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Thursday, 25 March 1999
Page: 4421

Mr NEHL —My question is addressed to the Minister for Forestry and Conservation. Is the minister aware of the media reports this morning regarding the future of the RFA legislation? What are the implications of those reports?

Ms Hoare interjecting

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Charlton is warned. The minister has the call.

Mr TUCKEY (Forestry and Conservation; Minister Assisting the Prime Minister) —Yesterday I reminded the House of the Labor Party's sham attempt to placate the forest industry by issuing the National Forest Policy Statement in 1992 and how it failed to produce even one RFA in four years. The Howard government has finalised three RFAs and is well advanced with a further nine. Those completed have already shown positive investment results. However, all major investment is still on hold awaiting the passing of the RFA legislation through the Senate, as all interest groups know that this legislative guarantee is essential for long-term investment.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr Nehl —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I wish to advise you that I asked this question and, as yet, the level of noise in this chamber has meant that I have not heard one single word. Having asked the question, I would like to hear the answer.

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Banks, the member for Hunter and the member for Brisbane will exercise some additional restraint. I call the Minister for Forestry and Conservation.

Mr TUCKEY —I am advised that the Tasmanian forestry industry needs investment approaching $4 billion to guarantee its future, but no-one would invest such funds without a legislative guarantee. However, I read in today's West Australian that the Labor caucus has decided to move an amendment to the RFA legislation to make all RFAs subject to disallowance in the Senate. My office has received advice from the Senate Clerk's office that such a process would effectively negate all the guarantees proposed in the RFA legislation and, in fact, there would be more security if no legislation existed at all. The Labor Party knows that, and this proposal of theirs is designed to destroy the legislation completely.

There is plenty of evidence that other sections of the community do not want that, and I am now in possession of a copy of a letter from the Australian Workers Union which they did not send to me, so someone over there better say who did. That letter asks the Leader of the Opposition to end the uncertainty by not proceeding with the ALP's proposed disallowance motion. It also says that there is increasing disenchantment with the Labor Party within the union, as it appears to place the legitimate concerns of ordinary working people behind those of Green activists. All of this has been rejected by the Leader of the Opposition who is, of course, putting his job ahead of those of workers. A lot of people seem worried at the moment about people giving advice to ministers; let me assure the House I am getting plenty on this issue from the Labor Party. You can tell why—because they are in total disarray on it. That is further evidenced by the West Australian article which quotes what certain people said in the caucus. We know, of course, who would have passed that information on. In conclusion, there is ample evidence in the media that I have rejected emotionalism and opportunism on this issue, be it from Labor, Green or Liberal voters. That is called a principled position. The window on principle has been wide open in the Labor caucus from the day they elected Kim Beazley their leader.

Mr Crean —Would the minister table—

Mr Tuckey —Would you like a copy?

Mr SPEAKER —This is not a conversation between the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the minister. The chair will determine who speaks to who. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition made a request for the information to be tabled. I ask the minister: was he reading the material, and was it from a confidential document?

Mr Price —He was certainly reading!

Mr SPEAKER —I did not ask the member for Chifley for an opinion. The minister will respond.

Mr Tuckey —The notes I prepared are marked confidential. But, of course, it is now obvious that the letter from the AWU is not, and I table it.

Mr Melham —Mr Speaker, on a point of order. Will the minister table the advice which he quoted from the Senate clerk, given that he tabled the letter?

Mr SPEAKER —In response to my earlier question, the minister indicated that the papers he had were marked confidential. I ask him if there are any other papers he wishes to table?

Mr Tuckey —No, sir.