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Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Page: 13583

Mr ADAMS (Lyons) (12:36): We have the member for Lyne, the member for Lyons and we have Mr Lyons, the member for Bass, sitting in the chamber—it can get confusing. On behalf of the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Resources, Fisheries and Forestry, I present the committee's report entitled Seeing the forest through the trees-Inquiry into the future of the Australian forestry industry together with the minutes of proceedings. I ask leave of the House to make a short statement in connection with the report.

Leave granted.

Mr ADAMS: The committee's brief was to inquire into the current and future prospects of the Australian forest industry. The inquiry took in a number of factors which included the opportunities for forestry and the constraints upon production and for diversification into the future. Opportunities for value adding and the product innovation we could seek included opportunities for the development of potential energy production through biofuse fuels, biomass and biochar. It also touched on co-generation and carbon sequestration, all issues that have been opportunities for the forest industries as a result of climate change discussions.

The committee was aware of the land-use competition between the forestry and agriculture sectors. The environmental impacts of forestry were considered, including the impacts of plantations upon land and water availability for other land uses. We were aware of the need to look at balancing environmental costs with economic opportunities and coming up with some solutions for the conflict that has faced the forest industry in recent times.

The implications of competing land use for the cost of the availability of timber, food and fibre were also considered. There needs to be some harmonising of competing interests while looking at farm and forest opportunities. The need was identified to look at creating a better business environment for forest industries, including investment models for sawlog production, new business and investment models for plantation production, superannuation investment in plantations, and social and economic benefits for forestry production. This became quite a task.

Over the course of the inquiry, the committee was impressed by the passion and commitment of individuals and groups throughout the forest industry. We received 121 detailed written submissions from a huge range of organisations involved in some way with the industry—from both public and private forestry areas; from industry players, individuals and some non-government environmental groups. There were seven public hearings in Canberra between 25 May and 24 August. There were three public hearing outside Canberra taking in Melbourne, New Norfolk in Tasmania and Grafton in New South Wales. The committee also took the opportunity to inspect first-hand operations in the Northern Rivers in New South Wales, the Derwent Valley in Tasmania and Ballarat in Victoria.

This inquiry has come at an important time for the forest industry and the committee has been privileged to visit some of Australia's timber communities to talk about the future of the industry. One of the most important aspects of an inquiry is to spend time listening to people about things they know best. The committee is grateful for the contribution of all those who made submissions and attended hearings. Throughout this report the committee has focused on new forestry opportunities, both for today and in the future. The committee firmly believes that the future of Australian forestry is bright and looks forward to seeing those in the industry take advantage of these opportunities. It can be seen from the recommendations that there is plenty more to do. However, I think the future of the forest industry is full of promise and opportunity. The committee firmly believes that, with the right policy settings, the industry will be able to take advantage of each and every opportunity. The forest industry will thus continue to play an important role, as it does in Australia's economy, particularly in rural and regional areas.

I thank my fellow committee members—the deputy chair, Alby Schultz; Mr Geoff Lyons, the member for Bass; Darren Cheeseman; George Christensen; Robb Mitchell; Tony Crook and Dan Tehan—for all their hard work and commitment in seeing this report through. It was no mean task. I also thank the committee secretariat—Mr David Brunoro from 3 February, Dr Bill Pender until 25 July, Mr Thomas Gregory from 8 August, and Fiona Gardner—who pulled together what I believe will be seen as a landmark report into the future. Lastly, I thank all those who submitted information, attended hearings and talked to us around Australia, for without their help we would not have been able to get the complete picture we finally received. I move:

That the House take note of the report.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms King ): In accordance with standing order 39, the debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.