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Over $18m Taxpayer Subsidy of Woodchip Export

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 15 September 2016

Tags: Native Forest Logging, Forests, Woodchips, Macquarie Wharf, Freight Equalisation Scheme


Yesterday in Parliament you claimed, 'No government money has been or will be provided for either of the successful EOI proposals.'  We think you have misled the House.  Do you acknowledge accepting a massive commonwealth taxpayer subsidy is the only way the export of woodchips from Macquarie Wharf can be feasible?  Under the changes your Government drove to the expanded Freight Equalisation Scheme, $700 is available per 6.1-metre container.  These containers have a capacity for 33.2 cubic metres of woodchips.  According to standard weight-to-volume conversion calculations for dry woodchips, this equates to 12.62 tonnes.  Based on the number of 180 000 tonnes you gave us, this is a subsidy of around $18.3 million a year.  Do you agree this is a taxpayer subsidy?  Have you misled the House to the tune of $18.3 million?

Members interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order.  If members wish to have a discussion they can go outside.



Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her question.  The member who asked the question is not interested in the answer, given her ongoing interjections.  She would have to be Tasmania's, and perhaps Australia's, biggest hypocrite when she asks a question like that.  She knows she is responsible for condemning and killing off the forest sector, year in year out, when she was in government.  Now she is standing here and trying to destroy the jobs of hardworking Tasmanians in the native forest sector.  The Greens have a policy of halting native forest harvesting throughout Tasmania.  This is putting in jeopardy thousands of jobs throughout Tasmania, particularly in regional Tasmania.

I stand by every single word I spoke in the House yesterday.  The interjection made yesterday from the Greens in reference to the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme, as though that is somehow providing criticism and an attack on our own policy, is rubbish. 

In this arrangement, we have cleaned up the mess the Labor-Greens government left us with the southern forest residues.  The subsidy to Forestry Tasmania for timber going north will not continue.  As a result, Forestry Tasmania's bottom line will be improved.  Forestry Tasmania will get a positive boost because it needs to be put on a sustainable footing.  This is unlike the policy of the Labor party.  They want to take $100 million of taxpayer money - money that could otherwise be spent on hospital, schools, roads and police - and put it into Forestry Tasmania.  That will not be happening under our majority Liberal Government.  We are rebuilding the forest sector.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker.  Standing order 96, answers should be relevant to the question.  You have been asked about the commonwealth subsidy of $18.3 million for this venture and we would like you to answer it.

Madam SPEAKER - It is the correct standing order to use on relevance.  As I have told the House on numerous occasions, when a very detailed question is asked, containing a number of questions, allegations, or a lengthy preamble by way of description, a lot of latitude has been given in the asking of the question.  The minister is given the same latitude in answering it.  I am not a mind reader.  I am unsure what the minister will say next.  I am sure he will address his mind to the numerous questions.

Mr BARNETT - Thank you, Madam Speaker.  As you correctly noted, there are numerous questions.  I stand by every word shared yesterday.  I made clear our policy position for Forestry Tasmania, to put it back onto a commercial footing.  In this arrangement we are cleaning up the mess left by Labor and the Greens with southern forest residues and there will be no further subsidies for transport of product going to northern Tasmania.  This is delivering a positive result, a good outcome, opportunities and it is saving jobs in southern Tasmania. 

The member for Denison is not interested.  It is a furphy and she should be ashamed of such a question.