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Tuckey's forestry failures again exposed at estimates.

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Laurie Ferguson - Tuckey's Forestry Failures Again Exposed At Estimates Wednesday, 30 May 2001

Tuckey's Forestry Failures Again Exposed At Estimates Laurie Ferguson - Shadow Minister for Forestry and Conservation

Media Statement - 29 May 2001

Yesterday's Budget Estimates hearings have exposed the complete failure of Minister Tuckey to deliver for the timber industry, according to the Shadow Minister for Forestry and Conservation, Laurie Ferguson MP.

'During a period of substantial reductions in harvesting levels in the native forestry sector, the Coalition is clearly failing to deliver adequate and timely assistance,' Mr Ferguson said.

'Yesterday's hearings revealed that $78 million of the $107 million FISAP funding that Labor set aside in December 1995 to help the timber industry and retrenched workers with these adjustment pressures remains unspent.

'This is completely unacceptable.

'On 3 October last year the Minister for Forestry and Conservation, Wilson Tuckey, gave me a written answer predicting that FISAP expenditure in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia in 2000-01 would total $43.8 million.

'We now learn that the expected expenditure by 30 June will be a mere $3.021 million - an underspend of more than $40 million.

'According to departmental officials, only $3 million was spent out of the promised allocation of $11.1 million to Victoria.

'The position was even worse in NSW and WA with only "negligible" expenditure compared to the promised allocations of $24.8 million and $7.9 million respectively.

'While unspent FISAP funds are to be carried forward, it is totally unacceptable that the industry has been starved of funding because Minister Tuckey finds it difficult to work with his State counterparts.

'We now learn the Minister has even grabbed $1.8 million out of the FISAP budget to give himself the

"flexibility" to direct fund projects outside the agreed Commonwealth/State arrangements in three States.

'I welcome the fact that agreement has finally been reached to resume the FISAP program in NSW.

'Departmental officials have, however, casts serious doubt on the likelihood of FISAP funding flowing to the industry in WA in the near future, as the exchange below indicates.

Senator Forshaw - What is the current position? Does the government still intend to honour its commitment to provide that money to Western Australia in full?

Mr Quinlivan - The issue of resource availability in Western Australia remains an outstanding issue.

Senator Forshaw - Yes, but that is not the question I asked. I know that is an issue, but is it still the Commonwealth's position that the full funding will be available.

Mr Quinlivan - In accordance with the terms of the RFA, yes.

Senator Forshaw - Do you see any likelihood of the issue being resolved, and the funding being available in the near future?

Mr Quinlivan - I wouldn't have thought so.

[RRA&T Committee Hansard 28 May 2001 p. 28]

'In my contact with the timber industry across the States the clear message is that positive assistance and funding is needed from the Commonwealth as a matter of urgency.

'Minister Tuckey will be in for a shock if he thinks a frustrated timber industry will be placated by an election-eve FISAP spending spree.' Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.

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