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Wednesday, 15 July 1998
Page: 6098

Mrs BAILEY (11:06 AM) —I was present in this chamber in October 1992 when the national forest policy statement was released. There was one slight difference: I happened to be sitting on the other side of the chamber in opposition.

Mr Broadbent —A big difference.

Mrs BAILEY —A very big difference, as the member for McMillan has just said to me. From October 1992 through to July 1998 is a very long time. It has taken a very long time to get where we are with the legislation on the regional forest agreements simply because those members who are now sitting on the opposition benches, who had the opportunity when they were in government to quicken this process and provide security for those important jobs in regional areas, used delay tactics the whole time.

I am absolutely stunned to hear the member for Perth (Mr Stephen Smith) get up here this morning and introduce even more delaying tactics. That is to be condemned. Everyone here on this side of the House—the members of the government and in particular the members here who have fought so hard to bring this legislation forward—are absolutely dismayed, and we condemn the actions of the member for Perth.

It is with an enormous sense of pride that I stand here as a member of this government to speak on the Regional Forest Agreements Bill before us today. I do so on behalf of the thousands of families in my electorate who will benefit directly and indirectly from this legislation. The Central Highlands regional forest agreement was signed in March of this year by the Prime Minister (Mr Howard) and the Premier of Victoria. This represents a great success for all who have fought long and hard to achieve this very balanced and fair outcome.

The RFA legislation before us today is the last step in providing security of resource for the local timber industry and the ecologically sustainable management of our native forests. The timber industry in McEwen is made up of workers involved in the planting, preservation, harvesting and processing of timber and timber by-products. However, there are many other local people who transport the timber, service the machinery, provide specialist equipment and monitor the use of the resources of the region who also form part of this great industry.

It is all of these local workers and the many varied small business people and their respective family members who are the greatest beneficiaries of this legislation. Local communities from Yarra Junction, Powelltown, Narbethong, Buxton and Marysville through to Eildon, Alexandra, Yea, Seymour and many others will at first notice the more visible benefits of this legislation. For example, the additional direct local timber jobs created in the Central Highlands are estimated to be more than 300 initially and many hundreds more in the future.

Mr Ronaldson —How many?

Mrs BAILEY —Three hundred initially spreading right throughout, especially in Victoria. Communities will also see the fact that there has been a 64 per cent increase of Victoria's regional forest reserves which means that another 116,000 hectares, making a total of 297,000 hectares, of the Central Highlands forest will be protected by a world-class, comprehensive, adequate and representative reserve system. Furthermore, people will see how they will benefit from the Central Highlands $27.6 million joint Commonwealth-state package for a hardwood timber industry development and restructuring program, committing Victoria to supply a minimum of 345,000 cubic metres of sawlogs per annum for the next 20 years.

That is where we get a sense of security for this industry for the first time. Did you hear the words I said? I said for the next 20 years. Up until this time people have perhaps been talking about the next six months, if they were lucky. Because of the efforts of this government, we are talking about a sense of security for the next 20 years. That means security of employment for workers, security of trade for small businesses and security of lifestyle for families who have chosen to live in the beautiful districts in the Central Highlands. They will feel the direct and indirect benefits of a secure forest management system that has been sought by all local stakeholders for well over a decade.

Those involved in tourism and recreational activities have also been concerned about the maintenance of landscape areas and continued access to forest areas. The RFA legislation also gives them certainty and security. Conservation groups were concerned about possible exploitation of forests for short-term gains, losing biodiversity, old growth forests or wilderness values. The Central Highlands RFA has replaced their fears with certainty and security.

Land-holders wanted to see more native species planted on public and private land while further developing farm forestry initiatives. They were also seeking a shared use of forest areas by timber, tourism and recreation industries and had a concern about preserving the water quality. Again, the RFA legislation secures these concerns. Local shire councils such as Murrindindi, Mitchell and Yarra Ranges wish to maintain and enhance physical infrastructure while capitalising on the economic benefits of timber industry development. This legislation secures their concerns.

Aboriginal people wanted to be involved in the development of forest management plans in order to have areas of cultural significance protected and valued. They felt improved training of Aboriginal people for employment in forest management would be beneficial for their community and the forest. This legislation secures these opportunities for local indigenous groups. Even the broad Central Highlands community of 280,000 people beyond those nearly 4,000 people directly employed in regional forest based industries and the thousands of others related in the service industries consider that the timber industry, the recreational access and the aesthetic values of the Central Highlands need to be preserved for future generations. This legislation exactly secures that outcome.

In my electorate communities from Diamond Creek and Hurstbridge to Whittlesea, Kinglake, Broadford and Seymour will all feel the security that this RFA legislation will bring directly in its benefits for employment and small business to the enhanced community confidence that encourages new investment, enabling more families to settle in the area and new businesses to open. In other words, from the perspective of the communities in my electorate, this RFA legislation as it applies to the Central Highlands is no less than an anchor of security that allows families to plan their futures with far more confidence and certainty than life without this legislation would allow. Industry workers and local communities have been extremely patient for a very long time. Together we are proud to have brought about the outcomes implicit in the Central Highlands agreement and implicit within this legislation before the House today.

I have run out of time in this debate today, but I would conclude my remarks with just a few more thoughts. As I said earlier, I am simply appalled to hear members of the government stand up in this place today and again suggest even more delaying tactics.

Mr Ronaldson —The former government.

Mrs BAILEY —The former government, I am sorry. That the opposition, and in particular the member for Perth, has put forward these sorts of delaying tactics is disgraceful. I speak on behalf of all those people throughout all the timber regions in this country and especially those of the Central Highlands region: we will not tolerate these sorts of tactics. We are here today wanting this legislation brought forward. We want it brought forward because we want to provide the certainty and security that only this legislation and this government have been able to achieve for all interested groups, including the environment groups as well as all members of the timber industry. It is with great pride that I commend this legislation to the House.