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Government must give long term confidence for timber industry



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J o h n A n d e rso n , MP D eputy L ead er, N ational P arty of A ustralia S h a d o w M inister for Prim ary Industry M edia

Canberra: Phone (06) 2 7 7 4074

Release Gunrtedah: Phone (067) 4 2 3 1 5 5 Government must give long term confidence for timber industry

The Federal Government’s forthcoming Wood and Paper industries Strategy must provide long term policy direction which maximises opportunity for the timber and forest products industry to expand and value add, the Shadow Minister for Primary Industry, John Anderson, said today,

Mr Anderson said the industry was poised to make very substantial investment for the future, if given the right policy direction and long term confidence.

“The NSW industry says a 10 year guarantee of resources will result in the creation of 1000 new jobs, mainly in rural areas, at least $320 million of new investment within two years, and an increase in high value-added outputs from the present 29 per cent of production to 51 per cent.

“In Victoria, more than 118 kilns for dry ing timber have been installed since 15 year licences were granted in 1987 and producers have indicated an ability to increase this by over 30 per cent in the next 12 months, meaning an extra 32 to 34 kilns.

“The forest products industry is increasingly utilising short hardwood timber pieces and ofT- cuts - product that has previously been used for woodchips - for products such as parquetry and glue-laminates for bench tops.

“Value adding in this industry is a pace setter and must be encouraged in future policy.

“ There is enormous opportunity lor Australia to increase exports of timber products and reverse its present $1.8 billion forest products deficit, industry' projections suggest the potential for Australia to become a net exporter within 10 years.

“'This will only happen if the right policy directions are forthcoming from Canberra and if there is a proper determination to implement the National Forest Policy Statement (NFPS).

“The Statement, signed in December 1992, called for clear and consistent policies for resource development and acknowledged the need to continue to use limited amounts of old growth timber under sustainable yield guidelines until the industry could rely on regrowth native

forests and hardwood plantations.”

Mr Anderson said Canberra’s bungled policies were causing major concern and confusion.

“There are suggestions that to meet Canberra’s 15 per cent forest set-aside target, at least 30 per cent of state forests in NSW will have to be transferred to the reserve system, just for starters. The North East Forest Alliance in NSW claims more than 50 per cent of forests in that area will have to be locked away.

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“On top of this are commitments by the NSW Labor Government to massively increase the area of national parks and wilderness in the State.

“All of this is causing understandable concern and is a major disincentive to new investment.

“The Federal Government has a responsibility to give unequivocal, clear, long-term directions in its forthcoming statement - directions that should have been spelled out long before now.

“It should acknowledge that increased conservation can go hand in hand with increased de velopment and job growth, if properly plamied and managed, as per the NIPS.

“Australia’s existing native forests have the capacity to sustain a significant harvestable timber industry, supported by long term supply agreements, while preserving areas of high conservation value.

“At the same time, the Federal Government should become more directly involved with the States in the development of hardwood plantations backed with guaranteed harvesting rights.

“The industry can be given the confidence it needs for long-term planning and investment, timber workers can keep their jobs and timber communities can have a continuing viable future.

“At the moment, when people like NSW Premier Bob Carr define the three Rs for the timber industry as ‘retraining, redeployment and redundancy’ - which is what he told the NSW Farmers Association annual conference in Dubbo - nobody has any confidence for the future at all.

“Labor must also kill for all time any prospect of a tax on woodchip exports and dispel the outrageous anti-woodchip arguments constantly put forward by radical environmentalists.

“Forests are not logged for woodchips. They arc logged for limber for houses, furniture and many other uses. Woodchips are a by-product processed from unmillable timber (hollow logs and off-cuts) that would otherwise rot on the forest floor or be burned, adding to greenhouse problems.

“Woodchips are worth $80 per cubic metre, whereas unseasoned structural hardwood is worth $400 a cubic metre, kiln dried hardwood beams $800 a cubic metre and kiln dried appearance grade timber between $!000 and $2500 per cubic metre.

“There is therefore no incentive or reason for millers to want to depend on woodchip production. Quite the opposite.

“Instead of making these points clear, Labor has allowed the radical environmental movement to run the line that ‘forests arc being woodchipped’ - no doubt in the hope of continuing to cloud the limber controversy in the eyes of the electorate, maintaining electoral support from environmentalists and keeping the lid on the obvious split within the ALP over the issue

Mr Anderson said.

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