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Thursday, 16 August 2012
Page: 8887

Mr HUNT (Flinders) (11:00): I support many of the words set down by the member for Wills in relation to the Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill 2011. I congratulate him on the fact that he is possibly the expert in the House on this issue and on the problem of criminal activity resulting in deforestation, destruction of community lives and unfair advantage in the Australian market.

Against that background, we support the principle of this bill very strongly. It is an issue in which I have been engaged for many years. I want to see an end to illegal logging, whether it is in Australia or overseas, for very simple reasons. Firstly, it is about criminal activity. Secondly, it is about destruction of community lives, where in many cases communities are up against not just well-funded but well-armed adversaries. Thirdly, it causes wholesale environmental devastation. The level of emissions can be high and the degree of destruction and the impact on vulnerable species can be total; it can be complete. I note that the member for Wentworth is at the table. Deforestation is something that he and I have been working on for some time. Deforestation accounts for up to 20 per cent of global emissions. So this is an area in which we can have a profound and significant impact.

For those reasons, we give deep, genuine and strong support to the principle behind the bill. The problem, as I have mentioned, is threefold. Firstly, there is criminal activity involved. Secondly, the impact on specific communities can be almost complete devastation. Communities in different parts of our region have been effectively destroyed, with no recourse because they have had not just finance but the application of, effectively, armed force against them. What is left is nothing. There is no benefit for them; it is a straight pillage of not just their resources but the entire community lifestyle.

The third element is about responsible treatment and a fair go for Australian producers and importers who act in the right way. During preparation for this bill I met with Bunnings. They are the largest importer of timber in Australia, as I understand it—I stand to be corrected, but that was the advice they gave me. They strongly support this bill. They are the ones who could, arguably, be the most adversely affected by it, but they strongly support it out of concern for a level playing field, for doing the right thing and for acting responsibly in custodianship of our products.

The difficulty with this legislation is not the intent but the construction. Unfortunately, it contains a blank cheque in terms of the fact that the regulations have not been released and will not be released. We have called for and would like to see the regulations in conjunction with the bill. Providing those would be the reasonable thing to do. If this bill proceeds in its current form, we will not be able to give support until such time as the regulations are available. There is reasonable and appropriate concern that we work with, not against, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia and other countries within our region.

But, if the bill does pass, we will not repeal it; we will simply seek to amend and improve it. This is exactly the same set of conditions I set out on behalf of the coalition in relation to the Carbon Farming Initiative. We were concerned about the inadequate amount of information and the failure to publish all the regulations. We did not believe it was ready to proceed until those elements were in place. But, if passed, we will maintain the bill and simply seek to improve it.

So we agree with the principle, although we have concerns as to the lack of consultation with our neighbours and therefore the ability to implement it effectively. We certainly have concerns about the blank cheque nature arising from the absence of regulations. We support the principle but we respectfully say to the government that, if they want complete unanimity about the passage of this bill, our requests are reasonable, fair, appropriate and prudent.