Tasmanian government accuses opposition Liberal senator of trying to 'railroad' federal government into abandoning forestry agreement with state, calls on Prime Minister not to 'cave in to pressure'

HOBART, Tasmania , December 6, 2013 (press release) – The Deputy Premier Bryan Green today accused Liberal Senator Eric Abetz of trying to railroad Coalition Government Ministers into destroying the Tasmanian Forest Agreement to save Will Hodgman’s political skin.

“Eric Abetz is prepared to sacrifice Tasmanian forestry jobs and investment in the industry in a shocking display of bastardry and political self-interest,” Mr Green said.

Mr Green called on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to stand up to Senator Abetz and heed the calls of Tasmania’s forest industry not to abandon the TFA.

“This is a real test of leadership for Tony Abbott because Eric Abetz is a notorious political bully who will do and say anything to get his way over the Liberal Party.

“Unlike Will Hodgman, Tony Abbott has never said he will tear up the agreement, so he should listen to what the industry is telling him and not cave in to pressure from Eric Abetz.

Forest Industries Association of Tasmania chief executive Terry Edwards and other key industry players have been reported this week as warning the Coalition not to rip up the agreement.

“Tasmanians have had enough of the weasel words on forestry from Senator Abetz and Will Hodgman, and now it’s time for Tony Abbott to do what the industry wants him to do and back the TFA.

“Environmental Minister Greg Hunt must have known what he was doing by committing the Coalition to funding the management of new forest reserves under the TFA, but obviously he didn’t check first with Senator Abetz.

“Why would the Coalition also commit more than $500,000 to the Special Council to continue implementing the TFA if it was going to rip up the agreement?

“It sent Senator Abetz into a frenzy because he knows Will Hodgman has no forest policy and is now in real political trouble.

Mr Green said the National Partnership Agreement on the Implementation of the Tasmanian Forests Agreement provided for funding of $7 million to manage new forest reserves this year and $9 million a year indexed thereafter.

“Senator Abetz says the Coalition is only honouring the contract for one year, so he clearly has no understanding of the agreement he wants to unwind.

“Suggestions that the funding was for work already done on implementing the TFA are also wrong.

Mr Green said it was disappointing but not surprising that Tasmania’s Federal Liberal representatives were closing ranks behind Senator Abetz.

“Senator Abetz has long been the puppet master of the Liberal Party in Tasmania and has total control over Will Hodgman. He has gambled Mr Hodgman’s entire career on playing politics with forestry.

“Mr Abbott knows that if he doesn’t implement the TFA, Tasmania’s forest industry will collapse.

“Sadly, that is a price Eric Abetz and Will Hodgman seem prepared to pay,” Mr Green said.

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