Four Corners - Treechange
Australia is planting trees. After years of debate about logging old growth forests what could seem more sensible or more worthy? And yet a national quarrel has developed about tree plantations, a quarrel that Chris Masters discovers is quietly dividing rural communities and members of the Coalition Government.
In 1997 the Howard Government, not normally comfortable with market intervention, produced a vision for 2020. It included growing trees - lots of them. City folk with money to spend were lured to join Managed Investment Schemes that offered 100 per cent tax deductions.
Who are the winners and losers? In a typical scheme the MIS company owns the land and takes fees for managing the trees which investors pay to have planted. The companies have a steady income. So do financial planners who sell the schemes to city investors. Typically they get a 10 per cent cut. MIS critic Senator Bill Heffernan has said publicly "there's this river of gold with fees attached all the way down and at the end of the day the sucker is the taxpayer."
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