Image for Call for Forestry Tasmania administrator as Lara, Julia hand over $34.5 million

Senator Bob Brown, Greens Leader:

Australian Greens Leader Bob Brown says that while he is not privy to the legal or probity issues compelling the Tasmanian Government to hand $11.5 million in federal money to Forestry Tasmania, an administrator should be brought in.

“The very fact that state Labor and Liberals legislated away ministerial responsibility for Forestry Tasmania is now coming back to bite them and the public purse,” Senator Brown said.

“The Premier should make public exactly where the $11.5 million is going and have it administered or vetted independently of Forestry Tasmania.”

“It’s only one-tenth of the amount given to Forestry Tasmania in the 2004 Howard-Abetz deal, but should be subject to better scrutiny.”

Forestry Tas Must Retire Gunns Sawlog Quotas

Kim Booth MP
Greens Forests Spokesman

The Tasmanian Greens said today that the resolution, via an independently assessed commercial settlement process, of the dispute between Gunns Ltd and Forestry Tasmania should remove another obstacle to the implementation of the Forests Intergovernmental Agreement.

However, Greens Forestry spokesperson Kim Booth said before Forestry Tasmania receives a single cent more taxpayers’ money, it must retire Gunns’ entire sawlog quota into conservation, as per the IGA.

“The Tasmanian Greens were the ones who initially called for this settlement to be conducted at arms length from government, so we’re not going to cherry pick the probity auditor’s findings.”

“Wise Lord and Ferguson have now apparently signed off on the process and also found that both Gunns as the beneficial buyer and Forestry Tasmania as the seller, have commercial rights which obviously must be extinguished before the IGA can proceed.”

“I accept that Gunns’ quotas have a market value, which is why the Greens are prepared to accept the terms of an appropriate commercial settlement.”

“This will hopefully remove obstacles to the exit money flowing to contractors in need, 430,000 hectares of native forest going into permanent conservation and $276 million dollars flowing into the Tasmanian economy”

“No money should flow to Forestry Tasmania until those quotas are retired and we will be pressuring both Federal and State Labor to ensure that is the case”

“The Greens understand that the last thing Tasmanians want to see is more money going to either of these parties, Gunns and Forestry Tasmania, which is why it is outrageous that the state has had its hands tied by legislation contained in the Government Business Enterprises Act (1995).”

“Unfortunately that is the result of a deliberate strategy by the Lennon government to prevent Forestry Tasmania being constrained, and now once again it is the public purse that is taking a hit.”

“Both Liberal and Labor have passed laws that have created this absurd situation that has seen a rogue GBE and a mendicant company such as Gunns hold the government to ransom”

“It should now be clear to all that FT is a rogue agency out of control which requires significant change or abolition and we look forward to the strategic review of their operations which is due for
release later this year”

“It’s noteworthy that the final payment is miniscule compared to the original $200-million-plus figure touted as being the original amount Gunns were demanding, and that this has been achieved because the Greens successfully negotiated with Labor for the settlement to be based on commercial rates, with no compensation.”

Senator for Tasmania
Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries and Forestry
Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Innovation, Industry and Science

14 September 2011

Governments continue disgraceful dismantling of Tasmania’s forest industry

Today the Gillard and Giddings governments continued their disgraceful Greens-inspired dismantling of Tasmania’s forest industry.

“The Federal Opposition has said for some time that forest contractors must be given assistance to survive this crisis but they continue to languish while Gunns Ltd is paid for something it voluntarily relinquished,” Coalition Forestry spokesman Senator Richard Colbeck said.

“The forest contractors had no choice - their crisis was brought on by factors outside their control.

“We are now five weeks on from the signing of the Intergovernmental Agreement and still there is no sign of help for contractors.

“These small businesses are under severe financial pressure and the governments are giving then nothing but silence. It is more than time they got on with it.

“The Coalition led the way in supporting forest contractors at the last election but the Labor-Greens governments continue to bumble on effectively cutting a $1.4 billion industry in half, just to satisfy their Greens masters,” Senator Colbeck said.

• Dr Phill Pullinger, Environment Tasmania, Denise Boyd, Australian Conservation Foundation, Warrick Jordan, The Wilderness Society:  

MEDIA RELEASE               14 September 2011

Welcome progress to deliver native forest protection

The Australian Conservation Foundation, The Wilderness Society and Environment Tasmania today welcomed the Government’s announcement of a settlement with Gunns Ltd to retire its native forest wood supply quota.

“Retiring Gunns’ wood supply quota is a critical step in implementing the Tasmanian Forest Intergovernmental Agreement — allowing the immediate protection of 430,000 hectares of native forests and providing transitional support for timber workers and contractors,” said Denise Boyd from the Australian Conservation Foundation.

“This settlement frees Tasmanians from an obligation to provide large volumes of native forests to Gunns or any other logging company and enables both governments to immediately enter a conservation agreement that protects 430,000 hectares of important and unique native forests in places such as the Tarkine Rainforest, Great Western Tiers, Blue Tier and the Upper Florentine Valley,” said Dr Phill Pullinger of Environment Tasmania.

“As well as protecting important native forests, the intergovernmental agreement will also provide support for timber workers and contractors, for a transition away from the commodity logging of native forests and for a more diversified economy through a regional development package,” Dr Pullinger said.

“The remainder of the $43 million available under clause 34 of the Intergovernmental Agreement should be used to support a transition to a sustainable industry by allowing native forest processors to voluntarily exit the industry, treat communities fairly, and ensure Tasmania’s high conservation value forests are protected.” Dr Pullinger said.

“The Intergovernmental Agreement funds should be only used for the purpose outlined in the Agreement, and no party should attempt to take this money away from timber workers, communities, and forest protection,” said Warrick Jordan of the Wilderness Society.

The groups said the current business model of Forestry Tasmania is unsustainable and is the subject of a strategic review which is due to be reported on in October. Therefore, no settlement funding should be provided to Forestry Tasmania in advance of the outcomes of the strategic review and an anticipated restructure of the agency.

The groups said the next critical steps in the Agreement include the signing of the conservation agreement to immediately protect 430,000 hectares of high conservation value native forests, a rapid finalisation of re-scheduling of logging out of high conservation value forests, and the release of financial support for timber workers and contractors impacted by the re-structuring of the industry. 

Mainstream Media Media Reports:

ABC report HERE

Mercury HERE

Examiner HERE

THURSDAY: A windfall of $48 million from taxpayers, says Mercury, HERE

• What Lara says…

• And,

Tarkine Business Council -  Media Release

Tarkine Business Council calls on the Gillard Labor Government to include the Tarkine on the National Heritage List

The Tarkine Business Council is calling on the Federal Minister for the Environment Tony Burke to include the Tarkine on the national estate list immediately.  As business owners based in the Tarkine, we are concerned that the current levels of legilsative protection will deliver ad hoc decisions regarding mining development in the Tarkine damaging the potential of the burgeoning tourism industry in the region. 

Independent economic studies into the potential of the tourism industry suggest that by 2017, the Tarkine has the capacity to generate $58.2m in tourism spending per annum and support approximately 1100 jobs. 

Business council spokesperson Rob Fairlie stated “The growth of the tourism industry in the Tarkine is dependant upon maintaining the unique wilderness values of the region.  Listing the Tarkine as National Heritage would be the first step in ensuring that the wilderness values of the Tarkine are managed by the Federal Government.  This would be a positive for jobs growth in the north west of Tasmania.” 

Mr Fairlie added “…the recent development of mining proposals in the Tarkine has shown that there is currently no way for the Federal Government to manage the wilderness values of the region.  Each mining proposal is assessed individually without concern for managing the vital wilderness values of the whole region.  This lack of planning could have a devastating impact upon the development of the tourism industry based in the region.  Listing the region on the National Estate will allow the Federal Environment Minister to consider the wilderness values of the region as a whole. “

First published: 2011-09-14 05:45 PM