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Tuesday, 14 June 2005
Page: 36

Senator BARNETT (2:59 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation, Senator Ian Macdonald. Will the minister advise the Senate on the progress being made towards achieving a sustainable forest industry in this country which provides employment opportunities, in particular in rural and regional Australia?

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation) —I thank Senator Barnett very much for that question. Since the Senate last met we have launched the Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement. Senator Barnett and his Liberal colleagues from Tasmania were instrumental in getting that very good outcome for the Tasmanian people and for the Tasmanian environment.

That program will achieve sustainable forestry and it will support jobs and workers in country communities. The $250 million package will provide for a total of one million hectares in old-growth forest reserves. That is 100 million trees in reserves in Tasmania. That puts the lie on the campaign of the Greens which suggests that there are only a few old-growth trees left—there will be 100 million trees reserved in Tasmania. The package also provides money for upgrading mills and ensuring that workers in Tasmania do have jobs into the future. Those jobs will be throughout the whole of the state of Tasmania and really do demonstrate that the Howard government is interested in workers’ jobs.

I know Senator Barnett was interested in any possible alternative policies that might be around. I am pleased to say that the opposition leader, Mr Beazley, has dumped the policy of his predecessor Mr Latham and has supported the Howard government’s program in Tasmania. Of course, Mr Beazley flip-flops so much you do not know what his policy is likely to be next week, but at least today he does support it.

I am aware that other Labor leaders do not share the Howard government’s interest in workers’ jobs. For example, in my own home state of Queensland the Labor premier, Mr Beattie, is in the process of shutting down the western hardwood industry at a cost of some 300 unionists’ jobs. To overcome that he has promised to create 50 new jobs in the Queensland Environmental Protection Agency to make up for the 300 unionists who will be sacked as a result of his forest policies in Queensland. In New South Wales, the Labor premier is shutting down the forestry industry in the Brigalow region, which will cost 472 jobs. In Victoria, the Labor premier, Mr Bracks, is shutting down production forests and causing problems with jobs.

I expect the Greens have different policies. They understand that as the Howard government attends to all of these significant environmental problems their backing and the cash that supports them will fade away. They unsuccessfully try to create issues artificially, but they realise now that the Howard government is the real government of the environment.

Finally, I suggest to the Labor senators that they might warn their state colleagues about abandoning workers. Mr Latham abandoned the workers in Tasmania and look what happened to him. The Labor senators would be doing the state premiers a favour if they reminded the state premiers of what happens to a Labor party when it rejects the workers of the nation and disregards entirely the jobs and the communities that depend upon those jobs in country Australia.

Senator Hill —Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.