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Forestry Tasmania's Financial Loss

Parliamentary Activity - Wednesday, 26 October 2016, Cassy O'Connor MP


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

In its advice to you tabled yesterday, the FT board makes it clear they cannot meet the stated objectives of your Government and also fulfil their legal obligation under the GBE Act to operate commercially. The board makes a number of recommendations that would enable it to operate commercially, including winding back the minimum saw log quota, recalculating sustainable yield, enabling more access to private forests, and confirmation that subsidies will continue, yet you have rejected all of these with a threat to log the high-conservation value forests. Given FT's massive loss of $67 million this past financial year, the fact the wood sells at below the cost of operation in contracts that taxpayers underwrite, which are locked in for years, do you agree that every time a native forest tree is felled it comes at a cost to the taxpayer? Your ministerial statement today will no doubt be an effort to look like your government is doing something. Is it not a fact industrial native forest logging will never be profitable or unsubsidised and that you are just shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic?

 

ANSWER

Madam Speaker, I am delighted to receive that question from the Greens member for Denison. It is a veiled threat to highlight the Greens' policy to shut down the forest sector in Tasmania. They have a policy to stop native forest harvesting across all Tasmania, to cause thousands of jobs to be lost in rural and regional Tasmania. This is the Greens' strategy for the forest industry.

The sad thing is that in the previous parliament the Labor Party sold its soul to appease their Greens mates to lock up more of Tasmania. As a result of those shameful lock-ups and the grubby deals done behind closed doors between Labor and the Greens and other key stakeholders, they have locked up that resource.

The advice we have received from Forestry Tasmania makes it clear that one of the options, which has been referred to by Ms O'Connor, is to reduce the resource to be made available to the processors by 25 per cent. The impact of that is 700 job losses throughout rural and regional Tasmania. That is one of the options but it is an option we will not accept. What we have is a plan for growth.

Members interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order. The interjections will cease.

Mr BARNETT - We have a plan for growth and development. We have continued growth in the forest sector where already we have seen under the Hodgman Liberal Government an increase in investment and jobs -

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker. I think it is standing order -

Madam SPEAKER - Order. Members will not start points of order before I call them. The minister was not aware there was a point of order.

Ms O'CONNOR - The minister is unaware of many things.

Madam SPEAKER - Order.

Ms O'CONNOR - My point of order is on standing order 96. I did ask the minister to tell us whether he agrees that every time a native forest tree is felled in Tasmania it costs taxpayers money, but he has not got anywhere near the subsidies. He is answering the question in the same way he answers every question on forests.

Madam SPEAKER - Order. Members know my ruling. It was lengthy question with a number of parts. A minister is allowed a certain time to answer a question and get to the point of addressing numerous questions. If you open that door, the minister is entitled to use up that time to attempt to answer those numerous questions.

Mr BARNETT - The member does not like the answer that has been offered to her. That is the reason she is taking points of order and protesting furiously. She wants to close down the forest sector and see jobs lost throughout rural and regional Tasmania. This is something we simply do not support.

The advice from Forestry Tasmania makes it very clear. One of the options would be to reduce resource security and the resource made available to the processors throughout rural and regional Tasmania by 25 per cent and the advice is they are simply not making money on that timber. We do not want to perpetuate ongoing subsidies being pumped into Forestry Tasmania - more than $100 million over the last four years of the previous Labor- Greens government. Under the Hodgman Liberal Government Forestry Tasmania will be put onto a sustainable footing. Tasmanian taxpayers would want us to do that.

Members interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order. I am not going to continue to put up with this. If members want to have conversations across the Chamber, they can do it outside. It is terribly distracting to anyone attempting to answer a question. I do not know what has got into members today, or what is in the water at Parliament House today, but it has been consistent throughout question time. I am not going to continue to allow the constant disruption through interjections across the Chamber.

Mr BARNETT - Thank you, Madam Speaker. I will conclude because the Greens member for Denison does not like my answer. Let us make it very clear. We are acting in the public interest. We are acting in the interests of the taxpayer. We have a plan for growth for the forest sector throughout all of Tasmania -

Ms O'Connor interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order. I warn the honourable member for Denison, Ms O'Connor. I have just finished warning the House. If I am going to be disregarded and disrespected, members will be ejected.

Mr BARNETT - To conclude, we are concerned jobs in rural and regional Tasmania and their families. They were gutted under the previous government. They were torn apart. Families were split. Two out of every three forestry jobs were lost. They were thrown on the unemployment scrap heap. That is not something we support. In fact, the Tasmanian people sent the message in spades. And what is the response from those on the other side? What will they do? How will they respond to this plan for growth, development and jobs in the forest sector going forward?