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Thursday, 22 September 2011
Page: 6830


Senator MILNE (TasmaniaDeputy Leader of the Australian Greens) (13:03): I rise to support the motion for the suspension of standing orders so that this matter can take precedence. I note that Senator Colbeck from the coalition moved a motion on Tasmanian forestry but two days ago, considering it was urgent. When the coalition want to talk about Tasmanian forestry matters, it is urgent, it comes on in this context and formality is granted. But when anybody else wants to discuss the Tasmanian forests and the inter­governmental agreement, suddenly it is not urgent and it does not need debating. What is more, the coalition at that point denied leave to amend the motion. Not only did they deny that; they are now here denying a motion formality in exactly the context they raised theirs a matter of days ago.

I want to put on the record a number of things in relation to this. This motion basically points out that the coalition is denying any money to Tasmania to facilitate a transition out of native forest logging, which the industry wants. That is the point: the industry wants the transition out of native forest logging.

Senator Colbeck: No they don't.

Senator Abetz: They do not.

Senator MILNE: It may interest Senators Abetz and Colbeck to know that the woodchip mills were closed in Tasmania—gates were locked; trucks stopped moving—well before the logging industry approached the conservation movement to say: 'We need to end this. We need to come to an agreement. There is no future for this logging industry in the way that it is operating.'

Senator Colbeck proudly says that before the election he put $20 million on the table and the government matched it. Yes, and where did the $20 million go? It went to the contractors to keep the wheels turning and the chainsaws going for another few months and then stop. The money went to subsidise ongoing work, but only for a few months because it was not enough. If you are going to do this properly you have to sit down and negotiate an outcome, which is what has been happening over the last few months. For Tasmania to make this transition there needs to be money spent in rural and regional economies to build some resilience, to build an alternative future. The money which the coalition is objecting to being spent in Tasmania will be overseen by Minister Crean, looking at rural and regional development in Tasmania to provide alternative jobs, alternative futures, in those communities.

I am very pleased it is on the record that the coalition do not want the money spent in rural and regional Tasmania creating new jobs and new opportunities long term. They want to spend another however much—if anything at all—to keep an industry going when there is no market for it. There is no market for native forest woodchips. It has collapsed.

In terms of sawn timber, in 1993-94 softwood and plantation timbers overtook native forests in sawmill industries in Australia. There was and is no future in this industry at that scale. Senator Abetz oversaw expenditure of $240 million between 2005 and 2010—he was the minister in the initial stages—and in five years the $240 million was gone and the industry was in chaos, and the upper house today is saying Forestry Tasmania is insolvent. It would be insolvent if it were a private company but it is not; it is a government business enterprise. What this process is going to do is prop up an organisation which has so badly mismanaged Tasmania's forests over such a long period of time. If the coalition want to assist Tasmania, they should support this Commonwealth money going into Tasmania because it would help to reposition the regions. Those communities are crying out for the money and they will be very interested to know that Senator Abetz and Senator Colbeck do not want money spent in rural and regional Tasmania to build an alternative future for people—to help them to get out of an industry which has no market for its products.

The Triabunna woodchip mill is locked, shut, gone—after spending $240 million, the gates are locked. You have to ask how much incompetence there is here when the Commonwealth fails to see the writing on the wall for the native forest industry around the world. When are you going to get real about the fact that just because you have an ideological commitment to destroying native forest that does not mean the rest of the world wants to buy the product? And when are you going to get real about the fact that, if the world does not want to buy the product, you have to assist people in making the transition? That is the sensible thing to do for the future. That is where this money is being directed. (Time expired)