Wednesday, 9 December 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to Senator Ruston, the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management. The Australian forestry industry is the ultimate renewable industry, growing raw materials that make the fibre based products we use each and every day. The industry contributes 6.6 per cent to the nation's manufacturing output. Can the minister outline the economic benefits the forestry industry delivers to regional communities, and what the Liberal-National government is doing to support our world-class forestry industry, particularly as we work to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and build a stronger Australia?
I thank Senator McKenzie for her question and for her longstanding interest in all agriculture but particularly our amazing forests in Australia. I know Senator McKenzie knows firsthand, from growing up in a regional town in Victoria, how tremendously important our forestry sector is to our regional communities. And, Senator McKenzie, forests and trees are the ultimate renewable resource: they grow. Can I also acknowledge Senator Duniam as the assistant minister for forestry for his extraordinary work and passion in making sure that this industry continues to have the potential to grow to support the Australian economy and, most particularly, to support our regional communities, whether that be in Imbil or whether it be in Tumut. It might be in Portland; it might be in the south-east of the state, where I come from; or it might be in Bunbury, over in Western Australia. Our timber and forestry industries are an absolutely vital part of our economy and a vital part of our regional areas.
These timbers are sustainable. They're sustainably managed and they provide a massive amount of employment across Australia, particularly for people who are employed in the timber industry in regional areas. Fifty-two thousand Australians take home pay as a result of working directly in our timber industry. In Senator McKenzie's home state of Victoria, more than 15,000 people are directly employed in this particular industry, which is worth more than $23 billion a year to the Australian economy.
We acknowledged last year that the industry was heavily impacted by the season's bushfires, and this has obviously been compounded by the impact of COVID and recent export disruptions. That's why we have worked with the industry—and I acknowledge AFPA and the industry—to provide $65 million targeting support to the industry, going forward.
Absolutely, Mr President. Thank you, Minister—great news. Can you outline the significant environmental benefits that are delivered through sustainable forestry operations in Australia, and how the Liberal-National government is supporting the industry to continue to deliver these benefits to the environment globally?
Well, Senator McKenzie, absolutely, this government supports the development and expansion of sustainable plantation forests across Australia. Every year, 70 million new trees are planted, and these forests capture carbon, they grow jobs and they provide the timber that Australia needs, as well as being an export opportunity for this country. And we are delivering on our election commitment for the forestry sector by making it easier for plantations and farm forestry projects to generate carbon credits through the $2 billion Climate Solutions Fund. This will drive $4 billion worth of investment in emissions reduction projects in Australia. We're reducing red tape for projects located in our five regional forestry hubs to make it easier for the private sector to invest in new Australian forestry products, create jobs and reduce emissions at the same time.
I would just like to recognise the chair of AFPA, Greg McCormack, and all the forestry workers that have been in; Sally McManus hasn't been the only one talking to real workers today in Parliament House. Can the minister outline the risks to the future growth of our world-class sustainable forestry industry and how the Liberal-National government is working to mitigate and overcome these risks?
I too acknowledge the chair of AFPA, and how much I miss being their minister! The Morrison government is absolutely committed to the long-term sustainable management and conservation of our forests. That's why we have sought to extend all our regional forestry agreements, so that we can make sure we have the best mechanism in place to balance the environmental, economic and social demands of the communities and the Australian economy, and to make sure our forestry sector can play the role we know it can play in Australia's economic future but also make sure, once again, that we create those jobs, because it is about creating jobs and supporting our regional communities. RFAs are a modern way of us being able to manage our forests through increased transparency, make sure we are focused on reporting outcomes and make sure we continually review the management of our forests so that we can get the best out of our forests and maintain sustainability.