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New plan needed for softwood industry.

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Thursday, 21 July 2005

The State Government is being called on to reconsider its approach to the way Tasmania’s softwood industry is managed.

Federal Member for Bass Michael Ferguson said with so much uncertainty among sawmillers, its clear some reassurances need to be made.

“There is concern within the community about tenders for log supplies being advertised nationally,” he said.

“Timber could be allocated to interstate or overseas buyers, directly resulting in a loss of processing and employment in North East Tasmania. There is already a shortage of timber resource, exacerbated by the forest estate manager exporting whole logs into Asia.

“I am calling on the State Government to at least advise the North East community on the tender outcome, prior to any final decision being made.”

In February Mr Ferguson called on the State Government to assure job security for workers in the softwood industry.

“Minister Bryan Green then accused me of using out-of-date information, but the reality is, this issue is more serious today than ever,” he said.

“I am calling on the State Government to undertake a business case looking at possible options for assisting the industry.

“One of these options should be to buy back half of the softwood estate that it once owned, but privatised by Paul Lennon when he was the responsible minister.

“They should at least consider a buy back, which I would estimate to cost in the order of $60 million.

“This is obviously a lot of money, but it would be a real investment in the industry’s future and an investment in rural communities like Scottsdale.

“The purchase would not affect the budget in the same way as other expenditure because it would involve the purchase of an income-earning asset.

“Whatever happens, the State Government must act now to ensure that all North East softwood mills in workers are being protected.”