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Thursday, 16 June 2011
Page: 3106

Forestry


Senator BOB BROWN (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:18): My question is also to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Ludwig, in his capacity as minister for forests. Yesterday the minister told the parliament that the government has not received any requests from Gunns for funding support in relation to the mill or its business structure. Can the minister give an assurance to the Senate that no money will be given to Gunns in relation to its mill or its business structure, including for severance payments for the hundreds of workers already facing the loss of their jobs or facing the loss of jobs in the future related to the forest agreement or otherwise?


Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Manager of Government Business in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Attorney-General on Queensland Floods Recovery) (14:19): It is a question that is asking for something which has not been done, and therefore it is, in one sense, a hypothetical question because, of course, the facts are not on the table. The government indicated quite clearly yesterday that we had not provided any assistance to Gunns. That position has not changed.

The government can say that it is committed to assisting the Tasmanian community to respond to the challenges facing the forest industry. As the Prime Minister acknowledged in December 2010, the signing of the statement of principles is a credit to those involved—that after decades of disagreement they have been able to start the process of working together to work through the complex problems and to forge a new consensus around the forest industry in Tasmania.

That statement of principles, of course, started with community and industry groups coming together. The Australian government, as I indicated yesterday, has appointed Mr Bill Kelty as independent facilitator to work with the parties to the statement of principles to develop a final agreement. We are not at that final agreement stage and the implementation plan that may go around it at this time.

Many of the questions that I know Senator Brown may wish to ask are not on the table at this point. What I cannot rule in or out is what the government may or may not do into the future. That is the hypothetical part of the question that I cannot answer. I can certainly take it on notice to see what further and better particulars I can find that may go to the issue. But the government continues those discussions and I welcome the signatories to the forest Tasmania agreement to continue working towards finalising an agreement— (Time expired)


Senator BOB BROWN (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:21): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is the government entertaining a nine-figure sum in relation to the forest agreement in Tasmania—

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Continue, Senator Brown.

Senator BOB BROWN: and can the minister tell the Senate what the outcome is in relation to the request by Ta Ann for a further 22,000 hectares of old growth forest, which is high-conservation forest, in Tasmania?




Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Manager of Government Business in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Attorney-General on Queensland Floods Recovery) (14:22): I literally could not hear the question over the noise from those opposite.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Bob Brown, the minister has indicated that he could not hear your question. Could you come a bit closer to the microphone and repeat the question?

Senator BOB BROWN: I will, but since I am not going to shout, the—

The PRESIDENT: I am not asking you to shout, Senator Bob Brown. If there is silence, it will assist Senator Brown in asking his question. Everyone is entitled, as you know, to be heard in silence.

An honourable senator: I can't hear Senator Brown either.

Senator BOB BROWN: The question—

An opposition senator: He's mumbling!

An opposition senator: I'm having trouble hearing him!

The PRESIDENT: Reset the clock so that Senator Brown can ask his question. Give the courtesy that is required of all senators in this place. Senator Brown.

Senator BOB BROWN: My question to the minister was whether Ta Ann was requiring an extra 22,000 hectares of high-conservation-value forest be taken out of conservation and handed across to it at this stage of the agreement and, if not, what the situation is relating to Ta Ann at this stage of the forest process talks.

Senator LUDWIG: As I see it, Mr President, Senator Brown is asking me what part of the agreement the negotiations are up to in relation to Ta Ann and whether or not a particular—

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Ludwig, Senator Bob Brown is on his feet. Senator Bob Brown.

Senator Bob Brown: Mr President, at this end of the chamber it is impossible to hear that answer due to the shouting out from the National Party and Liberal Party senators on my right.

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: When there is silence, Senator Ludwig will continue.

Senator LUDWIG: As I understand the question, it is asking for me to comment on or provide an answer in relation to where the state of the parties' negotiations are in relation to Ta Ann. I am not able to provide that. I am not sitting around the table doing the negotiations. What I can do, if that is accurate, is take that part of the question on notice and find out whether or not my department can provide any information about where the particular parties are up to in relation to the negotiations over the particular coupes and particular areas. Outside of that, I would encourage all of the parties to actually come to an agreement, because until such time as the parties do come to an agreement there is no agreement; there is no— (Time expired)













Senator BOB BROWN (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:25): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. There are consultations in process and I am asking the minister about where those consultations are at. I ask the minister: is he aware of the highly-publicised sale by Gunns of its woodchip mill at Triabunna, the application by a consortium of loggers to buy that mill and an alternative application by Eco Resource Development to buy the mill? Will the minister ensure that no money from the forest agreement process flows to the logging entities—

Senator Abetz: Your biggest donor! Why don't you declare that—$1.6 million?

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Continue, Senator Bob Brown. People should cease interjecting. It is disorderly. I will allow you to continue, Senator Brown.

Senator BOB BROWN: Senator Abetz was venting his spleen about—

The PRESIDENT: I am asking you to continue your question—

Senator BOB BROWN: I am responding—

The PRESIDENT: I am not asking you to make a comment, Senator.

Senator BOB BROWN: I am getting his comment on the record—

Senator Abetz interjecting

Senator BOB BROWN: And he continues—

The PRESIDENT: Senator Brown, just continue your question.

Senator BOB BROWN: When there is silence, I will.

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Brown, I am asking you to continue the question. Those on my left! Senator Bob Brown, continue.

Senator BOB BROWN: I ask about that consortium: has the government had any discussions about that? Will the government ensure that no money goes, through the forest agreement or in any other way from the public purse, into facilitating the purchase of that Triabunna woodchip mill?














Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Manager of Government Business in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Attorney-General on Queensland Floods Recovery) (14:27): Thank you, Mr PresiĀ­dent. I will do my best in this respect. In relation to Triabunna, which is an export chip mill, on 14 June 2011 Gunns announced on the Australian Stock Exchange the sale of the Triabunna export woodchip facility. Media is reporting that the sale will be to a family-owned logging and haulage company, Aprin Logging.

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator Bob Brown: Mr President, I say again that you are not at the end of this chamber. It is impossible to hear that answer and I ask that the minister say it again.

The PRESIDENT: I will ask the minister to continue but I would ask senators to respect the fact that there needs to be silence in the chamber.

Senator LUDWIG: In relation to Aprin Logging, Gunns further announced that the sale was conditional on satisfactory—

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator Bob Brown: Mr President, it continues. That answer cannot be heard at this end of the chamber, and I ask that you facilitate it being heard.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Ludwig, continue.

Senator LUDWIG: Gunns further announced that the sale was conditional on satisfactory progress in the implementation of the Tasmanian Forests Statement of Principles. Whilst the principles have not been resolved, Senator Brown could hold that thought. Any commercial enterprise, of course, should be profitable in its own right. The government has not been approached regarding the sale or operation of the Triabunna mill, and everyone in the industry, and the government, wants to see an operating mill which would provide the best result for jobs in Tasmania. (Time expired)