Monday, 24 June 2013
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Could the minister please advise the House on action the government has taken to support jobs during the downturn in forestry in Tasmania?
( The forestry industry in Tasmania has been going through an extraordinary downturn over the last couple of years, and that is what caused industry and the environment groups to sit down at the same table to see if there was a way forward other than the previous conflict model that had been plaguing Tasmania for about 30 years.
It was no surprise that, once you actually had a constructive way forward on the table, those opposite said they would prefer to settle the issue in the car park. Those opposite preferred the old style of conflict so that we have had in the last couple of days two massive steps forward—one for industry; one for conservation—with those opposite opposing both of them.
Yesterday we had the member for Franklin and the member for Braddon standing up with Ta Ann, one of the most significant millers in Tasmania, responsible for the peeler billets that underpin the rest of the timber industry, with $26 million there to allow that business to restructure itself in the wake of the new situation that Tasmanian forestry has been facing. We had Senator Colbeck describing that sort of assistance as economic vandalism for Tasmania—$26 million for the key mill that underpins the rest of the sector in Tasmania and the jobs that go with it, which is not just the people that Ta Ann employ but the people who work as contractors, for the neighbouring mills and the rest of industry. That was described as economic vandalism by those opposite.
I am also pleased to inform the House that they have not just opposed everything relating to helping industry; they have been even-handed: they have opposed anything about conservation as well. They even took the opportunity to send their own letter, it has been reported, to the World Heritage Committee saying, 'We're not the government but we would still like you to please not go ahead with the World Heritage listing.' I am pleased to inform the House that, half an hour before question time, the World Heritage Committee have accepted in full the boundary extension for Tasmania's forests: the Styx, the Weld, the Upper Florentine, the Great Western Tiers—areas that industry had said should be part of the agreement to be taken out of production; areas that were put forward to the World Heritage Committee, not as politicians drawing a line or bartering but, for the first time, a government saying, 'We would allow the stakeholders to negotiate and we would back their position in.' That provides a path forward for Tasmania different to the conflict model that those opposite are completely wedded to—an outcome for jobs in Tasmania, an outcome for conservation but, because it involves peace, they can only say no.