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Thursday, 16 August 2012
Page: 8901


Ms MARINO (ForrestOpposition Whip) (12:01): The Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill is intended to do a number of things: prohibit the importation and sale of all timber products containing illegally logged timber; prohibit the processing of illegally harvested domestically grown raw logs; require importers of regulated timber products and processors of raw logs to comply with due diligence requirements; require the accurate description of legally logged timber products for sale in Australia; establish enforcement powers and offences; impose penalties; and provide for a review after five years. However, none of the regulations are available to us at this time to consider.

What the government has not done, however, is give our trading partners, our domestic timber industry and timber importers the time they were promised to design and implement appropriate systems to go with this particular bill. There are many flaws with this bill, as we have heard throughout this debate. A number of them were outlined by the member for Curtin. That is why our support for this bill is contingent on the government accepting our amendment, which sets the commencement date of the legislation and regulations at July 2015.

This has to be a managed process, one that gives our partners, our domestic timber industry and our timber importers the time they were promised to design and implement the appropriate systems. It is no wonder that Australia's six major timber trading partners are so concerned, and we have heard the reasons for those concerns outlined today. There are not only those concerns but also those of our domestic timber industry and our domestic timber importers.

There are no regulations attached to the bill. We know from experience in this place that you cannot trust this government to get it right. We know that the devil is always in the detail. We have not even seen the regulations. We have seen disastrous pieces of legislation, disastrous processes and disastrous programs one after the other through the life of this government. The list is endless. I have heard today references, particularly in relation to this bill, to the live cattle fiasco. And we know that the same minister is involved. We can have very little confidence that the regulations will do what they are intended to do or will in fact be able to address any of the issues contained in this bill. We know that the government has failed to consult and, as a farmer and beef farmer, I know first-hand the damage that was done to Indonesia through the overnight decision on live cattle exports. We know how Indonesia views that. I also know of the increase in the price of protein in Indonesia, for people who can ill afford it, as a result of that decision.

The member for Curtin outlined very succinctly the WTO implications and the diplomatic and international law issues in relation to this bill. The parliament and our trading partners really do need to consider the regulations, their impact and their implications before they take effect. It will take time to implement traceability and compliance, the basic things that will have to be done to meet the requirements—which we do not even know about. Equally, Australian importers themselves will have to design and put in place traceability and due diligence processes as a result of this, particularly as current timber certification programs do not yet provide due diligence elements to their traceability certifications. This will be a completely new process.

The Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade minority report confirms two major issues previously raised through the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee. These relate to concerns with regard to the detail—the devil in the detail—and that is why we have taken the position we have. There has been inadequate consultation. There are concerns regarding the ability of the government to develop the regulations in a timely manner. Will they be ready on times? We heard the member for Curtin say that they would not be—you can be prosecuted, but, no, we are not really sure what the terms and conditions of that are.

The inadequate consultation was raised in the minority report. The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry estimates that they can produce the regulations within six months, but evidence submitted to the inquiry indicates that little progress had been made on the contents, and fundamental issues remain unresolved.

We on this side of the House are committed to addressing the trade of illegally sourced timber and timber products. It was in fact part of our 2010 forestry policy. But we do not underestimate the issues in managing and adapting to any changes facing industry and stakeholders, which is why our policy provided for a two-year transition period.

We also understood that all impacted stakeholders, many of whom we have heard from today, need to be consulted closely on the drafting of the legislation, the regulations—the things we are discussing today—and other related measures, which is exactly what this government has not done, yet again. It is just a pattern of behaviour: always finding the wrong answer to whatever the question is before us. That is the reason for our amendment.

Recommendations 1 and 2 of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade report acknowledged the flawed and inadequate consultation process associated with the development of this bill. And they made a recommendation that the government should continue to consult closely with the governments of Canada, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and other relevant stakeholders on the implementation of the bill and the development of the subordinate legislation. That is very important: what are the requirements; how will they work; what are the obligations; what are the penalties. The joint standing committee also recommended that the government facilitate Malaysia and Papua New Guinea's representation on the Illegal Logging Working Group, convened by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

As I said, we are committed to addressing the trade in illegally sourced timber and timber products. But I just want to refer to the WA situation. In Western Australia we have largely led the way in dealing with deforestation issues. In fact, it was led by Sir Charles Court, who imposed some clearing restrictions in the sixties and seventies. Large-scale clearing is generally a thing of the past. But what we did see, which is another example of where the actions of a Labor government cannot be trusted, was that in 2001 the WA timber industry, and timber communities—it comes right down to the ground level, as it will in the nations we are dealing with on this issue—were thrown to the wolves by the Gallop Labor government. Change came dramatically, a bit like the live cattle export situation, and it was full of deception. That concerns me with this bill as well. The state Labor government told the wider community they would end old-growth logging but told the timber industry that this would have a minimal impact on their lives and the communities. What a deception. Timber companies were told that, despite most of the larger logs being excluded from harvest, the quality of sawn logs they would receive would not change—and, sadly, at the time many actually believed the Labor government in WA. The truth has now been brought home: there was a major impact in some of these communities, with job losses and impacts on the whole community, especially in the Manjimup region—and that was part of my electorate when I was first elected. That is what happened in Western Australia. So if this bill is progressed, and these issues are not well managed, what will it do in developing nations? What will it do to people on extremely limited incomes?

We do know that, under the current legislative regime, the Australian industry is very well managed. But for my electorate, again, I will place on the record that many in the south-west retain about 80 per cent of native forests. But members should note well that the areas that have an active timber industry over many years tend to retain significant areas of native forest, whereas in regions where the native forest is not valued, and is harvested for timber, little forest was left intact. It is this value placed on timber and forests that in many areas has resulted in its salvation.

It is a source of constant irritation, and I would say anger, to the timber industry that, despite being vilified by the Greens, and in recent times the Labor Party, they are in part actually responsible for the continued existence of so many of our remaining forests. We do know there has been a recent decline in deforestation in Australia. Compared to other nations around the world, our forests are relatively well managed.

As a result of this bill I have to raise the issue of developing nations and how they will be able to sustain not only their populations but also some of their forests into the future. For the billions of people living in or near poverty, the use of timber is often as a fuel source and a building material—it is not because of want but because of need. This is something we need to consider in this whole process. Poverty may be the reason the person is harvesting remaining forests. It may be to warm and shelter their family. They may have to harvest their last remaining forests to provide income for food or other necessities. It is going to be a pretty basic decision for some, and it is on a daily basis. So, until the living standards of the populations and the standard of governance rise significantly, it is clear that those forests in developing nations will remain under threat. The threats are significant, but I ask the House to remember that this bill only applies to illegal logging, and does not address the threat of unsustainable legal deforestation.

Our concerns with this bill are very valid. When I listen to the matter articulated by the member for Curtin, the shadow minister for foreign affairs and trade, this really does absolutely need to have scrutiny. The regulations do need to be provided. We do need to see the devil that could well be in the detail, and that is why I fully support the coalition amendments.