Tuesday 24 June 2014

Hansard of the Legislative Council



Referral to Government Administration Committee B -

Forestry (Rebuilding the Forest Industry) Bill 2014 (No. 6)


Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, I have waxed and waned with my opinion of where I should go with my vote. I feel that there needs to be closer scrutiny in a committee. I was against the last minute committee scrutiny of last year's Tasmanian Forests Agreement legislation because I strongly supported the TFA. I saw the move for a committee as a delaying tactic, as I expressed at the time. I believed the TFA offered an agreed way forward for the industry. Everyone gave up something in the years of negotiation. It was a long process and the result offered hope.

Here we are dealing with a quickly cobbled together replacement in which I have no confidence. I believe we need committee scrutiny this time. There is no hurry; according to the Government we have until 2020.

There are some issues I want to have resolved to my satisfaction:

First, the rationale behind the mechanisms for exchanging future potential forest production land and present forest production areas.

Second, the additional costs of managing future potential production forest land in the context of the existing budget framework should be considered.

Third, the impact of providing access to regional reserves and conservation areas for harvesting of specialty timbers should be carefully examined from the perspective of impacts on conservation values, the impact on Forestry Tasmania's FSC aspirations and the potential cost to the taxpayer.

Fourth, the adequacy of specialty timber resources from existing production forests need to be clarified. If reasonable supply was established by the 2013 agreement, there would be no justification for allowing access to FPPF land or existing reserves.

Fifth, it would be valuable to establish whether any empirical data measuring the scope, economic impact and employment benefits of the special timber sector has been collated.

This bill again throws the Tasmanian forestry industry into a state of uncertainty. There is uncertainty about the Forestry Stewardship Council certification, about protest action in the forests, about international markets, and over production forests in the TFA reserves areas if there is a change of government. We cannot possibly look at this bill without looking at our forestry industry in the context of the future of forestry in Tasmania and we cannot do that until we see the state Budget in August. Here we have a GBE which, some would argue, is bankrupt. We have a state government which says Forestry Tasmania will no longer be subsidised with taxpayers' money. Whatever happens to the state's forestry industry, Forestry Tasmania with its long established expertise, must play an important role. Hopefully, the delayed state Budget on 28 August will provide some clarity.

I do not believe that we should vote on this bill until after that date. I am looking to a mechanism, whether it is this motion, the one that the honourable member for Mersey attempted to put forward, or the position espoused by the honourable member for Rumney of 'let us wait and see after the briefings what occurs and how the members feel during that process'. During the period until then, committee hearings into the wider implications of this bill would be in the interests of the forest industry and the Tasmanian economy in the future. At this time I will support the motion.