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Displaced forestry worker gets 20c for his troubles

Melina Bath with Jeff and Kristy Coster

Gippsland forestry workers displaced by the Labor government’s forced closure of the native timber industry have had their compensation payments frozen. Source: Timberbiz

The Allan Government agreed to pay native timber worker and Heyfield resident Jeff Coster due compensation in February.

The deal has been stalled, and no payment has been made despite the government issuing a test payment of 20 cents into Mr Coster’s bank account.

Seeking a resolution, The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Melina Bath called on Labor in state parliament to honour its commitment and pay the due compensation without delay.

“After working in the industry for 30 years Jeff lost his livelihood as a direct result of Labor’s appalling decision to close the timber industry – a solution must be found,” Ms Bath said.

“Over the past month I and The Nationals, along with the Costers have had discussions in good faith with the Minister for Agriculture and her Forestry Adviser, despite sympathetic noises, no payment is forthcoming.

Ms Bath said that the Costers were not alone, forestry workers operating under a subcontracting arrangement face the same unacceptable predicament.

“The Allan Government is morally obliged to recognise time, toil and investment in the industry by subcontractors,” said Ms Bath.

“Labor’s hastily designed forestry compensation scheme failed to consider the federal tax implications, resulting in many workers being either rejected or left to pay huge tax bills.

“Some subcontractors who received a payment have now shockingly been asked to repay their compensation back to the state government.

“The Labor Government was so fixated on fast tracking the closure of the industry it hasn’t considered the ramifications of applying the redundancy payments to subcontractors.”

Ms Bath said the stalled payment is a bitter pill for Jeff to swallow given he has used his expertise to fight every major bushfire over the past 30 years.

“Jeff spent decades protecting forests, properties, and lives from the ravages of bushfire– it’s time the Labor Government delivered support to him and his family.

“The Allan Labor Government agreed in writing to pay due compensation to all forestry workers – it must end the stalling and create a pathway to provide the money owed to impacted subcontractors.

“Labor’s bungling of the forestry workers compensation scheme is evidence it has abandoned workers and can’t manage money.”