Thursday, 1 August 2019
I rise this morning to talk about the importance of the plantation sector in the timber industry of this country and particularly how important Eden-Monaro is to that whole equation. The decline in the plantation industry in Australia is a dramatic issue that we need to get on top of economically as quickly as possible. It also has the sidebar synergistic aspect of contributing to our climate change efforts. I'm very proud to have worked with the Softwoods Working Group, particularly over in the South West Slopes area of my electorate—the Tumut-Tumbarumba area—and also the southern high country areas around Bombala and Delegate that play such an important role in relation to this issue.
The thing is that we need policy to promote the growth and redress this decline in the plantation industry. I was proud during the election campaign that we made a commitment to actually put money into the timber hub concept for our area. There were announcements of timber hubs made by the government, but this was not supported by funding for the hub that was identified for our region. We made that commitment, and I'm pleased to see that that forced the coalition to end up matching that commitment during the campaign. That's important.
One of the concepts we were pursuing with that was the idea of forming timber co-ops, with our farmers banding together to assign more marginal parts of their properties to dedicate to plantation resource and set up brokers to facilitate that. Beyond that, what we need is a more enhanced approach to the Carbon Farming Initiative. Without that ability to engage in the international trade around carbon farming, we will not get the investment that we desperately need flowing into the plantation sector. This will help managed funds and other funds to really get behind that, because this enhanced Carbon Farming Initiative will allow investors to get returns on plantations from day one, not at the 15-, 25- or 35-year mark, as is normally the case, which is why it's so hard to attract investment. So I urge the government to really revisit the Carbon Farming Initiative in that respect.
I was pleased to sit down with John Barilaro, the member for Monaro and Deputy Premier of New South Wales, and he's very keen to also see that happen and pursue these issues. I got John to meet with Peter Crowe from the Softwoods Working Group on the South West Slopes to understand all the dimensions that are impeding this industry over there. So I'm pleased that John did that. Good on him. He's always been a good bloke for me to work with. But we really need the federal government now to step up and address not only this issue of the Carbon Farming Initiative deficiencies but also removal of the water rule. I don't have time to go into the detail of what that involves, but the water rule is a major impediment to further plantation development. The federal government really needs to look at removing that water rule. I urge our Minister for Agriculture to sit down and talk with Peter Crowe and find out what needs to happen to make this industry work.