Harriss tightens fist on $7m

Paul Harriss

Paul Harriss

RESOURCES Minister Paul Harriss has rejected calls for $7 million earmarked for forestry workers to be reinvested in front-line services or returned to the federal government.

Mr Harriss announced on Wednesday that harvesting contractors would be able to apply for a share of the unspent cash later this year, which was leftover from the previous government’s forestry exit package funding.

He said the handouts would help timber workers grow their businesses and build capacity.

But Greens leader Kim Booth said the government should instead negotiate with its federal counterparts to invest the money in boosting the number of Tasmanian nurses, teachers and emergency workers.

‘‘At the very least it should not be used to further entrench unviable logging,’’ Mr Booth said.

Australian Greens Leader Christine Milne took a different tack, saying the money was explicitly provided under the forest peace deal and should be handed back now the agreement was dead.

‘‘The Commonwealth gave Tasmania money for specific goals as part of the Tasmanian Forest Agreement,’’ Senator Milne said.

‘‘It is not up to Mr Harriss to decide how federal taxpayer funds should be spent.’’

Senator Milne said the timber industry should not be propped up by additional subsidies.

‘‘No other Australian workers have had more multimillion-dollar payouts to stay in, exit, stay in, exit and stay in than Tasmanian loggers ... it has to stop,’’ she said.

But a spokesman for Mr Harriss said the suggestions had been quashed.

‘‘Labor and the Greens spent $13million to shut down the industry,’’ he said.

‘‘We will use the remaining $7million to rebuild and support the growth of Tasmania’s forestry industry.’’

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