Senate debates

Tuesday, 16 June 2020



7:20 pm

Photo of Jonathon DuniamJonathon Duniam (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Forestry and Fisheries) Share this | | Hansard source

I am pleased to be able to participate in the adjournment debate tonight on an issue that I feel very, very strongly about. And I'm pleased that my colleague Senator Ciccone is here as well. Both of us, along with a number of others in this chamber, like Senator Davey—look, I won't go through the names—are strong supporters of the timber and forestry industry in this country. This is an industry that proudly supports and sustains jobs across many regional communities right throughout the country. It's an industry that we as a nation should be proud of. We should be proud of how we do it better than anyone else in the world, notwithstanding what some amongst us would say about this industry—and I know that Senator Brown is a big supporter of the forestry industry in Tasmania as well, and I applaud her for that.

But there are some out there who wish to undercut this industry and who wish to spread falsehoods about how sustainable and environmentally friendly this industry is. They are people who need to be held to account for what they say. But we'll put that to one side for a moment, because it's really the people who work in this industry—

Senator Rice interjecting

I know that I have a great degree of respect for Senator Rice, because she is very strong in advocating for her views, many of which I don't agree with. But we are respectful adults and we agree to disagree on many things. The people who work in this industry are the ones I'm interested in advocating for—the honest, hardworking men and women of Australia who work in this sustainable, renewable and world-leading industry.

These are the people who go to work every morning thinking they are going to come home safely, that there is no risk to their health and wellbeing. But in Tasmania, just last month, we had someone—or a group, I'm not sure who, and we will find out—go into our forests, spiking trees. These were gigantic metal spikes inserted into the trunks of trees in our state, in a way that you could only describe as deplorable. These metal spikes were inserted into the trunks of trees deeply and covered over with silicon, with the bark put back on the outside to conceal the presence of the metal spike. We can only assume that whoever did it—individual or group, I don't know—wanted to cause harm. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what happens when a tree trunk with a giant chunk of metal embedded in it is being processed and encounters a fast-spinning blade in a sawmill. It doesn't end well. People lose limbs; people are injured. People are killed.

We only have to look at the comments from Wayne Booth from the Karanja timber mill in the Derwent Valley in southern Tasmania, talking about the close call he had when they were processing timber with a metal spike embedded in it. Seven spikes were found and, rightly, there's an investigation underway. I hope it's the most forensic investigation that we can see, because whoever it was out there who thought they were advancing whatever their cause is—and I don't know who it was, but I'm sure they'll be found out—I want them to be brought to justice. No-one out there, no honest, hardworking man or woman, simply because they work in an industry that some people don't like for one reason or another, should ever be subjected to such a risk to their health and safety—just because they go to work. They're not political activists and they're not trying to push a particular barrow; they're going to work to earn an income to pay their bills. What's more, they're doing it in an industry that we should be proud of, because we do it better in this country than anywhere else in the world. Compare us to Brazil or Malaysia, where they rip trees out of the ground and never plant them again, they don't care about the locals they dislodge from their places of residence and they don't care about the wildlife; they have no regard for that. But here in Australia we do. And we have world-class management of that, thanks to the hardworking men and women of the timber industry.

Whoever it is, I hope that somewhere on the 'interweb'—as it's referred to by Senator Siewert from time to time—they will pick up on what I said tonight and will feel regret for what they have done and come forward and admit that they have put the health and safety of hardworking honest men and women at stake. We need to find out who these people are, bring them to justice and protect this proud industry from people who seek to do such awful things.