The Tasmanian Greens will table in Parliament this week a motion to establish an independent Commission of Inquiry into Forestry Tasmania, under the State’s Commissions of Inquiry Act 1995.
“There is growing community disquiet and frustration over the financial management and policy direction of Forestry Tasmania, and the fact that it resembles ground-hog day everytime the government of the day says it is addressing these issues,” Greens Leader and Forestry spokesperson Kim Booth MP said today.
“We have to break this serial addiction to government ground-hog day announcements that Forestry Tasmania is ‘fixed’, when in fact all they is entrench the government business enterprise’s reliance on public subsidies.”
“We have no faith that this government’s internal departmental review of Forestry Tasmania will not just result in a superficial change while business as usual continues on the ground.”
“The uncertainty must end once and for all, for current Forestry Tasmania workers, and for the Tasmanian taxpayer. The Greens’ proposed Commission of Inquiry will be the long-overdue circuit-breaker.”
“Tasmania urgently needs an independent, rigorous and forensic overhaul of this GBE and its role within the state forestry sector, with the capacity to map out practical pathways out of the current expensive morass.”
“The Auditor-General reported in 2014 that Forestry Tasmania’s assets base has shrunk from a staggering $2.227 billion in 1994 to a miserable $0.163 billion.”
“Forestry Tasmania’s assets are far less than their current liabilities, the GBE only exists because of a Treasury Letter of Comfort and would be wound up if they were any other company.
“In addition our proposed Commission of Inquiry would examine in a detailed manner the incoming and outgoing monies administered by Forestry Tasmania since the RFA, including the TCFA and TFA, examine whether due diligence and good governance standards were maintained, and examine the monies expended on commercial and non-commercial functions during these funding periods as well as looking forward to future requirements.”
“It will also be important to examine whether Forestry Tasmania’s use of public funds has acted as a disincentive to private sector investment.”
“Further we need to examine the reason and methodology behind what appears to have a case of industry self-cannibalism.”
“Just as importantly, the community also needs to have a say in how they perceive a modern and sustainable non-native forest industry of the future, so the Commission is also an opportunity to have viable transition options mapped out that are not reliant upon the public purse.”
“The Inquiry should be conducted by an independent professional who is not from the state forestry industry, and that the Commission be adequately resourced to access the necessary forestry, conservation, financial and legal expertise.”
“Despite numerous Inquiries, Federal funding agreements worth millions of dollars, Parliamentary committee examinations, Treasury Letters of Comfort, and Auditor-General reviews over past decades, Tasmania is still struggling to wade out of the forestry quicksand. We cannot keep going on like this.”
“This is not a witch-hunt, as those determined to prop up the status quo will attempt to say, it is about identifying what has gone wrong over the past decades, whether Forestry Tasmania is the right fit for the modern timber marketplace, and how do we as a community move forward.”
“Taxpayers deserve to know what has happened to all of the public monies, around $780 million since 1997 both from the Commonwealth and the State, which has been sunk into the forestry black hole over the decades, and specifically those monies either administered by, or directly allocated to, the GBE,” Mr Booth said.
The Tasmanian Commissions of Inquiry Act 1995 establishes inquiries equivalent to those known as ‘Royal Commissions’ in other jurisdictions.