Monday, 24 June 2013
Tasmanian Forests Agreement
Over the weekend, the federal environment minister announced another milestone in the delivering of the historical Tasmanian Forests Agreement—the retirement of the peeler billet supply from veneer maker Ta Ann. This restructure will help protect jobs and specific areas of native forests in Tasmania. With the signing of the intergovernmental agreement, Ta Ann will be able to restructure its business to adjust to the 108,000 cubic metres per annum reduction in peeler billet supply while helping to diversify its product base.
Ta Ann were ready to exit Tasmania because of their uncertainty of the market but have stuck it out to the end of negotiations, which has given them a headache in the short term but, in the long term, they should be able to continue to invest in our state. Ta Ann operate two rotary peeler veneer mills in Tasmania. The mills' operations will still be supported by an average of 157,000 cubic metres of native forest veneer peeler billets a year from Forestry Tasmania. This company and their workers have been strong supporters of the forestry agreement since the beginning because they believed it was the only way to get a resolution to the forest wars. This is further demonstrated by the company's agreement to reduce supply and continue to stay in Tasmania.
The forestry deal that passed the Tasmanian parliament earlier this year provides certainty, because it is supported by both industry and conservationists. For industry, it guarantees wood supply and undercuts any future market campaigns against Tasmanian timber by further developing a forest stewardship council certification of its wood supply. For conservation, it allows for the expansion of the state's forest reserves to protect their remarkable biodiversity for prosperity. The buyback has allowed some stability to diversify the economic growth of jobs in affected regions of Tasmania. We have had conflict for many years, which caused the market to go into free fall, partly because of the actions of a few conservationists who wished to stop the forest industry and partly because of the global financial crisis, the high Australian dollar and the fact that forestry was a trade-exposed industry.
Something had to be done to stabilise and provide certainty in the market. This was the purpose of negotiations between the industry and non-government organisations, which came to an agreement to stop the clash. This was then put to the government because it required an endorsement from all levels. There have been many drafts, many changes and a lot of negotiation over the last three years. But now we have an agreement that will provide certainty for investment into the future. It has meant that the forests have been further locked up, but it has given the industry guidelines as to how it can develop without interference from ongoing opposition. We get to this position, and now the Liberals are seeking to sink the agreement and are conducting a wrecking-ball approach to it. But, without the certainty and the stability, there will be no investment and no industry. The market needs security, investors need stability and the conservationists need some reason to stop harassing the industry. This is the only way that we can have a win-win situation.
But this does not mean the end of the forest industry. It means that we will now be valuing our forests and forest products more highly; that the economic return on timber, both raw and processed, is a great deal higher than it has been; and that innovation will be rewarded and appreciated. There will be new market opportunities with plantation based forestry. There are new paper based industries being undertaken now, and we are still using paper in various forms in our everyday lives. We need to ensure that we buy it locally to ensure that jobs remain in Australia. That way, the certified process can ensure that our products have world's best practice applied and that every piece of timber or timber products can be identified from source.
There are new opportunities too. In a carbon-restrained world, wood fibre has natural strength and durability and could be the basis for many new products in our world. It is impressive that the value of this industry to Australia's low-carbon economy is recognised by governments and the broader community. A certified process that is underway can give us that, and we will go forward. Perhaps the Liberals can stop wrecking and start supporting a new, positive industry. (Time expired)