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Thursday, 16 August 2012
Page: 8920


Mr SIDEBOTTOM (BraddonParliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) (13:26): I thank all the honourable members for their contributions to this important debate. I wish to start by addressing the comments of those opposite. They relied heavily on an article published in the Financial Review earlier this year to support a perception that Indonesia is aggrieved at the level of consultation on this bill. As the Minister for Trade has already reported in this House, the Indonesian trade minister in fact issued a press release dismissing the veracity of the quotes attributed to him. The press release went further to say that neither he nor the Ministry of Trade were contacted by the journalist writing the article. It needs to be clear that the comments are inaccurate. The Gillard government would take the counsel of the Liberals more seriously if their foreign affairs spokesperson had not been characterised as both sleep inducing and arrogant by the Indonesians themselves. They are all over the shop on this issue.

The member for Flinders will support the legislation if it is delayed. The member for Mayo would like the bill tremendously amended but will support its passage if the member for Flinders' delays are agreed to by the parliament. At least the member for Forrest had the gumption to tell the parliament that the bill will implement their policy to provide a two-year window for the development and implementation of regulations. This bill will implement their policy. But it seems they are a divided lot over there, sending mixed messages about their commitment to this issue. I would like to make it clear what their policy is.

We will require Australian timber importers and domestic processing mills to undertake a process of due diligence to verify the legal origins of the timber product and to disclose species, country of harvest and any certification.

So they need to explain in this House and outside this House why they have abandoned this policy. The member for Lyne, who has not spoken today, has made representations on behalf of furniture manufacturers. The contribution of the Australian furniture association and other Australian business groups are taken seriously by the Gillard government. The Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill imposes strict penalties on the importation and processing of illegally harvested timber and timber products. I understand the department has distributed a list of products for consultation purposes to its illegal logging working group. Since the department distributed that list, there has been constructive feedback from the members of the group to the department and to the minister's office. Furniture, including furniture manufactured from particle board, will be regulated, as will pulp and paper.

The bill contains significant penalties. Individuals convicted under one of the two main offences in this bill can face up to five years in prison and/or a fine of $55,000, or $275,000 for a corporation. Importers and processors will be required to complete an annual statement of compliance and the department will audit compliance on a targeted risk basis and conduct random audits. While there will not be 'illegal timber enforcement officers' at the border, Australian law enforcement authorities frequently cooperate with governments in the region and beyond to combat serious international crime. The government is confident that this bill and the efforts of Australian importers will contribute substantially to those activities. The Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill 2011 represents a major step by Australia to support the legal trade of timber products. The bill fulfils the government's commitment to restrict the trade in illegally harvested timber and timber products.

On 22 March 2012, the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade held a third inquiry relating to possible international implications of the bill. The joint standing committee came to the same conclusion as the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee inquiry, and that was that this bill be passed.

The joint committee report recommended that the government continue to consult with the governments of Canada, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, which the government is already doing. The government has agreed to all of its recommendations and is busy implementing them. Regional workshops have been held in Port Moresby, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Wellington. The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has held a workshop via web link with the government of Canada and their key industry representatives.

The joint committee report recommends that the government facilitates Malaysia and Papua New Guinea's representation on the Illegal Logging Stakeholder Working Group. The government has done just that. The government does not pretend that there are not some sensitivities amongst our trading partners. Can I say that Malaysian, Canadian, New Zealand, Papua New Guinean and Indonesian leaders each agreed with their APEC counterparts to 'work to implement appropriate measures to prohibit trade in illegally harvested forest products and undertake additional activities in APEC to combat illegal logging and associated trade'. We will continue that work and commitment.

There are roughly 50 members of the government's Illegal Logging Working Group. The government has consulted widely on this matter and will continue to do so, as we committed to do. Preliminary drafts of two regulations have been distributed for comment to these key trading partners and other members of a stakeholder working group. These draft regulations are also available on the department's website. The distribution of these draft documents demonstrates that the claims of those opposite that the government is not consulting are hollow.

Australia commends the commitment of trading partners to protect their forests by combating illegal logging and the associated trade. Of note is the work being undertaken in Indonesia on their Timber Legality Assurance System, known as SVLK, and in Malaysia on the Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme. Canada, the US, New Zealand, Indonesia, the EU and Malaysia have expressed their support for the bill's overall objectives to reduce the harmful environmental, social and economic impact of illegal logging.

Support for the bill has come from non-government organisations, such as the Uniting Church, Greenpeace, Transparency International and World Vision. The government has also received additional support from a number of timber product importing businesses including Bunnings, Kimberly-Clark and IKEA.

The government has worked towards alignment with measures being implemented by the US and EU to minimise the impact of the legislation on exporting businesses. This bill aligns Australia's efforts to combat illegal logging with international initiatives, including legislation already implemented in the United States and developments in the European Union. In May 2008, the United States made amendments to the Lacey Act—its act that regulates the trade of flora and fauna—to include the illegal trade of plants and plant products, including timber, to combat illegal logging. The US has included a requirement for a declaration at the border, similar to measures being implemented within Australia. The European Union Timber Regulation requires importers to undertake due diligence when first placing timber or timber products on the market. The European Commission is scheduled to apply its Timber Regulation in March 2013. Individual member states will be responsible for developing penalties under the EU regulations.

An APEC Experts Group on Illegal Logging and Associated Trade has recently been established, pursuant to a proposal from Chile, Indonesia and the United States, supported by Australia. Australia participated in meetings in February and May 2012. Australia also presented details of its proposed legislation to the Committee on Trade and Environment of the World Trade Organization on 14 November 2011.

The time to act on illegal logging is now, as committed to by both parties at the last election and before—not in three years time but now. The Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill 2011 delivers on the government's commitment to restrict the importation and sale of illegally logged timber in Australia.

The bill is consistent with Australia's international trade obligations under the World Trade Organization and relevant free trade agreements. It provides for even-handed treatment of suppliers of timber irrespective of their nationality. The bill will remove unfair competition posed by illegally logged timber for Australia's domestic timber producers and suppliers, establishing an even economic playing field for the purchase and sale of legally logged timber products.

I would like to conclude by citing the latest media release from the CFMEU, whose members and their jobs rely so much on the timber and fibre industry of Australia:

The amendment to the Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill tabled by the Coalition, if accepted by Parliament, could cost thousands of jobs in vulnerable timber communities, according to the CFMEU.

"Make no mistake about it, this amendment would cost Australian jobs, hurt Australian families and kill off Australian timber communities," CFMEU National Secretary Michael O'Connor said today.

"It is a clear case of the Coalition succumbing to pressure from those who benefit from illegal logging.

"Their amendment would delay the ban on illegal logging imports from coming into effect for at least two to three years.

"Workers in the timber and wood products manufacturing industry simply cannot afford such a delay. They would rightly view support for this amendment as a kick in the guts at a time when timber and manufacturing workers desperately need those in Canberra to stand up for them.

"Wood products represent the second largest sector in Australia's manufacturing industry and cheap, illegally-sourced imported products are strangling it.

"This amendment takes the interests of illegal loggers and their criminal syndicates overseas - as well as unscrupulous importers of timber and timber product —and places them above the interests of Australian workers.

"The Coalition needs to be clear: Do they want to look after the livelihoods of Australian workers who are getting unfairly undercut or not?

"Any supporters of this amendment should, quite frankly, be ashamed of themselves."

It was our commitment to introduce this legislation. It was the commitment of those opposite to introduce this legislation. Their amendment is now aimed at delaying it.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.