The Deputy Premier, John Barilaro, has refused to rule out privatising Forestry Corporation, despite admitting the industry is “on its knees” and the asset value is unknown.
The Berejiklian-Barilaro Government is engaging in a grotesque spending spree on consultants appointed to advise on the Forestry Corporation scoping study while rural and regional NSW continues to burn.
Spending on the scoping study has doubled to $1.3 million after contract extensions were provided to Minter Ellison for legal advisory services and Melbourne-based, Margules Groom Consulting, for “forestry advisory services” over the last two months.
This means the Government is spending around $10,000 a day to consultants to examine the sale of forests that have been destroyed by fire.
Mr Barilaro today dodged a question from Labor’s Shadow Minister for Natural Resources, Paul Scully, about why the scoping study had blown out.
Instead of explaining the high cost of the scoping study, he said it would help make a decision for the future of the industry, which he described as being on its knees in the wake of the fires.
Mr Scully said the Government has doubled down on their scoping study, essentially doubling the original cost and extending the timeframe, at a time when fires were already raging across the state.
“This is an industry that needs support to recover and not have the rug pulled out from under it through an ideologically driven sale,” Mr Scully said.
“It’s a grotesque spending spree on high-priced, Sydney-based consultants, lawyers and accountants in the NSW Liberals and Nationals pig-headed determination to sell-off Forestry Corporation to the highest bidder.
“Forestry Corporation is the major employer in many rural and regional areas, like Tumut where over 130 workers are located in an area devastated by fire.
“Towns like Tumut, Tumbarumba, Gundagai, Lismore, Coffs Harbour and Grafton are reliant on the timber industry to survive and deserve better treatment than having more money thrown at consultants by a Government desperate to find an argument to justify an ideological sale.
“But the NSW Liberals and Nationals Government can’t see the forest for the trees as it continues to throw money around for this Forestry Corporation sell-off scoping study.”
Mr Scully again demanded the NSW Liberals and Nationals Government should put an end to this proposed sell-off once and for all.
“These areas need urgent financial assistance and support from the Government, not to have their jobs and industry’s future sold out from under them.”