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Tuckey provides legal backing for Regional Forest Agreements

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Minister for Forestry und Conservation and Minister assisting the Prime Minister

Wilson Tuckey



The Federal Minister for Forestry and Conservation, Wilson Tuckey MP today introduced the Regional Forests Agreement Bill 1998 into the House of Representatives. He described the legislation as placing real hurdles for a future Federal Government to overcome if it ever attempted to 'water down’ the Bill or the RFA agreements it supports.

This Bill makes it clear to the timber industry and environmental groups that future government’s cannot walk away from the Regional Forest Agreements. All RFA’s will include positive obligations on the States to initiate compensation action on behalf of industry where a Commonwealth breach of an RFA results in a case for compensation.

The Bill provides legislative support to the major elements of a Regional Forest Agreement, that is:

• development of a Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative reserve system; • provision of a sustainable wood volume; • industry development initiatives; and • requirements for ecologically sustainable forest management.

The RFA process with its process of good science and public consultation produces policy stability essential to investor and regional community confidence in the future of our forest industries. At the same time the RFA process delivers protection for unique environmental and heritage values of the Australian forest.

The other major objective of the Bill is to remove certain Commonwealth controls and restrictions, which, in the past have been used as a ‘back door' method of controlling timber harvesting.

The removal of export controls over wood sourced from a properly negotiated and agreed regional forest agreement region is welcomed by industry and regional towns as a fulfilling the vital pre-condition of providing security for people. The Bill provides for the exemption from the Export Control Act 1982 for both processed and unprocessed wood coming from

RFA areas.

The RFA process is based on comprehensive scientific, environmental, heritage, economic and social values of the forest in regional areas. It is now also possible to have the RFA replace the ‘trigger’ protection provisions of certain Commonwealth environmental and heritage legislation, including the Australian Heritage Commission Act

1975, the Environmental Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974 and the World Heritage Properties Conservation Act 1983. 1/2

Parliament House Canberra ACT 2600 Telephone: (02) 6277 7270 Facsimile: (02) 6273 7096

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This legislation accelerates the Howard Government's commitment to work cooperatively with the States and Territories to implement the National Forest Policy Statement. Its passage by the Parliament is the next step in providing future investment and growth in our forest industries for regional communities, the workers and their families who need

security for the future.

The Bill is part of a series of other positive measures put in place by the Federal Government for the forest sector. These include:

• $100 million for the Forest Industry Structural Adjustment Programme • $31 million to the Wood and Paper Industry Strategy • $36.5 million under the natural Heritage Trust over 4 years to the Farm Forestry Programme

Ends 26 November 1998

Media contact: Graeme Hallett 0419 688 440