The Hon Will Hodgman MP, Leader of the Opposition
This debate tonight is not just a debate about the future of our forest industry, it’s a debate about the future of Tasmania. It is a debate about people, their jobs, their families, and their communities.
It’s a debate about growing our economy; and a Tasmania that is self-reliant, and able to stand on its own two feet – not dependent on the rest of the country for hand outs and bailouts.
It is a debate about how we use our natural resources, which belong to all Tasmanians - including future generations - not a small group of unelected people. And it’s about the right of all Tasmanians to have their say about it; not just a noisy minority.
The Liberals do not support this forest deal, because it is bad for Tasmania. It is selling out the forestry industry, people’s jobs, many associated downstream businesses, like those right here in Brighton, for a paltry amount of compensation which is devaluing the forest resource, and forest industry.
The roundtable process, now over two years old, continues to create uncertainty for this important industry, and has excluded people from the debate on the future of our forests.
And all in the vain hope of peace. The protests are continuing as we speak, at such a sensitive time in the negotiations, and does anyone seriously think it will all suddenly stop when this deal is finally signed?
And the government has no mandate to do this. They did not take this plan to the election to allow Tasmanians to have their say. It was only two years ago - at the last State Election - that Tasmanians made a decision about the future of our native forests; and the vast majority of Tasmanians - 80% - said ‘no more lock-ups’.
But just a few weeks after that election - with no mandate to do so - David Bartlett suddenly announced the start of a so-called ‘roundtable process’. He said he wanted to sit down with Forest Minister Bryan Green - and Nick Mc Kim - to set up this roundtable.
And so began a process that has failed to deliver on almost every count.
It was meant to deliver peace - FAIL. The environmentalists have said that will not happen until “the last chainsaw falls silent.”
It was meant to deliver the pulp mill - FAIL.
It was supposed to ensure the re-opening of the Triabunna woodchip mill - FAIL.
And it was supposed to provide resource security for our timber industry. - Again, FAIL.
We had resource security - the RFA. But Bryan and his colleagues have abandoned it.
The fact is, this deal fails on every count; except one. And that is keeping Labor and the Greens in Government. The one reason why this deal was stitched up is because the Greens demanded it.
The Greens demanded it, and David Bartlett, Lara Giddings and Bryan Green weren’t strong enough to stand up and say “no.”
Labor abandoned two decades of strong bipartisan support for forestry because they were more worried about their own jobs, than your jobs.
I wrote to the Premier, Lara Giddings last year, offering to work with her to support the industry, not shut it down but she refused.
Imagine how different things would be if the Premier had agreed to work with me, rather than Nick McKim, on the future of our forest industry.
Now, you’ve heard / I expect you will hear a lot from Bryan tonight about market conditions, and difficulties the timber industry is facing. Bryan and Lara like to accuse me of being negative, but I’ve got to say they spend a lot of their time telling everyone how stuffed the timber industry is.
Of course the high Australian dollar is not making things easy, but the fact is the market for high quality native forest sawn timber products is strong, and remains strong – just ask any sawmiller here tonight.
As for hardwood chip sales from Australia, they’re as strong as they’ve been for the past three years.
Let me put some cold, hard facts on the table - from respected industry analyst, Robert Eastment.
The facts are that hardwood chip exports from Australia have actually grown in recent years.
In March 2009 Australia exported 882,000 tonnes with nearly 330,000 – more than a third of the total – from Tasmania.
And in March 2012, total hardwood chip exports have increased to 928,000 tonnes - but Tasmania’s share has fallen to just 97,000 tonnes – which is now only about 10% of the total.
So it’s wrong to say that the market has collapsed, it hasn’t. We've just surrendered our share of the market to other states.
It’s not because there aren’t customers for hardwood chips, it’s because the forest deal has slowly strangled the industry; Triabunna remains shut; the Greens have poisoned our markets, and having two Greens Ministers in cabinet attacking the industry only makes things worse.
So what will we do?
Firstly, we say “enough is enough.”
44 percent of Tasmania’s landmass is already lock-up for forever. 47% of our native forests are locked up – forever.
And let me be clear.
Not one more stick of Tasmania’s productive native forests should be locked up. Not one stick. And under a Liberal Government, not one more stick will be locked up.
We will work with you to grow the industry, not shut it down.
We will unlock any new reserves created out of this disastrous process;
We will repeal any legislation which seeks to reduce the current sawlog quota, and re-tender it rather than retire it, to make sure that family owned saw mills (like the one I visited today) and the specialty timber workers can get the wood they need;
We will legislate to create timber production reserves, and require that no new conservation reserves can be created without a two thirds majority of both houses of the Parliament;
We will toughen the law and crack down on illegal protests
We will proudly and forcefully promote Tasmania’s sustainable timber industry in the international market-place
And innovate at home with bio-energy, bio-fuel and engineered timber - it won't be just woodchips.
So while under Labor and the Greens forestry will become a cottage industry, under the Liberals it will be a growth industry into the future - both public and private.
I accept that it won’t be easy to fix the mess. But by providing resourcing security, by proudly supporting this important industry - we can, and will, build a stronger forest industry into the future.