This is a state government that proposes to sell public hardwood to Gunns for $16 tonne, thereby setting a floor price that will virtually guarantee plantation investors big losses. It seems that they will be lucky to get $2,400 per hectare, slim pickings from an initial ‘investment’ of nearly $7,000 with $3,200 from the taxpayer!!

That’s right, taxpayers subsidise the transfer of farm ownership from Tasmanian families to corporates like Gunns … and it costs us about $3,200 per hectare. Gunns has about 200,000 ha and so has received around $640 million dollars from the taxpayer so far just for that one line item.

Of course the logging industry wants to keep getting this money. Unfortunately they are also clear felling our governments’ budgets as they take more and more from our compliant politicians and our essential services fall to pieces.

After all, it’s the SAME $640 million that our hospitals, doctors, nurses, fire fighters, teachers, carers and dentists could have to operate a properly funded public system. To rub it in, the public must pay our politicians’ private health coverage so that they don’t have to use the same system that they are creating for the rest of us.

Meanwhile our farmers are doing it tough in the drought and what do they find? Tax subsidised plantations up river from them that are stealing far more water from the catchment than would be required by agriculture. They know that plantations deliver far fewer jobs and leave rural communities suffering a severe cash flow drought as farmers are forced to sell and unproductive trees take over.

We are rapidly losing our food producing land and people.

All this at a time when there is world shortage of food and prices are at all time highs. Instead of helping our farmers, our government is using our money to convert our dwindling supply of food producing land into tree plantations to hand more public money to their political donors!

So our rural communities lose cash flow and foodstuffs from local farms and suffer reductions in tourism revenue as tourists go to destinations that aren’t clearfelled and burned; they don’t have to play dodgems with unstable log trucks and water supplies aren’t contaminated with a carcinogenic cocktail of plantation chemicals.

When you connect all of this to the lack of money and care for our essential services, it’s easy to see why the communities’ clear concern is that their governments are just not representing taxpayers.

The US war of Independence was fought on the basis of “No taxation without representation”.

People rightly feel very strongly about playing a meaningful role in deciding the quality of their own future. Many voters believe that representation is one of the cornerstones of the Australian system.

They also believe that our representatives are being paid by taxpayers to represent them.

Offering more tens of millions of taxpayers’ dollars for pulp mill support infrastructures does nothing to regain public trust. Many believe that our major political parties have betrayed taxpayers by taking our money and then refusing to listen to our needs and concerns.

It is for these reasons that so many are adamantly opposed to the pulp mill proposal.  When you look at the value of tax subsidies given to the logging industry which nets out at around $250 million per year, then listen to governments telling us that they cannot afford to pay our nurses properly, or support our firefighters, our doctors and our teachers, then surely it’s time to re-evaluate our priorities.

In 20 years of the mill, the period when Gunns are advertising that they’ll return over $1 billion in new tax income to fund our essential services, it seems that our governments are going to spend something like $5 billion of our hard earned dollars to keep the logging industry going.

The returns from this increasingly mechanised industry are not worth the investment. Logging employs about 3,000 people in Tasmania which, compared to other industries, is pretty poor job creation for the money involved. By contrast, tourism brings in about $1 billion per year and employs around 30,000 people.

For the ¼ billion per year that we subsidise logging, we get just 3,000 jobs.

Prudent governments would evaluate these figures very carefully.

Because our governments do not report these subsidies, I’ve provided the basis for my calculations below.

Check them out and make up your own minds.

Some indicative costs of subsidies to the logging industry:

Creation/upkeep of roads & bridges about $20 million/year
Work done by FT for Gunns benefit about $50 million/yr
Cash payments over last 10 years average of $50 million/year
MIS worth about $3,200 /ha average $60 million/yr
Non payment for water used by tree plantations @ $100/Ml = $40 million/yr
TOTAL SUBSIDIES per YEAR $270 million plus infrastructure

Still to come
New infrastructures for mill over $200 million
Deliver timber to pulp mill (fuel risk) $10 – 50 million per year

Mike Bolan  Why the community does not want a pulp mill (2)

AT A time when people in pain are lying on trolleys in hospital corridors, while others wait years for operations and public dentistry patients are forced to pull out their own teeth with pliers, the Lennon and Howard governments are transferring hundreds of millions of dollars a year to the Tasmanian timber industry.  That is money that could fix our hospitals and help to equip our kids with a superior education for their future.