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Matter of Public Importance - Forestry and Mining Jobs in North-West Tasmania

21 June 2018

Ms O'CONNOR (Denison - Leader of the Greens) – Mr Deputy Speaker, Mr Brooks, as the member for Braddon, does his community a terrible disservice because he recycles the same speech over and over again. This morning in the office when the question went out what do you reckon the matter of public importance debate is, we all knew it would be Mr Brooks talking about jobs on the north-west coast. It is the only narrative that he has to offer. He does it for politics and he does not put forward any positive solutions for jobs on the north-west coast. In a staggering display of Trump-ism, he completely misrepresents the jobs in the sectors that he was talking about. That is according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics own data.

In the categories of forestry and logging, forestry support services, log sawmilling and timber dressing, other wood product manufacturing, pulp paper and converted paper product manufacturing, pulp paper and paper board manufacturing and converted paper product manufacturing, jobs in all these categories in Tasmania in February 2018 totalled 2200, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. In February 2014, before this Government took office, there were 3500 jobs in those forestry sectors. On the Liberal's watch, 1100 forestry jobs have been lost. That is the fact. The average number of forestry jobs across the Government's entire last term was 2900 and under the previous Labor-Greens government, as we worked through some of these very difficulty issues to transition an industrial native forest logging industry, the average number of forestry jobs was 3400.

Likewise, in February 2018, the total hours worked in these forestry sectors was 75 600, compared to 143 400 - nearly twice as many hours in February 2014. The average hours worked per quarter during the last term was 107 600 and under the Labor-Greens government, the average number of hours worked was 126 700. Mr Brooks, the numbers destroy your own false narrative.

Yesterday during Mr Jaensch's Budget reply - Mr Brooks' fellow member for Braddon - we had a beautiful little piece of Trumpism. Sean Spicer would have been proud. The minister said:

“When our population in a region such as Braddon looks around for evidence of economic growth, things like the number of trucks on the road, the traffic going through our ports and the new products emerging from the Elphinstone Group Manufacturing facilities on our coast, give them real confidence, more than any statistics or claims that government might make.”

Lies, damned lies and statistics. This sounds like the minister, a minister of the Crown, presenting alternative facts, and we know where alternative facts come from. Straight out of the Donald Trump playbook. It is an alternative fact narrative. It is a poor minister and a poor government that ignores inconvenient facts and blows ahead with policies that compromise the development of regional areas in exchange for populist votes.

The minister went on to give a huge spiel about how these old industries are fantastic, how they are known and trusted. Again, this is a false hope narrative. This Government has had four years to prove it can increase employment in forestry. It has overseen a workforce that has had its head count cut by a third and its hours worked cut in half. Part of the reason for this is because there is a minister, the Minister for Resources, who is ideologically superglued to the old ways and a false hope narrative.

When you have look at the statistics, where is the growth in forestry? As Dr Broad said, it is in the plantation sector. It is in forest stewardship certification products. But we do not hear that from Mr Barnett because his approach to this portfolio has been to take a false narrative, whip up false hope in the community, and use it to bash the Greens. It is the same old playbook used by Mr Brooks. Anyone rational who looks at the position of the north-west coast and where the future jobs are must know it is in sectors that are dependent on the protection of our clean, green, natural wilderness brand. If we had a party in government that was sincere about long-term jobs on the north-west coast, it would establish a Tarkine National Park, just as the Southwest National Park has been an absolute economic boom to Strahan. If you have an iconic national park that has a brand and a marketing budget attached to it, you bring long-term, sustainable jobs to a region.

In this year's state Budget, $20 million has been set aside for an iconic walk. If we had a government that was serious about delivering long-term sustainable jobs to the north-west coast and whipping up false hope narratives, they would locate that walk in the Tarkine because it is exactly what the north-west corner of Tasmania needs, that beautiful part of our island. Imagine if we had a government that was sincere and could invest that $20 million, deliver an iconic walk to the north-west of Tasmania and make sure that young people, particularly on the north-west coast, have a long-term, sustainable future.

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