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Monday, 29 October 2012
Page: 12243


Mr COMBET (CharltonMinister for Industry and Innovation and Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency) (15:14): by leave—The purpose of this statement is to:

re-affirm the Australian government's commitment to support and encourage investment in Australia's pulp and paper industry; and to

reinforce the government's view of the importance of the pulp and paper industry and its role in providing highly skilled jobs to Australians; strengthening regional communities; and contributing to environmental sustainability.

The pulp and paper industry makes an important social, environmental and economic contribution to this country. It produces a diverse range of products essential to modern living including printing and communications papers, security paper, newsprint, tissues, cardboard boxes and other forms of packaging. In financial year 2010-11 it created close to $11 billion in product and around $1.1 billion of this was exported. It has a highly skilled workforce and provides around 18,000 jobs, many of which are located in regional parts of the country. The industry is also a significant producer of renewable energy and a major consumer of recycled products. It contributes to environmental outcomes by using sustainably managed forestry resources and adds value through the manufacture of those resources into high-quality products.

Pulp and Paper Industry Strategy Group report

In 2009, the government convened the Pulp and Paper Industry Strategy Group to undertake a strategic review of Australia's pulp and paper industry. I would like to thank the group for its valuable work, in particular its deputy chairs, Michael O'Connor, National Secretary of the CFMEU, and Jim Henneberry, CEO of Australian Paper—both of whom I am very familiar with.

The strategy group's report included recommendations on the themes of innovation, investment, sustainability and productivity. The whole-of-government response to that review, which can be accessed at my department's website, addresses each of these themes and maps a way forward for the industry. The government's response affirms our commitment to work with Australia's pulp and paper industry to continue to build on its strengths and undertake the investment and develop the skills required to secure the industry's long-term sustainability and prosperity.

Australia's pulp and paper industry, like many other manufacturing industries, faces many challenges and structural change pressures, and the government is considering these issues in its response to the report of the non-government members of the Prime Minister's Taskforce on Manufacturing.

The government recently announced the establishment of a manufacturing leaders group to help progress some of the key issues affecting Australia's manufacturing industry. I announce today that representatives from the pulp and paper industry will form an advisory group to support the work of the manufacturing leaders group. This advisory group, to be chaired by Michael O'Connor and Jim Henneberry, will play a key role in ensuring the concerns of the pulp and paper industry are heard and considered in the development of our manufacturing industries.

Investment

Continued investment in manufacturing facilities is absolutely vital to maintaining industry competitiveness and to capturing new opportunities. While recent news that Gunns Limited has been placed in receivership is disappointing, there are nevertheless a number of encouraging examples of the willingness of industry players to embrace the future, supported by recent government announcements. My colleague Minister Crean recently announced that the government will provide up to $28 million towards an $84 million project at Norkse Skog's Boyer Mill in Tasmania to convert a newsprint machine to make coated catalogue paper instead. This grant will complement a $13 million loan from the Tasmanian government and will help secure over 300 existing jobs at the mill following recent declines in newsprint consumption. That is a very important joint investment in Tasmania.

Norske Skog Australasia has also recently established a joint venture with clean energy company Licella to work on second generation bio-crude oil production. This is a great example of the potential for pulp and paper manufacturers to diversify their business models through active engagement in new clean technologies.

I recently announced that the Australian government will also provide $9.5 million towards a $90 million project to install a de-inking pulp facility at Australian Paper's Maryvale mill in Victoria. Construction of the project, which is expected to create 140 construction jobs, should begin late this year. This investment will support the jobs of nearly 900 workers directly employed there and over 4,000 other indirect jobs which rely on the mill's operations. This is a very important part of the outer Melbourne and La Trobe Valley region. The project will enable Australian Paper to recycle paper to produce pulp used in the manufacture of printing and communication paper with recycled fibre content, reducing the need for around 80,000 tonnes per year of waste paper to otherwise go to landfill—all of which contribute also to our greenhouse gas emissions. This measure will reduce emissions.

The government is also providing the regulatory and business environment required to support the scale of investment required by the industry to establish new plant and make innovations at existing plant. Amcor is commissioning a new $550 million recycled packaging paper mill at Botany near Sydney. In June 2011, Visy completed a major expansion of its Tumut mill in New South Wales bringing its total investment there to nearly $1 billion, and opened a $50 million clean energy plant at Coolaroo in Victoria. Kimberly-Clark Australia is currently investing over $30 million to install a gas turbine and heat recovery process at its Millicent tissue mill in South Australia. All of these investments highlight that Australia's pulp and paper industry remains resilient and able to adapt to changing market conditions. They also show that global pulp and paper companies are committed to ensuring their Australian based operations meet world-class standards, particularly in relation to water and energy efficiency.

Conclusion

I conclude this statement by reaffirming this government's commitment to continue working with the pulp and paper industry to ensure its long-term viability.

I ask leave of the House to move a motion to enable the member for Indi to speak for not more than seven minutes.

Leave granted.

Mr COMBET: I move:

That the House enable the member for Indi to speak for a period no longer than seven minutes.

Question agreed to.