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Monday, 19 November 2012
Page: 9054

Senator COLBECK (Tasmania) (19:30): I indicate that the opposition will not be supporting these amendments. As the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry said—and I am trying desperately not to verbal him—these amendments effectively could shut the trade down, because they are all about Greens tape. They are about not utilising the process that was discussed during the Senate inquiry. They are about making the process so difficult and so complicated that it is effectively impossible to carry out trade.

For the information of the chamber I can indicate that the draft statement of compliance, or due diligence declaration, includes: the vessel name, the voyage number, the container number, the consignment identifier, a description of the product, some information about the origin or the country of harvest, the name and address of the timber or wood product supplier, the name and address of the importer, the quantity of the product, the value of the product and the due diligence system used to verify the legality of the product.

It is important to understand that a due diligence system, whether or not it be a certification scheme, is not just about ticking a box or having a certification scheme. It is about, if you have a certification scheme, complying with that, your audits saying you are complying with that, and there being processes that you undertake to verify what you are saying within your certification scheme. That could include FSC certification or PEFC certification. As I said in my contribution on the second reading, PEFC are putting into place as part of their certification systems a due diligence stream. As I understand it, at this point in time FSC have not announced whether or not they are going to do that. If they decide not to do that, it would be a fairly significant deficiency in their scheme. Quite frankly, I do not see how they can afford not to have a due diligence stream within their certification system if they are going to be serious players in the market in respect of supply chain certification. One of the important elements of any certification scheme is the chain of custody certification.

To reinforce my concerns about the potential costs of what the Greens are proposing—and it is clearly about imposing costs on timber traders and importers; they know what they are doing, which is trying to impose additional costs on the industry—I have an example of a business that has looked at one product line in a process of working out how it will comply with what is being proposed at this point in time. This business is looking at a fairly simple complex-wood product which is a three-ply. Across this business there are over 1,500 import consignments a year with an average of 42 individual product lines in each consignment. That is a total of 63,000 separate due diligence declarations that this business will have to fill out. Complying with the draft due diligence declaration took this business about 1.5 hours. The business says it can bring this time down with systems that will be put in place, but that is not the real issue. If you consider those 63,000 declarations at 1½ hours each and even consider that this can be taken down to half an hour each, that is still a significant workload being imposed. Just imagine what it would be like if the list that the Greens want to impose is put in place, rather than a systems based approach, which is what the committee recommended.

The real problem is that even though it is a relatively simple product, a three-ply product, and despite the fact that the supplier has full chain of custody certification from FSC for the mill and for one of the four concessions it controls, the business was still unable to identify the core of the veneer in terms of species or the concessions from which the logs were sourced. What Senator Milne is trying to impose again reinforces the concerns that the opposition has. It is about businesses having the systems in place to be able to comply with the legislation and giving them the time to do that. Even with full chain of custody certification from the Forest Stewardship Council, this business still cannot identify the core material for the plywood. That basically shuts that product out of the Australian market under the Greens proposal. It reinforces the opposition's concerns about ensuring that the systems are put in place to allow the compliance to occur. I do not think I need to say any more on this at this point in time. I have reinforced the concerns that we have and the proposition that we put to the government when Mr Abbott wrote to the Prime Minister earlier in the year. I have also indicated that we will not be supporting the Greens amendments.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN ( Senator Moore ): The question is that Greens amendments (3) and (9) to (18) be agreed to.

Question negatived.