Tasmanian state-owned hydro company Hydro Tasmania will remain in public ownership, according to a commitment made by the state's Labour government, and any future government will have to seek public approval through a referendum if it wishes to privatise the company.

‘Hydro is Tasmania’s most precious asset and the people of Tasmania deserve to have a direct say on whether it should be sold or not,’ said deputy prime minister Paul Lennon. He added that this decision by the government provided a much-needed safeguard for Hydro Tasmania in the future, given that the opposition Liberal party had indicated that it would sell it in four years’ time, should it get elected.

‘We achieved an overwhelming mandate at the last election to keep the Hydro as a public entity and I’m proud that we have been able to legislate to safeguard against any desperate, quick-fix policy that we saw from the Liberals in 1998,’ he said.

• Meanwhile, Tasmanian company Hazell Bros has won a Hydro Tasmania contract worth US$4.8M for construction works on Cethana, Devils Gate and Paloona dams in north west Tasmania.