Image for Arnold Bloch Leibler, acting for the Receivers v Abetz Curtis, acting for Forestry Tasmania

*Pic: of Minister for Resources Guy Barnett from the Libs’ website.

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Pic: of Treasurer Peter Gutwein (from his website)

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Part of the first page of a letter from ABL to Abetz Curtis dated 9 September 2015 now exhibit “CDC–5” in the Supreme Court of Victoria from which this extract is taken.

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The Register of Interests Form signed by Abetz after entering the Senate on filling a casual vacancy in February 1994.

A most interesting case is currently before the Supreme Court of Victoria, S ECI 2013 2095 between …

Arnold Bloch Leibler on behalf of Gunns Plantations Limited (In Liquidation) Receivers and Managers Appointed) (ACN 091 232209) in its capacity as the responsible entity of the managed investment schemes. … demanding that Forestry Tasmania pays Gunns Plantations Limited … the amount of $39,949,898 …

… over a claim against Forestry Tasmania - represented by Abetz Curtis of 83 Davey Street Hobart regarding …

… restitution for unjust enrichment …, being the improvements to Forestry Tasmania’s land as carried out by Gunns Plantations Ltd now in Liquidation.

This may be settled if …

a. payment of the reasonable Expenses in the sum of $39,949,898; 

Or

b. a written proposal setting out an alternative option for resolving the dispute …

… is not received within 21 days of the date of this letter, we will seek instructions to commence legal proceedings seeking payment of the Reasonable Expenses (estimated to be in the range of $39,949,898 to $51,215,932, to be the subject of expert evidence) together with interest and costs. (Illustration 1, top)

Erich Abetz was the Minister for Forests in the Howard government during the promotion of the MIS debacle which allowed over 100% deductibility for the funds put into each and every scheme. This allowance for deductibility remained over e-nitens plantations after it had been withdrawn by the ATO on other MIS products as Abetz and Dutton stood up to the ATO.

Is this why Gunns Ltd give $50,000 to the Tasmanian Liberal Party three weeks after Abetz was made Minister of Forests?

Regarding this very odd donation which had nothing to do with an election I have asked Senator Abetz if this affected his independence as the relevant Minister - in either thought or judgment - over the proposed Gunns Pulp Mill and/or the MIS scams then being promoted by John Gay of Gunns Ltd … both of which have now ended in tears. His reply was that my questions were a result of: “vexatious artifice”.

It is remarkable to me that the solicitors Abetz Curtis, of Hobart, will now benefit financially from a case created out of what appears to be Abetzian ministerial largesse.

This debacle, now being played out through the courts has cost many people their life savings.

For this Abetz, the-then all-powerful Minister for Forests, has never been called to account.

This is the same Abetz who labelled the Green campaign against the export of so-called sustainably produced woodchips from Tasmanian-cleared native forest - later planted with MIS e-nitens - as akin to treason.

I wrote an article for Tasmanian Times: “Senator Abetz, Shields Heritage and Gunns” ( http://tasmaniantimes.com/index.php?/article/senator-abetz-shields-heritage-and-gunns/ ) that suggested a close association between Abetz and Gunns lawyers’ Shields Heritage, through that firm’s office in Kingston.

After his entry into parliament in 1994 to fill a casual vacancy, Abetz declared on his Senate Register of Interests: The withdrawal of his association with A & C Management Pty Ltd and Abetz Curtis and Docking, Kingston. He became instead a Consultant to Abetz & Co in association with Shields Heritage – as signed and dated by Abetz on the 8 July 1994. (Illustration 2)

Abetz later resigned as a legal consultant from an unspecified practice on 30th October 1998 four years after he was elected.

No mention is made regarding Abetz and his arrangements with Abetz Curtis and Docking in Hobart on any of his Register of Interests declarations, a firm now known as Abetz Curtis.

It could therefore be suggested that Abetz retained some links to his former legal practice after his election to the Senate.

This now becomes important as the firm of Abetz Curtis provides in-house counsel for Forestry Tasmania with a three-person team working in the Forestry Tasmania office.

In an earlier paper I included a description of the governance structure of the GBE Forestry Tasmania and the requirements demanded of the Minister for Resources and the Treasurer as the shareholders’ representatives on the Board of Forestry Tasmania.

Have the shareholders’ representatives taken advice from the Attorney General on this matter as to protecting the interests of the taxpayer, and the Crown as distinct to the interests of Forestry Tasmania and the operational Ministers? When is Treasurer Peter Gutwein going to inform those he is representing of this possible threat to the Tasmanian economy.

What course of action has the Liberal cabinet determined if the case is lost regarding the future of Forestry Tasmania?

I ask Guy Barnett as the Forestry Minister and the peoples’ representative on the board of Forestry Tasmania …

1. What is the fall-back position for a bankrupt Forestry Tasmania - now surviving on government largesse - should Forestry Tasmania lose this case and be directed by the Court to pay out between $40 and $50 million dollars of Tasmanian taxpayers’ funds to the Gunns Liquidators/ Receivers?

and

2. Is there a connection between Erich Abetz, Abetz Curtis and Forestry Tasmania?

and

3. Please explain, as a board member of Forestry Tasmania, why Abetz Curtis is the best available firm to act as the legal face of Forestry Tasmania in this most important matter?

and

4. Why is it that this case - which endangers the whole fabric of Forestry Tasmania - has not been subject to a press release and or any publicity; hence is not on the radar of The Mercury , The Examiner or the ABC?

and

5. Is the case being held in Victoria as a result of the trial of John Gay the former Chairman and CEO of Gunns Ltd over insider trading?

As always in Tasmania these requests will be met with a stony silence from those in power … all in the hope that the matter will just go away.

Be warned ... the matter will not just go away. The Editor of Tasmanian Times and myself will expect an answer to these simple questions.

*John Hawkins is a Sandhurst-trained former British army officer, now an Australian resident of almost fifty years. For the past fourteen years he has been enhancing the Bentley landscape in the Chudleigh Valley, Tasmania. He is well known for his two-volume standard reference on Australian Silver, and for his knowledge of the Life and Times of Erich Abetz.

• John Hawkins in Comments: Henry Melville comment #7 is correct ... the matter is now subject to a Deed of Settlement over the Restitution Claim conditional upon the Court giving or making the directions and orders sought by the Application. The important fact that Melville omits is that the Deed of Settlement between Forestry Tasmania and Korda Mentha is Confidential. The figure will therefore remain unknown ... perhaps John Lawrence could elucidate how it can be tracked down with the costs in this gravy train and how they fell? …