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Woodchip export licenses

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PIE88/457C 23 December 1988


Australia exports over $450 million of forest products a year. Over $350 million of this is the value of woodchip exports.

In the 1987-88 financial year this country imported forest products to the value of $1.5 million. Over $1 billion paper and pulp imports.

Overall, Australia, originally a country that had a trade surplus in in forest products, has moved into a substantial negative balance. Our net deficit is now over $1 billion.

Industry reports predict this deficit will grow to $2.7 billion in 1986-87 dollars by the end of the century.

These figures underline the need to improve our performance from an industry viewpoint. From an environmental aspect it means that Australia consumes over $1 billion annually of other nations forests at the moment, and if left unchecked will

accelerate the rate of consumption in the foreseeable future. Some of the countries from which we import aspire to environmental standards near our own. A number do not.

A consistent application of our high environmental standards can only be guaranteed if we are in net balance or surplus in our trade account.

For a Government which has done more to protect the environment than any other in the history of the nation, and which is proud of its recent achievements in listing the Queensland wet tropics and nominating the Tasmanian Southern forests, these economic statistics lead me to announce the following principles which underpin my consideration of Woodchip export


1. We need to add more value to the products we make and take from the Australian forests for both export and import replacement.


2. Woodchips are a basic primary product at the beginning of the paper manufacturing chain. It is in the national interest both economically and environmentally to transform, in Australia, into paper as much of our woodchip output as possible.

3. Therefore any domestic development which will do this should have first call on the total woodchip resource.

4. In order to move more to value adding it is necessary to meet the needs of our present woodchip industry on a proper commercial basis consistent with our environmental concerns.

5. The resource base for this industry can and should be expanded by companies reliant on forest resources investing in softwood plantations and native hardwood plantations. It is desirable that this occur not merely to meet the needs of an expanded industry but to also reduce reliance on existing native forests.

6. Environmental concerns have to be properly and fully addressed. Primarily the State Governments have the obligations to assess and advise in this area but the Federal Minister for Environment will be my advisor and I will base my decisions on his opinions.

7. Because of the nature of forestry this industry suffers from generation-long lead times. The length of time that licences operate and the period in advance of their operation date that they have to be issued are related to this problem. Licences however can be reviewed at any time

and while effectively operating over many years are issued on an annual basis. Regular formal reviews will be included in any licence issued by the Commonwealth.

8. The Commonwealth has announced that it will seek a Forest Accord which will meet both industry and environmental aspirations. All of the above points will be defined in more detail during that process.

The Commonwealth believes an Accord is the only way to solve the longterm problems of the industry and resolve conflict between industry and environmental concerns.

So far the concept has been endorsed by:

Commonwealth of Australia Forestry Council of Australia (representing the Commonwealth and State Ministers) Australian Labor Party All major industry organisations.

I have put in the public domain all the advice given to me on the NSW and WA woodchip export applications, and will be announcing the outcome of the licence applications shortly.

Contact: Mark Pierce (062) 77 7480