King Island Courier Photos

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Speculation that JBS Swift have convinced the State Government to lobby its Federal counterpart to remove the TFES $41 per head subsidy, is worrying farmers with their eye on the bottom line.

The Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme (TFES) assists shippers to transport goods by sea, between Tasmania and the Australian mainland, to help reduce freight costs imposed by Bass Strait.

The Minister for Economic Development, Michael Aird did not committ when asked if removing the subsidy was on his Government’s agenda when he’s in Canberra discussing the matter with Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Anthony Albanese MP.

Federal Ministers don’t take kindly to be being told what to do by State Governments so any foreshadowing of outcomes are unlikely and it’s in this environment that speculation on subsidy removal has run rife.

Mr Aird did concede, "The impact of the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme on JBS Swift's operations on King Island is one of the major issues facing the company.

"The Government will continue having discussions with JBS Swift and the Australian Government with a goal to seek the long term sustainability of the King Island abattoir,” Mr Aird said.

Given that the TFGA and governments at all levels worked for years to obtain this subsidy and lauded it as a great boon for farming in Tasmania by creating an even playing field across Bass Strait, its withdrawal would seriously affect the bottom line for farmers, especially on King and Flinders Islands.

Removal of the subsidy has no rational basis; it would whip an economic rug out from under rural regional economies of King and Flinders Island, leaving them uncompetitive and unviable.

TFGA CEO Chris Oldfield has spoken to both Swift and the Tasmanian Government across a range of issues to do with the King Island Abattoir since its closure in late March, Swift director John Berry keeps him regularly informed of developments and has not mentioned removing the TFES subsidy.

The TFFA position is simple says Mr Oldfield, “Grassy is not an export port, Melbourne is, so it is unfair to discriminate at all between live or boxed cattle leaving the island, the same opportunities, or subsidies under the TFES should apply.”

“The King Island farming community has made it abundantly clear to the TFGA that they see the King Island Abattoir closure as a social issue with far reaching effects on the local economy.”

Mr Berry has certainly nominated the $41 a head subsidy as being a major issue facing the viability of the King Island Abattoir, however he has not cited removing the subsidy as JBS Swift’s aim.

The issue of stock availability and continuity of supply on King Island is looming as an area of  increasing concern for JBS Swift this winter following a major sell-off of island cattle in March.

—King Island Courier

10 June 2009

 
A daunting task as day dawned on nearly 200 beached Pilot Whales and several dolphins. Parks and Wildlife Services Ranger Shelley Davison surveys the daunting task of caring for the 53 Pilot whales still alive. High tide on Sunday evening brought with it nearly 200 Pilot Whales to the sands of Sea Elephant Bay. 

As darkness fell, it was impossible to help the thrashing giants, so a rescue was planned for
first light on Monday morning 2 March. Ranger Shelley Davison called for linen, buckets and volunteers wearing wetsuits.
Standing on the beach at Naracoopa on King Island east coast,
Ms Davison had reservations about being able to keep so many whales alive with so few people. Within hours people out numbered the whales and five Bottle Nosed Dolphins.
Each volunteer was
briefed about blow holes and to keep clear of tail flukes, "They can stay alive for days like this, said Ranger Davison, "we need to keep them, cool, wet and where possible upright." People came as word spread and threw themselves whole heartedly into the task of saving the whales with 150 people counted on the black mineral sand