A PROPOSED $33 million shipping service from Tasmania to Asia has been welcomed by farmers.Tasmanian Opposition Leader Will Hodgman said an elected Liberal Government would institute a direct route for exporters to ship their products to key Asian markets.
"Since August 2011, Tasmania has been without a direct international shipping service, and our exporters are now forced to ship goods via Melbourne before they can be shipped internationally," Mr Hodgman said.
He said this was costing Tasmanian exporters $20-$40 million a year and that "an immediate solution needs to be put in place now to address this market failure".
Tasmanian Farmers and Grazers Association chief executive Jan Davis said she supported the plan and called on Premier Lara Giddings to match it.
"It is now legend that we usually pay more to ship to Melbourne than the next step of the voyage to Asia," Ms Davis said.
"Double handling is the other killer in Melbourne . . . If we are to realise the true potential of what we can produce here, we have to avoid this double handling before it gets to its final destination."
Ms Davis said farm exports made up 30 per cent of Tasmania's total exports, with $500 million worth of produce shipped overseas and $1.5 billion sent interstate.
But Infrastructure Minister David O'Byrne said the plan was a "half-baked solution" that would only cover about 30 per cent of international exports.
"Mr Hodgman is not dealing with about 70 per cent of international export freight, and is doing nothing for businesses looking to send their goods across Bass Strait," Mr O'Byrne said.
He said the Government was already conducting industry analysis to inform "an effective and lasting freight solution".
"This will help all exporters by understanding all the cost elements of the freight supply chain and ensure that any assistance provides the maximum benefit for the next decade and beyond," Mr O'Byrne said.
"Mr Hodgman's approach is pre-empting that work, and proposes leaving a huge chunk of potential exporters high and dry."
Mr Hodgman said the Liberal plan – to invest $11 million per year over three years – would "[allow] time for a longer-term solution to be developed".
"The re-introduction of this service will be a critical step to getting our economy growing again, and to creating jobs," he said.
"This policy is fully costed, and will be funded in our upcoming Alternative Budget."
Mr O’Bryrne said the opposition had not demonstrated which services they would cut to fund their proposed policies.
"Mr Hodgman will promise the world to anyone and everyone, but fails to provide any detail or substance," he said.
The next Tasmanian election is expected in the first half of next year.