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Monday, 4 July 2011
Page: 7447

Mr SIDEBOTTOM (Braddon) (11:22): I stand with my colleague and friend the member for Lyons to recognise that 2011 is the International Year of Forests. Forestry is a fantastic industry that provides the world with renewable products, income and ecological services. The United Nations Forum on Forests reflects international trends in forest management, which increasingly acknowledges that previous policy objectives that were designed to restrict the use of native forest resources were misdirected and have led to perverse social, land use and economic outcomes. There is now an acceptance that sustainable forest management and utilisation policy must encompass all forest types and tenure and that native forests are part of an integrated solution to meeting national, social and economic development needs.

A number of environmental non-government organisations—ENGOs—are adopting a more pragmatic approach to the management and utilisation of native forests. For example, the World Wildlife Fund 'understands the threats facing forest today,' but trying to prohibit the use of forest resources is not a viable solution. The world is rediscovering, fortunately, the benefits of wood and wood products. Our eucalypts, with their high-strength rating, are an ideal source for engineered products. Research in Europe and North America is looking seriously at substituting tilt slab concrete walls with cross-laminated timber slab walls. Laminated timber is lighter and has the benefit of capturing a huge amount of CO2, unlike concrete, which in fact, emits CO2. Furthermore, in earthquake-prone areas, governments are recognising the benefits of timber buildings, including high-rise, which are less prone to collapse than those constructed of steel or concrete. In Europe and Japan eight- to 10-storey buildings are being made from timber. Indeed, in Melbourne, the Grollo family made headlines with its plans to build Australia's first high-rise building from timber.

These are examples of why forests should be recognised in this International Year of Forests. As such, worldwide demand for forest product is forecast to increase and Australia's proximity to the rapidly growing Asian economies provides an opportunity to expand growth and output. To fulfil growing demand, forest processes require expanding resources and long-term security and supply at suitable levels of quantity and quality, supporting investment decisions critical in maintaining competitiveness and developing new processing capacity. As we are currently seeing in my home state of Tasmania, resource security is a major issue for the industry. Forest planning is an intergenerational activity.

Forest operations around the world have gone through dramatic changes over the past 20 years and have adapted and responded positively to change, and my state of Tasmania is no exception. Gone are the days when forestry was considered to be a career for males with a high level of physical fitness and a low level of skills who were content to work in dangerous situations. Many modern jobs involve operating computer controlled forest harvesting and mill processing equipment which requires highly skilled personnel. The 21st-century forest industry is a safe, modern, capital-intensive, state-of-the-art and high-tech industry that continues to provide rewarding career activities.

The industry is not standing still. As well as technology and research, private, native and plantation forest resources are becoming increasingly critical to supply models But managed forests still provide the most cost effective and environmentally sustainable approach to forest management and addressing the challenges associated with issues such as climate change. It is clear that appropriate, supportive and consistent government policies will be required if the full potential of the Australian and, particularly, the Tasmanian forest industry is to be realised and, in doing so, maximise its contribution to local and regional communities.

According to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry in 2008-09, Australian forests produced 25 million cubic metres of logs, which had a forest roadside value of $1.7 billion or an average price of $68 per cubic metre. After processing, the value of this resource averaged $920 per cubic metre, an increase of over 1,320 per cent. The industry is collectively Australia's second-largest manufacturing industry and contributes around 0.7 per cent to Australia's gross domestic product and 5.8 per cent of manufacturing output. The forest industry is a critical regional employer, with 76,800 people directly employed across supply and value chains.