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Monday, 26 May 2003
Page: 14904

Mr NAIRN (5:02 PM) —The Carr government's decision to declare 65,000 hectares of land in northern New South Wales as 15 new national parks, state conservation areas and state forest reserves demonstrates Bob Carr's real attitude towards forestry and the timber industry in general. The signing of regional forest agreements followed extensive studies and the addition of hundreds of thousands of hectares of new reserves. Fewer than two years after pen was put to paper, Carr was prepared to just abandon the deal without consultation.

Before the New South Wales state election on 22 March, I predicted in a media release that Carr was moving towards trying to set up a cosy preference deal with the Greens in Monaro. It is with no pleasure that I can now say that I was right. At the eleventh hour, after the Greens said that they would not do a preference deal with Labor in Monaro, there was a sudden turnaround. A media release at the time from the Greens candidate said:

We are willing to preference the ALP if there is a public announcement that:

No New South Wales native forest will be used for charcoal production or biomass burning;

There will be an immediate moratorium on logging in the CRPs already identified, being Deua, Badja, Nalbaugh, Cathcart, Monga, Wandella, Coolangubra, Murrah and Yurammie, a reduced logging regime for the Clyde River catchment, and a commitment to the creation of National Parks out of these CRPs within twelve months;

Recognises that woodchipping of native forests is both economically and environmentally unsustainable;

There will be a package for any timber workers displaced by the moratorium and the creation of these Parks which includes:

An option for Government buy-back of machinery;

Six months salary and/or immediate reemployment in the new Parks in restorative and maintenance areas.

Interestingly, we have not heard those sought-after assurances stated publicly. But we do know the preference deal did occur, to the great advantage of the Labor candidate and now state member Steve Whan.

It would be fair to say that this had a major impact on the final outcome of the election result in Monaro. On election day, I was handing out how-to-vote cards in Eden for the former National Monaro MP Peter Webb. A former federal member for Eden-Monaro, Bob Whan, father of the Labor candidate, was also there. The Greens were nowhere to be seen, probably because they were not game enough to show their heads in that area considering the job losses they were involved in with Carr.

But the Greens still had how-to-vote cards, and this is how it worked: a lady who obviously did not want to vote Labor or National came along, and Bob Whan sidled up to her and said, `Are you looking for a Greens how-to-vote card?' She obviously said yes, and out of Bob Whan's back pocket came the Greens how-to-vote card. He said, `Here you are; here is a Greens how-to-vote card.' I said to him, `Great symbolism, Bob: got the Greens in your back pocket.' That is what happened. What we want to know is what promises were made by the ALP, because they did the deal but they did not make the public announcements. The people of Monaro deserve to know how Labor plan to deliver those promises without destroying more jobs in the region.

The recent federal budget saw an extension of the Forest Industry Structural Adjustment Package. This means that around $31 million of FISAP funding will now be available in the next two years to promote investment and employment in the native forest industry. The focus for FISAP now will be on processing and marketing initiatives to ensure our industry is not only sustainable but also internationally competitive and focused on value adding. Despite the pressures on this year's budget, the Howard government has recognised the importance of the native timber industry to the viability of many rural and regional communities as well as to the national economy. Extending FISAP for a further two years represents a clear demonstration of this commitment and will benefit rural and regional communities like many in Eden-Monaro.

At the same time, Bob Carr seems determined to lock up more forest area to keep the Greens onside. With one hand, we give timber companies assistance with FISAP funding to stay in business after the industry shake-up in recent years, then Carr forces them out of business for a bunch of preferences. This demonstrates how the New South Wales Premier is prepared to put votes well ahead of people. For these reasons, I strongly endorse the motion moved by the member for Cowper. I notice that the ALP opposite cannot find a member of parliament from New South Wales who is prepared to speak on this motion. They put up somebody from Capricornia and now somebody from Victoria who have no idea about the RFA process at all.