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These news items are a bit old now but I wonder if they are indicative of what 2012 may bring. I will leave aside the question of whether Ta Ann is a “fit and proper company”.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-12-29/ta-ann-forestry/3751388?section=tas

and also

http://www.themercury.com.au/article/2011/12/30/288231_tasmania-news.html

These news items say it all. At least Ta Ann is prepared to publically admit to the commercial, political and social damage from the continuation of the forestry wars.

But are they being honest? Ta Ann is portraying itself here is an innocent party, not master of its own destiny (just like the rest of the forest industry).

To facilitate the TFIA Ta Ann could tell FT that it will no longer accept any wood from disputed coupes. This would speed the progression of the TFIA and help achieve the outcome that Ta Ann says it wants. I wonder why Ta Ann chooses not to do this?

If Ta Ann is genuine in its wishes then they need to not only take action themselves, AND convince the Government, BUT also lobby the members of the Legislative Council PLUS the rest of their forest industry peers that the TFIA is the only option for the future. Are they prepared to do this? Are they true to their word?

Change must happen if the forest industry is to have any future.

The Tasmanian Forest intergovernmental Agreement (TFIA) is the only game in town that offers any hope of reform and an eventual (but not immediate) end to the forestry wars. Hardly anybody seems to like the TFIA, but no alternatives have been suggested; nobody has stepped forward to drive a new agenda.

The Liberal opposition and the Legislative Council want the TFIA scrapped so the forestry wars can continue. It seems that some politicians are prepared to squeeze the last drops of political advantage from the forest industry regardless of the consequences.

I take the view that the TFIA is just the first step on the road to reform. Anyone who wants to be part of the ongoing process needs to take a positive, proactive approach. The time for being a critical, intolerant, inflexible observer is past.

At least Ta Ann should be congratulated for publicly stating what is obvious to some of us.

First published: 2012-01-09 02:50 AM

• Andrew Darby, The Age, Tuesday: Taxpayers stump up for logging policy failures

As $45 million of your taxes is about to be divvied up for broke loggers, a worrying precedent has come to light that raises serious questions about this bailout of a struggling industry. 

Attempts by successive federal governments to pay businesses out of the native forest industry in Tasmania have failed to meet basic benchmarks for proper government funding — let alone meet the goal of making the industry more sustainable.

Instead, largesse for new equipment in one program was followed by a more costly exit package to some of the same businesses in the next program.

These failures, by both the Howard and now Labor governments, are being pursued through Senate committees and questions by Greens senator Christine Milne. They are recorded in the dry accounting language of an Ernst & Young investigation into a $54 million Howard government program run by the Federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

There’s no question that the island’s native timber industry is in a dire state.  ANU researcher Dr Jacki Schirmer found in a 2010 study for the Forestry CRC that one-third of Tasmania’s forest workers had lost their jobs in the previous two years.  The burdens of the high dollar, global market shifts to certified plantation timber, and environmental campaigns were largely to blame.

When the crisis was gaining pace five years ago, the Howard government established the $54 million Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement Industry Development Program. It handed out 108 grants ranging from $6000 to $10.5 million, mainly to buy new logging machinery or upgrade existing timber plant with the aim of keeping pace with market shifts.

In a pre-election boost from the then forests minister Eric Abetz, the grant winners even gained an extra 30 per cent to compensate for tax.

But in 2008 the federal Auditor-General cast a very cold eye over this program, saying it failed taxpayers, and the department asked Ernst & Young to investigate in 2010.

The Ernst & Young study said department files were so deficient that in 60 cases it could not find the grantees’ own audited income and expenditure statements in support of their applications. That means the files lacked the basic proof that the grantees actually needed a grant. It said that in 29 cases, money was handed over before funding deed requirements were met.

In 26 cases, either there was no confirmation the claim was for an approved purchase, they were given more money than agreed, or there was no tax invoice on file.

This was your money — gone.

After these grants were given out, Tasmania’s native forest industry crashed. To meet this fresh crisis, another $17 million was made available by the Labor government in a department exit assistance program in late 2010.

Read the rest of the article, with full LINKS, in The Age, HERE

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