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STANDING COMMITTEE ON INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT, REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT
21/04/2009
Impact of the global financial crisis on regional Australia

CHAIR —Welcome and thank you very much for coming along this afternoon. The committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, but I do need to remind you that these are formal proceedings of the parliament and should be given the respect that would be given to proceedings of the House of Representatives. It is also customary for me to remind witnesses that giving false or misleading evidence before a committee is a serious matter and can be considered a contempt of the parliament. That being said—hopefully that has not put you off—would you like to make some introductory remarks? We have heard, both yesterday at our Burnie hearing and this morning, a very small amount about what is happening in the forestry industry. We would certainly appreciate your direct evidence as to what is occurring in that sector at the moment.

Ms Down —First of all, I would like to introduce us, who we are and who we represent. We are a national organisation representing communities that depend upon our sustainable timber industry and long-term management of natural resources for social, economic and environmental benefits. In Tasmania we have 15 branches distributed throughout the state. Our members comprise working families and small businesses that depend on our sustainable forest sector. They are located mainly in rural and regional areas, which are also strong in primary industries as well as processing and transport sectors.

Three of the rural and regional municipalities that have a high percentage of their working population involved in the timber industry are: the Derwent Valley, with 32 per cent; Dorset, with 23 per cent; and Kentish, with 19. They cover those three regional areas that were discussed previously. TCA members include sawmill workers, small business operators, transport operators, forest managers, landowners and forest workers. Many are community leaders seeking to promote all sectors of their local community.

Whilst many of our members are a part of the forest industry, TCA are not spokespeople for the industry. That is the role of the Tasmanian Forest Contractors Association and the Forestry Industries Association of Tasmania. Timber workers are also represented by the forestry division of the CFMEU. The protection and promotion of communities that our members live and work in is our major focus.

The forest industry plays an important part in our island’s economy, both as an employer and as an earner of valuable export income. The forest industry directly employs an estimated 6,300 people, with total expenditure between $1.4 billion and $1.6 billion per year. These figures are from Jacki Schirmer’s report on the forest industry survey that was released in June 2008. I have not supplied the committee with a copy of that report but I can make that available. In addition to that, a recent woodcraft sector report identified another 2,000 people employed in the region in the area of the design, creation and retailing of special species timber products that were not included originally in Jacki Schirmer’s report. This sector has a total value of $70 million. I can also provide that report.

The industry is export orientated, exporting fibre, veneer and manufactured timber products internationally, with solid wood products being sold within Tasmania and mainland markets. This export focus makes the industry and the community that depend upon it very vulnerable to a downturn in demand for its products. Sales of domestic solid wood products for construction and craft are also being affected by the global financial crisis.

The Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry have listed Japan, Korea and China as our major export destinations, and they have all experienced downturns in their gross domestic product. As reported recently, the timber industry have been cutting back in their processing. There have also been some temporary shutdowns of two of the woodchip mills within our state. The fear is that logging contractors will struggle to stay working, and the industry is looking for solutions. One of the shutdowns occurred over Easter. The shutdowns were part of a national agreement between forestry companies, timber contractors and the CFMEU to prevent a glut of woodchips on the export market. The TFCA, the Tasmanian Forest Contractors Association, warned in their April newsletter:

All of the processing companies that TFCA have spoken to cannot provide any long term indications and this is understandable when you consider the state of the global economy. There is no doubting that companies such as FEA, Gunns and Norske Skog are doing what they can to keep the industry going and the recent announcement by Forestry Tasmania to provide sawlogs, via tender, to Ta Ann—

a veneer-milling company—

is an example of options being considered. Unfortunately our industry and others are very much in uncharted waters with many of the major global economies in very difficult times.

Over $1 billion has been awarded to Tasmania as part of the stimulus package: $200 million for working families, $370 million for Tasmanian schools, $147 million for community housing, $64 million for energy efficient homes and $54 million for Tasmanian small businesses. If Tasmanian timber can be used in schools and new housing, if the earth-moving equipment of forest contractors can be redeployed for roads and if we can encourage small businesses to take up new investments, this could lessen the impact.

Investment in innovation and training could also assist the industry to be ready when the global financial crisis is alleviated. Building access to our forests and maintaining roads could keep contractors employed and workers earning a family income. Upgrading bridges, crossings and the like could improve environmental outcomes and safety for our drivers.

Another strategy could be to step up pre-commercial thinning in our forest plantations to encourage future sawlog quality and quantity. Due to the massive reservation of over 47 per cent of the state’s native forests, sawlogs will increasingly be sourced from plantations on public land. Thinning these plantations would mean better logs in the future and employment for contractors now. Another could be to immediately invest in a biomass-fired renewable energy plant. This would have a two-pronged benefit, creating jobs in construction and supply of forest waste to the plant while reducing greenhouse emissions.

Another strategy could be to continue support for the Bell Bay Pulp Mill, which would create a massive injection of employment in the construction phase and ongoing job creation in the operational phase. This would also help to stabilise the forest harvesting sector. As pointed out by the state minister for primary industries, David Llewellyn, such a pulp mill represents more sustainable demand for pulpwood, secure employment for harvesting contractors and secure incomes for forest owners.

More on a community focus: the communities that depend on the forest sector are usually the first to be impacted by the downturn. Business closure and unemployment follow. Steps need to be taken to retain community vitality and infrastructure. ‘Buying local’ campaigns such as those advocated in Tasmania are a good way to involve the community. Continue to encourage people when buying timber and paper products to source these products from domestically grown timbers. There is also empowering communities with programs such as Women in Timber, which can encourage advocacy and networking to promote and build togetherness. Government can have a key role in supporting communities with assistance in the form of expertise or funds to build and maintain local clubs and organisations as well as infrastructure.

Regional communities are resilient and, as witnessed in the recent Victorian bushfires, are both resourceful and proud Australians. Communities help give us our identity and a sense of belonging. They are not just a place where we live but the way of life that we enjoy. The strength of our communities is what will help us through these difficult times, and we do ask for any possible assistance from the federal government to ensure that not one community in Australia or in Tasmania is lost. We are looking for a helping hand rather than a handout so we can weather this financial storm.

CHAIR —Thank you very much for a really comprehensive introductory statement. Also, I think you are the first witness we have had who has identified the quantum of money that is coming in via the stimulus package but also ways in which you think it can be tapped into for your industry sector. I will have some questions around that, but I do want to say thank you. It has been extremely useful. If you have your statement written, it would be really helpful if you were to provide that to us directly. We can accept that as an exhibit. Would you?

Ms Down —Yes.

Ms CAMPBELL —I so move.

CHAIR —I accept that as an exhibit. You can hand that to the secretariat. I am sorry if that is your only copy—hopefully you have another one somewhere! There are a number of strategies that you have identified, which is really helpful for us, because obviously we have been getting quite a mixed picture about Tasmania. Most of it is overwhelmingly positive, but, as I said, we have been hearing snippets about what is happening in forestry. It is important for us to leave—because this is our last hearing in Tasmania—with a comprehensive view about what is in happening in each sector, so again thank you for that.

You identified particularly the quantum of funds that were coming in via the stimulus package. You have obviously also nominated a number of other projects that will certainly help with the industry, but I just want to focus on the stimulus package for a minute. Have you been speaking to the state government, who are in essence rolling out many of these programs, about how you may get the Tasmanian product in that construction sector at all, or has it at this stage just been an idea that you are putting out there?

Ms Down —I suppose at this stage it is really just an idea that we have put out there. We see that we are lucky in Tasmania because we have a variety of mills and we can source all the construction materials for those mills as well as appearance grade sawlogs.

CHAIR —So is this the first time that you have put this suggestion to anybody?

Ms Down —Yes.

CHAIR —I thank you, but also I think it would be really important for you to put that immediately to state government as well. Jodie is the only local member we have here, but I certainly encourage you to do that either via Jodie or via other members you have access to. I will open it up for other members.

Mr NEVILLE —It is a very good submission. You touched on the various types of timber products. You talked about fibre, which I presume is woodchip, is it?

Ms Down —Yes, that is right.

Mr NEVILLE —You talked about veneer and furniture timbers—was it?

Ms Down —Yes.

Mr NEVILLE —And presumably plank timbers as well?

Ms Down —Yes.

Mr NEVILLE —Do you know the proportions of those in terms of either money or percentage?

Ms Down —No, unfortunately I have not brought that information with me, but I could access that information for you.

Mr NEVILLE —Could you make it available to the secretariat?

Ms Down —Yes.

Mr NEVILLE —It is very interesting. I was surprised when I heard the evidence this morning that timber products were down. I would have thought there was almost a limitless demand for woodchip. Apparently there is not. But, given that building, even though it has dropped a bit, is still quite vibrant on the mainland, I would have thought there would be plenty of demand for furniture timber, veneer and planks. Is it just in the woodchip industry that there has been a downturn—

Ms Down —No.

Mr NEVILLE —or right across the board?

Ms Down —Right across the board. We have had an opportunity to speak with mills that produce construction timber and appearance-grade timbers for furniture and they have noticed a significant drop in their sales. That includes Gunns and FEA, which have both had drops in their sales.

Mr NEVILLE —Are they export sales?

Ms Down —No, they are domestic sales and predominantly Tasmanian domestic sales. We have found, because we are selling to wholesalers, that the wholesalers are currently reducing their inventory. Therefore they are not holding as much in inventory, which puts it back on to the companies to hold reserve stocks in inventory, which makes it difficult for those companies as it ties up their cash flow.

CHAIR —The issue, as you correctly identified, is that $14 billion is coming into the economy for construction projects in schools alone. Somewhere along the line, whether it is now or in six months, people are going to want that product pretty quickly.

Mr NEVILLE —And lots of it.

CHAIR —Yes, unless they are all building steel-framed stuff, which I imagine will not be the case.

Mr NEVILLE —Some of the older schools would be timber for sure.

CHAIR —Absolutely. So you have identified a real issue there.

Mr NEVILLE —In the area from Caboolture in Mr Sullivan’s electorate right up to Bundaberg, in my electorate, our problem has been getting enough timber—log timber, sawn timber or any timber. I am just surprised that there has been a downturn in that field. Having said that, how do you bunker down your timber industry over this next 18 months or two years?

Ms Down —Talking specifically, I know in Tasmania, when we have exported timber—sorry, I should say sent timber to the mainland!

CHAIR —We are part of the same country!

Ms Down —I have a sawmilling background. Because of the freight cost it is quite costly for us to send timber from Tasmania to Queensland—Queensland was one of the markets for my company to get into—and to be a competitive product on the mainland as well. That is just a side point.

Mr NEVILLE —Do you get the Bass Strait subsidy?

Ms Down —Yes, freight equalisation.

Mr NEVILLE —But, notwithstanding that, it is still expensive?

Ms Down —Yes. I think it is the overall haulage distance.

CHAIR —Obviously, petrol prices have a role to play in that, but are you competing against product coming in from overseas as well?

Ms Down —Yes.

CHAIR —Who is the main competitor there?

Ms Down —Currently with construction there is a push from New Zealand to put some construction timber into Australia. Most of the other timber products come in as furniture from South-East Asia, and that is another issue that I wanted to talk about later. If you are going to buy a timber product or a table or something, first of all see if Tasmanian timber has gone into that product and, secondly, if it is an Australian timber. Quite often we can be our own worst enemy because we go out looking for the cheapest table or the cheapest entertainment unit and we are actually sourcing a product that may have been flat-packed and then assembled in Australia but the actual resource has not been grown in Australia.

CHAIR —Correct me if I am wrong: some of them say that they are Australian made furniture even though they are not using Australian timber. Some of them may even label their product ‘Tasmanian timber’ or ‘Tasmanian furniture’ or something like that. If that still happening?

Ms Down —Yes. I think that is probably one of the areas we can look at again. Quite often people make comments about the desire to buy Australian and the difference between ‘product of’ and ‘made in’. I know with food products you try to check where it has come from or a certain level of something has come from another country. Another thing is that obviously we have pulp mills in Australia that do produce pulp, and we do produce paper, but currently a major centre of export for our woodchip in Tasmania is Japan. Obviously Japan has taken the brunt of the global financial crisis well ahead of other nations. Basically what they did was cut off supply of woodchip to their pulp mills and it was quite sudden, and therefore the other industries, the people that organise for the contractors and stuff, had to react very quickly, because they had a plan in place that so many people were going to be working in so many areas and suddenly they had no-one to sell their woodchip to.

CHAIR —Thank you. Sorry, Paul; I cut you off.

Mr NEVILLE —Do the mainland pulp and paper manufacturers use much of your woodchip?

Ms Down —No, I do not believe they do. They have their own sources.

Mr NEVILLE —Presumably, close to their mills.

Ms Down —Yes. I know Maryvale in Victoria has a lot of plantations around it, but I think some of those plantations were burnt out in the Victorian fires. There was a little bit of talk—and I know TCA were helping—about whether or not we could have some of our contractors go over and assist in salvage operations with those Victorian timbers. I have not been involved in that, but I know that Barry Chipman, the state manager, has been involved and so has Ferdie Kroon, the TFCA manager, to see if we can send some of our contractors that are not currently working at full quotas over there to assist.

Mr NEVILLE —You say that we do not think enough about where things are from when we buy some of our furniture. I notice there are three or four strings of stores now that are bringing in Indonesian, Indian, South-East Asian timbers—all sorts of things, from TV stands to tables and chairs and framing for lounge chairs. They are quite attractive. I went to one in Hervey Bay just recently and they were burning incense to create that sort of South-East Asian atmosphere. I was looking everywhere for a TV table, quite a big one actually. I thought, ‘Well, it’s not my scene,’ but it occurred to me that their marketing was really good. They had a lot of pots and Asian bronzes and all those sorts of things there that complemented the furniture. You are perhaps one of the best organised timber groups in Australia; is there a case for you to apply to the government for perhaps a subsidy for marketing Australian timbers—to have a national marketing of Australian timber during this downturn period?

Ms Down —We had a staff and board conference in Victoria a few weeks ago, and one of the things we were actually looking into was trademarking one of our slogans, which is ‘Buy Aussie wood for the global good’. I know our CEO is at the moment checking to see that that has not been used in some other capacity. But that was definitely our intention—to come along and put that out, to promote the fact that people really need to be buying Australian timber. We are a net importer of timber. Even though we export such a high quantity of woodchip, Australia, domestically, is a net importer of timber, and I think that that is something that we can reverse, because we have such beautiful resources and we have such beautiful specialty timbers that could be used in furniture and cabinet making that would be absolutely lovely. The other side of it is, unfortunately, that people go and look for the cheapest product. In the Woodcraft Guild report that was commissioned which was released two weeks ago, which I can also provide to this committee—

Mr NEVILLE —I move that we get one of those.

Ms Down —Yes. They have gone through an assessment phase to identify where their weaknesses are in marketing their goods. Currently, as an example, I think you will see in the Tasmanian shop that is just down the hallway there are things like pepper and salt grinders, clocks and barometers and things like that. They are really targeted at the tourism market, predominantly the mainland tourism market and then of course the international tourism market.

Quite often each individual area of the forestry will work on its own area. We do not work very well together. This report is saying that from the time the timber is harvested or sourced there is an understanding of how much timber we need to have in the market and how much people can use. There is a really good opportunity to increase those sales of furniture and other tourist things and get into the domestic market.

We need to develop the perception that you want to buy something of quality. Quite often people will pay $500 for a table and chairs and think no more of it because in 10 years time they may replace that. Whereas past generations bought a very expensive table and maybe only Sunday lunch was had at that table in the good room, so to speak. If you purchase a quality product, it can be handed down through generations. It is also storing carbon. You can have a table that is 200 years old. Its integrity is sound and it is a beautiful piece of work. It is a piece of art as well as a functioning piece of furniture.

CHAIR —You have your marketing campaign already.

Mr CHEESEMAN —I want to congratulate you on your submission. Certainly the two examples that you have tabled on how the Tasmanian and federal governments might use your industry in delivering the federal economic stimulus package are good and practical examples that ought to be followed through. I encourage you to talk to Jodie and the other federal members from Tasmania as to how that might work.

We heard earlier today that Gunns and other major players in the industry have cut back their quotas by about 30 per cent. Clearly that is going to have a very significant impact upon contractors and workers who are harvesting the product. Have you done any modelling at this stage, either thoroughly or on the back of an envelope, of what that might mean for jobs? It is obviously going to be relatively significant, given that you have 8,000 people directly and indirectly employed in that sector.

Ms Down —Under our broad spectrum, TCA do not actually do that type of modelling. We usually pass that on to the contractors association, which is the TFCA. I know that Ferdie Kroon has been doing some work on that. You have to talk to him about that. It is an industry where there are a lot of contractors and they are all small business employers. They might employ 10 or 15 people. Unfortunately, the nature of that means that, if five contractors go out of business, you have lost over 100 people. It is not the shock loss of 280 people, like from Caterpillar down on the north-west coast.

Mrs Hall —We are logging contractors in the north-east of Tasmania in the Scottsdale area. We employ about 10 people. We know firsthand the impact that is having right now. We are hanging onto our employees for as long as we can because, as you are probably aware, half of the contractors in rural communities are your family. You are responsible for them as a family as well. We have likened putting off employees that you know so personally to being a bit like shooting the farm dog when it has killed somebody’s sheep. It is the last thing you want to do and it is the hardest thing to do. We are hanging on for as long as we can to our employees. Some of them have been able to get work with dam building and things like that and others have taken leave without pay, which helps us out as well as them.

My husband and I also have other small businesses in the town. We have a hairdressing salon, we own the local newspaper and we are farmers as well. I feel that I can vouch for a lot of people in small communities because we see how the ripple effects come down the line. At the moment, with the cutbacks, we are probably producing only about 30 per cent. The cutbacks appear to be 30 per cent from the top, but we are putting out only 30 per cent of our normal quota. As hard as—

Mr NEVILLE —You have dropped by 30 per cent or you are down to 30 per cent?

Mrs Hall —Down to 30 per cent. We are producing only about 30 per cent at the current time. We have been in touch with our finance brokers and people like that to see if we can work with the banks, which are not always easy to work with, to see if we can postpone payments. They are aware of the huge amount of investment that people like us have. Our equipment costs are so high.

Mr CHEESEMAN —In your business, how much capital would you have tied up in plant and machinery, roughly?

Mrs Hall —At the moment we have approximately $2 million worth of equipment. We have some of that on the market—actually it is all on the market at the moment, if anyone wants to buy anything. We would prefer to not sell some of it, but if somebody will buy it then that will help us out of a sticky situation. We had some people contact us from Victoria. They visited us and looked at our machines and other machines. A situation that we talked about mentioning here today is that, yes, one of our machines is worth about $350,000 and someone will take it, but the banks will not lend the money. We have another situation. One benefit of having a hairdressing salon is that you talk to people all day. A local young person, like our son, is only in his early 30s. In our area we have about three or four contractors who are all quite young. They have young families and are starting in the industry. We might be a little bit more established, but we fear for those. That young fellow is ready to buy a contract that is for sale, and he said, ‘The banks just won’t lend us the money.’ Perhaps the governments can somehow assist at this present time, especially for our young contractors. The contracting workforce is like us and getting towards retirement. Perhaps you could help there.

CHAIR —I do not have the details here, but Craig Emerson is the minister for small business. Recently he met with all the banks to talk about this very issue. He has established a clearinghouse for specific examples of where small businesses are having difficulty with the banks to access credit. He is very keen to hear that hard evidence. I will ask Jodie, through her office, to provide you with that. People need to be aware, if they are making themselves known, that it will go directly to certainly the four big banks. They will be asked some questions by the minister as to why the situation has occurred. Their name will be out there, so they will obviously need to consider privacy issues in relation to that. That is happening at the moment.

Mr NEVILLE —Not just them but the subcontractors too.

Mrs Hall —Yes.

Mr CHEESEMAN —I have some follow-up questions. That must be placing a huge amount of stress on particularly younger businesses that have a lot of money tied up in plant and equipment and are struggling to generate work at the moment to pay down the capital to the banks. Are you starting to hear about contractors going bankrupt as a consequence of the lack of volume of work and not being able to pay off assets?

Mrs Hall —As a generalisation, yes, but, regarding specific people, no. I am also on the board of our Forest Contractors Association. It has been clearly evident for some time that some of our contractors are struggling. This will just tip them over. We just hope that we are not one of those. It is certainly very real. We have experienced it over many years; we have been involved for over 30 years: we have peaks and troughs in the forest industry. It is just one of those things. We tend to accept that, whether we like it or not. Certainly this situation has been something that we have not had to deal with before. In our personal situation, in a small community people know you. The storm that came through recently has actually, sadly, been advantageous to us because we have work for an excavator for a week—cleaning trees off fence lines and things like that. Even though my husband seems to be a bit slack at doing fencing on our own farm, he has made himself available to do some fencing for somebody else, because it is an extra few dollars to help along the way. I think we are resilient, as Eva mentioned. I think we try harder in these tough times. I certainly feel for our young contractors. Like I said, our own son is one of those. You hate to see them having to go through these tough times as well, but we can only support one another and try to get through. That is our situation.

CHAIR —I encourage you, through Jodie as well, to use Enterprise Connect as well. That is a program to help small to medium enterprises with advice about business planning and things like that, but there are also some grants available through there. We also have departmental people here, though not in an official capacity. We have both a Centrelink and an education, employment and training department person. There may be some programs that I have neglected to mention that they might provide you some access to, so I encourage you to grab both of those people before you go.

Mrs Hall —I always try to finish on a positive note. Jodie is aware, too, that there are three or four—several and probably more—of our local contracting or timber industry people who have recently received grants as part of the latest stimulus package, which is very exciting for our area. Other than the large companies, my estimation is that there are about 30 small businesses just in the north-east area of Tasmania where we come from who are forest industry businesses, whether that is silviculture, processing, nurseries or a whole range of different things, and we are very grateful that some of those people have received funding through the grants system.

Mr RAGUSE —An observation: because of the information we have received from other sectors in which they are still showing positive results, it is interesting that your industry has got to a point where the reality is that the rubber has hit the road. What was the period of time from seeing it on the horizon to it hitting and then having to deal with it? Was it very quick?

Ms Down —It probably started by November. There were initial talks on cutting back quotas for the export chip market. They reduced to about 80 per cent going into Christmas. We traditionally have a two-week break. Most sawmills will stop for two weeks at Christmastime, as well. Just before people started back up that was slashed again, and this was driven from Japan. They were trying to manage it. They thought if they brought it back to 80 per cent then we could just keep ticking over. Then Japan basically said, ‘No, we can’t take anymore,’ so they cut a lot of people back to 40 per cent quotas, which is unsustainable with their businesses. Some businesses, to try to manage that, are running one week on, one week off. Some are running four-day weeks. The companies, as well, are trying to be as flexible as they possibly can because we know that once it picks back up we will need these people to be operating. We cannot afford for these small contractors to go out of business, because we need them in the long-term future.

Mr RAGUSE —It is a significant downturn. Projections are very difficult for anyone. Has the industry been saving themselves from worse pain by scaling back so quickly now or is this—

Ms Down —No, it was immediate from Japan. We had boats told they were not coming. There were boats that were scheduled to come in and take woodchip off the docks, and they said these boats would not be coming. It was that immediate. I know that all the companies involved who have extensively travelled back over to Japan to try to find solutions to these problems. While I am not involved in any of those types of negotiations, discussions or anything like that, I know that the companies, the same as Forestry Tasmania, are acutely aware of maintaining these contractors.

Mr CHEESEMAN —I have just one final question and it is to you, Karen, in your role as a hairdresser rather than someone directly involved in the timber community. Have you noticed as a consequence of what is happening in some of these timber communities that you are getting fewer clients coming in for haircuts and colours? They might be coming in less often, adding a couple of weeks between visits. Are you noticing that in the business that you have?

Mrs Hall —Yes, we do notice that, but of course we like to blame the financial crisis instead of the opposition for that. Yes, you do see it and, because you pretty much know everybody in a little town—and we are a town of 2½ thousand people—you know that their fringes have grown much longer and people are holding on for a bit longer. We are hoping that the stimulus package might have a little bit of something in it to help with that.

Mr CHEESEMAN —I am sure that will help pick up things a bit.

Mrs Hall —We are in the same situation with apprentices as well. Our apprentices have finished their training now and the pressure is on me to sign up another one. I have to be honest, I do not know whether to sign up another one or not. I am only one example of that and I know, from talking to other small business people involved with our local chamber of commerce, that they are in a situation where a lot of businesses would like to put young people on. Listening to the session previously, I could see that it certainly is an advantage to employers in that retail sector especially, because it is one I am most familiar with, that if there is some sort of assistance then it certainly does encourage businesses to do that. Somebody has to take over when I am too old—though I do not know when that is going to be—

CHAIR —Thank you for the evidence you have presented here today. If you can provide the statement that you made at the start to the secretariat, I will undertake to directly pass the evidence you have given onto the relevant ministers, because I think there are some practical suggestions that you have made and it is important that they are heard now rather than waiting until the committee reports by the end of the year. Those suggestions need to get through immediately. I would encourage you to talk to your local federal member about those things as well. Hansard will provide you with a proof copy of the transcript of your evidence before the hearing. The secretariat might write to you also if we have any further questions on part of the evidence that you have presented today. Thank you very much for appearing before the committee.

Ms Down —I just have one more comment to make and it is not just timber industry specific. It is about maintaining—and Karen and I spoke about it—things like people’s mental health. I do not know how in this capacity you can influence that but obviously it is important to ensure that those facilities are available to people within their local and rural communities. Everywhere seems to be a rural area in Tasmania and we do have trouble attracting doctors and healthcare professionals to our rural areas. I know that there is a big push and an awareness of the problems with the drought and farmers, but I also know in just talking to people that they do not know what to do. They just know how to work; they do not know how to cope with not working, and I think that is something that may sometimes be overlooked. That there is also support that can be extended to people is important. If there is nothing else they can do, they need to know that there is support to help them cope with that situation.

CHAIR —Thank you. We certainly received evidence about the importance of the arts and community infrastructure and exactly that issue in terms of the downturn, so it is very helpful to have that reiterated today. Thank you again for appearing before us.

 [2.44 pm]