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Wednesday, 15 July 1998
Page: 6103


Mr NAIRN (11:31 AM) —I support this Regional Forest Agreements Bill 1998 . I support it on behalf of my constituents throughout Eden-Monaro who are desperately looking forward to some security when it comes to the native forest hardwood timber industry. They are desperately seeking security because they have had nothing but insecurity for the past decade or so, particularly under the former federal Labor government's disastrous timber industry policies.

I remember visiting the Harris-Daishowa woodchip mill in the lead-up to the 1996 federal election. They proudly showed me a document, signed a few years earlier by the Prime Minister of the day, Bob Hawke, and the Premier of New South Wales of the day, Nick Greiner. That document was a wood supply agreement that guaranteed certain wood supplies up to the year 2009. One would think that a document signed by both the Prime Minister of Australia and the Premier of New South Wales would be worth something. One would think, particularly if you were heading up a company intending to invest millions and millions of dollars in our industry, that a document like that would provide some security for that investment. One would think, particularly if you were a person employed in that industry, that a document like that would provide some job security. One would think, particularly if you were a business in a community that relied heavily on the timber industry for your wellbeing, that a document like that would provide some security for your business. But no. Under the previous federal Labor government, and now, under the current New South Wales Labor government, that document meant nothing. What it did mean was no security, because that document was not worth the paper it was printed on.

No wonder we have seen a great deal of hesitancy by business to invest new money in this industry. How can we blame them? Imagine the shareholders of Harris-Daishowa in Japan. They have a document signed by the Prime Minister and by the Premier, but it is not worth anything at all. What are they going to do when making further investment decisions about Australia? They are probably going to go elsewhere, and you cannot blame them. That is one stark example of why we need this legislation that we are debating today. This legislation provides that security. Without it, the regional forest agreement process is potentially a sop to the industry, with the extreme green agenda prevailing yet again, as it always did under the previous federal Labor government.

Although both sides of this House support the national forest policy statement and the regional forest agreement process, the reality that has occurred in some areas—particularly in New South Wales—shows why there is cynicism about the RFAs and why we need this legislation.

We heard the member for Perth (Mr Stephen Smith), in his contribution to the debate, proudly saying that the Labor Party supports the national forest policy statement and the regional forest agreement process—a scientific process. But I have to ask: where was the member for Perth and where was the Labor Party at a federal level when their mate Bob Carr was going about ignoring the RFA process in Eden in my electorate? Where was he? He was nowhere to be seen or heard. There was nothing from the Labor Party federally, as Bob Carr, in the middle of the Eden RFA—not even in the middle of it; probably about 20 per cent of the way through—went off and declared a whole heap of new national parks.

There is nothing wrong with national parks, but the RFA process says that it is a scientific process and you have to do a scientific assessment of the forest areas, the existing national parks and some private land—all sorts of things—before you make decisions. He did not wait until that scientific work was done, as was required. He pre-empted the process and thus made it almost impossible to get an outcome that could restore some of the jobs lost as a result of the decisions made by the previous federal Labor government—decisions such as stopping the export woodchip licences, which took away from my constituents in Eden-Monaro so many jobs in Eden, Bombala, Bega and many other communities. The Howard government put those export woodchip licences back in place soon after we came to government. But, unfortunately, the damage was done. Contracts were lost to elsewhere and it will take a long time to get back the confidence of those clients.

This legislation is probably more important in Eden-Monaro than in other areas as we have seen very starkly how so-called government contracts have been torn up at the political whim of Labor politicians to satisfy their urban green constituency. I have an enormous distrust of the Carr Labor government and their role in the RFA process, and my constituents in Eden-Monaro share that distrust. Who can blame them when you see his performance so far—locking up areas before the scientific work was done and pre-empting the final decisions?

But the Labor Party, interestingly, is having several bets on this. On the RFA options for the Eden area, it is having a whole variety of bets. The New South Wales Labor Party, via its government, is backing an option that would see further cuts in quotas for sawlogs and pulp logs. That means more job losses. Another sector of the Labor Party—via the union, the CFMEU—is backing an industry-union option that would keep the current job levels only if certain forest protocols were changed. That means fighting through the EPA and various other people at a state level who have been working very actively against the forest industry, so the chances of that occurring are unsure at best. Certainly, if that sort of option were going to be taken as a final option, you would have to get those protocols changed; otherwise we would be seeing more job losses.

A further sector of the Labor Party, the South Coast Trades and Labour Council, is backing the extreme green option that would absolutely decimate the current industry. So we have these three bets within the options from within different parts of the Labor Party, all trying to satisfy different sections of their party—from the Right to the Left—and the people of Eden-Monaro are the ones who are losing out as we go through it.

Where is federal Labor on this? People from federal Labor are saying nothing about this. I think they are not saying anything because they are pretty embarrassed. They are embarrassed about what they did to my constituents in their last few years in government. They are embarrassed by the number of jobs that they just threw out down there and the communities that they wrecked, the communities that are gradually rebuilding but which will only grow again under a decent RFA outcome.


Mr Ronaldson —With this legislation.


Mr NAIRN —That is right. As the member for Ballarat points out, only with this legislation will they be provided with the security for investment that was never provided by the former Labor government. I am very pleased to have been part of getting this legislation to this point. I am very proud to pat myself on the back—despite what the member for Denison (Mr Kerr) was waffling on about before—because we are providing that security.

I reject the further dithering of the Labor Party. It does not know where it is on this. It is in every little camp around the place, trying to satisfy every little bit of its constituency. It is under extreme pressure from the extreme greens. It is not concerned about the jobs that have been lost in my electorate. It is not concerned about the people I am speaking for in my electorate who were decimated by the previous Labor government under policies which saw so many of them thrown out of work and their children left with no hope for the future. We are putting some security back in there and this legislation will do it.