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Monday, 6 December 1999
Page: 12899

Mr TUCKEY (Forestry and Conservation; Minister Assisting the Prime Minister) (10:23 PM) —I move:

That the amendment made by the Senate to the additional amendment made by the House be disagreed to.

This Senate amendment to the Regional Forest Agreements Bill 1998 typifies the attitude of the Labor Party in opposition to this legislation from the very day that it became the property of this government and no longer the invention of the Labor Party, as it was as part of the National Forest Policy Statement. The amendment seeks to replace the Forest Products Advisory Council proposed by the government with a Wood and Paper Industry Council. The government never saw the need to establish any advisory council by legislation, but we have made a commitment to establish such a body as part of our action agenda, and that commitment stands.

It was our view that legislation was likely to impose unnecessary restraint on an advisory council's activities and limit its flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances in the timber industry. Nevertheless, we have been happy to cooperate with the unions and the opposition and to consider what amendments might be acceptable. When I discussed this matter with the member for Reid, he told me that the principal requirement was to obtain agreement from the CFMEU, so we did that. The CFMEU's national secretary wrote to me on 28 September agreeing to the proposal that the government proposed to put up as an amendment to the original RFA legislation.

This is no longer good enough for the opposition. If you are a spoiler opposition, even your own close constituency has no influence; you are simply opposed to everything. In fact, I think the opposition wants to punish the CFMEU, and I have read to the House in recent times their view of this opposition. They are strongly of the view that the opposition broke their promises before the last election—promises to their own constituency and their own work force. The CFMEU is to be punished by the Labor opposition for having the audacity to look after the interests of their members rather than play the opposition's political games.

We obtained the agreement of the CFMEU to the establishment of a Forest Products Advisory Council—exactly what the member for Reid asked us to do. What has the opposi tion done now? It has cooperated with the Greens and the Democrats in the Senate to pass a series of unwieldy and very constraining amendments to establish a Wood and Paper Industry Council which has no hope of really achieving anything. But I think that is what their attitude has been to the whole legislation—mix it up, mess it up and, in the process, make sure it does not work.

The opposition has even added the representation of the Australian Conservation Foundation to a council designed to promote a forest products industry. The Australian Conservation Foundation's agenda is well publicised: it is opposed to any form of native forest harvesting whatsoever. However, by other amendments, which will be dealt with by further resolutions of this House, the Labor opposition has furthermore effectively thrown the baby out with the bathwater in opposing this piece of legislation and making it unacceptable to the government. Therefore, it cannot be passed.

The government has already created a steering committee under its action agenda and this will become our advisory council. We do not need the opposition's assistance to do that. We do not need a vote of the parliament. We have just invited the CFMEU to provide a member to that committee and I am sure in due course they will accept that invitation. This committee will have the capacity to assist and advise the government in its determination to provide jobs and security for timber workers—and the opposition is clearly intending to do the opposite. In due course, we will give the member for McMillan the chance to come in here and vote again. Last time, he slid out under the carpet, never made a bump and would not even come in here. He writes letters to me saying how interested he is in regional forest agreements and such things, but the member for McMillan is just like another group of people that come into this place. (Time expired)