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Thursday, 22 September 2011
Page: 6828


Senator BOB BROWN (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (12:51): Pursuant to contingent notice, I move:

That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Bob Brown moving a motion relating to the conduct of the business of this Senate, namely a motion to give precedence to general business notice of motion no. 458.

I do that in the wake of some procedural differences with the opposition. We have just seen the Greens agree to an amendment from Senator Cash to a Greens motion, after a series of amendments put by the Greens were blocked by the opposition during the week. We have a motion on forestry up for formality, which responds to a motion by the opposition which was given formality and the opposition again block it. We have here a very precious opposition, which want to be able to put motions up expressing their view of the world but become quite dictatorial in the reverse way—they do not like an alternative viewpoint being put forward.

This motion states that the Senate condemns the coalition for seeking to deny Tasmania $270 million of assistance following the agreement between the Gillard government and that of Premier Giddings in Tasmania for forestry transition. Mr President, you will know that last year the forest industry in Tasmania was in collapse, with hundreds of jobs lost and all three export woodchip mills closed because of predicted market forces coming to bear. The industry sought talks with the conservation movement. Out of those talks came an agreement—and that agreement did not involve the Greens—and a subsequent agreement a couple of months ago between the Premier of Tasmania and the Prime Minister that will see an estimated $270 million flow to Tasmania to help move the logging industry operatives who can no longer operate into other productive pursuits.

This follows the billion dollars put into this failed industry in Tasmania over the last 25 years, not least $240 million under the Howard government as a result of the 2004 election. That was overseen by the then forest minister, Senator Abetz, who leads the coalition here and who has done a complete reversal. He put that money into Tasmania, and goodness knows where it went because it failed to produce the result in terms of ending the haemorrhage of jobs and small sawmills from the industry.

Now there is a proposal to actually get results to aid industry operatives and the opposition want to block it and have been crying blue murder. No wonder Senator Abetz is not in the chamber, because the coalition senators are saying: 'We don't want this money coming to Tasmania. Let it stay with Treasury and be used for some other purpose. Let's deny those Tasmanian contractors and small businesses, including small sawmills, who cannot see viability in front of them, their opportunity to get out of the industry and move to other productive forms of contribution to the Tasmanian economy.'

Up comes this proposal and the coalition say: 'No. Block the money going to Tasmania. Block assistance to the industry. Block the proposal for 430,000 hectares—and it should be 578,000 hectares of high-conservation value forest—to be protected.' It is no to everything from the Abbott-Abetz front—no to Tasmania being given assistance; no to helping an industry in perilous trouble; no to recognising the Tarkine, the Great Western Tiers, the great valleys of the southern region, Bruny Island, the north-east highlands and Wielangta, to name just a few. The proposal forms part of the suite of being productive, job-creative, small-business rich and investment-attracting. In Tasmania, the tourism industry employs 35,000 people while the logging industry is below 2,000 and dropping rapidly. What a curmudgeonly negative attitude towards Tasmania from the coalition senators. It is quite extraordinary. Let them go to Tasmania and explain that to the voters of Tasmania. They will get a very negative reception in return, I would think.