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Thursday, 16 February 2012
Page: 1660


Mr LYONS (Bass) (14:55): My question is to the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Will the minister update the House on the Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreement and the government's position on marketing campaigns in the Tasmanian forestry sector? How is the government working to support jobs in Tasmania, and are there any threats to the progress?

Honourable members interjecting

The SPEAKER: I call the honourable minister for just about everything!

Mr BURKE (WatsonMinister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities) (14:55): I want to thank the member for Bass for his question. He has a strong timber community in his electorate and a very passionate commitment to ongoing forestry in Tasmania. It has been recognised for some time that there are shifts going on in markets in Tasmania. It was recognised, in fact, by both sides of the House when even the opposition went to the last election with a promise for contract exit packages.

The losses and job losses that have taken place in the forestry sector long preceded the intergovernmental agreement between the Commonwealth and Tasmania. In fact, in the three years prior to the agreement, forestry jobs fell from 6,920 to 3,460. In an economy the size of Tasmania's, this is a massive shift, and there is a need for us not to simply to pretend the shift is not happening but to help the Tasmanian economy to grow through this and thrive through this. It has been a combination of decisions in the market, the decision by Gunns to exit native forestry, a shift in international demand for woodchips and the shift in the Australian dollar that has helped drive this market change.

Even though it has been this issue and the market change that brought the two governments to the table to help Tasmania with the changes that are going on, in recent weeks and months there have been impacts on Tasmania's industry that are not because of market changes. There have been a number of campaigns that have been run which have created a very real impact on the Tasmanian economy and which need to be dealt with directly. While the peak environmental groups have remained at the negotiating table working through future peace agreements, you cannot expect peace at a negotiating table while the battle intensifies in the marketplace. A minority of groups have been involved in these market campaigns but we have seen them as attacks on Harvey Norman, on our contracts with the London Olympics, and on the operations of Ta Ann and Britton Timbers at the precise time that these businesses have been at the table trying to work through a sustainable solution.

These campaigns attack Tasmanian jobs and they jeopardise the opportunity for an enduring conservation outcome. If they were successful they would only result in increased demand for unsustainable rainforest timber from overseas. We came to the table to support jobs. We came to the table in the knowledge that because of the changes there may well be significant and one-off opportunities for enduring conservation outcomes. We support jobs and all efforts to end the conflict, but we are unreservedly opposed to the attacks on markets.