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Labor must not tax woodchip exports

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John Anderson, MP

Media Release

Deputy Leader, National Party of Australia Shadow Minister for Primary Industry

Canberra: Phone (06) 2 7 7 4074

Gunnedah: Phone (067) 42 3 1 5 5


The Federal Government must not impose a tax on woodchip exports as part of its forced restructuring of the timber industry, the National Party Deputy Leader and Shadow Minister for Primary Industry, John Anderson, said today.

Mr Anderson said such a tax would seriously jeopardise a $450 million a year export industry when Australia already has a $1.8 billion annual deficit in forest products.

"Australia can hardly afford to throw away export income at a time when its monthly current account is running almost $3 billion in the red," Mr Anderson said.

Mr Anderson said Labor was running a grave risk of making the timber industry a sacrificial lamb for the radical environmental movement without fully understanding the enormous consequences.

"The Government talks of retraining and restructuring packages for timber workers thrown out of jobs by increased conservation of yet-to-be defined old growth forests.

"That's just polite terminology for throwing timber workers on the dole.

"It also doesn't consider the wider and more serious ramifications - what about their families and the entire rural communities that are dependent on the timber industry?

"In its bid to shore up an alliance with radical greens, the Keating Government seems prepared to see whole communities turned into ghost towns."

Mr Anderson said the phase-out of logging in extended areas of native forests must be matched with increased hardwood plantation activity to sustain the industry.

"There is no point banning timber operations here and there and then saying that to offset the impact we'll begin an invigorated program of plantation establishment

"The time lag is too great. The damage is done. The timber industry is lost.

"Labor and the greens have to appreciate Australia needs a strong and sustainable timber industry. Policies for change must be integrated to ensure minimal disruption and avoid the wholesale shutdown of timber communities.

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’The Government must show a greater determination in its forthcoming forest industry statement to working towards such an end by developing a meaningful joint program with the States and industry to increase plantation forestry.

"It must be backed with guaranteed harvesting rights and the removal of other obstacles to greater value-adding, including the development of environmentally friendly pulp mills."

Mr Anderson said that taxing native forest woodchip exports at this time would literally put the cart before the horse.

"It would be another body blow for a vital industry that has been crippled by Labor's blatant wooing of the environmental vote.

"It's time Labor came back down to earth and recognised that we must have long term policies that ensure a continuing sustainable timber and forest products industry for this country," Mr Anderson said.

11 July 1995