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Thursday, 2 December 2004
Page: 71

Senator MASON (2:17 PM) —My question is also to Senator Ian Macdonald as the Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation. Will the minister outline to the Senate the coalition's approach to forest policy and securing employment and sustaining smaller communities that rely upon the timber industry? Is the minister aware of any alternative policies?

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation) —I thank Senator Mason. The coalition's approach to forestry policy is to address Australia's huge trade imbalance in forest and wood products, to ensure good conservation outcomes and to secure the jobs of decent hardworking Australians and the communities that support them. The Howard government's 2004 election policy clearly demonstrated the coalition's approach and demonstrated that it can be achieved. One million hectares of the 1.2 million hectares of old-growth forest in Tasmania will be reserved from logging as a result of the coalition's policies. Timber workers and timber communities will have security, and in Tasmania we have reached the right balance. The Australian public actually supported the Howard government's approach, which was demonstrated in the October election when the coalition won two additional forestry seats in Tasmania and got themselves an extra Senate seat in Tasmania. Labor lost those seats because Mr Latham listened to Bob Brown rather than Labor's constituency.

Unfortunately—and Senator Mason, a Queensland senator, will be disturbed by this—Labor has not learned the lessons from Tasmania and it would appear that another Labor forest policy disaster is brewing in our home state of Queensland. The Premier's office in Queensland is running the show. Advice from Queensland government ministers is being ignored. The five Beattie government ministers in the most relevant portfolios support a transition from state-owned hardwood forests to plantations in the western hardwoods region. This policy is backed by industry and the ACTU. Senator Ludwig has conveniently `disappeared' because it is the AWU—and Senator Ludwig's dad is the AWU man and Senator Ludwig is in this chamber because of the AWU—who want to help the forest workers but your Premier, Senator Ludwig, seems to be ignoring them again. The relevant ministers and their departments have been rolled by the Premier's George Street latte set on the basis that a transition to plantations would involve the slaughtering of—now wait for this—`baby trees'! They are against it because it would involve the slaughtering of baby trees. I know that they are concerned about old-growth trees but now we are on to baby trees—I will feel sorry for the teenager trees shortly. Never mind that the green movement have previously supported the use of smaller logs in this region. Never mind that smaller logs are routinely used in RFAs elsewhere. The Queensland Premier has swallowed this baby trees argument, something that will only increase our state's reliance on foreign imported timber, and that is something that I know Senator Mason will be concerned about.

As usual it is the human cost that Labor is ignoring. Without any consultation at all some 300 Queensland jobs are about to be sacrificed by Labor in a dozen towns where the council and the timber mills are the only major employers. Most of these workers are AWU workers. It seems that as well as the CFMEU supporting the Liberals it now looks like the Queensland AWU will be supporting the Liberals because we care about those jobs in country towns. The Labor Party in Queensland, as it did with Mr Latham, is abandoning its union base, abandoning these decent hardworking Australians in the interests of mad forest policy. The coalition has a sensible approach to forest policy. Mark Latham demonstrated Labor's incompetence and now, unfortunately, the Queensland Premier is following his example. (Time expired)