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Monday, 20 August 2012
Page: 9126


Mrs PRENTICE (Ryan) (15:56): I rise to support the coalition's proposed amendment to this Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill. Just as the member for Grey quoted the wise words of his father, I remember well a former senator of this place, Sir John Carrick, who regularly used to use the phrase, 'Slowly, slowly, catchy monkey' which became well known in those days.

Illegal logging poses a significant challenge to the goal of sustainable management of the world's forests. Every member of this House wants to ensure that we do what we can to protect the environment. We must recognise, however, that there are substantial trade-offs involved between, on the one hand, the protection of global forestry and, on the other, the employment prospects and quality of life concerns in developing countries. It is important for this House to constantly keep in mind decisions made today and their ramifications for the future global environment and future generations. But we must also not ignore the fact that there are hundreds of millions of impoverished people in poor countries around the world, many millions of whom undertake illegal logging in places like Indonesia just so they can survive. This is not a desirable situation, but it is a situation that we must all accept and take into account.

The coalition is moving this amendment to defer the commencement date of the legislation so that the regulations imposed on the importation of timber products can be appropriately put into practice by local industry. Indeed, the first recommendation of the report by the Trade Subcommittee of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade urged the government to continue to consult with the governments of Canada, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea and other important stakeholders prior to the development of subordinate legislation under the bill.

This Gillard Labor government is notorious for its ability to alienate foreign countries and it is doing so again. If we do not pass the coalition's amendment today, this bill could harm our bilateral trade relationships not only with Indonesia but also with Canada, Papua New Guinea and Malaysia, among many others. In their submissions to the inquiry by the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade into this legislation, these countries were very clear. The Indonesian government's submission expressly said:

The implementation of the Bill is…likely to undermine the development of trade between Indonesia and Australia based on our respective mutual interests.

Indonesia noted the importance of forestry and the forest sector, and noted that the industry employs close to 'four million Indonesians often in rural areas where other forms of employment do not exist'.

Clearly, Indonesia is willing to fight on this issue because it affects so many of its citizens. If Australia believed that another country were planning to impose deleterious unilateral trade restrictions on our exports, we would, no doubt, fight just as strongly.

Malaysia told the committee that while they understood:

… that the objective of the Bill is laudable, Malaysia would like to see that the implementation of the Bill will not in any way hamper the good bilateral trade relationship particularly in timber products.

The Canadian government's submission warned that any third party certification scheme and the reliance on strict chain-of-custody certification could lead to a 'barrier to trade' for exporters of timber products. These are some of our most important trading partners. Indonesia is certainly Australia's largest neighbour and the single most important export market for our wheat and beef industries. We do not want to harm this important bilateral trade relationship any more than has been achieved by the Gillard Labor government. The worry I have is that this unilateral effort and blanket policy will damage our bilateral relationships.

As the member for Curtin said previously, New Zealand, in their submission, noted the implementation of the bill had the potential to have a significant negative impact on New Zealand's forestry industry. As Judith Sloan commented in an article in the Australian on 15 May 2012, the point of trade policy insofar as it actually relates to trade should be used to promote international trade and should not be used to pursue other objectives, such as environmental aims.

The coalition went to the 2010 election with a clear policy of real action for the prevention of illegal logging because we understand that illegal logging is a significant challenge to the global environment. We believe in deferring the time frame in which illegal logging measures will be fully rolled out, to allow industry to adapt to any new measures. The coalition believe that all impacted stakeholders should be consulted closely in the drafting of any legislation and regulations, which to date is still a major concern. I urge the government to address our concerns and support the coalition's amendment to defer the timing of this legislation.