The recently released report from the Auditor General on the State’s finances again raises questions about why VicForests was not required to pay a dividend again this year.
The report shows how the State Government demanded most Government businesses like Melbourne Water and other water authorities were all squeezed for additional dividend payments to help prop up the Government’s “surplus”. The fact that VicForests was exempt from this process must raise questions about why this Government business has been sheltered from Government cutbacks.
Avoiding any payment to the Government has helped VicForests splash cash around forest communities last year in its “Community Support Program” a key part of VicForests propaganda effort to keep rural communities “on side”. While Government Departments responsible for caring for the environment are facing massive funding cuts, VicForests has been handing out money for projects like timber town propaganda displays, sporting uniforms for kids and a children’s adventure playground.
VicForest’s propaganda unit has been in overdrive selling these pork barrelling projects with three media releases. Staffed with “Media Advisors” and “Community Engagement Officers”, VicForests spends well over $500,000 each year running this propaganda outfit. With so much attention on the battle to save Leadbeater’s Possum in the Central Highlands this year, all the media releases have been about handouts to communities in the Central Highlands.