Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Senator Peter Cook predicts increased antagonism between conservationists and the timber industry if the Liberal Party wins the election

PETER THOMPSON: On the campaign trail, and the Federal Resources Minister, Peter Cook, predicts that there will be increased confrontation between environmentalists and the timber industry if the Labor Government is defeated at this month's election. Maurie Ferry reports from our Bega office that Senator Cook's warning came during a series of meetings over the past two days, with timber industry representatives in south east New South Wales. Conservationists boycotted the round table discussions.

MAURIE FERRY: Conservationists are angry that the Federal Government is to allow continued logging of National Estate forests, until scientific studies of the area are complete, and while Senator Cook admits the Government hasn't been able to please industry representatives either, he says that Labor's plan is the only one which offers long term peace for the industry.

PETER COOK: This industry, it is fair to say, is a bit anxious, a bit concerned, and perhaps even a bit frustrated about how they should operate in the face of what they see as escalating environmental demands, and they worry about where their resource base will be, and so on. And they, I think, have believed in the past that we may in the end, not treat them properly. But I think that when they see the plan we have developed, how we intend to try and get downstream processing going, so that we're exporting paper to Japan, and not woodchips; when they look at what we're doing on plantations, and what the practicalities of that are, not what the general hopes are but what really can be achieved on that; there is then a recognition that this is what they've always wanted. They've wanted to know where they're going and they wanted to see some leadership from governments in that direction, and they've wanted to see that leadership supported by real work that we've been able to produce in these studies. So I think, in the end, there is a recognition that this is the right course and I think considerable approval for our efforts.

MAURIE FERRY: Of course, they've wanted to know these long term answers well before the election was due. Do you think you will be able to deliver the Labor Government the timber industry vote?

PETER COOK: I think that the timber industry will support the return of a Labor Government. To support an election of a Liberal Government is, I think, counterproductive to its own interests because that would put the industry even more in conflict with the environmental movement, and no-one wants the sort of protest, ongoing dispute, ongoing argument, and ongoing debate which stalls the industry; which dries up investment; which prevents development; and which mires everyone down into a defeatist mentality. What they want to see is a considered, developed, and well thought out plan, which is what they have got from us.

PETER THOMPSON: Resources Minister, Senator Peter Cook.