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Tuckey inconsistent on forest negotiations.



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MEDIA RELEASE

 

Laurie Ferguson MP

 

Shadow Minister for Forestry and Conservation

 

Shadow Minister for Defence Science and Personnel

 

Federal Member for Reid

 

17 November 1998

 

TUCKEY INCONSISTENT ON FOREST NEGOTIATIONS

 

Forestry and Conservation Minister Wilson Tuckey’s one-sided statements on delicate forest negotiations is causing confusion and disquiet amongst key stakeholders, according to the Federal Opposition.

 

Shadow Minister Laurie Ferguson MP has called on the Minister to adopt a consistent approach to the Regional Forest Agreements (RFA) negotiations in NSW and Western Australia.

 

‘The history of the forest debate means that it is inherently difficult to please all stakeholders. So it is not unusual that there have been mixed reactions to the NSW Government’s recently announced plans for the Eden and North Coast RFAs,’ Mr Ferguson said.

 

‘After his surprise appointment, Winston Tuckey was quoted in The Australian of 27 October promising that his door would remain open to both sides of the forest debate and that he would take a fresh look at some old assumptions. His subsequent outbursts have contradicted both promises.

 

‘Having spent much of the last few weeks talking to key stakeholders, I can say it is untenable for him to suggest that the RFA negotiations in WA are proceeding smoothly and that a consensus exists that the NSW negotiations should be scuttled.

 

‘Key industry and union stakeholders have stressed to me the desirability of developing a consistent and bipartisan approach to the industry’s future. Minister Tuckey’s inconsistent and partisan approach is a major obstacle to achieving this objective.

 

‘When I visited Western Australia a fortnight ago, I found widespread disquiet at the RFA process there. Material released for public consultation has excluded key information such as maps, and ignored the potential of plantations and the need for a structural adjustment package. Responsible groups like the WA Municipal Association have complained that the RFA steering committee is not representative of key stakeholders and says that affected Councils have little faith that the consultation process is genuine and adequate.

 

‘Indeed in an article in Australian Forest Product Statistics of December 1997 it is stated that ABARE, the Commonwealth agency responsible for conducting economic assessments of affected regions, had produced a relatively comprehensive set of economic simulations for the NSW Eden RFA, but not for WA. One reason given for this was that the relevant WA Department had failed to supply the Commonwealth with regional wood supply data.

 

‘Similarly the August 1998 Report of the WA Legislative Council’s Standing Committee on Ecologically Sustainable Development recommended that the question of what forest areas qualify as ‘old growth’ and ‘reserved’ should be determined “in a way that is accurate, objective and generally acceptable” (p.4). It noted that the WA Government has been confusing ‘virgin forest’ with ‘old growth’ forest thus reducing the area to be retained in reserves (p.67-68).

 

The Committee also recommended that CALM not continue as the lead agency in the WA RFA process “to overcome the perceived conflict of interest that CALM is both the key agency affected by the outcome of the RFA process and also the lead agency in the RFA process” (p.4).

 

‘Mr Tuckey says RFAs must be driven by science yet he steadfastly ignores the scientific and process deficiencies of the Court Government’s approach. At the same time, in today’s Australian he threatens to introduce a “back-door” RFA to block the Eden and North Coast proposals in NSW.

 

‘He should urgently explain to all stakeholders what a “back-door” RFA is and where such a process would leave the National Forest Policy Statement agreed with the states.’

 

For further information:

Laurie Ferguson MP

0418 601 716 (mobile)

(02) 9637 4714 (Sydney office)

E-mail Laurie.Ferguson.MP@aph.gov.au

[ Note to the media: Mr Ferguson will be in Tasmania until early Thursday morning ]

 

 

 

LK