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Forestry - Sale of State's Planation Assets

20 September 2017

Ms O'CONNOR question to PREMIER, Mr HODGMAN

[10.53 a.m.]

You promised Tasmanians you would not sell off their assets.  You also told them yours would be an open and transparent government.  Can you explain why the company your Government sold the 29 000 hectares to did not register with ASIC until two months after final bids for the plantation were due?  In the interests of transparency will you now release all details of your Government's role in the privatisation of 29 000 hectares of public land?

 

ANSWER

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for the question.  We were very open and transparent with Tasmanians about how we would need to reset how Forestry Tasmania was operating in the context of a forest industry, which is growing under a majority Liberal Government.  We have said in this place in ministerial statements that we needed to put Forestry Tasmania onto a sustainable footing.  No longer would we sit back and allow that organisation to receive taxpayer subsidies budgeted by former Labor-Greens governments to the tune of around $100 million.  That was taxpayer money that could have been better invested, in our view, into our schools, hospitals, infrastructure and our police service. 

As we have said, and on the advice of the Forestry Tasmania board and what they have said publicly about the state of their business, we needed to make some tough decisions to ensure we could provide them with commercial sustainability.  It was an option that was canvassed and publicised, including by Government, months and months ago.  It included the disposition of the trees, the plantation trees.  Not the land, as members opposite are dishonestly claiming.  That is not the case.

Members interjecting.

Mr HODGMAN - We have only sold the rights to the plantation trees, which will grow again.  As part of a renewable industry they will literally grow again and provide financial sustainability to STT, a return to Tasmanian taxpayers and to the Government that can be better invested into our hospitals. 

Every day of the week, as bizarre as it may seem to anyone who is watching, we have a Greens party, the great subsidisers over there, wanting to pump the money into what we formerly know as Forestry Tasmania rather than to have us spend that on essential services and invest in our health system.

We have been entirely upfront with Tasmanians about the state of our forest industry; the condition, the commercial viability of Forestry Tasmania, now STT, and the options available to support a more sustainable foundation.  That includes the sale of the rights to the plantation trees.  The sale will transfer full ownership of the current tree crop to the forestry right holder.  It will enable them to re-plant plantation on harvested land.  STT has retained plantations required for sawlog production, as I have said, which provides resource security for the future.  STT still owns the land.  The board of STT advises that there are no additional liabilities for STT arising from the sale.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker.  I had taken your advice on the wording of the question, made it very succinct and asked the Premier if he would release the details of the Government's role in privatising this land.

Madam SPEAKER - It may have been very succinct once you reached your question but there was a preamble, therefore latitude did apply.  The Premier will resume.

Mr HODGMAN - Thank you, Madam Speaker.

We flagged some time ago that we would need to do things differently and reset; set a new course for the forest industry, the commercial operators, alongside Government in building a new STT, as it is now known, formerly Forestry Tasmania.  We planned to give it financial sustainability and remove the burden placed on Tasmanians who continually needed to subsidise it. 

That is the bizarre thing about this:  a Greens member is arguing, and why would she do anything but, for the ongoing subsidising of Forestry Tasmania, now STT.  It is a bizarre arrangement.  We will continue to be entirely transparent with what we are doing.  We will do things differently.  We will not continue the subsidies you advocate for forestry operations because we reckon they are spent into our hospitals.