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Monday, 9 December 2013
Page: 2032


Ms OWENS ( Parramatta ) ( 21:20 ): There was an interesting photograph in the Australian this morning. It was a photograph of a forest in Tasmania. Standing in it were two very unlikely colleagues. Terry Edwards of the Forest Industries Association and the Wilderness Society's Vica Bayley are standing there together, trying to make the point to Prime Minister Abbott that he should reconsider his commitment, prior to the election, to winding back the World Heritage expansion of 100,000 hectares which is at the heart of the Tasmanian forestry agreement.

If the Prime Minister persists with that it is probably the first time in the world that a government has actively sought to wind back a World Heritage listing. But in this case it would do more than just environmental damage; it would threaten to rip apart the Tasmanian forest agreement. Those of us who watched that agreement being negotiated in recent years would be aware that it was a gruelling negotiation. It was on again; it was off again. There were walk-outs; there were walk-back-ins. There were lines held and things given on both sides until eventually we had an agreement which was supported by the forestry industry and the environmental movement as something that is incredibly good for Tasmania . In fact, we have recently seen members of the Wilderness Society go to Japan with the forestry industry and promote the sustainable forestry practices of Tasmania, something that we would not have dreamt of five years ago or 10 years ago or 30 years ago—and the conflict has gone on for that long.

The Tasmanian Forests Agreement provides for a guaranteed supply of at least 137,000 cubic metres per year of high-quality saw logs from native forests and for the protection of over 500,000 hectares of native forests with important conservation values, which includes 100,000 additional hectares in the World Heritage area. This provides certainty both for industry and for conservation outcomes for some of the most important old-growth forests in the world. The Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreement and the national partnership agreement between the federal and Tasmanian governments outline a number of commitments and funding from both governments to support the implementation of forests agreements. Jointly, the Australian Labor government and the Tasmanian government have committed over $380 million to the forest process, including federal funding of over $330 million.

So what we have here is an agreement that took an incredible effort by people on both sides of the argument and by the Tasmanian and federal governments over many years. It is an agreement which leaves the Tasmanian industry with something of great value. The Tasmanian forestry industry now has what is called the Forest Stewardship Council certification, which they call the 'green stamp' for timber products produced in Tasmania. In many of our international markets, including the key market of Japan, that green stamp for timber products is a requirement for export.

Mr Nikolic: It's a shameful destruction of the forestry industry.

Ms OWENS: In fact, the forestry industry spokespeople are telling us—and they are telling the government, if they care to listen—that this green stamp, the Forest Stewardship Council, the FSC, is incredibly important for the future of Australian forestry industries. Malaysian-owned Ta Ann, which is a veneer maker in Tasmania that employs 110 people, uses only the FSC-approved wood in its timber mills and is now using that FSC certificate to promote its products in new markets and to break into the plywood-manufacturing industry in Australia. It is a market that is currently dominated by imports from countries where forest practices are simply not as rigorous as they are in Tasmania.

Mr Nikolic: Then why don't we grow the forest industry?

The SPEAKER: The member for Bass will let the member complete her statement.

Ms OWENS: The member for Bass is having a lovely time interjecting, but he might like to listen to his own representatives of the forest industry down there. Mr Edwards, for example, fears that the Forest Stewardship Council certification scheme will be undermined if that 100,000 World Heritage expansion, which is at the very heart of the deal, is dumped. He is telling the government that up to 1,000 logging-related jobs could be lost in the short term if this deal is dumped. I urge the government, including the Prime Minister, to listen to the voices coming from the forest industry, Tasmania and the environmental movement. (Time expired)