Bryan Green, right, was not told Bob Gordon, left, had been re-appointed ...
The departing act of Forestry Tasmania’s old Board in reappointing the Managing Director for five years is an attempt to lock in current attitudes and hold out against inevitable and far reaching changes under a comprehensive restructure designed to remove many of the current functions of the Government Business Enterprise, the Huon Valley Environment Centre said today.
“The reappointment of the current Managing Director of Forestry Tasmania is unacceptable, and seems to have been dropped on the government by the previous Board as a final act of defiance,” said Huon Valley Environment Centre’s Jenny Weber.
“This Managing Director has presided over the loss making enterprise that the Independent Verification Group (IVG) found to have overestimated the forest resource and overcut it, and spent taxpayers money on a sawmill without first telling government,” Jenny Weber said.
“Obviously this reappointment by the disgruntled Board whose Chairman then departed with a big spray against restructuring Forestry Tasmania was an act designed to entrench opposition to change within the organisation,” Jenny Weber said.
“A new appointment for the new times is needed. The government must not allow this reappointment to stand,” Jenny Weber said.
• ANOTHER SLAP IN THE FACE FROM FORESTRY TASMANIA REVEALED
Loss-Making CEO Rewarded With 5 Year Contract
Kim Booth MP
Greens Primary Industries Spokesperson
Wednesday, 24 October 2012
The Tasmanian Greens today condemned the decision by the former Forestry Tasmania board to secretly reappoint the Chief Executive Officer Bob Gordon for another five years in the middle of a critical restructure process, without consulting the Minister and on the back of another massive annual loss.
Greens Primary Industries spokesperson Kim Booth MP said the move was one of a long string of attempts by Forestry Tasmania to undermine efforts to find a solution to the crisis facing the industry that did not involve massive, ongoing subsidies.
“It’s unacceptable that the same senior executive who oversaw the loss of nearly $30 million in just one year would be secretly rewarded with a new five year contract, without the Minister’s knowledge,” Mr Booth said.
“This decision appears to have been a parting shot from the former Forestry Tasmania Chairman fired off as part of his stage managed departure, and it needs thorough scrutiny to determine whether and how it can be reversed.”
“The Minister told Parliament he was unaware of Forestry Tasmania board’s decision to reappoint the current CEO (TT here) until after it happened and he has indicated that he will be seeking further advice on the process surrounding the decision.”
“We are urging the Minister to seek legal advice on whether the reappointment of the CEO was lawful, whether proper process was followed and whether it can be overturned in the interests of Tasmania.”
“Forestry Tasmania has effectively charged the Tasmanian taxpayer close to $30 million dollars last year to trash our forests, while thumbing its nose at government policy and undermining efforts to achieve a lasting solution to the industry crisis.”
“The Greens do not believe it is possible to put forestry on a sustainable footing if the agency overseeing the sector is run by the same people who created the old forestry model and have defended it for decades.”
David Obendorf: Neutering the Forest Feral Cat
Newly re-appointed General Manager of Forestry Tasmania Bob Gordon not biting on Monday.
You don’t need to be Einstein to work out that Ken [Jeffreys] wasn’t the most popular person with Government. … Ken isn’t being dismissed; his position is being made redundant.
Ahhm… he had a policy disagreement with the Government, ahhm… we need to move on from that; not much point in looking at the past all the time.
I think Ken has always acted in – what he believes – was in the best interests of Forestry Tasmania. And that’s certainly what my job is, to act in the best interests of Forestry Tasmania, no matter how difficult the decision is.
Ahhm… I’d much rather look forward Leon and say: ‘Well, what’s happened has happened. Let’s build on that and let’s make sure we don’t get in those positions again’.
Mr Gordon is building a new Forestry Tasmania with 250 less staff.
On FT access to Gunns plantation assets: ‘Our main interest is growing high value ‘clearwood’ logs where the trees are pruned and thinned’.
On the IGA: ’[FT] will continue to support the process by providing independent, factual scientific information’.
Postscript: 24 October Forestry Tasmania tabled its annual report to Parliament – $27.6 million loss
22 October 2012 - Mornings with Leon Compton ABC 936 Radio
Leon Compton: Seven weeks ago the head of communications at Forestry Tasmania, Ken Jeffreys accused the government of the ‘public execution of FT’. Today it’s his head on the block; it’s his position with the GBE no longer viable after a leaked memo to staff alleging Government policy on forestry was being made by the Greens.
You’ll remember that after that memo was released a few weeks after the chair of Forestry Tasmania quit, he too, … ahh…very disappointed; in fact disgusted at the treatment of our forest steward [FT] the new chairman of FT [Bob Anells] promised no more leaks. I wonder if today’s announcement is part of all that.
Bob Gordon, Managing Director of Forestry Tasmania joins me this morning in the studio. Mr Gordon, good morning.
Bob Gordon: Good morning, Leon.
Leon Compton: Two months ago Mr Jeffreys leaked a memo criticising the Government that became public. Was that the moment his position became untenable.
Bob Gordon: (Sigh)… Well, Ken approached me a couple of weeks ago – after I returned from leave – pointing out that he believed, given that his main role was liaison with the Government, ahhm… that, ahhm… what had happened over the last few months had made that a very difficult relationship and that he believed, and I believed, that the best thing for the organisation would be for Ken’s position to be made redundant. And that’s what I’ve announced to staff last night. Ahhm… Ken will be doing a little bit of tidying up work and handing over some of his roles. Ahh… I’m not replacing Ken’s position one of my other direct reports - the Chief Operating Officer – is also leaving at ahhm… in early November because he’s got another role; a role that he really wants in NSW. So as part of our cost cutting; as part of our drive to make FT return to profitability, ahhm…. Ken will be leaving Forestry Tasmania this week.
Leon Compton: But, this isn’t about cost-cutting; this is about a man whose position was no longer viable within your organisation based on some of his comments that had been made public?
Bob Gordon: Well there was no discussion ahhm… between Ken and the Government or Ken and the Chairman [of FT] about this. Ahhm… it’s not a personal issue. Ken and I have known each other for a long time; it’s a difficult decision. But I think Ken has always acted in – what he believes – was in the best interests of Forestry Tasmania. And that’s certainly what my job is, to act in the best interests of Forestry Tasmania, no matter how difficult the decision is.
And as you’re probably aware, we’ve, ahhm… had over 250 people leave the organisation in the last couple of years. We’ve gone from over 540 staff to be around 320 by the end of this month. And each time we’ve done that we used that as an opportunity to save money.
This was really about… you don’t need to be Einstein to work out that Ken wasn’t the most popular person with Government. He knows that, ahhm…
Leon Compton: As so, to be clear, his position was no longer viable, in terms of handling the job of negotiating with Government? After that memo was leaked; after he’s affectively accused them of having policy run by the Greens, his position was untenable?
Bob Gordon: (Pause)… It would be very difficult for Ken to re-establish the relationship with the Government. And again, I think from Ken’s point of view it’s not a personal issue. Ahhm… he had a policy disagreement with the Government, ahhm… we need to move on from that; not much point in looking at the past all the time. And, ahhm… as I said, Ken and I reached a mutual understanding; his position will be being made redundant. I will not be filling that position; I will not be filling the position of Chief Operating Officer, and hopefully we can, ahhm… re-establish a good working relationship with the Government.
Leon Compton: How can a Government Business Enterprise that turns over tens of millions of dollars a year not have a head of Communications?
Bob Gordon; (Sigh)… Well we didn’t (chuckles) when I first took on the job nearly 6 years ago (2006). There was a small communications unit, ahh… Ken’s role also included tourism. And as you’ve probably been aware we’ve leased out, ahhm… a couple of our tourism operations; so that they’re not actually run by FT any more. Our Tarkine Forest Adventures is run by an experienced tourism couple and we’ve leased out some of the operations at the Maydena Adventure hub as well. Hollybank and the Airwalk still return a profit and Ken has done a great job with his staff turning those around. So I’ll have tourism reporting to other parts in the general management team and I’ll take a more prominent role in the communications role.
Leon Compton: His job is actually to communicate your strategy, not to make it up himself. Is Ken Jeffreys actually being dismissed for expressing your views on the quality of forestry decision-making in this Government?
Bob Gordon: Ken isn’t being dismissed; his position is being made redundant. That was an agreed position between Ken and I… (pause)… so as I said he approached me about three weeks ago, and as I said you don’t need to be Einstein to work out that Ken’s relationship with the Government was not particularly good in the last couple of weeks.
Leon Compton: But the point is his… his job is to communicate your views and the views of your Board, not to come up with views of his own. Is he leaving because of expressing views that you hold about the quality of decision-making in Government at the moment towards your GBE?
Bob Gordon: No, Ken’s leaving because we reached a mutual agreement that he leave. And because he believes and I believe his relationship with the Government would be very difficult to re-establish. Ahh… (interrupted)
Leon Compton: How is your relationship with the Government, given that, one would imagine, your Head of Communication is expressing your views to the Government, rather than his own?
Bob Gordon: I think that, ahhm… Forestry Tasmania’s, in general, relationship with the Government has been fairly challenging in the last three months. I think the appointment of a new Chair, ahhm… the appointment of two other new Board members; some changes that have been made in terms of making sure we don’t have, ahhm… hiccups in communication in the last couple of weeks.
Ahhm… I’d much rather look forward Leon and say: ‘Well, what’s happened has happened. Let’s build on that and let’s make sure we don’t get in those positions again’.
Leon Compton: Can I ask you the details of his payout? What sort of a payout will he receive?
Bob Gordon: His payout will be consistent with the other, ahhm… r positions that have been done within FT. And I’d be confident that we’d be recovering the full cost of his payout with 6 months.
Leon Compton: Has he discussed this departure with the new Chairman, Bob Anells?
Bob Gordon: He, as far as I’m aware, hasn’t met the new Chairman ahhm… since he was appointed. Ahhm… I was on leave and then Ken was on leave and as far as I understand the two haven’t spoken.
Leon Compton: As the new Chairman said, there were to be no leaks out of Forestry Tasmania under his watch. Is this one of his decisions, or does he support this decision?
Bob Gordon: Ahh… that was a decision I made in consultation with Ken. I informed the Board, which I would do with any senior management position. And the Chairman and the Board fully supported that position.
Leon Compton: You say you want to look forward. Let’s do some of that now. Are you currently looking at buying any of Gunns plantation assets?
Bob Gordon: (Pause)…. When Gunns went into Receivership and Administration, Forestry Tasmania was the contracted manager for quite a bit of that plantation estate. Obviously that was terminated when… … in Gunns committing an Act of Insolvency. Ahh…. We’ve written to the Receiver pointing out that we were responsible for fire management; for insect protection – for a whole range of, ahhm… basically protecting those forests. We’re having discussions with the Receiver and the Administrator about FT picking up that role, because it would be terrible if that quite substantial plantation estate – that Gunns has established – was let deteriorate through burning or insect attack. With the plantations that were owned by FEA when they went into Receivership, a significant proportion of those trees are now dead; they’ve been defoliated several times by insects. Ahhm… the care and maintenance of those plantations has not been kept up. And we are in discussions with the Receivers about us having a management role. There is reasonably large area of Gunns MIS plantations which are on State Forest, where we are the landlord. There are some plantations that Forestry Tasmania have on Gunns land, where Gunns is the landlord. And there are a series of Joints-Venture plantations between Forestry Tasmania, Gunns and Japanese companies.
Leon Compton: It is incredibly complex. Are you looking at buying any of the actual plantation assets at the moment?
Bob Gordon: The only thing that we looking at, is resolving Gunns proportional ownership of some of joint ventures. Obviously Gunns going into Receivership has – in some cases – breached those contracts. And we’re also actively looking at plantation swaps. Our main interest, as you’d be aware, is growing high value ‘clearwood’ logs where the trees are pruned and thinned. Gunns have some of those plantations; there are others on joint venture on State Forest… and so we haven’t got the cash to, ahhm… fork out large amounts of money to buy plantation estates. But we are looking at ways where we might be able to do non-cash transactions to have ahh… win-win situation.
Leon Compton: Are you looking at any other parts of Gunns at the moment that might be on the block?
Bob Gordon: Ahhm… they’ve got a very good seed orchard… ahhm, you breed trees, like you breed roses for particular characteristics and they’ve got some seed stock which again we might be discussing with them. Ahhm… there are other, ahhm… relationships that we have Gunns in terms of roads and a range of other issues that need to be resolved. But to put it simply, they’re quite complex relationships, which I think, will take quite a while to sort out.
Leon Compton: Also into the future, in fact into the very near future, you’ll be realising your financial reports for the year. Is it fair to say that that you’ll be announcing a significant loss for 2011-2012?
Bob Gordon: Correct… ahhm… I expect that we’ll release our results this week. Ahhm… it’s been a particularly tough trading year. Particularly with the continued, and I believe, permanent closure of Triabunna. It’s made it very difficult for saw millers, for Ta Ann and for Forestry Tasmania whilst ever there was a blockade of the State effectively; so that you can’t remove product. Ahhm… Gunns, ahhm… going the way that it did, and eventually going into Receivership and Administration has also been an issue. As it happens we’ve taken, I believe, quite prudent action to collect almost all of the debts Gunns owes [to FT]. There are a few outstanding ones, ahh… one of those debts was related to the Southwood Huon sawmill, where part of the arrangement was in the transaction where Del Vista purchased the mill – in return Gunns paid Forestry Tasmania a significant portion of the debt that was in dispute that may otherwise not have been collected.
Leon Compton: And so what sort of position are you [FT] in financially, as an organisation? Where will this year’s loss leave you.
Bob Gordon: (Pause and sigh)… Well, we’ve been cutting cost substantially. Ahhm… as you’re probably aware, the Southwood-Huon saw mill is a significant cash generator for Forestry Tasmania and it has been shut all of, ahh… last financial year. Ahhm… its running again yields us $4 to 5 million a year in cash. Ahh… the… ahhm… Smart Fibre chip operation at Bell Bay had also been effectively closed for 12 months. Ahh… it’s now re-opened and we are expecting to get our plantation pulp wood through that facility. So things are looking up a bit. We got our first boat load of chip logs – to be chipped in China – out of Hobart a couple of weeks ago. And of course the Government committed that it would be assisting Forestry Tasmania to pay the Community Service Obligations; our fire-fighting obligations, our role of managing a substantial area of forests for conservation purposes; that we’re to be funded for those Community Service Obligations.
Leon Compton: And so to the IGA on forestry. The Premier says she gives it another week; maybe until the end of the month. Many people are now expecting that a deal won’t get done. It’ll be back to whatever was before two years ago, when the process started.
So, what happens then? What’s you’re assessment?
Bob Gordon: I think it was over 2½ years ago that the process started. Ahhm… we’ve been contracted by the Commonwealth Government to run a series of wood flow scenarios; which we’ve done. They were presented, I think, to the signatories last week. I haven’t had any substantial feedback from that discussion. Ahh… we’re continuing to assist to give the parties every opportunity to understand what the consequences of their proposals are. But at the end of the day it’s something those parties need to negotiate or not negotiate.
I think there is still a quite substantial, ahhm… body of goodwill there, although I think in practice, ahhm… if you sit in the same room with the same group of people or a long period of time, you tend to find, ahhm… their faults, rather than their advantages.
But as far as I’m aware the meetings last week were quite cordial, ahh… people are still discussing it ad we [FT] will continue to support the process by providing independent, factual scientific information. [13.05]