
intention to ensure that the workers of the Gordonbelow-
Franklin scheme are not disadvantaged, and there
should be no need for me** to have to repeat it. I
believe our actions have been entirely consistent with
this aim.
It seems to me, however, that your view is that our mutual
objectives of finding alternative employment for the
workers can be pursued without any regard to the interests
of the Australian community as a whole. If this is not so,
I would like very much to know how you would expect the
Commonwealth to justify to the general taxpayer, in
Tasmania and elsewhere in Australia, expenditure on the
Huon Southern Outlet road project that would employ only
men for a matter of months at an annual cost per man
approaching $ 200,000. I would also like very much to know
how you would expect the Commonwealth to justify continued
expenditure on construction of a road I refer, of course,
to the Crotty Road on which our Governments have clearly
been unable to agree as to its ultimate function and which
your Government has now announced will in any event be
partially submerged by the waters of the proposed King
River hydro scheme. I say quite forthrightly to you that
I cannot see how any such justification can possibly be
Let me remind you again of the nature of the original
Commonwealth offer contained in my letter of 1 July, for
it appears to me that you have either misunderstood it or
have chosen to misrepresent it. In doing so may I also
remind you of the extraordinarily difficult circumstances
in which the Commonwealth was placed in this matter by the / 2

refusal of your Government, until the eleventh hour, to
discuss even in the most general terms the possible form
of an alternative works program. These great difficulties
notwithstanding, we were ready on the day of the High
Court's decision to put proposals to you for at least
starting the process of protecting the interests of the
workers. In regard to the Crotty Road, my letter of 1 July states,
after noting issues to which our Governments would need
to give some detailed consideration, " For the very immediate
future, however, I suggest that wie allow work to continue
in order to maintain the workforce and to keep options open
for subsequent development if that is further agreed." It
is now clear that, for the reasons I have already given in
writing to you and in subsequent public statements, that
there is no such agreement on subsequent development. Our
action in terminating the project has been totally
consistent, therefore, with what I wrote to you on 1 July.
As to the Huon Southern Outlet project, my letter of 1 July
stated we could ( my underlining) therefore agree to
a number of the proposed projects proceeding forthwith
( including) the Southern Outlet ( Huon Road) I went on
to say " As to the basis on which the Commonwealth would
provide funds for projects the Commonwealth would, of course,
wish to be satisfied that the costs of such projects are
reasonable ( my underlining) You will know that, when
cost data on the projects I referred to in that letter was
subsequently received by my Government, we expressed a
general concern about the high cost per man directly employed
see my letter of 15 July. In respect of the Huon Southern
Outlet project, this cost was so high as to make it quite
obvious that, in the terms of my letter of 1 July, the
Commonwealth could not be satisfied that the cost of the
project was reasonable. It therefore had no option but to
refuse to fund it.
In these matters the Commonwealth has at all times acted
fairly and honourably, in the interests of the workers, of
Tasmania, and of Australia as a whole. That some lines of
approach we had hoped to be able to pursue later proved to
be unworkable is regrettable, but the prime responsibility
for that situation must rest squarely on your Government
for its failure to co-operate in the development of proper
contingency plans, despite repeated requests from the
Commonwealth to do so. If this had been done it would have
been possible to organize a smooth transition to alternative
work projects, and the present difficulties could have been
avoided. I must say that I had hoped that there would have been no
need for further exchange between us on this matter. You
have left me with no choice, however, but to put the record
straight. Now that that has been done I hope you will agree
that recriminations should stop and that we should now set
about the task before us in a renewed spirit of co-operation,
and in the interests of those whose livelihood has been
affected. That has always been the Commonwealth's aim. / 3

As to your proposal for a meeting, I have to say that while
I am always ready to discuss matters with you if there is any
prospect of our mutual aims being advanced, I am not sure
that a meeting on the lines you appear to have in mind
would assist materially at this time. I am furthermore
reluctant to agree to such a meeting in view of the
misrepresentations you have made about our discussions on
July when you agreed, in the presence of your officials
and mine, that construction of the Crotty Road should not
proceed. As I have indicated in my various letters to you, we are
working as rapidly as possible towards the development of
suitable arrangements under which our two Governments can
operate, and expect to be in a position in the near future
to put further proposals to you. I suggest that the
possibility of a further meeting, and the nature of that
meeting, should be deferred until after that time, when it
could, if you then still wish, be re-examined. In the meantime
I would expect the opportunity to be taken for further useful
discussions between our ministers, such as those recently
held by Mr Cohen and Mr Pearsall, and between officials of
our two Governments.
There would in any event be practical problems in seeking
to arrange a meeting in the near future. As you will recall
from our discussions on 25 July, I have commitments in
Queensland next week and I understood from you that you
would be unavailable in the following week, which in any
event is likely to be a busy one for me as it is the week
leading up to the opening of the Budget Sittings of the
Parliament. Yours sincerely
R. J. L. Hawke
The Hon. Robin Gray, MHA
Premier of Tasmania

Transcript 6170