House debates

Monday, 20 August 2012


Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill 2011; Consideration in Detail

3:20 pm

Photo of Ms Anna BurkeMs Anna Burke (Chisholm, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that the amendment moved by the member for Calare be agreed to.

Photo of Sid SidebottomSid Sidebottom (Braddon, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) Share this | | Hansard source

In conclusion of my remarks on the amendment of the member for Calare to the Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill, I indicate that the government does not accept his amendment for the reasons I have given.

Photo of John CobbJohn Cobb (Calare, National Party, Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Food Security) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak again following the government's comment on the coalition's amendment to the Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill 2011. We are committed to addressing the trade in illegally sourced timber and timber products. In fact that was coalition policy at the 2010 election. Everything I have heard indicates that we all agree that the need for action is driven by a number of issues, including environmental concerns over indiscriminate or poorly controlled logging activities. In addition, under the current legislative regime the Australian forest sector, which is globally recognised for its forest management regulation and practices, suffers a competitive disadvantage through compliance costs borne locally that are not observed by illegal loggers.

The intent of this bill is well placed, but not surprisingly the government has again bungled the delivery of a policy on which both sides of politics agree. Specifically the government has bungled on the consultation process. A flawed consultation process has led to concerns amongst significant trading partners, no less than four of whom have voiced concerns. The Ministry of Trade of the Republic of Indonesia, our most important near neighbour, in a submission to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade inquiry into this bill stated:

The negative impact on trade should also not be underestimated bearing in mind that timber products commonly have long and complex chains of supply with mixed sources from different locations and different kinds of timber.

The government of Indonesia submission goes on:

It is for this reason that the GOI has recommended the deferral of the legislation until 2015 to provide time to ensure the legislation will not have unintended consequences that will unnecessarily harm the mutual trade between our two nations. Furthermore, the three years of adjournment will provide time for proper consultation between both countries including detail clarification as well as period of adjustment for the Indonesian producers/exporters to comply with the regulation.

This brings to mind issues Indonesia have had experience of—such as the lack of consultation we saw with the live cattle trade ban, when not only was there insufficient consultation; I believe there was none at all. They had to read in the newspaper about Australia's decision to suspend exports to its biggest trading partner in the area. This again shows complete arrogance on the part of this government—they snubbed our nearest trading partners in the same way, as I said, that they did with the live export ban. It is not reasonable for the government to bring these measures into law without giving our trading partners, our domestic timber industry and timber importers the time they were promised to design and implement appropriate systems.

In moving this amendment, while at the same time wanting to ensure that Australia only imports timber from proper sources, I want to repeat what Indonesia—our nearest, our biggest and, without doubt, our most important neighbour—said:

It is for this reason that the GOI (Government of Indonesia) has recommended the deferral of the legislation until 2015 to provide time to ensure the legislation will not have unintended consequences that will unnecessarily harm the mutual trade between our two nations.

(Time expired)

3:25 pm

Photo of Sid SidebottomSid Sidebottom (Braddon, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) Share this | | Hansard source

We have just heard the coalition, in a very hollow gesture, claim that they do not outright oppose the bill—but they will vote against it in its current form. That means three more years of forests being decimated by illegal logging and three more years of support for the criminal activities of illegal loggers and those associated with this terrible destruction. The coalition have not made one constructive suggestion about how to improve the bill. They merely say, 'Let's delay its implementation for almost three years.' What type of abrogation of our responsibility as parliamentarians would that be? We would have legislation on the statutes as impotent as the coalition's attempt to salvage some credibility out of this debate.

This is, as I mentioned before, a shallow gesture and a reflection on those who put it forward. I want to remind the House and all those listening to this that in 2010 the federal coalition made this pledge to the Australian people:

The Coalition will legislate to make it an offence to import any timber product which has not been verified as being legally harvested.

They went on:

We will require Australian timber importers and domestic processing mills to undertake a process of due diligence to verify the legal origins of the timber product and to disclose species, country of harvest and any certification … A transition period of two years will be provided to allow industry to adapt to these new measures.

The legislation before us delivers the coalition's commitment as well as the Labor Party's election commitment. Today the coalition is proposing to give the green light to sophisticated criminal networks to continue a trade which costs $60 billion per annum. Their amendment effectively makes Australia a haven for the proceeds of crime.

Mr John Cobb interjecting

I would like to remind the member opposite, whilst he is sitting there quietly, that—using estimates published by the World Bank—a further 236,520 square kilometres of forest will be harvested illegally with the approval of the Australian parliament if we agree to your amendment. Looking at the data in the explanatory memorandum for this bill, of which you are well aware—I assume you have read it—it is clear that the coalition's amendments would give the green light to a further $180 billion worth of illicit trade by sophisticated criminal networks over the next three years. Of that, $1.2 billion would be delivered in Australia. Those opposite are effectively saying that Europe and the United States can do the heavy lifting on this issue, while Australia will be a dumping ground for illegally logged timber and timber products.

As I said before, you do not propose to oppose the bill, yet you do not make suggestions on how to improve the bill. You just say, 'Delay its implementation'—for whatever reason—and, in doing so, you admit that the government has in fact got it right. Your amendment is a shallow gesture and a reflection on those who put it forward. We will not support your amendment.

3:29 pm

Photo of Paul FletcherPaul Fletcher (Bradfield, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

In this consideration-in-detail stage, I would like to respond to what the Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has just said—that the coalition had displayed an abrogation of responsibility. Let's focus on exactly what is in the legislation before the House this afternoon and, therefore, why we say our amendment is necessary. The government have put forward legislation which under proposed section 8 establishes a criminal offence, with a penalty of five years imprisonment, for a person where:

(a) the person imports a thing; and

(b) the thing is, is made from, or includes, illegally logged timber; and

(c) the thing is not prescribed by the regulations for the purposes of this paragraph.

The government have introduced legislation which will pass into law if they have their way, yet when this bill comes into force there will be no way for a law-abiding citizen to know what they need to do to avoid breaching section 8. There is no detail as to what the due diligence defence actually requires. In fact, law-abiding citizens will not even be able to find out which kinds of timber attract the operation of section 8, which will impose on those citizens, if they make an innocent mistake, a penalty of up to five years in prison potentially.

Let's be completely clear about what this legislation does. Let's not hear any more of this talk of high and noble aims. Let's focus on a detailed analysis of what this provision specifically does under the bill that the government are seeking to ram through the House this afternoon. If an importer brings into Australia a chair, for example, made almost entirely of plastic or metal but which happens to include some wood and, if it turns out that that wood has been illegally logged under the law of another country, then under the operation of proposed section 8 that importer will be liable to receive a knock on the door from a government inspector and will be liable to be imprisoned for up to five years. Those are the plain words of section 8, on the face of it.

The government come in here and talk about abrogation of responsibility when they have put forward this legislation without bothering to have ready the regulations which specify what a law-abiding citizen must do in order to comply with this law; without bothering to specify in the regulations the nature of the due diligence that a citizen must carry out to ensure that he or she is not breaching the law; and without even bothering to specify in a list the kinds of timbers that are defined as illegally logged. In these circumstances, it is extraordinary that the parliamentary secretary would use the term 'abrogation of responsibility', because it is the most remarkable abrogation of responsibility that this government would propose to introduce legislation imposing such penalties while making it effectively impossible for a citizen to find out what he or she has to do to comply with the law.

It is all very well for the parliamentary secretary to talk about the international criminal trade in illegal logging; there is no dispute from this side of the House that illegal logging is a problem that needs to be addressed. We merely ask this of the government: get your house in order, make it clear in the law of the land what is required of a citizen to comply with the law and get the regulations in place and operational. That is why we have moved this amendment. It is not because we have an objection in principle to the notion of greater action being taken against illegal logging—indeed, as the parliamentary secretary has rightly pointed out, that is our policy. It is because introducing legislation which would go onto the books, be part of the law of the land, and which would impose these very serious penalties without it being possible for a citizen to find out what he or she needs to do to comply with the law when the bill gets royal assent is an abrogation of responsibility.

What we are in fact seeking to do here is assist the government in coming up with an additional amount of time in which it can do the job it ought to have done before bringing in this legislation—that is, getting the regulations in place following proper consultation with the importing sector and the timber sector so that citizens know what they need to do to comply with the law. That is not by any means an unreasonable proposition from the opposition. On the contrary, we are seeking to be helpful, to assist the government to do what it should have done of its own volition.

3:34 pm

Photo of Sid SidebottomSid Sidebottom (Braddon, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) Share this | | Hansard source

The only thing the member for Bradfield is being helpful with is allowing illegal logging to continue to decimate forests for three more years. That is all you are doing. You also misunderstand—I would not like to suggest you misrepresent—the bill, because it is not negligent, as you claim.

One penalty relates to knowing or reckless engagement in the proceeds of crime; the other relates to the regulations which stipulate due diligence requirements. There is no misalignment. The high-level prohibition that applies under clauses 8 and 15 should not be confused with the prohibition that applies to the regulated timber stream which is to be implemented two years after the legislation commences. The high-level prohibition places a ban on importing timber products containing illegally logged timber and processing domestic raw logs that have been illegally logged. The prohibition under clauses 8 and 15 places a minimum burden on importers and domestic processors, as they will not be required to undertake a prescribed process under the bill. Businesses may seek to implement informal measures to ensure they are not a party to supplying illegally logged timber into the Australian markets. Two years after the commencement of the legislation, importers of regulated timber products—which the government is in the process of determining—and processors of domestic raw logs will be required to carry out due diligence to minimise the risk of importing illegally logged timber.

3:36 pm

Photo of Dan TehanDan Tehan (Wannon, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to support remarks I made in this chamber last week as well as to comment on remarks made by the Minister for Trade and Competitiveness at the end of the debate last week, where he was critical of comments that had been made about the relationship with Indonesia. In particular, he referred to a quote in the Australian Financial Reviewand accused us on this side of misrepresenting and misleading.

Let us place the Financial Review article to one side because what we did not hear from the trade minister and what I would like to hear him comment on—maybe the parliamentary secretary could comment—is the evidence given by Indonesia when the trade subcommittee examined this bill. I quote:

The implementation of the Bill is also likely to undermine the development of trade between Indonesia and Australia based on our respective mutual interests. In this respect, reference is made to the recent efforts of the Government of Indonesia to accommodate and resolve the problem faced by Australia during the self-imposed ban on beef exports to Indonesia.

That is what needs to be addressed by the other side. I would ask the parliamentary secretary to give us his view on what Indonesia is saying in this quote and, if the trade minister is happy to grace us with his presence again, I would like to hear his view of what this means, remembering that Indonesia is our most important market for beef and for wheat. Yet here they are saying in their submission that:

The implementation of the Bill is also likely to undermine the development of trade between Indonesia and Australia based on our respective mutual interests.

I would ask the government to give heed to that quote, to think about it, because we have already seen, through the absolute debacle which occurred with live exports to Indonesia, what harm that did to our trading relationship with Indonesia. Yet here again we see the government, through its ineptitude, through its incompetence, ready to do exactly the same thing again.

The consultation around this bill has been nothing short of a disgrace. They have not taken into account the interests of our near neighbours—how sensitive they are about these measures, how sensitive they are about other countries telling them what they should do, how they should govern their own internal affairs. It is time the government woke up and thought about doing things a better way. If they do not, they are going to cause grave damage to this relationship at a time when there are particular sensitivities.

We have already seen that there is a key to helping to resolve the asylum seeker issue here in this country—by making sure we have strong cooperation with Indonesia and Malaysia in particular. Yet the way the government has mishandled this bill will mean that those countries will look at us and say, 'Why should we cooperate with this country when they are bringing into this place unilateral measures like this?' where we are telling them how to suck eggs.

I call on the government to think again, to step back from this, to go back to those countries and say, 'Surely there is a better way to do this. Surely we can cooperate with you, rather than us telling you how you should do it,' imposing our views on them, telling them, 'You should do it our way.' How would we like it in reverse? This is the danger of this bill because the precedent we are setting will open it up for other countries to say to us in exactly the same way, 'This is how we want you doing things.' The government should think again.

3:41 pm

Photo of Darren ChesterDarren Chester (Gippsland, National Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Roads and Regional Transport) Share this | | Hansard source

I appreciate the opportunity to speak again in relation to the Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill 2011 and the amendment put forward by the coalition. This bill prohibits the importation and sale of all timber products containing illegally logged timber; prohibits the processing of illegally harvested domestically grown raw logs; requires importers of regulated timber products and processors of raw logs to comply with due diligence requirements; requires the accurate description of legally logged timber products for sale in Australia; establishes enforcement powers and offences; and, imposes penalties and provides for a review of the first five years of the operation of the act. Despite the protestations of those opposite, I believe the coalition has acted in good faith in relation to this legislation and has sought to raise some very legitimate concerns—

3:42 pm

Photo of Bruce ScottBruce Scott (Maranoa, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! The member for Gippsland should be speaking to the amendment, not to the bill.

Photo of Darren ChesterDarren Chester (Gippsland, National Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Roads and Regional Transport) Share this | | Hansard source

In raising the amendment to the bill, I believe the coalition have acted in good faith. We have sought to give the government the opportunity to get this right. That has been our concerned from the outset in the debate as it has occurred in this place. The Leader of the Opposition wrote to the Prime Minister earlier this year suggesting conditions under which the coalition could support the bill and that is the nature of the amendment before the House—we propose a better way forward to accommodate satisfactory consultation. We have been concerned about the sensitivities at the international level, which the member for Wannon quite rightly reflected on in his contribution.

There are also concerns expressed by the domestic industry in terms of the consultation period and the need for extra time to get this right. That goes to the very heart of the amendment put forward by the coalition. We are seeking more time and more detail from this government in relation to the regulations. I believe the amendment is a sensible approach to delay the onset of the legislation and for the regulations to be made available by a settled future date. That would give us the opportunity to consult with the industry and with our international trading partners to ensure that we continue to support a viable timber industry in this country.

The position taken by the coalition is consistent with our approach to the last election where we supported prevention of illegal logging and we continue to work with the government in good faith in that regard. The coalition went into the last election period with an undertaking to legislate to make it an offence to import any timber product which has not been verified as being legally harvested. The member for Braddon and the parliamentary secretary took the opportunity to come to my electorate to meet with Australian Sustainable Timbers quite recently. I enjoyed that experience and I think the member for Braddon and the parliamentary secretary appreciated the opportunity to talk with the industry directly on this issue.

It must be said that in discussions with Australian Sustainable Hardwoods they indicated that the Victorian Association of Forest Industries supports in principle the approach being taken by the government in relation to illegal logging, but have reservations about the regulations. That is to the heart of the amendment put forward by the coalition. We want to see the details. We want the industry to have the opportunity to be fully consulted in relation to the details of this legislation and we are particularly keen to ensure that the sensitivities at an international level are taken into account.

I do appreciate the member for Braddon taking the time to consult with the mill owners at Heyfield. He had a great appreciation for the work they are doing at the Heyfield mill to certify their operations and have them fully audited. It was a very useful visit from many perspectives. The industry did appreciate his willingness to discuss in a very full and frank manner what the future challenges will be for the industry. But I cannot support the bill without the amendment being passed, because I believe a common-sense approach is being taken by the coalition, and in good faith, with the domestic timber industry and also in relation to our international trading partners.

I thank the member for Wannon for his contribution. I think he raised some legitimate concerns regarding the sensitivities that exist when you are talking about putting requirements in place for foreign nations in relation to trade. I think it would be wrong of those opposite to simply dismiss the coalition's concerns as being political in nature, because they are not. They are being raised on behalf of industry and on behalf of our spokespeople, who are concerned about the international trading relationships that Australia has enjoyed in the past and will seek to enjoy in the future.

I appreciate the opportunity to discuss this complex area of legislation. I will be supporting the coalition's amendment and I urge those opposite to support the coalition in its efforts to ensure there is full consultation and detailed regulations— (Time expired)

3:46 pm

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is most important to get information on the record on the amendment to the Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill. It is a pleasure to follow the members for Gippsland and Wannon. The member for Wannon made some very valid remarks about the risks inherent in this, following the trade subcommittee's recent report, from which I quote:

The implementation of the Bill is also likely to undermine the development of trade between Indonesia and Australia based on our respective mutual interests. In this respect, reference is made to the recent efforts of the Government of Indonesia to accommodate and resolve the problem faced by Australia during the self-imposed ban on beef exports to Indonesia.

As the member for Wannon indicated, the trade Australia does with Indonesia in wheat and beef cannot be jeopardised: it cannot be jeopardised by this particular legislation and it cannot be jeopardised as it concerns the national interests of Australia and Indonesia. As we all know Indonesia is a very valuable trading partner of Australia.

This amendment calls for the regulations and amendments to coincide. Passing this bill without knowing what the detail is could jeopardise our trade relations a whole lot. We have seen this before with this Labor government when they have tried to force through other pieces of legislation, and they have been able to do that in this hung parliament. The haste with which e-health electronic health records was done springs to mind. I also caution the parliament about putting in a water policy in a hasty way that is going to impinge upon so many irrigators within my electorate.

But this particular legislation can lead to the jailing of people. We cannot have innocent people, perhaps, going to jail for the want of better legislation and more time to consider in proper detail what this legislation entails. We need a common-sense approach. The coalition certainly have approached this in good faith. We need to ensure that all the detail is considered properly and accurately. The coalition are committed to addressing the trade of illegally sourced timber and timber products. That was certainly coalition policy at the 2010 election.

The need for the legislation is driven, as we all know, by several issues, including environmental concerns regarding indiscriminate or poorly controlled logging activities, and there is certainly a lot of logging activity in the Riverina electorate. I am sure that when the Parliamentary Secretary Sidebottom, who is sitting at the table at present, visits the Riverina—and he has shown a desire to do so, as he did with the member for Gippsland just recently—I am sure he will be able to take on board those logging activities and how valuable they are to the Riverina electorate and to the economic future of Australia, because there is so much logging activity taking place in Australia and so much of it takes place in the Riverina. In addition, under the current legislative regime the Australian forest sector, which is globally recognised for its forest management regulation and practices, suffers competitive disadvantages through compliance costs, which are borne locally but are not observed by illegal loggers.

The coalition acknowledge the government's acceptance of the majority of the recommendations made to the exposure draft. The need for further consultation is clearly indicated by a number of media articles and by some of those things that have been said by coalition members today, who are concerned about the details and effects of this bill. The coalition support measures to prevent illegal logging. This position was clearly articulated in our 2010 forestry policy. The coalition will legislate to make it an offence to import any timber product that has not been verified as being legally harvested. The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry estimates that each year around $400 million, or 10 per cent, of imported forest products were derived from sources that had some risk of being illegally logged. That cannot continue.

A transition period of two years will be provided to allow industry to adapt to two new measures that will safeguard against illegal logging. The coalition will ensure that all stakeholders impacted are consulted closely in the drafting of any legislation, regulations and other related measures, which will benefit this entire bill and these amendments.

3:52 pm

Photo of Rowan RamseyRowan Ramsey (Grey, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you for the opportunity to speak on the Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill. My father, who unfortunately passed on three years ago now, used to have a saying: less haste, more speed.

And I think this is the case with what we are trying to help the government with here: rush less, and let us for once get something right.

There are many people out there in the general public in Australia who say: 'Why don't the two sides of parliament work together?'. Well, we are trying to work with the government. In fact, we have an almost identical goal—we both wish to get rid of illegal logging. But what we are doing here is trying to save the government from itself. We are trying to save the government from rushing in and, given the record of this government, which I raised in the second reading debate, we are trying to save it from yet another costly and embarrassing stuff-up on Australia's behalf. We will be judged as being overbearing and overconfident, the colonial masters of the Pacific, and then eventually hauled back to the plate and back to a previous position—as we have just seen on asylum seekers—where we will have to admit that we were wrong.

Of course we, on this side, want to see the end of illegal logging, because there are losers all round—the soil loses, the country loses and the people of the country lose. There are very few winners in illegal logging except, of course, those who steal the resource. But we need to get the regulation right. In fact, the intent of the bill is that it requires the accurate description of legally logged timber products for sale in Australia.

What we are trying to do with the amendments moved by the member for Calare is to ensure that the trading partners have time 'to implement systems that allow traceability and achieve compliance with the regulations and legislation and that, very importantly, Australian importers have the time to design and implement processes for traceability and demonstration of due diligence.' This is because the problem we have with the legislation as it stands is that the onus is on the importer and on the seller of the timber in Australia to prove that the timber was not illegally logged. It is very difficult if you happen to be sitting in your suburban store in Byrneside, or Melbourne or wherever, to look at an article and say: 'Well, I definitely know that the sides were made from legal timber and the back was made from legal timber, but I am not so sure about the inlay in the top.'

Those traders are going to have to rely on the compliance mechanisms of the country from where the timber is sourced. At this stage, they cannot rely on that regulation. Those countries are trying, as we speak, to develop that regulation. We know that these are countries that are not as developed as Australia and that, from time to time, cash might pass under the table to achieve such certification, but this is a chance for these countries who wish to continue this trade with Australia to do the compliance right. Of course, if it is done wrongly and we see major prosecutions in Australia, then we run the risk of the trade stopping altogether. And if the trade stops altogether, we will not see a decrease in forestry in these countries. As we know with any economically traded, agricultural produce, as the price falls, production rises, because people try to cover their losses by harvesting more, planting more and, in the case of illegal forestry, logging more trees, which will find their way to the market. Perhaps this is not in Australia but to somewhere else in the world. The net effect is, in fact, counterproductive.

We do not come into this chamber in a belligerent manner. We are not shouting at the government. We are saying: 'Just hold up a bit. Let's see if for once we can get something right.' Then we can go back to the people of Australia and say, 'Yes, we have had an intelligent conversation, and we have come to an intelligent compromise.' That is what the member for Calare is asking for. That is why I am supporting his amendments. And that is why the government ought to perhaps listen to us on this one.

3:56 pm

Photo of Jane PrenticeJane Prentice (Ryan, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to support the coalition's proposed amendment to this Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill. Just as the member for Grey quoted the wise words of his father, I remember well a former senator of this place, Sir John Carrick, who regularly used to use the phrase, 'Slowly, slowly, catchy monkey' which became well known in those days.

Illegal logging poses a significant challenge to the goal of sustainable management of the world's forests. Every member of this House wants to ensure that we do what we can to protect the environment. We must recognise, however, that there are substantial trade-offs involved between, on the one hand, the protection of global forestry and, on the other, the employment prospects and quality of life concerns in developing countries. It is important for this House to constantly keep in mind decisions made today and their ramifications for the future global environment and future generations. But we must also not ignore the fact that there are hundreds of millions of impoverished people in poor countries around the world, many millions of whom undertake illegal logging in places like Indonesia just so they can survive. This is not a desirable situation, but it is a situation that we must all accept and take into account.

The coalition is moving this amendment to defer the commencement date of the legislation so that the regulations imposed on the importation of timber products can be appropriately put into practice by local industry. Indeed, the first recommendation of the report by the Trade Subcommittee of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade urged the government to continue to consult with the governments of Canada, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea and other important stakeholders prior to the development of subordinate legislation under the bill.

This Gillard Labor government is notorious for its ability to alienate foreign countries and it is doing so again. If we do not pass the coalition's amendment today, this bill could harm our bilateral trade relationships not only with Indonesia but also with Canada, Papua New Guinea and Malaysia, among many others. In their submissions to the inquiry by the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade into this legislation, these countries were very clear. The Indonesian government's submission expressly said:

The implementation of the Bill is…likely to undermine the development of trade between Indonesia and Australia based on our respective mutual interests.

Indonesia noted the importance of forestry and the forest sector, and noted that the industry employs close to 'four million Indonesians often in rural areas where other forms of employment do not exist'.

Clearly, Indonesia is willing to fight on this issue because it affects so many of its citizens. If Australia believed that another country were planning to impose deleterious unilateral trade restrictions on our exports, we would, no doubt, fight just as strongly.

Malaysia told the committee that while they understood:

… that the objective of the Bill is laudable, Malaysia would like to see that the implementation of the Bill will not in any way hamper the good bilateral trade relationship particularly in timber products.

The Canadian government's submission warned that any third party certification scheme and the reliance on strict chain-of-custody certification could lead to a 'barrier to trade' for exporters of timber products. These are some of our most important trading partners. Indonesia is certainly Australia's largest neighbour and the single most important export market for our wheat and beef industries. We do not want to harm this important bilateral trade relationship any more than has been achieved by the Gillard Labor government. The worry I have is that this unilateral effort and blanket policy will damage our bilateral relationships.

As the member for Curtin said previously, New Zealand, in their submission, noted the implementation of the bill had the potential to have a significant negative impact on New Zealand's forestry industry. As Judith Sloan commented in an article in the Australian on 15 May 2012, the point of trade policy insofar as it actually relates to trade should be used to promote international trade and should not be used to pursue other objectives, such as environmental aims.

The coalition went to the 2010 election with a clear policy of real action for the prevention of illegal logging because we understand that illegal logging is a significant challenge to the global environment. We believe in deferring the time frame in which illegal logging measures will be fully rolled out, to allow industry to adapt to any new measures. The coalition believe that all impacted stakeholders should be consulted closely in the drafting of any legislation and regulations, which to date is still a major concern. I urge the government to address our concerns and support the coalition's amendment to defer the timing of this legislation.

4:02 pm

Photo of Dick AdamsDick Adams (Lyons, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am very concerned that the coalition would oppose the Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill 2011. I was a part of the trade committee that went through the bills. I saw the last election promises by the coalition to ban illegal logging, to support bills in the parliament to stop illegal logging, to support the Australian manufacturing industry. They have now opposed that. They are now opposing these bills on some really false position. I am really concerned that the rest of the world—the USA and the Europeans—is moving against illegal logging but not the coalition.

Who has got to the coalition? The illegal loggers, I think. People who are making money out of bringing illegal logs, illegal wood and illegal furniture into Australia have got to them. Who is paying the bills? Who is making the donations to Liberal members and National Party members for elections? We ought to start looking at this. This is a turnaround from a promise at the last election. The promise was, 'We will oppose illegal timber and products coming into Australia.' Well, you have turned that around. You have turned that around with some spurious arguments like, 'We're worried about the trade with our neighbours,' when you know that the rest of the world is also moving against illegal logging.

I heard the member for Grey say, 'Oh, well, we know that a bit of cash passes under the table to get the accreditation.' Do we accept that? Of course we do not accept that. That is not world best practice. That is not what we should accept. We know that Indonesia is moving toward accreditation systems, and we encourage them and we are helping them. But if we do not put up proper laws in this country we will be going backwards. We should be supporting these bills and getting them through the parliament. I am very disappointed that this attitude has been taken.

The trade committee did look hard at this matter. It worked through the issues. We had a roundtable with diplomatic and trade people from neighbouring countries, and we worked through issues that they had raised. That is the way it should have been. But this is our bill to protect Australia and to set a standard for our country for forestry workers, for the manufacturing sector of Australia. That is what these bills are about: setting the standard. Australia has a right to do that and it should be supported by the political parties, not with some spurious argument that is coming from the other side, just so they have an extension or some sort of differentiation.

I am telling you that I will make sure that forest workers will understand in this country—and the large bulk of those that work in making furniture in Australia will also be well aware—that the coalition is not interested in having proper protection of their jobs and having proper processes which meet world standards, which is where we are going. As I said, we know that the rest of the world is moving down these lines. We need to seek an accreditation process so that when someone buys wood to sell in Australia it has an accreditation process on it. There are many different accreditation schemes, but one has to come up to the standards we are going to set for Australia. I cannot see what can be wrong with that. I cannot see why the opposition would be opposing this, unless there is some other reason. Maybe the member for Mayo will tell us that reason in an honest flurry from that side. I believe we should be supporting this bill and it should pass the House and the Senate.

Photo of Jamie BriggsJamie Briggs (Mayo, Liberal Party, Chairman of the Scrutiny of Government Waste Committee) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the amendment as well. Firstly, I will correct one thing the honourable parliamentary secretary said in his summation last Thursday, which was that I had said in my second reading speech that these bills should be tremendously amended but we would support their passage if our amendment was successful. I do not support the passage of this bill. I made that very clear in my contribution. I think this bill is a bad idea. I accept our party room's decision to allow this bill to pass after fighting for this amendment, but I think this is a bad way for us to proceed.

That is because the member for Lyons just gave away what this bill is actually all about. This bill is not about environmental policy, as they will have you believe, as the parliamentary secretary will stand and try and have you believe; this bill is about protectionism. The member for Lyons just said exactly that, very clearly, in his contribution. This bill is about protecting what he says are important manufacturing industry jobs. I understand he believes that; I understand and accept that that is his view. He says, 'Who are the people who are telling us to have this position of supporting this amendment and opposing this bill?' Well, I have not spoken to anyone in this industry. I can make that very clear on the record. But I know that the member for Lyons has, because he was quoting pretty much from the CFMEU press release. That is who is telling this bloke what to say. That is who tells all of those people over there what to say. The donations from the CFMEU to that side of parliament would make you blush, Mr Deputy Speaker. And they have the gall to suggest that we are being paid by someone to oppose this bill. Give me strength, Mr Deputy Speaker.

The member for Lyons is more honest than that. Others are not so much, but the member for Lyons is honest enough to admit that his contribution is paid for and endorsed by the CFMEU. That is who he is arguing for, and that is what this bill is all about. It is protectionism parading as environmental policy, which will do damage to trading arrangements in our area.

In my contribution last week, as I spoke to the amendment that we moved to this bad bill, I made the comment that the parliamentary secretary at the table for the Pacific Islands, or whatever else they call him these days, has actually done some reasonable work in this area. I know that is not very popular amongst some of my colleagues and I have been chastised heavily, but I know getting that endorsement will assist him in his climb up the greasy pole, but he has done some important work with what are important regional neighbours. We want those neighbours to develop. We on this side certainly want Indonesia, Papua New Guinea,—I am not sure all those on the other side do—Malaysia and other countries who have got developing economies to do better. If they do better, they will have better certification processes to ensure that this practice, which we all agree must come to an end, will come to an end in a better fashion. Domestic Australian law will not do that. Using trade policy through domestic law will not prevent illegal logging occurring, as the parliamentary secretary for forests has been suggesting in response to the member for Bradfield's very pertinent points. He actually quoted from the bill, Parliamentary Secretary, and you did not answer his question—instead you came up with some flurry like, 'If the coalition's amendment is successful we'll have three more years of illegal logging.'

I pose this question to you, Parliamentary Secretary—rise to your feet and answer it—if this bill is successful, if it passes the House and the Senate, will illegal logging stop? Of course it will not, but protection will come back. That is what the Labor Party is all about. They have chucked away the Hawke and Keating reforms, they have gone to the member for Lyons, they are quoting from the CFMEU—this is what it is all about. This is protectionism parading as environmental policy and I am ashamed of the member for Lyons because he has argued against this for years, against those Greens in Tasmania for years, for using trade policy and domestic law to pursue their environmental desires. And now the member for Lyons is wholly and solely with the Greens on this abomination of a bill. He should, I think, be ashamed of the position he is now taking because it will not assist his workers and it will not assist Australian consumers. It will cost them more, and it will not stop illegal logging. I want to hear the parliamentary secretary guarantee in this chamber, on his feet, that when this bill passes the practice of illegal logging in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and wherever else around the globe will cease. He cannot and he will not.

4:14 pm

Photo of Alex HawkeAlex Hawke (Mitchell, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to address this consideration in detail. I would not be so kind as the member for Mayo in relation to the member for Lyons because part of the problem with this bill and this legislation is that the government of course is being driven by the Australian Greens. The member for Melbourne in his contribution to this debate said that he would like to see the definition of 'illegal timber' in the legislation expanded. He would like to see the due diligence requirements increased. Really what that reveals is that the executive arm of this government, the member for Melbourne and the Greens in the Australian Senate, are driving this agenda. And it is a Greens agenda, not a protection of jobs agenda.

It just so happens that last night, Member for Lyons, I saw a program on television about the Tasmanian tiger trail. They are trying to promote tourism there around the Tasmanian devil. It said quite reflectively, quite sombrely, that they had lamented locally the loss of so many timber workers in Tasmania. Why have they lost so many timber workers in Tasmania? It is because of the policies of the Australian Greens.

So here we have a government that is driven by the Greens on one hand, saying: 'Let's expand the definition of "illegal timber". Let's stop logging altogether in the countries in our region because we are concerned about climate change,' and all of the things that the Greens are concerned about, and at the same time we have got the member for Lyons coming in here and saying, 'We've got to protect those few remaining timber workers that we've got in Tasmania.' That is the madness of a government that goes too far.

The member for Mayo's points and questions are well made, in one sense. Does the parliamentary secretary think that passing this bill will stop illegal logging? Well, yes. The government here thinks that passing a bill called the Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill will stop illegal logging. That is the problem with this government: that is all they think they have to do. Never mind the 'how'; it is always the 'what'. Do the opposition agree with illegal logging? Of course we do not. Do we oppose this bill? No. Do we oppose the intention of this bill? No, we do not, Member for Lyons. What we are concerned about is what is in the regulations, what the definition of 'illegal timber' is, and how a citizen or business complies with it. You cannot separate the 'what' of what you want to achieve from the 'how'. But this government has not grasped the 'how'. It never does grasp the 'how'—'We'll worry about the detail later. How will we stop illegal logging? Somehow'. It is not good enough to pass the bill in this form. That is why the opposition has proposed amendments—to allow time for proper consultation.

When you read the Orwellian explanatory memorandum of this bill—which goes through the great detail of consultation with peak industry bodies and other groups that have been consulted, and how great the consultation is—you find that it is completely at odds with what you find in the attitudes to this legislation of people out there in the sector. When you go to our trading partners, whether you go to Papua New Guinea, Malaysia or Indonesia, you find that they have expressed concerns. Hardwood bodies in America or in other countries have said, 'Look, you can achieve what you are trying to achieve. Work with us.'

Even in the explanatory memorandum it says—the Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, who is at the table, would agree—that Australia 'may leverage greater regional government action on combating illegal logging and associated trade through regional capacity building and bilateral and multilateral efforts'. Hear, hear! Where are the bilateral and multilateral efforts here? Nobody in this place has come forward into this parliament and suggested a huge issue with domestic illegal logging of timber. Nobody has come in here and suggested that.

This bill does not achieve the outcome that the government has so loudly vaunted. The member for Lyons has got up and said, 'We need to protect workers' jobs,' at the same time as he is in coalition with the Australian Greens, who want to broaden the definition of illegal timber, and make it harder to import timber of any nature into this country because they are fundamentally opposed to logging—full stop. Every tree has to be saved, according to the Australian Greens. How does the member for Lyons come in here and say, 'Let's use the laws of this country to protect the timber jobs that are left in Tasmania. At the same time, I'm in a government that has this Greens dominated policy, which is stripping back workers and jobs in my own state.' He needs to answer that question.

But the parliamentary secretary needs to answer the question about how the government intends to stop illegal logging, just by passing a bill entitled Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill. He needs to say what the regulations will be and how this compliance will lead to a reduction in logging, and he needs to get across the detail. Every minister in this government is not across the detail, and this is another blinding example of government failure to produce the appropriate laws and regulations to back up what they are trying to achieve.

4:16 pm

Photo of Sid SidebottomSid Sidebottom (Braddon, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank all members for their contributions. In short, for all the verbosity from the other side, and the feigned interest in doing what is right by our international obligations and whatever else, all those opposite are doing is delaying this legislation in order to allow further illegal logging throughout the world.

We join with others in seeking to introduce legislation to prohibit illegal logging and the importation of products that are illegally logged. If the member for Mayo thinks that that is a joke and if he thinks, in a perverse way, that the importation of illegally sourced timber products does not affect industry, jobs and businesses in Australia then I feel very sorry for him. I think that somehow or other his ideology has driven him to the perverse argument which he put before this House a moment ago.

We have had inquiry after inquiry and consultation after consultation, regionally and with our neighbours and trading partners. Indeed, time and time again we have had meeting after meeting with our trading partners over this legislation. The legislation seeks to do two things: to introduce a higher-bar entry to illegally sourced timber products into Australia, and, in the meantime, to work again with stakeholders and our partners to flesh out the regulations, which you are so pleased to say that you want to happen within three years. A three-year delay before regulations are introduced! We made a commitment in the last election and before to introduce such legislation as we have before us now, and I ask you to honour your commitment to that legislation, as we will. And you cannot honour your commitment if you support your own amendment.

Photo of Bruce ScottBruce Scott (Maranoa, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that the amendment as moved by the member for Calare be agreed to.

Photo of Ms Anna BurkeMs Anna Burke (Chisholm, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The question now is that this bill as amended be agreed to.