Greens call on Government to fill Antarctic science funding gap
Today in the Senate, Senator Peter Whish-Wilson called upon the Federal Government to temporarily redirect the funding allocated to extend the Hobart runway to ensure that the new CSIRO marine vessel the RV Investigator can function for closer to the 300 days research it was purchased for.
Senator Whish-Wilson said, “The Hobart Antarctic economy, worth more than $600 million per annum to Tasmania, is under attack due to budget and research cuts.
“The new RV Investigator only has funding for 180 days per year, instead of the 300 days it was commissioned for. Research schedules have been thrown asunder. Critical science programs are being put in jeopardy.
“This has short and long-term ramifications for the future of this critical sector.
“The Government’s runway extension funding allocation should be temporarily redirected to allow the RV Investigator to spend more time at sea. At $140,000 per day running costs, reallocating the Hobart airport funding could keep the RV Investigator at sea for an extra 85 days per year over the next three years.
“I propose that the Government commission Infrastructure Australia to undertake a full and independent review of Antarctic logistics: freight and passengers, ports and airports, air-travel and sea-travel.
“We need to look at both ends of the air chain: Hobart runway and Wilkins runway. Recently, the $46 million Wilkins Runway at Casey Station has just managed to cope with only four flights in a season because of seasonal melting.
“The funding for Hobart Airport extension should be deferred until all of this planning work has been undertaken. A business plan for the Hobart Airport alone is insufficient justification at present for $38 million in spending.
“At the end of a full transport review, which may take several years, a new budget allocation could be made for the Hobart runway extension if it is still deemed necessary,” he concluded.