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Macquarie Point Woodchip Export Deal Suspicious

15 September 2016

Thursday 15 September 2016

Ms O'CONNOR question to MINISTER for RESOURCES, Mr BARNETT

[10.12 a.m.]

As you know, the EOI process for native forest woodchip exports opened in June last year.  On 8 July this year your predecessor as minister, Mr Gutwein, announced that the terms of these contracts for woodchip exports had been agreed to.  Yesterday you announced the successful proponent for the export of 180 000 tonnes of native forest woodchips and other native forest products from Macquarie Point - Majestic Timbers Australia Pty Ltd.  An ASIC search undertaken by the Greens confirms that Majestic Timbers Australia did not register as a company until 18 July, 10 days after Mr Gutwein, as minister, had stated that terms had been agreed to with proponents for the export of woodchips from Macquarie Point.  If the successful proponent, the mysterious newborn company, Majestic Timbers, did not exist until after terms had been agreed, who were you negotiating with?  Can you confirm that former Liberal minister, John Barker, was involved in these negotiations?  Can you explain to the House who is behind Majestic Timbers Australia and how it can be that your Government was agreeing to terms with a company that did not yet exist?

ANSWER

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her question.  It is coming from somebody who is perhaps, with respect to the forest industry, one of the biggest opponents and who was responsible, together with her Labor colleagues in government, for trashing the forest sector and losing two out of three jobs in the forest sector.  It is a great shame.  You are an enemy of jobs in the forest sector.  You are an enemy of the forest sector.  Of course you have been referred to as an extremist, not just in the forest sector but also in the tourism sector.  You are a dark-green extremist.  This question is coming from you, which should be noted.

With respect to the southern residues solution, I made it very clear yesterday in this House that we have achieved a solution to one of the great challenges for the Government that was left by the Labor-Greens government: what to do with the southern native forest residues after the disastrous Labor-Greens years when they aided and abetted in the sale and destruction of the Triabunna woodchip mill.

Majestic Timbers Australia will take up to 180 000 tonnes annually for export in containers from Hobart's Macquarie Wharf to markets in South-East Asia.  Up to another 150 000 tonnes a year will go to Les Walkden Enterprises, which will transport the residues to Bell Bay for processing and export.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker.  Standing order 182 says the member shall not digress from a subject matter.  The question was very simple: who are Majestic Timbers?

Madam SPEAKER - Standing order 182 does not apply to question time.  Please quote the Standing Orders that relate to question time.  The minister will resume.

Mr BARNETT - Thank you, Madam Speaker.  In response to the question, as far as I am aware, the agreement was negotiated with Forestry Tasmania.  As far as I aware, the principals were in the process of finalising their corporate structure.  That is not unusual.  Corporate structures change.  Entities change from time to time, so it is very clear that the negotiations were continuing for some time.  Their corporate structure has changed, so what is the big deal?

What we do know is that this member is an antagonist.  She is an opponent of the forest sector.  Ms O'Connor is critical because investment, exports, confidence and jobs are up -  and the shrill criticisms from this member are also up. 

In conclusion, to the best of my knowledge, John Barker was not involved in this project.