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TASMANIAN FORESTS INTERGOVERNMENTAL AGREEMENT

September 26, 2011

Mrs ARMITAGE ( Launceston ) - I will not go over a lot of the things that have been said. The Triabunna mill was on my agenda but I will leave that because I think it has been adequately mentioned by the member for Rumney.

 

I may not have many native forests or trees in my electorate of Launceston but I am sure that many in my electorate work in those areas and, of course, the economy is stable because of forestry. Tasmanian forests have been managed sustainably for hundreds of years and Tasmania has a history of productive land management which has made a significant contribution to the Tasmanian community. I agree that we need to support our Tasmanian forest industry workers and I support the motion to reject this IGA in its current form.

 

Forestry is an important industry along with agriculture, aquaculture, mining and tourism, all of which in turn support our retail trade and without them we do not have a retail trade. We need innovative sustainable land and resource management to grow the forest-based industries for future Tasmanians. I believe this IGA is a sellout of the forest industry.

 

Closing more native forests will have a major social and economic impact on Tasmania. We need surety and sustainability into the future. We cannot put all our emphasis on locking up this resource. There has to be a fair balance and a fair and level playing field. This will be challenging. However, this State cannot afford not to have sustainable forestry. We have to work out a measured balanced account to ensure the best possible outcome for everyone.

 

I have no doubt that the global financial crisis and Gunns' decision to pull out of native forests has severely hurt many contractors in Tasmania. This agreement is extremely short-sighted and certainly not the answer, offering very little for future generations who would normally depend on a vibrant forest industry. There will be the loss of mining royalties if mining is precluded too. We heard before about the amount of royalties that the Government receives, and we have all heard about the loss of nurses, the loss of police and the loss of schools. All that money is money coming in that simply is just paid to them.

 

This agreement, in my mind, fails to recognise that forestry plays an integral part in the economic, social and environmental fabric of Tasmania. I do not believe this IGA will deliver peace in the forests. It has been described as economic vandalism by Robert Wallace of the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and I think it is worth reading some of his comments into Hansard. I am sure many of you read his comments in the Tasmanian Business Reporter of September. The article reads:

 

'The intergovernmental Tasmanian Forests Agreement will have far-reaching ramifications for the entire economy and a holistic approach is needed to ensure the total impact now and into the future is considered.

 

The Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TCCI) says Tasmania should not be sold out for a few dollars now, without any consideration of how the agreement will result in reduced economic activity and fewer employment opportunities in the future.'

The article goes on to say:


'Robert Wallace said the employer body was not aligned with any group or sector in the forest debate and its views were based on the impact on the broader business sector and the Tasmanian community as a whole.

 

Mr Wallace said any deal must be good for the state now and in the future and not just for those currently working in the forestry sector.

 

'We appreciate that these are difficult times for people in forestry, particularly for those losing the jobs and those with sizable investments,' Mr Wallace said.

 

'They are entitled to be compensated if their livelihoods are removed but the agreement offers little for future generations who would normally depend on a vibrant forest industry.'

 

'On the surface, federal funding of $276 million may seem appealing.

 

'However, this funding is spread out over 15 years and is only a fraction of the $1.4 billion in annual income generated by the Tasmanian forestry industry and its flow-on activities.

'It is all very well to compensate existing generations of foresters but what about all future generations who will be prohibited from participating in a truly sustainable industry?''

He goes on:


''While the agreement may or may not solve a political problem for governments today, the reality is that if there is no industry there will be no jobs and we will be driving workers and wealth away from Tasmania.

 

'The fact is, the compensation being offered for regional development projects is little more than a pittance and will be worth next to nothing in 10 or 15 years' time.'

 

Mr Wallace said the final forests agreement was not the result of any Tasmanian grass-roots conservation movement or any real consideration of Tasmania's future.

 

'It was concocted to suit Bob Brown and Greens voters in the trendy cafes of Melbourne and Sydney with little interest in Tasmania or its people,' he said.

 

'Tasmania has become the plaything for mainland champagne-sipping Greens who would never accept the same level of economic vandalism in their own states.'

 

He goes on:


''Bob Brown and the Greens have sold out jobs and financial security for future generations of Tasmanians and the TCCI intends to fight this attempt to turn our state into an industry-free zone.


'The benefits to tourism from placing an extra 430,000 hectares in informal reserves will be marginal compared with the value of the forestry and wood products industry that will be devastated.

 

'Bob Brown argues that forest lock-ups benefit the state in tourism, quoting from a Federal Government report, Economic Activity of Australia's World Heritage Areas.

'This estimates the tourism value added of Tasmania's World Heritage Area at $304 million per year.

 

'If we take this argument to its logical extreme and extend the World Heritage Area to 46 per cent of the state covered by native forest, then the impact on tourism would be $688 million per year or $1352 per person, still less than half the value of our forestry and wood products industry.

 

'Tasmania does have a great future in tourism but not at the expense of other industries and opportunities.''

 

Ms Forrest - Not on its own.

 

Mrs ARMITAGE - Exactly.

 

'Mr Wallace said the Greens were arguing that tourism was Tasmania's panacea, yet they were intent on also imposing a carbon tax that would drive up the cost of flights and ferries in and out of our island state.

 

''The Tasmanian economy is in a period of transition, it always will be, but you cannot make an economy strong by closing parts of it down,' he said.

 

'And Tasmanians want jobs and dignity. They don't want to live on handouts''

 

I think that was evident when Hon. Tania Rattray mentioned that when people were ringing up to find out what was happening they were being told that they could get unemployment benefits.


Ms Rattray - For three years.

 

Mrs ARMITAGE - For three years.

 

Ms Rattray - Oh, excitement.

 

Mrs ARMITAGE - The article goes on:

 

' 'We grow trees very well in Tasmania and have built up considerable knowledge and intellectual property. This should not go to waste.

 

'The industry cannot rely on a few small sawmills. Volume creates efficiency and we need a broad forest sector that includes high-value sawmills.

 

'But with green groups also signalling that they will continue their forest protests, we could be left with the worst possible outcome - the selling out of a sustainable industry and ongoing resistance to development in Tasmania.' '

 

All that was from Robert Wallace, the CEO of TCCI.

 

Dare I say I believe the pendulum has swung too far and we really must consider the potential ramifications of this bill. I also have a copy of a letter - and I believe other members would have received it along with the letter from the Dorset Council - from Barry Easther, President of LGAT. He wrote to the Premier on 8 August. The letter reads:

 

'Local Government is deeply concerned about the plight of the forestry industry in Tasmania and the impacts on the State's future economic well being'.

 

He went on to mention that at the recent general meeting of the association the following motion was passed: -

 

'That LGAT strongly condemns any further lock up or reservation of Tasmania's State naturally regenerated forests and strongly opposes the proposal contained in the statement of forest principles -

 

'To transition the commodity forest industry out of public native forests'

That LGAT requests the State and Federal Governments to re-affirm their commitment to the Regional Forests Agreement.

 

That LGAT writes to the State and Federal Governments confirming its support for the Tasmanian Forest Industry and highlighting the economic benefits it brings to the State'.

 

I am not going to go on but I would like to finish with a comment that was in our local newspaper in the editorial on 14 August by the Editor, Martin Gilmore, which I think really sums it up. He states:

 

'Unlike the previous Regional Forest Agreement which was devised by science and thousands of hours of research, this latest Labor/Green attempt which will cripple Tasmania for generations is simply based on the political fancies of a minority and the political survival of two Labor governments'.

 

I am happy to support the motion before us.

 

 

 

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