Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd loaded up the state’s North-West when he announced grants of $100 million arising from the Tasmanian Forest Agreement yesterday.
The money was allocated to 31 projects and was part of $338 million promised in the forest peace deal.
The Northwest, home of Sid Sidebottom’s Braddon seat received $43 million, compared with the $9.9 million for the Bass seat held by Geoff Lyons and $20 million for all of southern Tasmania. The funding included $4.5 million for regional tourism infrastructure and innovation, $7.5 million to Ta Ann Tasmania for a plywood factory at Smithton and $9 million for a North-West irrigation scheme.
Other major grants were $11 million to the Tasmanian Government’s Industry and Innovation Fund and $10 million to a University of Tasmania information technology project Sense-T. Regional Services Minister Catherine King was unable to nominate how many jobs the money was expected to create.
The Forest Industries Association of Tasmania panned the process of allocating funds. Political analyst Tony McCall said: “It’s just good old fashioned pork-barrelling.”
Regional Councils spokesman Barry Jarvis said a number of councils affected by the forestry downturn had received nothing.
“Our take on it is that some federal members have more pull over where the money goes than others,” Cr Jarvis said.
However, Premier Lara Giddings claimed the funding was evenly spread and aimed at areas worst affected by the downturn.
“Importantly, the package contains an emphasis on creating jobs for people displaced by changes in forestry and supporting projects that will help further diversify the forest industry for the future,” Ms Giddings said.
Mr Rudd claimed Opposition Leader Tony Abbott would trash the Tasmanian economy by cutting GST funding, abandoning the NBN and the Gonski Reforms.
“He has three big torpedoes aimed at the Tasmania each with T. Abbott written on the side,” he said.
Granted $6 million to extend the gas network from Port Latta to Smithton, Tas Gas chief executive officer Roger Ingram said the project would provide long-term employment opportunities.
Welcoming the $7.5 million grant towards a $15 million plywood factory, Ta Ann Tasmania general manager Robert Yong said the project would bring immediate employment in the building industry and 75 jobs in the initial operational phase of one shift in the Circular Head Municipality.
“The value of production for Tasmania will be lifted by some $30-35 million every year as the project reaches full production increasing employment to about 120 direct jobs,” Mr Yong said.
Circular Head Mayor Daryl Quilliam and Waratah-Wynyard Mayor Robby Walsh released a statement saying the funds would benefit their municipalities by $17 million.
“Prime Minister Rudd needs to make very clear what is new money, what is out of the promised $100 million, and why he is not maintaining the pressure on the Tasmanian Legislative Council to deliver on forest protection,” Senator Milne said.