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Monday, 29 November 2004
Page: 27

Senator WATSON (2:16 PM) —My question is directed to Senator Ian Macdonald, the Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation. Will the minister outline to the Senate the Howard government's proposals for a sustainable, progressive forest industry in Tasmania, that not only protects jobs but communities and Australia's old-growth forests? Is the minister aware of any alternative policies?

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation) —Senator Watson, as a great supporter of the Tasmanian forest industry, will know that Australia has a very progressive, world-class, sustainably managed, profitable forest industry that is environmentally friendly and supports over 100,000 jobs in this country. It supports the fourth largest manufacturing industry in Australia, it supports hundreds of rural communities and it supports the homes, lifestyles and aspirations of many of our fellow Australians who actually work in the industry.

Over the last three years, I—like you, Mr President, like Senator Watson and like other Tasmanian Liberal senators—have got to know those workers in the Tasmanian forest industry. They are great Australians, hard workers and committed people. They are certainly not the `vandals' that Mr Albanese, Labor's environment spokesman, said they were. From the day Mr Latham showed that he was captive to the loony left of the Australian political scene, with his much publicised magical mystery tour to Tasmania with Senator Brown, the writing was on the wall for the Tasmanian forest industry and its workers so far as Labor was concerned.

It is no wonder that Michael O'Connor from the CFMEU, who really understands the industry, was beside himself at Labor's proposals. Labor's disastrous antiforestry policy would have destroyed workers' jobs—and this policy was Mark Latham's, and Mark Latham's alone. It is no wonder that Senator Conroy tries to dissociate himself from Mr Latham. It is no wonder that Dick Adams does and Scott McLean from the CFMEU does. Worst of all, Mr Latham will not admit that he was wrong on his forestry policy. He blames everyone else. He blames Mr Lennon. He blames the CFMEU. He blames other premiers. He blames the workers. He even blames Dr Frankenstein for that particular policy!

By contrast the coalition have a very environmentally sound but progressive, pro-forestry policy. We have committed some $52 million of investment to that industry, and the mere fact of the coalition win in the election encouraged a lot of businesspeople in Tasmania to commit to further investments in the forestry industry, and that will mean even more jobs. Under the Howard government's proposals for the Tasmanian forests, 170,000 hectares of old-growth forest will be added to the reserve system, giving an absolutely fabulous outcome for the environment and for the comprehensive, adequate, representative reserves under the regional forest agreement. There will be no job losses under the coalition's policy. We actually look after workers in this country. We want to help them. We want to help them aspire.

As well, under the Howard government's proposals there will be assistance for new investment in country sawmills, there will be funding to improve the recovery of sawlogs from various mills, there will be assistance for the softwood industry, there will be further help with skills development and industry training. I conclude by thanking the Tasmanian Liberal senators for their contribution to this very important policy that looks after workers' jobs. It is an area that has been abrogated by the Labor Party and it is an area that the Tasmanian Liberal senators picked up. We do support workers' jobs. We realise that you can have a progressive, environmentally sound forest industry that does look after workers' jobs.