Tasmania's focus on forest peace deal has inflated public perception of industry's importance to economy, says Australian Institute; sector employs 1% of workforce, but participants in poll put rate at 20%

HOBART, Australia , November 5, 2012 () – A BREAKDOWN of census data has backed up Australian Institute claims that Tasmania's long and bitter forest wars has skewed public opinion of the sector's importance to jobs and the economy.

Last year, forestry and logging employed just 975 workers, making it one of the smallest employers in the state, the Australian Institute reveals.

The health-care industry employed more than 24,000 Tasmanians last year.

Between 2006 and last year the forestry sector shed 472 jobs while a quarter of the new jobs created over the same period were in health care.

``Debate about the ability of logging in Tasmania to create jobs is a case of the tail wagging the dog,'' Australia Institute executive director Richard Denniss said yesterday.

``The biggest employers, health care, retail and education, together employ more than 50 times as many Tasmanians as logging and forestry.''

Debate over Tasmania's forest industry has been raging for more than 30 years.

The debate was still dominating front pages last week as what promised to be a historic forest peace deal failed to eventuate after two years of talks.

Earlier this year the institute released a poll showing many thought the sector contributed far more than it did.

The average Tasmanian thought forestry employed about 20 per cent of the state's workforce.

In reality, the sector employs closer to 1 per cent.

Dr Denniss said the industries that made the most noise were not always the ones that employed the most people.

``There is clearly a significant mismatch between the picture of the Tasmanian economy and official statistics and the picture of the economy in the minds of ordinary Tasmanians,'' he said.

``One explanation is that Tasmanians have confused the size of the political debate about logging with the size of the industry itself.''

(c) 2012 News Limited

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