Tas gov't pushes for pulp mill deal

September 20, 2009

In 2008, Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett promised voters the ALP state government would no longer guarantee financial support to forestry giant Gunns' unpopular pulp mill proposal for the Tamar Valley, near Launceston.

"The government has drawn a line in the sand regarding any future government involvement in this [pulp mill] project ... the success or otherwise of the pulp mill is entirely in the proponent's hands", he said.

However on September 16, state treasurer Michael Aird left for Europe on a $50,000, seven-day trip. He will meet Gunns' prospective financer, Swedish paper pulp company Sodra.

Gunns openly thanked Aird for agreeing to the meeting.

"We are very pleased the Tasmanian government is reiterating its support in this way", Gunns spokesperson Matt Horan told the September 17 Mercury. "The government has always made its support clear in the past but a personal visit from the Treasurer is certainly not going to harm our cause."

Aird told reporters he would outline the ALP government's "strong commitment to the pulp mill project" and "the jobs and investment it would bring". However, he denied the Tasmanian government would offer Sodra financial help.

On September 15, Wilderness Society spokesperson Paul Oosting said Aird's "mercy-dash" on behalf of Gunns flew in the face of public opposition to the pulp mill. "All government support for the pulp mill should end", he said.

Anti-pulp mill group TAP Into a Better Tasmania spokesperson Bob McMahon told ABC Online on September 15 that the trip reflected Gunns' failure to secure finance for the project itself.

"There's no doubt that Aird runs the government, not the Premier and there's no doubt, as I look at this, that Gunns runs Aird", he said.

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