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Monday, 18 October 2010
Page: 629

Mr ADAMS (7:47 PM) —I have raised this motion to express my support for the ongoing deliberations of all the interested parties working to develop solutions to ensure the viability of the forest industry over future years while also dealing with such issues as climate change, biodiversity and economic change. I have been encouraged by the work of many of the interested parties to look at their operations, study how the industry works, and to consider current and future markets and how they can productively but sustainably use our beautiful timbers in Tasmania. Tasmania leads the way, but the process is just as important for the rest of Australia.

Our forest industry is something to be proud of. There is still great demand for timber and timber products. We only have to look at our own homes to see how timber is used and, further, how it is developing in new and varied ways. Yet we understand that change is inevitable, as with all things. As a product becomes scarcer it grows in value, and it is up to us to make sure that we do not sell our industry short and to make sure we get a good price for all our timber and wood products. It is better that we try to manage change so that the people who work in the industry, the people who make or use the products and the people who use the proceeds of the industry to undertake other work can grow with change. If we do not manage change and use the processes positively, many people will get hurt or be left behind and their businesses could fail.

We must ensure that change does not disadvantage whole sections of the community or economy. To ensure that the communities that have been part of the industry for centuries do not lose out, it is important to ensure that any process of restructuring includes a rethink of how things are done and who does them, and that criticism of the industry is constructive rather than destructive. I believe that this is what is happening at the moment, although I am not party to any of the discussions and nor, as far as I know, are any of my colleagues, state or federal. I believe that is as it should be, as we are the representatives of the people in this instance.

It was my good fortune to attend a small part of the Timber Communities Australia state conference in Launceston a couple of weeks ago, and it gave me heart to hear what the timber communities are doing and talking about. I was particularly interested in the work of one of the TCA members, Rodney Stagg, who comes from the Meander Valley—a long-term timber community. Rodney was curious to find out how much local timber was being used, where it came from and where it went, and how many people were employed. He undertook a survey of 10 businesses from the Yellow Pages in Launceston which receive timber from all over the state to make various sorts of furniture; internal and external doors; fittings for households such as vanity and kitchen units, built-in robes et cetera—lots of different fittings and household goods.

He then sought to find out where their products went—whether very local, to markets on the east coast of Australia, or overseas—and how many employees these businesses had. The minimum number of people employed in these 10 Launceston businesses was 84, and that did not include the auxiliary people who help to supply and transport goods, the sawmillers or all the other people who are employed because these businesses are there. Once you start adding the other involvement, including all the building and other businesses that use timber, you start running into hundreds of jobs just out of Launceston—around 800. If the process of sawmilling timbers is removed from this community, suddenly jobs will disappear.

Another story involves a small country sawmiller in southern Tasmania who was looking to find a sale for shorter lengths of sawn timber. He had been puzzling over this for some time and he came up with the solution of joining the short lengths together into longer, more usable timber lengths, using a sawtooth timber jointing machine. But this was big money for a small sawmiller. Fortunately, the Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement was providing assistance for value-adding projects in 2005. This sawmiller looked at that option with his family and realised that, with that assistance, they could do even more value-adding than was first thought. By adding a glue press laminator, they could produce beams up to 12 metres in length that were even stronger than the single piece that they had contemplated. Add to this a finishing planer that removes any surface glue marks resulting from the gluing process. This family is now producing highly sought-after beams of Tassie oak, often used as feature timber in buildings. So Ike Kelly and his family, down in Dunalley, can take a bow. They are leading the way for small sawmillers, taking up the challenge to develop businesses in new and exciting ways while employing local people and keeping their community viable.

I also attended two community festivals at the weekend, one in my hometown of Longford, the Longford Show—a very old show of 150 years plus—and another in Oatlands, another wonderful town right in the middle of Tasmania. I found that people were making practical goods for sale from all sorts of timber, including old pallets. The sorts of things being made were boxes, jewellery cases and picture frames. It was very saleable stuff and they were doing extremely well.

Change to the industry will have to be very carefully managed. Restructuring also includes re-evaluating markets, changing the harvesting and transport methods and reviewing the players in the industry—but in all this ensuring that there is a resource that will allow both traditional and new skills to be used in dealing with Tasmania’s timber. Some timber usage just does not work with young plantation wood, but the regrowth sector can still use the older and mature wood and it can be used without harming the overall resource or its biodiversity. By the same token, we need to be able to use all the wood that we harvest. That means that a pulp mill is not only an important downstream process but is vital to ensuring that our industry is properly sustainable and economically viable.

Transitions can be painful or they can be managed. I would like to see this approached with the agreement of all parties, both in the community and the industry, and with the involvement of everyone else who has concerns. It is necessary to secure the viability of forestry-dependent communities and to create well-paid, highly skilled jobs by value-adding to our natural resource. It can be done if everyone works together and we have sensible access to our resource. The resource has to be able to be used in a whole variety of ways. The young resource from plantation timber just does not cut it in the old sawmill industry. We have to make sure that there is a resource for the sawmilling industry of the future. I certainly wish the industry all the best. I wish all the best to all the people who have been meeting to discuss this issue over some months now. I hope that they can bring something together very soon for us all to give consideration to. I commend the motion to the House.