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Monday, 19 November 2012
Page: 8954


Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister Assisting on Queensland Floods Recovery) (13:38): I thank senators for their contribution during the second reading debate. In summing up I note a report published earlier this year by the World Bank—and I think we should not miss this sentence—which stated:

Every two seconds, an area of forest the size of a football field is clear-cut by illegal loggers around the globe.

It went on to say that large-scale illegal operations are carried out by sophisticated criminal networks. Illegal logging is a social, environmental and economic issue globally, and we should not delay. Those opposite are, in effect, calling for a delay. Bear in mind that a delay means that every time we stand in this place we are saying that we support those who are part of sophisticated criminal networks that illegally log.

In 2007 the Labor Party made an election commitment to restrict the import of illegally logged timber into Australia. In 2010 both the Labor government and the coalition made election commitments to pass legislation restricting the import of illegally logged timber. What I hear now from the opposition, particularly Senator Back's helpful contribution, is that they not only want delay but are worried about a raft of issues that were addressed, by and large, in the Senate committee, by the department through workshops, through much industry dialogue and by industry itself calling for the ban of illegally logged timber. We now have the coalition walking away from that commitment. That is disappointing. It is not something I would have expected you would want the coalition to walk away from.

It is effectively a motherhood statement that we are all opposed to illegally logged timber entering Australia. It is in essence a very simple statement. It is, I suspect, difficult for Senator Colbeck to speak against the bill when, through the Senate Standing Committees on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport, he made—and I want to recognise this—a substantial contribution to improve the bill's effectiveness and reach in this area. The government took cognisance of that, recognised the contribution that he made and accepted much of the recommendations that were put forward. The Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill, which is before us today, fulfils the government's commitment, and is another clear example of this Labor government delivering on the mandate it was given in the 2010 election to introduce this legislation. It is a bill that will support global efforts to combat illegal logging and to promote trade in legal timber. It will support our importers and our domestic processors who are already doing the right thing.

I note the concerns of those opposite about the development of regulations. I think both Senator Back and Senator Colbeck said something about correspondence between the government and the opposition on this matter. The government made an offer to the coalition about the regulations and the coalition rejected that. The government's position has always been that the regulations would be available for public comment six months from the bill passing, and I reiterate that today. The government will continue to engage with trading partners and importers and with state governments and domestic processors when developing and finalising the regulations. Again, to correct Senator Colbeck's comments about the regulations, I can advise that preliminary discussion drafts of two regulations have been distributed for comment to key trading partners and to other stakeholders. These draft regulations are available on the department's website for viewing. The distribution of these draft documents is the first step in the detailed consultation process through which the government will actively seek comment from domestic and international stakeholders as the package of regulations is developed.

The bill aligns Australia's efforts to combat illegal logging with international initiatives including legislation introduced in 2008 by the United States and developments in the European Union. The European Union are implementing a new timber regulation that requires importers to undertake due diligence when first placing timber or timber products on the market. The European Commission is scheduled to apply its timber regulation in March 2013. Australia's proposed legislation is closely aligned with the views of other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, which is reflected in the 2011 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders declaration made in Honolulu which stated that economies would:

work to implement appropriate measures to prohibit trade in illegally harvested forest products and undertake additional activities in APEC to combat illega l logging and associated trade.

An APEC expert group on illegal logging and associated trade has recently been established pursuant to a proposal from Chile, Indonesia and the United States and supported by Australia, and Australia participated in meetings in February and May 2012. The bill is consistent with Australia's international trade requirements under the World Trade Organization and relevant free trade agreements. The government will continue to source advice relating to Australia's international trade law obligations as the regulations are developed. Australia presented details of its proposed legislation to the Committee on Trade and Environment of the World Trade Organization on 14 November 2011.

The bill will regulate timber products at two key points of entry onto the Australian timber market—at the border, for imported timber products, and at timber-processing plants where domestic raw logs are processed for the first time. The bill will restrict the importation and sale of illegally logged timber in Australia in three main ways. First, it will prohibit the importation of all timber products that contain illegally logged timber and the processing of raw logs that have been illegally logged. The high-level prohibition enters into force on the day after royal assent of this bill. The prohibition will act as a strong deterrent and send a clear signal of Australia's intention to take action to combat illegal logging. To prosecute under this prohibition, a high bar has been set. The government will need to be able to prove that the illegally logged timber was imported or processed either intentionally with knowledge or recklessly. Second, it will require importers of regulated timber products and domestic processors of raw logs to undertake due diligence to mitigate the risk of those products containing illegally logged timber. Timber products for which due diligence will be required will be prescribed by regulations that are being worked with key stakeholders. Requirements for due diligence will come into force two years after the bill becomes law, which gives businesses sufficient time to establish and implement their due diligence systems and processes. Individual country initiatives and national schemes, including national timber legality verification and forest certification schemes like those being developed with Indonesia, can be one of the tools used by businesses in Australia to demonstrate that timber products have been legally harvested. Third, the bill establishes a comprehensive monitoring, investigation and enforcement regime to ensure compliance with all elements of the bill.

In conclusion, by restricting the trade of illegally logged timber products, this bill will restore the balance as to the legally harvested timber market. The bill will remove unfair competition posed by illegally logged timber for Australia's domestic timber producers and suppliers to establish an even economic playing field for the purchase and sale of legally logged timber products. What the bill does not do is place requirements on Australia's trading partners or their exporters. Australian importers will likely be seeing information from their suppliers about the timber they are purchasing, to minimise the risk of importing illegally logged timber. Information that may be sought will be the focus of future work and consultation. Guidance material will be developed to support those interested in the requirements under the bill. The Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill 2012 delivers on the government's commitment to restrict the importation and sale of illegally logged timber in Australia. It delivers on the promise, despite those who were opposed to what is in effect a very easy concept, that we—as a government and as individuals, traders and suppliers in the market—should not support illegally logged timber. The bill will promote the trade of legally logged timber and will be good for jobs in all well-regulated timber-producing markets. With those few words I commend the bill to the Senate.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.