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Labor plot to grandstand on Tasmanian job losses backfires in Senate.

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DPIE 98/346P


2 July 1998




A Labor move to gain political mileage out of the recent tragic spate of job losses in Tasmania backfired today when the Senate rejected an ALP motion that sought to blame the Government.


The Labor Opposition had endorsed an urgency motion by Tasmanian Labor Senator Shayne Murphy seeking to condemn the Government over its handling of the wood and paper industry.


Tasmanian Liberal Senators Gibson, Watson and Abetz reminded the Senate that it was Labor that cost Tasmania the Wesley Mill project.


They said Labor sacrificed this mill, and its hundreds of jobs, to buy the support of the Greens. This exercise was handled by the then Senator Richardson. In 1995, the Tioxide plant closed, costing 225 jobs. The Labor Government did nothing.


Other points noted were that the then Labor Government took no action when the Burnie pulp mill reduced its workforce by 600 in 1992-93. It had failed to have any discussions with the mill, discussions that may have highlighted future problems.


For its part, the Howard Government acted swiftly and sent a Cabinet delegation to the area within 48 hours to hear the community's concerns before preparing a package of aid for the area.


Two weeks ago, the Minister for Resources and Energy, Senator Parer, visited north-west Tasmania and announced a $300,000 Federal contribution to a regional infrastructure program.


The Liberal speakers accused Senator Murphy of grandstanding by calling for the Government to enter into immediate discussions with AMCOR, pointing out that Federal Finance Minister Fahey has already held discussions with AMCOR.


They also noted that the Member for Hotham (Mr Crean), the Member for Denison (Mr Kerr), the Tasmanian Government, the CFMEU and the AMWU also have all met with AMCOR; meetings Senator Murphy either did not know about or chose to ignore.


The Howard Government placed on record its commitment of:


• over $350  million to the Australian forest and wood products sector over the six years to 2000/2001;

• $31.107 million to the Wood and Paper Industry Strategy over the financial years 1996-97 to 1999-2000; and

• some $100 million to the Comprehensive Regional Assessment/Regional Forest Agreement (CRA/RFA) process.


In addition, the Commonwealth is providing a total package of $110 million as part of the Tasmanian RFA to provide the opportunity for forest industries to expand, develop exports and create ongoing emp loyment.


Of this $110 million package, $70 million is to develop a program of hardwood plantations, intensive forest management and industry development initiatives.



Further inquiries:


Senator Parer's office

Bob Baudino (02) 6277 7440