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Plantation and regrowth Forestry: a diversity of opportunity: address to the Australian Forest Growers' conference, Lismore, NSW

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Australian Department of Primary Industries & Energy

The Hon John Anderson MP Federal Minister for Primary Industries and Energy Address to the Australian Forest Growers’ conference,

Plantation and Regrowth Forestry: A Diversity of Opportunity,

Lismore City Hall, NSW, 7 July 1998

It is a great pleasure for me to be invited to this Australian Forest Growers Conference and to be with you tonight.

I welcome the opportunity to be among you, if only briefly, to share your conference and to focus on the exciting potential for private forest growers.

As Minister for Primary Industries and Energy, there have been a few fundamental objectives I have been pursuing:

• one is to encourage and build leadership in rural and regional Australia, to enable industries and communities to take their future into their own hands;

• another is to provide the best possible policy and economic framework that I can, to enable rural industries to build their own prosperity; and

• another is to provide maximum opportunity for farmers to diversify their incomes and manage the risks which are inherent in farming.

In many ways, these three fundamental objectives find a focus in your Conference here in Lismore.

First, you are pioneers - you are leaders in an exciting new part of farming in Australia - and I commend you for it.

Secondly, in forestry, I believe the Government's will stand any scrutiny in terms of the progress we have made with the policy and specific achievements.

Thirdly, farm forestry and plantations represent an extremely important new possibility for farmers to diversify their portfolio of activity, develop a new stream of income and at the same time address fundamentally important land management and conservation objectives for agriculture in Australia.

This is an after dinner address and I am conscious that you have had a full day and have two more to go, but let me develop each of these three themes a little with you tonight.

We hear a lot about leadership these days.

For some, leadership seems to mean an authoritarian style, dictating direction and action. For others, they want a 'Chairman of the Board' who can gather people together and develop a consensus.

For me. leadership has to start with men and women who have principles and integrity.

It requires men and women who have the best interests of their industries and communities at heart; who have a vision of where they want to be; and who are prepared to work constructively and openly with all stakeholders, listening to the variety of viewpoints and melding that understanding into initiatives and solutions that are forward looking and durable.

I believe country people have these attributes. Many have been shaped and matured in the crucible of harsh and difficult times. They understand what it means to pull together and persevere to achieve desired goals.

I am conscious that those of you leading the farm forestry sector are playing a pioneering role. A recent survey has found that less than 5 per cent of farmers currently planting trees are doing so for commercial reasons.

You are part of a small band. But it is a band that is growing and one we want to encourage much further.

I urge you to maintain your leadership role. 09/10/1998

But leadership is one thing, what about the policy settings and commitment of Government.

Let me say that this Government has made an investment in the future of rural and regional Australia which is unparalleled in the post-war era. We have committed over $2 billion to rural Australians including through:

• the Agriculture - Advancing Australia package; • the National Heritage Trust; • reform of quarantine and inspection; • investment in rural telecommunications; and • reform of industry sectors such as meat, wheat and forests.

And on forests, there is a very positive story to tell.

Forests is an area that has been of particular interest to me. When I became Minister, I had a very deep commitment to get forest policy back on an even keel; to get it off the front page of the newspapers; to sort out the mess with woodchip licences and to get on with helping to build a viable industry.

The fact that people do not know that I am the 'Minister for Forests' is, in my view, a mark of my success. Everyone knew my predecessors because they were so dogged by controversy.

We are pursuing a very deliberate and very coherent forest policy.

The National Forest Policy Statement which was agreed by the Commonwealth and eventually all the States, provides the framework for our forests activity.

The level of this Government's commitment to the forest and wood products industries is reflected in more than $350 million which we will spend through beyond the year 2000 - including on RFAs, structural adjustment and industry development, Plantations 2020 and Farm Forestry, the Wood and Paper Industry Strategy, the NET, international actions and Research and Development.

This is a massive commitment to this industry. It is a comprehensive and integrated approach and one of which, as Minister, I am proud.

On the RFAs, which are always topical and which will be very important in this area of NSW, let me say that I am absolutely focussed on, and committed to, achieving balanced outcomes which will give certainty and security to the forest industries and the communities on which they depend.

One important source of this security comes from the RFAs being accepted as credible and scientifically robust. I want to emphasise the Federal Government is committed to this for the RFAs in New South Wales.

At this important stage in the development of the RFAs for northern NSW, I want to assure you I will insist the information collected in the assessments meets the standards we have insisted upon in other States. We will not accept 'shonky' data.

A further element of the Federal Government's commitment to certainty and security is the legislation I introduced on 30 June. This legislation fulfils the Government's pledge to give security to industry by confirming that woodchip licences and various pieces of Commonwealth environmental legislation will not apply in regions where RFAs are negotiated.

Compensation will be paid to those who might suffer as a result of any future Commonwealth action which would be in breach of an RFA.

This is a landmark piece of legislation. It is another key plank in the Government's policy of delivering a strong foundation for the growth and prosperity of the forest and wood product industries.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I also wanted to mention the Plantations 2020 Vision. This policy is about seeking to clear impediments and regulatory difficulties, and getting information out so landowners can make informed, economically sensible decisions.

It is about building a sustainable and profitable industry which is internationally competitive in the global marketplace. There are challenges for all players involved, for the large-scale industrials as well as smaller-scale commercially focused farm forestry.

Many of you will by now have met the National Coordinator, Mr Richard Stanton, who is here at the Conference and who has been working hard with rural and regional communities, with local, State and Commonwealth Governments, and with industry to put the Vision into action.

Action that along the way is estimated to inject of $3 billion of private investment and provide up to 40,000 jobs for rural and regional Australia.

You will also know plantations and farm forestry represent a sustainable use of the land. Plantations can bring large scale landcare and environmental benefits, including substantial greenhouse benefits.

The outcome of last year's Kyoto Conference regarding the planned reduction in greenhouse gas emissions provides

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yet another potentially exciting opportunity for the forestry sector.

Trees acting as greenhouse sinks, absorbing gases from the atmosphere, and being given a carbon credit which might be traded is a potential new source of income for farmers. There is still a long way to go in developing any emissions trading arrangements domestically or internationally, and there are many questions still to be answered - but the

prospect is there and the Government is actively addressing these issues.

The third area I wanted to mention was the diversification of farm activity and farm income. And this is where your industry comes into its own.

Ladies and Gentlemen, as I move around Australia I see the evidence in some areas of poor land management and declining profitability on rural properties. In many of these areas I am convinced it is essential we speed up the cultural change needed to capture the economic, social and environmental benefits available to us through plantations and farm forests.

I believe that the Government can play a positive role.

Our approach today is very different from past efforts. We aim to stimulate the application of forestry technology to increase the value of farm businesses, to improve the overall prospects for rural communities, and to make a measurable contribution to improving the environment and rural landscape.

The Government has a role to assist, particularly in getting the settings right for investment and providing information to enable landholders to make balanced decisions.

I know many of you are interested in taxation issues. Some progress has been made towards addressing the taxation impediments that have in the past affected the development of plantation and farm forestry.

The Commonwealth has passed legislation to ensure only the net proceeds of plantation sales are taxable and has released a draft ruling to clarify the tax treatment of plantation investment schemes.

The Australian Taxation Office is working to resolve the remaining capital tax gains issues as agreed under the Wood and Paper Industry Strategy, but unfortunately we are not there yet. My Department is working closely with Australian Forest Growers to ensure the views of smaller growers are taken into account in these deliberations.

Farm forestry therefore is serious business - it is an important area of investment for the Natural Heritage Trust through the Farm Forestry Program. Approximately $41 million will be provided under the NET, increasing substantially funds committed under the Wood and Paper Industry Strategy.

In the coming weeks I hope to announce the details of up to $6 million in funding for new and continuing state and regional farm forestry projects as part of the 1998 round of the NHT. This will include significant funding for the development of farm forestry in lower rainfall zones.

I see improving the management and use of private native forest as an important step in the development of farm forestry. I recently agreed to expand objectives the Farm Forestry Program to include sustainable management and use of private native forest and woodland.

Australian Forest Growers should be applauded for its strong support in bringing about this policy progression. I note, that Australian Forest Growers has used the occasion of this conference to release its new policy on the sustainable management of private native forests. I welcome this valuable contribution to the greater recognition of the private forest resource in public policy.

Indeed, more generally, I would like to pay tribute not only to AFG, but also to Plantations Australia, the National Association of Forest Industries, Greening Australia and the National Farmers' Federation, all of whom have been great supporters of farm forestry, displaying tremendous industry and community leadership.

National leadership and communication is also being advanced by the recently established Farm Forestry Roundtable Chaired by Mr Angus Pollock. The Roundtable will be meeting at the conclusion of this conference to further progress a National Farm Forestry Accord and a National Farm Forestry Framework. These initiatives will seek to build commitment for farm forestry across the broad range of stakeholders.

One of the best ways of encouraging landholders to consider farm forestry as an option is by practical example. It is my pleasure to officially launch tonight two new publications produced with support from the Commonwealth's Farm Forestry Program.

The first of these, Greening Australia's Growing Successfully: Australian Experiences with Farm Forestry, provides 18 different examples of farmer ingenuity in various climatic regions. The authors are to be commended on their excellent work.

The publication has been produced to show that farm forestry can address land degradation and the loss of healthy, productive land while providing an alternative income source for farmers and landholders.

Some of the farmers studied operate individually while others work in collaboration with neighbours, industry or government.

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I believe these stories will inspire other farmers to think about how farm forestry may be successfully applied to their property.

I found the concluding chapter on the landholders' recipe for success especially interesting. It lists seven factors contributing to success, including a willingness for continual learning and to share information which assists in managing risk. These factors are certainly relevant to any primary industry enterprise, and are worth bearing in mind whatever field we are in.

I'd also like to introduce another new publication. Australian Forest Growers has just published a booklet Getting started in farm forestry, and it is my pleasure to announce the release of this booklet tonight.

Getting started in farm forestry provides an introduction to all the principles and steps involved in starting up a successful farm forestry enterprise, and leads the reader to other sources of more detailed, specialist advice.

Both of these new publications are available for the first time at this conference. They deserve to enjoy a wide readership, and I commend them to you, your neighbours and colleagues.

Another valuable project assisted through the Farm Forestry Program is a starter kit for treegrowers co-operatives to be released by Australian Forest Growers later this year.

Co-operatives are widely seen as the most common way for regional groups of small private forest growers to aggregate their wood flows in order to strengthen their negotiating position in the forest products markets, and are a specific target for encouragement under the Plantations 2020 Vision.

While I am drawing attention to documents I would like to mention additional funding has been secured for the National Forest Inventory to the year 2001 and the scope of its activities expanded to cover the farm forestry sector. The details can be found in the Strategic Plan I am releasing today.

Fadies and gentlemen, on taking office the Government aimed to get the settings right for private investment and deliver prosperity for the nation.

We have delivered on inflation; we have delivered on interest rates; we have delivered on getting the national budget out of the red and into the black and retiring debt.

Equally, I know at the moment that some are doing better than others in rural and regional Australia. And that is why I see farm forestry and plantations providing our rural communities with important future growth opportunities.

By 2001 the RFAs will be bedded down; the Farm Forestry Program investment will have stimulated major change in farming across Australia; and the Plantations Vision 2020 will have cleared away many of the impediments to investment and seen planting increased.

As these initiatives come to fruition private industry and landholders should have the confidence to grasp emerging opportunities and build a stronger forest and wood products industry in Australia. From what I have seen of this sector of the community I know you have the drive and ability to meet the challenges ahead.

I would like to congratulate the Australian Forest Growers on the impressive program and array of delegates assembled for this conference. I wish you well for the proceedings over the remaining two days.

Thank you.


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