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Thursday, 24 November 2011
Page: 13862

Mr McCORMACK (Riverina) (10:41): The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has tabled this report, which makes 19 recommendations for the Australian forestry industry. The committee inquired into the prospects of the industry, including opportunities for and constraints upon production, opportunities for diversification, value adding and innovation, the environmental impacts of forestry, the potential for energy production and land-use competition.

The future prospects for forestry, according to the report, are huge. As an industry, it can and will provide for many other industries, nationwide. There are exciting new avenues for investment and innovation opening up to Australian forestry. Forestry has the potential to contribute renewable energy to the Australian economy and to improve land management practices across the agricultural sector. The Australian construction industry will be supplied with more building materials, which, in turn, will bring about more job opportunities. The chance for timber as a building product will increase as we move into a more carbon constrained world. Many Australian timbers are prized for their unique qualities and over time further markets for these timbers will surely develop. Timber can be engineered to be used in many different applications and as a renewable and carbon storage building material it has a clear advantage over many other building materials.

The demand for timber in the construction industry is expected to increase in the years to come. The forestry industry is well placed to benefit, obviously, from this increased demand. In addition to the inherent value of Australian timbers, new investments and new methods of processing will enable the industry to add value to all products that come out of Australian forests. According to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, the average national consumption of wood products is 22 million cubic metres per year. By comparison, around 27 million cubic metres of logs are harvested in Australia each year. However, Australia still imports a large amount of wood products and has a trade deficit in wood products—totalling $1.9 billion in 2010. According to Australia's forests at a glance 2011, Australia imported $4.2 billion worth of wood products in 2010 and exported $2.3 billion worth in the same year.

The committee believes that the forestry industry needs greater certainty about possible demand and supply scenarios in the decades to come. The forestry industry has one of the longest lead times in the Australian economy. It will benefit from a better picture about how the market might look into the future and policy needed in this area. Forestry is a key component of the Riverina economy. This is certainly so in the Tumbarumba and Tumut shires. It has long been so. The towns are heavily reliant on the wealth generated by the softwood industries, particularly involving the Hyne timber mill at Tumbarumba and Visy at Tumut.

This weekend, the Prime Minister is due to open Visy's first waste-to-energy plant at its Coolaroo manufacturing and recycling plant in Melbourne. The event is expected to be attended by more than 2,000 people, according to yesterday's Australian. The Coolaroo energy-from-waste plant will reduce Visy's emissions by 70,000 tonnes a year and divert 100,000 tonnes of waste which would have gone to landfill. In a clean and green environment, which we all want, that has to be seen as a very positive thing. It will reduce the gas used in the manufacturing and recycling plant by half and 10 per cent of the energy consumption. Again, that is an extremely good thing.

The plans of Visy's executive chairman, Anthony Pratt, follow his commitment four years ago to invest US$1 billion in paper recycling and waste-to-energy infrastructure at a Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York. Last year, Visy's American associate Pratt Industries commissioned a US$60 million energy plant in Georgia which converts waste from its manufacturing into gas. Mr Pratt and his company are visionaries. They do great things right across this country and certainly great things for my electorate in the Riverina, particularly through the Visy pulp and paper mill at Tumut.

The new waste-to-energy plant in Australia, which is likely to be located adjacent to Visy's Tumut pulp and paper mill in southern New South Wales, will be three times the size of the US facility, and that has got to be a tremendous thing both for the Riverina economy and for the Australian economy. It will provide baseload power, unlike other renewable energy technologies such as solar or wind power. In this day and age, when we have people such as Anthony Pratt willing to invest in those sorts of things, that is good. This report for the forestry industry is also a positive one and I commend it to the House.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Vamvakinou ): I agree with the comments of the member for Riverina in relation to Visy. The Coolaroo plant is in my electorate, and I very much look forward not only to its contribution to the environment; it is a major employer in my local community.

Mr McCormack: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. Hear, hear!