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Friday, 5 December 1986
Page: 3507


Senator BUTTON —On 18 November, Senator Sanders, an Australian Democrat from Tasmania, asked me a question about what he described as the anti-conservationist media campaign being conducted by the Forest Industries Campaign Association Ltd. There were a number of sub-questions to the main question. I ask that the answer, which is somewhat lengthy, be incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The answer read as follows-

Answer:

1 Total expenditure during 1985/86 for the Australian Manufacturing Council and the eleven associated industry councils was $1,618,521. This figure includes the salaries of all industry councils secretariat staff.

Of this figure $110,510 is directly attributable to the forestry and forest products industry council (FAFPIC). $70,000 of this amount was due to a major consultancy study (for the Minister's information Jaakko Poyry). The remaining $40,000 was mainly due to expenses of the meetings, the council and its working parties.

The figure of $110,510 does not include any salary component as salaries are not directly attributable to any one council.

The budget allocation for 1986/87 for the AMC and eleven industry councils is $2,346,000.

It is not possible to say at this stage what proportion of current funding will be directly attributable to FAFPIC.

2 In its industry strategy FAFPIC identified the need for a public awareness of wood production as a legitimate land use. I understand that the present advertising campaign is part of a general public awareness strategy intended to achieve that objective.

The direction for the campaign of advertisements to which Senator Sanders referred comes from FAFPIC.

I understand that the campaign is managed by FAFPIC's public awareness steering committee, whose sixteen members are either industry or union representatives. Five of these members are also members of FAFPIC. The campaign is operated through FICA, a company formed to provide an operating vehicle exclusively for the awareness raising campaign. Three of FAFPIC's members are also members of FICA.

In respect of involvement by Government employees, I am aware that public servants provided to support FAFPIC have been involved in the campaign under the general direction of FAFPIC public awareness steering committee.

I have had a number of conversations with the chairman of FAFPIC and emphasised to him that I considered that while the council's terms of reference empower it to be involved in such campaigns, it was most inappropriate that public servants be involved in industry promotional campaigns. I should also say that in confirming the council's general capability under its terms of reference to implement key elements of its strategy does not imply that I as Minister, or the Government support each and every action the council might take. I point out that the council is an independent body.

As a result of these discussions the involvement by Government employees is now to be limited to providing normal secretariat support for the council and I can assure Senator Sanders that there will now be no further involvement with the campaign by employees of the Commonwealth.

3 The council is tripartite in nature and the concept of a public awareness campaign to highlight the need for accessing forests for the timber industry and downstream processing industries was agreed by those tripartite members.

The council established the steering committee to oversight that campaign and a separate company was established to obtain and channel industry funds. The Government has provided no funds for the preparation, publication or screening of the advertisements. Directors of the company come from industry, with one being also a member of the industry council. The only Government support was that provided, as I mentioned before, through the involvement in the campaign by public servants supporting FAFPIC and its steering committee, who also lent guidance and support to the company.

However to avoid any further confusion of responsibilities in the future, as I have already said, this involvement and support by those public servants will now cease.

4 The campaign is industry and union led and industry funded. It is neither for me nor for the Government to lend its support to the contents of the advertisements. I reiterate the point I made earlier that Government support cannot be assumed for each and every utterance or view expressed by the council, just as neither can the Government nor I necessarily be regarded as endorsing every argument or proposition made by the conservation movement, notwithstanding that substantial taxpayers' funds are provided to the conservation movement.