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Forestry - Sale of State's Plantation Assets
Ms O'CONNOR question to MINISTER for RESOURCES, Mr BARNETT
You have announced that 29 000 hectares of publicly owned plantation has been sold to a private company for $60 million. In a 2012 letter, the Auditor-General confirmed it costs around $350 000 per hectare in public funding to establish Forestry Tasmania's plantations. This put the actual cost of establishing the public plantations you are flogging at a conservative estimate of $101 million. On the evidence, Tasmanian taxpayers have been ripped off to the tune of $40 million.
Can you explain to the House how it is that the Government is selling these publicly owned plantations at a loss? Why are you trying to deceive Tasmanians about what a good deal you have when Tasmanians have made a loss of $40 million? How can you claim this is a good deal when the Auditor-General's 2012 letter makes it clear these public plantations are being sold at a massive loss?
Madam SPEAKER - Order. If members continue to ignore my direction you know what happens.
Madam Speaker, I am thankful for the question from the Leader of the Greens. It highlights the extraordinary hypocrisy of the member for Denison and Leader for the Greens, who opposes, on the public record, our native forest harvesting in Tasmania. You want to put 3000 or more Tasmanians out of jobs. They want to close down the native forest sector. Here she is, standing in this place, asking questions about forestry and our plans for a sustainable future. The person who asked this question, the member for Denison, opposed the establishment of the plantations that she is now asking questions about.
Ms O'Connor - Could you provide some evidence for that?
Mr BARNETT - You are now complaining about them being sold and you opposed the establishment of these plantations in the first place. You opposed taxpayer-funded subsidies to Forestry Tasmania and yet the sale helps get it onto a sustainable footing. You have opposed the support of the public subsidies going in. Why are you not you saying congratulations, well done to the Government for ending the public subsidies going to our forestry corporation, Sustainable Timber Tasmania? Surely you could have a shred of credibility to at least say congratulations and good job on that. You are complaining about local value adding.
Ms O'Connor - Surely you can come to the substance of the question which is about the Auditor-General's letter.
Madam SPEAKER - Order.
Mr BARNETT - Hello, didn't you oppose the pulp mill as well?
Ms O'Connor - Yes, absolutely.
Mr BARNETT - That is right. You opposed forestry, you are opposing jobs in regional areas. You signed up to two out of three jobs being thrown out of the forest industry.
Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker. Could you please ask the minister to address the question which relates to the Auditor-General?
Madam SPEAKER - Members know my longstanding ruling. It was not a simple, direct question. It had a preamble and had numerous questions contained in the question. That opens up the latitude. If you want to restrict a minister, you need to be restrictive with your questions.
Mr BARNETT - Thank you, Madam Speaker. We are getting Sustainable Timber Tasmania onto a sustainable footing. I advised the public a few weeks ago that already the budget bottom line over the next four years is improved by $30 million, another benefit, another initiative of the majority Hodgman Liberal Government delivering for Tasmania so we can spend these important funds where they need to be used, on our frontline services.
Unlike the Labor Party, unlike the Greens, where they want $25 million of taxpayers' money per year for four years, that is $100 million. Just think what you could do with that money. Why did you oppose the sale to those on the other side and why do you keep wanting to put public subsidies into our forestry corporation?
Madam SPEAKER - Order. If members are not interested in answers then I will call on the next question which I will do.