It hasn’t been published in the Government Gazette, but Canberra is hunting around for someone to run a tree exchange. Or, perhaps, that should be a sapling exchange –for saps.

Tucked away in the Budget was the decision to establish a secondary market for timber managed investment schemes. Parts of the MIS industry are rubbing their hands at the prospect of getting a second bite at the investor cherry, but the Government’s intention is that the exchange will keep the bastards honest. Or, in some cases, introduce some honesty.

Of course, Peter Dutton, the Minister for Revenue and Minister assisting the Treasurer, doesn’t put it like that in an interview for this evening’s Eureka Report, but the intention is clear between the lines:

The idea is to try and introduce transparency into the market, have some liquidity in the market and have a situation where we can get some transparency into the pricing.

We’ve had a concern in relation to many of the management fees that have been charged in this particular sector. We’ve had concerns about prices that consumers are paying at market and we believe, through a secondary market arrangement, that there will be some more transparency in the process and that, I think, is a good thing for investors in the long run in particular.”

Dutton was the minister into whose lap the Government dumped its dog’s breakfast MIS policy (“trees with fruit or edible nuts bad, trees with pine cones or gumnuts good”), but a genuinely transparent and strictly supervised secondary market could sort the trees from the woody weeds.

Instead of waiting a decade and more to find out they’ve been sold a pup, the mug punters should be able to recognise the poor performance after four years, which should make it a little harder for the salesmen to flog the schemes.

An immediate question, though, is who will run the market that’s supposed to start in six weeks. This is where the ASX might come in. “We’ve spoken to some players in the market who believe that they could facilitate the process quite quickly … exchanges and people who are bona fide operators at the moment operating some of the biggest exchanges in the country,” says Dutton.

What interesting market reports we could have: BHP through the roof, Macquarie Bank through the sky, a bunch of saplings originally sold at a vastly inflated price through the lure of a tax deduction — not much.