Tuesday, 25 June 2013
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Ludwig. Can the minister inform the Senate how the listing of up to 170,000 hectares of Tasmania's unique forest wilderness on the World Heritage Register helps to protect jobs in the Tasmanian forest industry?
I thank Senator Brown for her continued interest in conservation in Tasmania. I was pleased to be in Tasmania to welcome the passage of the forest agreement legislation through the Tasmanian parliament. Why? Because that legislation not only is about the conservation of forestry in Tasmania but also locks in jobs. It is the culmination of an incredible amount of hard work by community representatives, and it will help resolve the debate about the forest industry in Tasmania. It is also a desire from those community representatives to see the twin outcomes of jobs and of conservation of Tasmanian native forests.
The facts are clear. The data has been telling us that the Tasmanian forest industry has been severely impacted by the global financial crisis; by wood products, due to the global financial crisis; by changing market preferences; and by the high dollar. Only a year ago Ta Ann Tasmania announced it was reducing output and reducing staff. On the weekend we saw Ta Ann Tasmania announce its commitment to a secure future for more than 90 direct jobs in the region and for the families and businesses that supply Ta Ann. That is 90 more jobs that have a future that the industry wants and that the coalition are bleating about. The coalition do not want jobs in Tasmania. The agreement was delivering outcomes for Tasmania.
The nomination of the World Heritage listing has seen groups like the Australian Conservation Foundation work with industry in overseas markets, in export markets, to show Tasmanian forest products are sustainable, legally harvested and top quality. I will not ignore the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania which says— (Time expired)
I thank Senator Brown for her continued interest in creating jobs and opportunity in Tasmania. As part of the Tasmanian forest intergovernmental agreement with the Commonwealth, it committed $120 million for economic diversification over 15 years; in 2012, $24 million in funding and assistance for a range of economic diversification projects, and that includes the Tasmanian Innovation Investment Fund; $8 million for 28 businesses, creating 267 jobs; and economic diversification projects, including $16 million for 10 projects. And, on 17 May, the Prime Minister announced that the government would increase the economic diversification funding to $100 million to be delivered over four years. These things are being delivered in Tasmania because of the changes in the economy, including changes in the forest industry, and because the Gillard government has listened to industry. The jobs and growth plan will bring new opportunities— (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister advise the Senate if he is aware of any alternative approaches to protecting jobs, protecting the environment and creating community consensus on the future of Tasmania? Does the minister know of any risks to the government's plan to lock in jobs?
I thank Senator Carol Brown. Of course, there are risks. If you look at the words from the opposition, the Tasmanian forest industry should be extremely wary of the approach of Tasmanian Liberals, like Senator Colbeck. On the same day as Ta Ann Tasmania put out a statement committing to the state for another five years, Tasmanian Liberal Peter Gutwein accused the Gillard government of buying forestry jobs. Senator Colbeck, on the other hand, is on the record complaining that the money is being paid to shrink the Tasmanian economy. This is about growing jobs in Tasmania. Those opposite do not want to support it. They are ideologically stuck in a rut on Tasmania. It is a rut that would see continued conflict in Tasmania. It would see the Tasmanian forest industry decline through its commitment to attack jobs in Tasmania. Senator Colbeck has more in common with Senator Milne than he cares to admit. (Time expired)