Hodgman on pulp mill mission

SECURING federal government assistance for the Tamar Valley pulp mill will be the top priority of state Opposition Leader Will Hodgman's first trip to Canberra since the Coalition government was elected in September.

Mr Hodgman flew to the Canberra yesterday for meetings with Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss and Treasurer Joe Hockey over two days.

Mr Hodgman has had earlier discussions with Mr Abbott about the pulp mill but said he had decided to make the trip to advance the issue.

``It's only through working constructively with the federal government that it's possible to explore all of the options to make the pulp mill a reality,'' Mr Hodgman said.

``We are at the beginning of our discussions regarding the pulp mill and there is still a long way to go, but I am not prepared to give up on it.''

The Long Reach pulp mill site and permits were among the assets of failed timber company Gunns put on the market last month by receiver KordaMentha.  

Mr Hodgman was tight-lipped about the options the federal government was considering pursuing to get the project off the ground, but they are more likely to include tax breaks and cheaper deals on utilities rather than direct funding. 

Mr Hodgman indicated there was little more that could be done at the state level.

``I will also be making it clear that Tasmania has already done its share of the heavy lifting when it comes to the pulp mill and now it's up to the federal government to play its part.''

The talks follow federal infrastructure assistant minister Jamie Briggs's visit to the state last week and his comments that the government could ``de-risk'' infrastructure proposals to kickstart them.

Labor also strongly supports the construction of the pulp mill and is believed to be considering what assistance could be offered to potential buyers. 

Leading economist Saul Eslake warned against ``unfair'' assistance, but said tax incentives had been used to help establish or prop up industries in the past. 

``If economic conditions worsen they will just put the screws on government for more assistance,'' Mr Eslake said.

``I'm not sure what more governments could do beyond putting their money into it.''

Expressions of interest for the pulp mill project close at the end of this month.

Mr Hodgman returns from his round of meetings tomorrow. 

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