Sham deal to shut forestry morphs into $100m Labor fund to buy seats

Voters should be furious that funding for the sham deal to shut down the State's forest industry - putting hundreds of Tasmanians out of work - was now being used by Gillard's Labor to create political gain.

Coalition Forestry spokesman Senator Richard Colbeck said the so-called green-led "peace deal" had gone from disgraceful to obscene.

"There is now little doubt that Prime Minister Julia Gillard has turned the funding from the sham forest process into a sleazy $100 million election slush fund," he said.

"She came to Hobart and trashed her own budget with two days of it being announced - saying money allocated over 14 years would now be spent over the next four, and allocated by a panel chaired by Professor Jonathon West."

On Friday new Minister Anthony Albanese came to Tasmania to "decide how the money would be spent", yet on Friday afternoon Member for Bass Geoff Lyons was saying he already knew where money would to be spent, "a lot" of it in the north east

"At the same time Premier Giddings was telling us the funds could not be used before September," Senator Colbeck said. "And councils, which have already lost rate revenue due to the sham deal, were complaining that they hadn't been invited to the table."

Senator Colbeck said there were other obvious questions including:

  • What was the application process to access the funding?
  • Who was eligible?
  • What were the terms and conditions?
  • Who was on the panel with Jonathon West and how would they operate?
  • What was the process for announcing the grants?

"With all these questions unanswered, how does Geoff Lyons already know how the money is to be spent unless the fund is little more than a $100 million taxpayer funded re-election slush fund for Labor members in Tasmania?" Senator Colbeck said.

"It was supposed to be to support the structural adjustment of the Tasmanian economy on the back of the sham forest process.

"We have just seen a highly critical Auditor General's report into the forest contractors' buyout, now it looks like the Gillard Government is about to deliver more of the same.

"It is set to become an obscene scene of debaucherous spending to try to buy seats."

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