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Wednesday, 15 August 2012
Page: 8781


Mr JOHN COBB (Calare) (18:38): I rise to speak on the Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill 2011. The coalition is committed to addressing the trade of illegally sourced timber and timber products—in fact, it was coalition policy at the 2010 election. The need for action is driven by a number of factors, including environmental concerns regarding indiscriminate or poorly controlled logging activities. In addition, under the current legislative regime the Australian forest sector, which is globally recognised for its forest management regulation and practices, suffers a competitive disadvantage through compliance costs borne locally but not observed by illegal loggers. So the intent of this bill is well placed. But, not surprisingly, the government has again bungled the delivery of the policy on which both sides of politics agree.

It is not reasonable for the government to bring these measures into law without giving our trading partners, our domestic timber industry and timber importers the time they were promised to design and implement appropriate systems. So, as a result of the government's incompetence, I am forced to move an amendment. I foreshadow that the coalition will do so at the consideration in detail stage. This amendment will delay the commencement date of the legislation and regulation making power to 1 July 2015. The additional time is needed to satisfy the concerns of six of Australia's major timber trading partners that the subordinate regulations are not available to scrutinise at the time of the legislation passing. This will allow sufficient time for parliamentary scrutiny of the regulations before they take effect; scrutiny of the regulations by trading partners before they take effect; trading partners to implement systems to allow traceability and achieve compliance with the regulations and legislation; and Australian importers to design and implement processes for traceability and to demonstrate due diligence.

It is critical that we manage this transition through working closely with our trading partners. Unfortunately, the government plan to impose this arrogantly on our trading partners, in the same way they imposed the live export ban on Indonesia without any consultation, let alone adequate consultation. It is important to note that the current timber certification programs do not yet provide due diligence elements to their traceability certifications. For example, PEFC, the Program for the Endorsement of Forestry Certification, have announced that there are due diligence provisions being designed for their program. Therefore, current systems cannot simply be put in place to meet the requirements of the legislation and regulations.

The flawed consultation process has led to concerns amongst significant trading partners. The minority report of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade confirms two major issues previously raised through the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee—concerns regarding the detail of the regulations. Hence the coalition position requiring the regulations to be referred to the RRAT for review. There has also been inadequate consultation with key stakeholders; hence the coalition position on extending the time of the onset of the legislation. Concerns regarding the ability of the government to develop the regulations in a timely manner and with adequate consultation were also raised in the minority report. The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry estimate that they can produce the regulations within six months, yet evidence submitted to the inquiry indicated that little progress had been made on the content of the regulations and that fundamental issues remain unsolved.

Internationally, a number of initiatives are currently in place, or under development, to assure the legality of international trade in timber and timber products. Work is being undertaken at the importation and exportation ends of the supply chain. Information on these initiatives was provided in the report by the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee on the exposure draft and explanatory memorandum of the Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill 2011. The United States and the European Union have developed policies and regulations to combat illegal logging and associated trade. A number of key producer countries, including Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, are developing legality certification, chain-of-custody and forest certification schemes in response to mounting pressure from consumer countries to demonstrate the legality of their timber products.

By way of background as to the intent of the bill, the bill prohibits the importation and sale of all timber products containing illegally logged timber; prohibits the processing of illegally harvested, domestically grown raw logs; requires importers of regulated timber products and processors of raw logs to comply with due diligence requirements; requires the accurate description of legally logged timber products for sale in Australia; establishes enforcement powers and offences and imposes penalties; and provides for a review of the first five years of the operation of the act.

Turning to the proposed amendment to the legislation and issues raised by the coalition in the committee report, it is recommended that the legislation be amended to state that the legislation not take effect until the regulations are tabled and accepted by the parliament. The time afforded by delaying the enactment of the legislation could be better utilised by the government to complete what have been inadequate negotiations with our timber trading partners, develop capacity building measures in developing nations in particular, and provide clarity around the regulations, assessment of products and a list of regulated products.

We should increase Australia's outreach support for prohibiting the importation or processing of illegally logged timber. The coalition believes efforts must be intensified to effectively build capacity in countries supplying our markets. The coalition acknowledges the initiatives of countries such as Indonesia where legality assurance programs have been developed, and acknowledges Australian funded programs such as the Asia Pacific Forestry Skills and Capacity Building Program, but more must be done. The coalition maintains that, without support and ongoing diligence, the integrity and reach of verification programs may suffer. It is sobering to consider the World Bank's advice that most illegally logged timber has legitimate documentation attached to it.

The recommendation to actively pursue nation-to-nation arrangements to minimise the impact of the legislation on trade and cost highlights the need for the government to undertake high-level negotiations with countries currently exporting timber products to Australia to identify and recognise legislation or certification or other processes which contribute to the demonstration of due diligence as required by the legislation. I refer to the article 'Jakarta tires of Canberra's "dysfunction"' in the Australian Financial Review of 6 March 2012.

Specific attention must be given to aged stock, bespoke, antique and recycled materials. There is potentially significant complexity around these materials, and the legislation does not currently consider how they will be handled. If these items are to be included as regulated products, a clear demarcation is required to permit products made or timber harvested before a specified date. I commend the bill.