It appears Tasmania’s state government has made one hell of a blunder thanks to the constitution, giving all seniors free access to Tasmania’s national parks.
In March 2018, the Tasmanian Liberal Party promised to give senior citizens of the state free-access to any of its 19 national parks for one year.
However, a section of the constitution has forced it to extend the offer to all Australian seniors, costing the state government hundreds of thousands of dollars extra, according to ABC News.
The policy was reported to cost $750,000 over three years. However, new estimates say it could cost the State government $1.5 million for just a single year, with broader predictions that it could rise to $330,000 per annum in ongoing years.
The scheme was originally aimed to ensure parks were accessible to all Tasmanians – encouraging senior citizens to be active.
“Given the expansion of the offer to all Australian senior card holders, it’s certainly something we can boast about, that you’re able to get such a great concession here,” Tasmanian Premier and Parks Minister Will Hodgman told ABC News.
“[With] the offer of free entry and then reduced annual pass fee in subsequent years, it’s anticipated there will be a significant reduction in the sale of holiday passes to the over 60s, resulting in a decrease in revenue.”
ABC News reported that the head of Tasmania’s Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE), John Whittington, told a budget estimates hearing that the scheme was expanded to cover all Australian seniors because section 117 of the constitution provides protection against discrimination on the basis of state of residence.
“We can’t differentially charge non-Tasmanians a different rate to Tasmanians,” Whittington said. “We couldn’t have a post code-based pricing system.”
The government is currently reviewing park entry fees, which the Premier said had remained unchanged since 2009.