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Monday, 20 August 2012
Page: 9123

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland) (15:41): I appreciate the opportunity to speak again in relation to the Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill 2011 and the amendment put forward by the coalition. This bill prohibits the importation and sale of all timber products containing illegally logged timber; prohibits the processing of illegally harvested domestically grown raw logs; requires importers of regulated timber products and processors of raw logs to comply with due diligence requirements; requires the accurate description of legally logged timber products for sale in Australia; establishes enforcement powers and offences; and, imposes penalties and provides for a review of the first five years of the operation of the act. Despite the protestations of those opposite, I believe the coalition has acted in good faith in relation to this legislation and has sought to raise some very legitimate concerns—

Mr Bruce Scott: Order! The member for Gippsland should be speaking to the amendment, not to the bill.

Mr CHESTER: In raising the amendment to the bill, I believe the coalition have acted in good faith. We have sought to give the government the opportunity to get this right. That has been our concerned from the outset in the debate as it has occurred in this place. The Leader of the Opposition wrote to the Prime Minister earlier this year suggesting conditions under which the coalition could support the bill and that is the nature of the amendment before the House—we propose a better way forward to accommodate satisfactory consultation. We have been concerned about the sensitivities at the international level, which the member for Wannon quite rightly reflected on in his contribution.

There are also concerns expressed by the domestic industry in terms of the consultation period and the need for extra time to get this right. That goes to the very heart of the amendment put forward by the coalition. We are seeking more time and more detail from this government in relation to the regulations. I believe the amendment is a sensible approach to delay the onset of the legislation and for the regulations to be made available by a settled future date. That would give us the opportunity to consult with the industry and with our international trading partners to ensure that we continue to support a viable timber industry in this country.

The position taken by the coalition is consistent with our approach to the last election where we supported prevention of illegal logging and we continue to work with the government in good faith in that regard. The coalition went into the last election period with an undertaking to legislate to make it an offence to import any timber product which has not been verified as being legally harvested. The member for Braddon and the parliamentary secretary took the opportunity to come to my electorate to meet with Australian Sustainable Timbers quite recently. I enjoyed that experience and I think the member for Braddon and the parliamentary secretary appreciated the opportunity to talk with the industry directly on this issue.

It must be said that in discussions with Australian Sustainable Hardwoods they indicated that the Victorian Association of Forest Industries supports in principle the approach being taken by the government in relation to illegal logging, but have reservations about the regulations. That is to the heart of the amendment put forward by the coalition. We want to see the details. We want the industry to have the opportunity to be fully consulted in relation to the details of this legislation and we are particularly keen to ensure that the sensitivities at an international level are taken into account.

I do appreciate the member for Braddon taking the time to consult with the mill owners at Heyfield. He had a great appreciation for the work they are doing at the Heyfield mill to certify their operations and have them fully audited. It was a very useful visit from many perspectives. The industry did appreciate his willingness to discuss in a very full and frank manner what the future challenges will be for the industry. But I cannot support the bill without the amendment being passed, because I believe a common-sense approach is being taken by the coalition, and in good faith, with the domestic timber industry and also in relation to our international trading partners.

I thank the member for Wannon for his contribution. I think he raised some legitimate concerns regarding the sensitivities that exist when you are talking about putting requirements in place for foreign nations in relation to trade. I think it would be wrong of those opposite to simply dismiss the coalition's concerns as being political in nature, because they are not. They are being raised on behalf of industry and on behalf of our spokespeople, who are concerned about the international trading relationships that Australia has enjoyed in the past and will seek to enjoy in the future.

I appreciate the opportunity to discuss this complex area of legislation. I will be supporting the coalition's amendment and I urge those opposite to support the coalition in its efforts to ensure there is full consultation and detailed regulations— (Time expired)