Senate debates

Thursday, 10 December 2020

Regulations and Determinations

Industry Research and Development (Forestry Recovery Development Fund Program) Instrument 2020; Disallowance

6:38 pm

Photo of Bridget McKenzieBridget McKenzie (Victoria, National Party) Share this | Hansard source

It's funny you say that. I'll tell you what the background of my family is. My dad was a blue-singleted worker, a logger, in a little country town called Marysville. His first job was driving a Bedford truck up and down very, very dangerous roads in very, very difficult circumstances. I care about my children's future. I care about the futures of the communities I represent, and that means backing in a sustainable and renewable industry, such as the Australian forestry industry.

One of the things that the foresters talked to me about yesterday was how tough they'd done it in the bushfires. It was actually these forestry workers who risked life and limb actually fighting the fires. They knew the tracks better than some of the fire crews that had been brought in from city areas or other districts. They knew those forests like the backs of their hands. The forestry industry is not just about producing world-class fibre and timber products; it is also about managing our natural resource appropriately, making sure that we do have tracks throughout our forest areas and making sure they're upgraded so that, when we do have a bushfire event, we can access those more remote areas easily. It's the forestry industry that undertakes that task.

Post the bushfires, our government is very proud to help rebuild this industry and the regional communities that rely on it. We don't back away from supporting workers at all. We don't care if you're a worker in a small business. We don't discriminate against workers. We don't say that some workers are more deserving of support than others. We very proudly stand with the industries where there is hard manual labour, such as the forestry industry. Devastation was wrought particularly on the New South Wales and Victorian forestry industry, but the South Australian forestry industry was also hard hit by the bushfire. We stand by them to ensure they have the support they need to rebuild and to continue to employ people in this sustainable industry. We're doing this by providing $65 million in targeted support. The government has established the $40 million Forestry Recovery Development Fund Program. This provides grants of up to $5 million to support processors to address future wood supply shortages through innovation and product diversification.

One of the great timber product manufacturers that I got a chance to meet with yesterday was a company called ASH. They operate out of Heyfield. In terms of advance manufacturing, you could not get better than this particular company. The technology that they've implemented down in Heyfield means that they use every single part of a harvested tree, which is fantastic news because we don't want to waste this very precious resource; we want to be very diligent in how we use it. ASH's implementation of this superadvanced technology means that they are not only providing hundreds of jobs in the local community but producing a great product that Australians can use to make kitchens et cetera, rather than sourcing timber from overseas, which may not have been as sustainably produced as it is here in Australia.

We're providing $15 million for salvage log transport assistance to help Australia's sustainable forestry industries in their immediate recovery from bushfires. One of the greatest frustrations I heard from these foresters at the time of the bushfires was that state governments, particularly that of my home state of Victoria, were not allowing the forestry industry to salvage the logs that had been cut down as a result of a bushfire. They were to be left on the forest floor to potentially become undergrowth and fuel load for the next bushfire season, which is absolutely abominable. The foresters who came to see me yesterday were just in shock that city bureaucrats and Labor Party apparatchiks were making decisions about their communities, putting their communities at risk—

Senator Rice interjecting—

Because they couldn't salvage the logs, Senator Rice, that had already gone through the bushfire and were a danger. We had people coming along with chainsaws to clear them so that it was safe to move through a community. Rather than letting this industry, which has been so devastated because the resource has burnt, to use those logs and do what they could with them to make sustainable products, decisions were made outside the community with no understanding of how we live and work out there. It just beggars belief and causes a whole lot of frustration, and it probably explains, Senator Rice, why your vote in places in Heyfield is as it is.

We're also providing $10 million for the Salvage Log Storage Fund, to establish storage facilities for fire affected salvage logs during the COVID-19 pandemic. So I say to state governments that halted the ability of the foresters to collect and use the salvage logs: we're providing the money for storage, we're also providing the money for transport, but we have to be allowed to get the things off the ground, right? You've got to allow them to get them off the ground. Jaclyn Symes, I hope you're listening tonight.

This support keeps mills operational and people employed and it ensures Australians can enjoy sustainably grown Australian wood products, rather than what the Greens would like, which is unsustainably produced timber products. That is what they actually would prefer was used by Australians who may not be able to afford the types of timber products that they can in the suburbs that they represent. But the average Australians in suburbs right across our capital cities are very proud of the richness of our timber product. I think they should be able to have their kitchens in it, build their houses with it and have some great decking, rather than using unsustainably produced timber.

Every tree that is harvested as part of native timber harvesting in Victoria is regrown, because do you know what happens? You actually plant a tree, and over time it grows again, right?

Honourable senators interjecting—

Something that my father did, some of the senators over there deride as if he was some rich guy just doling out the money. One of the things my father did after he and his crew went through and harvested the timber for places like Mount Buffalo was to then go through, in the mid- to late sixties, and replant everything. Do you know what? Those trees—I'm 50, so they're 50 years old now—are just ready to harvest. Fantastic!

Senator Gallagher interjecting—

Sorry, what was that, Senator?


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