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Thursday, 22 September 2011
Page: 6829


Senator COLBECK (Tasmania) (12:56): The reason the coalition have denied formality for this motion is that we would like the opportunity to debate it. There is no urgency to deal with this motion now, as Senator Brown has put on the table. It is not urgent that we effectively debate a motion right now, or pass a motion right now to condemn the opposition. The opposition's position on forestry in Tasmania is very, very clear and very well understood by the community in Tasmania. In fact, that has been well and truly communicated to us. So there is no urgency to suspend standing orders to deal with this now. This matter can quite sensibly be placed on the Notice Paper and debated at an appropriate time.

We see Senator Brown continue to dishonestly misrepresent the situation in relation to forestry in Tasmania. Small sawmills were not in crisis. Small sawmills were not losing market share in Tasmania prior to the commencement of these negotiations in Tasmania. One big operator was having problems which caused other issues to flow through to the logging contractors in particular. The rest of the industry were not doing too badly, but they are in real strife now because the Greens and their ENGO colleagues want to close down the industry. That will be the impact of closing down 430,000 or 572,000 hectares of Tasmanian forests. It will close down the industry and it will create a crisis for small sawmillers and small family businesses in Tasmania.

For Senator Brown to suggest that we do not want to see the contractors assisted in this matter is completely and utterly dishonest. The coalition actually led the way in respect of supporting contractors in Tasmania. We put $20 million on the table at the last election to assist contractors. We put the money up first. The Labor Party had no intention of putting any money on the table. The Greens did not put any money on the table. Within two hours of announcing we would put up $20 million, Minister Burke came out and said, 'We will match the opposition's policy.' That is what Minister Burke said. So do not try that one on us, Senator Polley. You were well and truly behind the eight ball. You did not want to be left behind by the coalition being proactive in support of contractors, and then you screwed up the process of allocating funding. Senator Brown's motion to suspend standing orders at this point in time is certainly not urgent and it should not be passed. But the dishonest misrepresentation of the Tasmanian forest industry is quite profound.

Senator Brown is trying to climb to the high moral ground about process in this place when he has just voted with the Labor Party to deny this chamber the opportunity to properly scrutinise 19 pieces of legislation in the way that the Senate usually works. Senator Brown comes in here and accuses the opposition of trying to deny process, yet he has just voted with the government to stop the Senate, through its committee process, properly scrutinising 19 pieces of legislation. He sidled up to the government and they sent it off to a joint committee, which he has been quite happy for his party to take the deputy chair of, with a government chair. He makes these accusations, yet only 10 or 15 minutes ago in this place he voted against allowing the Senate's committee process to do what it is described as doing on the Senate's website. The hypocrisy surrounding this is just extraordinary.

Senator Brown complains about the money that has gone into the Tasmanian forest sector—he mentioned it just a minute ago—and now tries to condemn the oppo¬≠sition for trying to stop this really dodgy agreement that has been struck by the Prime Minister and the Tasmanian Premier. If you do not close an industry down, you do not need to compensate it—that is the bottom line. We support funding going to the contractors. We have said that since day one. As I have said, we led the process. But if you do not cut a $1.4 billion industry in half, which is what is happening here—they are carving about $700 million a year out of the Tasmanian economy through this process—you do not have to put any money for compensation on the table. What is being offered to Tasmania is $7 million a year for 15 years in compensation for $700 million a year of economic activity. There is no urgency to deal with this right now. (Time expired)