Thursday, 14 November 2019
Questions without Notice
I'm very pleased to ask a question of the Minister for Agriculture, a fellow Victorian, Senator McKenzie. Can the minister outline how the Victoria Labor government's ban on native forestry will impact regional communities in Victoria?
Thank you very much, Senator Paterson. Our government knows how important the forestry industry is to Australia. It employs over 52,000 people directly and many more thousands indirectly, and it contributes nearly $24 billion to the national economy in places like Huonville, Maryborough, Tumut and Marysville, where I grew up. Rather than blue collars, the men and probably women that work in the forestry industry wear blue singlets, like my dad did. That's why the Victorian government's decision to cease all native forest harvesting in state forests is disappointing, because it is selling out these people; it is selling out these regional communities; and it is selling them out not so they can grow and prosper on a sustainable resource, but to buy votes for Senator Di Natale and Senator Rice in inner urban seats of Melbourne.
It's not just the Australian government that condemns this decision by the Andrews Labor government. It's actually one of the Labor Party's largest donors. Mr Michael O'Connor, no less, has labelled this decision to end the native hardwood timber forestry industry in Victoria by 2030 as 'heartless and stupid'. They, like all of us, should be disgusted at how quickly Labor has forgotten the workers, just like in the last federal election they forgot the miners in Central Queensland and Western Australia. They are now turning their back on the forestry workers. We will see upwards of 5,000 jobs lost right throughout regional communities in timber towns in our home state of Victoria, Senator Paterson. I know you, like I, want to see more people employed in our home state in primary production, rather than fewer.
The Australian government has always supported the renewable, sustainable native forest industry in Victoria. Our policy for forestry is to ensure both a strong plantation and a strong native forest sector. We also support vibrant regional communities and the people that live and work in them. We back the 5,000 people that work in the forestry industry in Victoria. We back their families and their communities. Our government knows that beautiful Australian-grown natural hardwood is a sustainable resource and, therefore, in demand for very, very good reasons. We're actually very proud of this. The demand is high for appearance-grade forest products that can only be sourced in large quantities from native forests. Let's be clear: every single tree that is harvested in Victoria is replanted and regrown in native forestry. Only a very small area of Victoria is actually subject to this: 0.04 per cent of the total publicly-owned area. (Time expired)
We are committed to growing the forestry industry. We took a strong plan to the election and we're delivering on it, thanks to a fabulous assistant minister in Senator Duniam. Our national forest industries plan is underway and has the goal of a billion new plantation trees over the next decade to meet the growing demand for wood. We've already established five new pilot regional forestry hubs to support strategic planning for future needs of the industry. We've got a draft consultation paper out for a half-billion dollar concessional loan program on how we can encourage expansion in plantation. The industry knows we're on their side because we are the side of politics that's delivering for them. So do their workforce and so do their regional communities. You ask me about alternatives. There's only one, and it's the Greens' plan to shut down an entire industry and a desperate Labor Party that refuses to stand up to them.