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Thursday, 28 June 2012
Page: 8320

Ms SAFFIN (Page) (09:14): On behalf of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade I present the committee's advisory report on the Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill 2011, incorporating a minority report and additional comments.

Ordered that the report be made a parliamentary paper.

Ms SAFFIN: by leave—The report of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade into the Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill 2011 was referred to the committee on 22 March 2012. This inquiry was the third parliamentary inquiry into the proposed legislation. There has been extensive scrutiny, review and consultation. The House of Representatives Selection Committee referred the bill to the committee with the following reason for referral:

Concern over the international implications of the bill which have been expressed by Canada, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea in their submissions to the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee inquiry.

The committee specifically sought to avoid unnecessary duplication with earlier inquiries and resolved to focus its inquiry on this reason for referral. The inquiry was therefore advertised and conducted on this basis. The committee also wanted to make it clear to interested parties who have previously presented submissions that it was not revisiting earlier inquiries.

The committee received 22 submissions, including submissions from each of the countries named in the Selection Committee's report. It held a roundtable public hearing in Canberra with representatives of the governments of Canada, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. It also heard from departmental representatives. I thank those people, departments, organisations and embassies and countries who made submissions as many had before. Some of them actually travelled from Malaysia to attend the hearing.

Illegal logging imposes an enormous financial, environmental and social cost worldwide. The World Bank estimates that illegal logging as a criminal activity generates approximately US$10-15 billion worldwide each year. The committee heard broad support for the intent of this bill. Participants in the inquiry welcomed Australia's contribution to global efforts to combat illegal logging, noting that the bill moves Australia in line with similar legislation in the United States and European Union.

The bill prohibits importation of illegally logged timber and processing of illegally logged raw logs. It also establishes a risk management based due diligence process, in which the level of risk will determine what actions importers and processors must take to mitigate that risk. The details of this process are to be outlined in the regulations that will be available in about six months. There was quite a lot of discussion at the roundtable on this particular issue.

In its report, the committee acknowledged the concerns of some timber-exporting countries about the details of this due diligence process, including likely compliance costs and the extent to which certification schemes and national laws will be recognised. The committee also satisfied itself that the government is taking Australia's international trade obligations seriously in the development of the bill and subordinate legislation.

It was evident to the committee that there are differing expectations as to whether prosecution will be pursued in the two-year period between the act and the regulations entering into force. The committee has advocated further outreach by the government on this issue.

Although considerable consultation has already occurred and is to continue as the regulations are developed, the committee has made two additional recommendations directed at continued bilateral and multilateral engagement. The first recommendation is that the government continues to consult with the governments of Canada, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea and other stakeholders on implementation of the bill and development of subordinate legislation. I note that in the hearing the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, which have carriage of the Illegal Logging Working Group, said that they would include all the parties in that working group. In its second recommendation, the committee recommended that Malaysia and Papua New Guinea be represented, along with the other countries I just mentioned, on the Illegal Logging Working Group.

Finally, I note that there is a minority report in the report. I want to thank members of the Trade Subcommittee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, which had carriage of this. I want to thank each and every member for the effort they put into trying to accommodate everybody's concerns in this inquiry, even to extent that the committee offered some additional recommendations if we could get agreement. We got close but unfortunately we were not able to get full agreement. The committee recommended that the bill be passed. I commend the report to the House.