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Exit grants for Tassie loggers under fire

Source:  Copyright 2011, AAP
Date:  April 28, 2011
Original URL: Status DEAD

THE federal government's scheme to lure loggers out of Tasmania is under renewed fire over claims companies are pocketing cash only to resume logging on the mainland.

One logging company was granted $825,000 in exit assistance last year but green groups say it's simply shifted its operations to Gulaga National Park, on the southern NSW coast.

South East Forest Rescue said the government scheme, aimed at downsizing Tasmania's logging industry, was a rort if it allowed loggers to simply pull up stumps and go elsewhere.

It's the latest attack on the government's $17 million exit assistance program which has been hit with allegations of fraud, favouritism and claims some contractors have been left out-of-pocket.

Under the scheme, 29 contractors have been given cash grants to leave Tasmania's native forests, in amounts ranging from $158,049 to a maximum $825,000.

Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig on Thursday said that under the guidelines, companies were only required to leave Tasmania for five years, with no restrictions on where they might go.

His office refused to say how many complaints had been received about the scheme itself or if a formal investigation had been launched.

But since it was announced in November, the agriculture department has set up a public complaint hotline.

"The department will continue to investigate any new information or allegations received," Senator Ludwig said.

Tasmanian Liberal senator Richard Colbeck says the exit program is rife with problems and has dubbed it "pink batts with bark".

He said some contractors lost up to 70 per cent of their business because of the program and should be able to claim their losses from the federal government.

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