Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 19 November 2002
Page: 6717

Senator McGAURAN (2:17 PM) —My question is to the newly titled and sworn in Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation, Senator Ian Macdonald. Could the minister outline the impact on Commonwealth policies and on rural and regional Victoria of the Victorian government's recent forest policy announcement? Is the minister aware of any alternative policies which will secure jobs in country Victoria?

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation) —Senator McGauran has raised an issue that is very important for Victoria and very important for the Commonwealth government. We have a lot of dealings with the Victorian government across a range of policies, but their announcement of a forest policy just the other day shows us one thing that is very concerning to the Commonwealth—that is, the Bracks government cannot be trusted. Let me demonstrate why I say that. Mr Bracks deliberately and callously breaks promises. In March 2000 Mr Bracks personally signed the West Victorian Regional Forest Agreement with Mr Howard. Not three years later he has completely repudiated that agreement that he signed. That agreement provided for around 63 per cent of the west Victorian forest area to be in reserve with around 37 per cent of it to be logged. Not three years later, he has completely repudiated that policy.

Earlier this year Mr Bracks, in the Victorian government's major forestry report entitled Our forests, our future, said there would be no reduction of logging in the Otways. Not eight months later, he has completely repudiated the policy he made in February. Again, in February 2002, Mr Bracks was encouraging the establishment of a charcoal facility in the east of Victoria in the Gippsland area. He did that because East Gippsland is a very depressed area with a lot of unemployment. Not 10 months later, Mr Bracks has completely repudiated that policy by determining that there will be no charcoal plant in East Gippsland.

The concern about this is that you simply cannot trust the Victorian government to keep the promises they make. That will have a big impact on the dealings the Commonwealth will have with the Victorian government in the years ahead. That charcoal plant would have provided something like 370 jobs in a very depressed area. It involved an investment of something like $173 million. But, because Mr Bracks deliberately broke his promises, he has caused those jobs and that investment simply to dissipate.

There is a greater concern because any number of Mr Bracks's backflips have occurred without any consultation with the communities and the unions involved or with those who will lose their jobs as a result of his statement. These backflips and broken promises by Mr Bracks are done for one reason: to pander to the radical conservation movement in this country for the benefit of getting second preference votes in the suburbs of Melbourne. So pandering to minority groups is Mr Bracks's aim in the deliberate and callous breach of these promises that he made not more than 10 months ago.