“If he can get a reliable V/Line freight train service to come to and from Melbourne every day I reckon we would support him,’’ Mr Cooke joked.
“Or he could get some of those old Bristols (aeroplanes) from Moorabbin fired up again.’’
The Bristols made regular trips to the island after the regular freight shipping service, the MV Straitsman, sunk in the Yarra in 1974.
The latest talk of the island seceding from Tasmania and joining Victoria stems back to the same long-running issue – the difficulty the Islanders face in securing a permanent and reliable freight shipping service to mainland Australia.
For months now residents have been complaining about their difficulties while the Tasmanian government insists it is sorting out a reliable shipping service.
The short-term Searoad Mersey Service finished in April but it was not universally popular with many believing the vessel was too small, unreliable and could not handle the rough seas.
Farmers struggle to get adequate levels of fertiliser and other essential goods, stocks of many everyday items for shoppers are running low. King Island’s world-famous cheese and beef cannot be transported off the island.
But perhaps even more serious, according to some residents, local pubs and clubs, including those associated with the famous golf courses, have already run out of some lines of beer.
Two petitions – one for the state government and another for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Queen Elizabeth II – were launched by local resident Jill Munro a few days ago.
Late last week the Tasmanian government engaged private shipping operator Eastern Line to provide additional sailings of its ship The Statesman when required over the next few weeks.
Extra sailings have also been negotiated with Bass Island Line vessel Investigator II, which will up its freight capacity by 20 per cent.
Tasmanian Infrastructure Minister Rene Hidding has promised that the government will continue to “urgently” try to find a larger vessel, provide weekly updates to King Island stakeholders and encourage timely freight bookings.
While Mr Cooke is adamant that the issue is a very real one for Islanders he holds out little hope that the petition will succeed, giving it a “0.5 per cent’’ chance, which some even regard as overly optimistic.
Mrs Munro told local newspaper The Advocate that Islanders were absolutely sick and tired of not being taken seriously.
“All we ask for is a little bit of respect, we are not getting this from the Tasmanian Government,’’
King Island Mayor Duncan McFie said while talk of seceding had become something of a “bar room favourite’’ on the island, there were more important issues which needed addressing.
Mr Cooke said while he did not expect to see King Island become part of Victoria, he predicted the shipping issue could cost the State Liberal Government one of its four Lower House seats in the electorate of Braddon at next year’s state election.
Should King Island shift its allegiances it would not be the first Australian island to do so. In 1890 Macquarie Island was transferred from New South Wales to Tasmania.