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Jobs and Investment

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Tags: Tasmanian Forest Agreement

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Deputy Speaker, of course we will not be supporting this garbage motion either. It was not put forward with the intention of anyone but Labor supporting it. It is not an attempt to be constructive or collaborative or to advance policy interests in the interests of the people of Tasmania. It is nothing more than positioning and politicking. It is riddled with untruths, as was Ms White's speech on the motion.

I am not going to talk on this very long, because it is such an inane motion. It is a waste of parliament's time, but there are just a few things that I want to say.

The Tasmanian Forest Agreement, Mr Ferguson, was an agreement that was actually struck between the timber industry's leaders and the leaders of the conservation movement. It was the timber industry that came to government in 2010 when David Bartlett was the premier and asked for help from government to coordinate a process that would assist the industry to have a sustainable future.

It was a long, fraught and difficult process. There were times when it seemed like resolution could not be reached and compromise could not be reached. Compromise in politics is not a dirty word. It is really important that when we are negotiating for an outcome we are prepared to give and take. That is what the Tasmanian Forest Agreement was. It was a flawed agreement. It was a compromise agreement, but ultimately it gave the industry, the timber industry, a path towards a sustainable future. There is clear evidence of that. Forestry Tasmania is still seeking forest stewardship certification because it knows that. It cannot sell its products in a sustainable way on global markets without FSC.

The Tasmanian Forest Agreement also removed the loggers from half a million hectares of high conservation value carbon-banking forests. The Tasmanian Forest Agreement also extended the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area which is integral to our wilderness brand; which draws visitors here from all over the world, who recognise there is no place on earth like Tasmania.

This garbage that is coming from both sides of the House denies the truth of the positives that came out of the Tasmanian Forest Agreement. It gave industry a measure of certainty for the future. It provided pathways out of unsustainable logging practices. It established the wonderful worldleading globally recognised Derby Mountain Bike experience. It funded the new Hydrowood industry and helped us to chart a path through 30-years of conflict over native forest logging in Tasmania.

Surely, every member in this place wants us to be debating issues that affect the lives of Tasmanians, not constantly fighting and fighting over issues that with people sitting down at the table and negotiating in good faith, we can find a path through. That is what the Tasmanian Forest Agreement was and it was requested in the first instance, not by the conservation movement but by the industry which was on its knees and bleeding after the collapse of Gunns, which happened under a Labor majority government. I am not going to have history rewritten about the Tasmanian Forestry Agreement.

Mr Ferguson - You did not mind the TAFE history, did you?

Ms O'CONNOR - The TAFE history is pretty clear. It was the Greens minister for education that restored TasTAFE after what was a well-intentioned but ultimately flawed policy to create a polytechnic. The minister made sure that TasTAFE was restored and to the greatest extent possible in the middle of a global financial crisis, funded adequately.

The problem we have with this Notice of Motion, apart from the fact that it is replete with untruths and designed only to make Labor feel good about itself, is that it is more evidence that Labor does not have any intention whatsoever to achieve anything positive in this term of the parliament. Labor has backed itself into a corner where it is at war with the Speaker; it is constantly at war with the Government; it has decided that the Greens are not worth communicating or working with in any way. Labor has retreated to the trenches. We have two and a half years until the next state election and Labor clearly has made a decision that it is worth being utterly useless in this place for the next two and half years in the hope that they will scrabble their way back into power in 2022.

To be honest, they do not deserve it yet. They are dishonest; they are hollow inside. They have no meaningful policy platform and they treat this place with contempt and by extension, treat the people who voted them into this place to do right by them, with contempt as well.

Let us go through the Notice of Motion that has been put forward by a Labor leader - after two and a half years in the job, this is the best that she can do. Condemns the Liberals and the Greens for failing to stand up for working people - that is completely untrue. Ms White pretends to be the champion of working people but we have not heard anything out of Ms White in two and a half years of any substance, about how jobs would be created in Tasmania. We have no plan from Labor on job generation or on how to protect the rights of working people.

If you are serious about looking after working people, you have to accept the science of global heating. There is a sign chalked up outside the Duke of Wellington Hotel, wonderful local pub, and it says, 'There are no jobs on a dead planet'. You cannot pretend to be serious about the lives of working people and Tasmanian communities if you are locked into a policy framework of climate denialism, and that is what it is.

Labor will hate being called climate deniers, but they are; you only have to look at their deeds. We have a Labor Government in Queensland that has given a big tick to the Adani mine and that last Friday afternoon, in an unprecedented move by any government in Australia, removed native title on the Carmichael mine lands. At a federal level of course you have Labor that is signing up to the Parliamentary Friends of Coal and at a state level, Labor's policy platform acknowledges that modelling 'suggests' climate change is happening.

No, Madam Deputy Speaker, the modelling confirms climate change is happening. The Amazon rainforest is on fire, as are the boreal forests of Siberia, while the Greenland ice sheet is melting at four times the rate that scientists told us it would. Only last week in Iceland they held a funeral service for the first glacier to disappear from the face of the Earth. Modelling does not suggest that climate change is happening. The modelling demands of us as policy makers to respond to the science. If we are serious about protecting working people, we must have a comprehensive plan to adapt and respond to climate change.

I have not heard a word about this from Ms White. I did not hear anything come out of her state conference speech on the need for this island to be climate-ready and climate-resilient. What have they done at state conference? They have buck-passed climate policy to national action. Then we had the in-house Labor scientist here, Dr Broad, suggesting that the recommendation of scientists to list two eucalypt species in Tasmania as critically endangered should be revoked. Labor has become an anti-science party.

Dr Woodruff - Because it gets in the way of irrigation circles.

Ms O'CONNOR - That is right. You cannot look after working people if you are not listening to the science, you just cannot. If you are serious about looking after working people and giving young people opportunities for the future, you recognise the increasing level of automation in industries like fish farming and forestry, and in a whole suite of areas where there are traditional blue-collar Labor voters you are seeing massive and accelerating automation of those industries and jobs being sloughed off in the name of profit. But we have heard nothing from Labor on those huge challenges facing our employment sector in Australia. There is a political point about Tasmania's unemployment rate and more carping about the Liberals, who have done nothing apparently in response to the loss of 5000 full-time jobs in the past year. I am not here to defend the Liberals.

Point 6 of the motion reads:

Agrees that when it comes to jobs the Greens are just as bad as the Liberals.

This remind me of being in high school when you had those bitchy little sessions where people would write nasty things about each other with no substance. There is no substance to that statement. Each year we put the time in to presenting an alternative budget which lays out a plan for Tasmania's future that extends past the next election, which is as far as the two parties in this House can see. It is a jobs-generating alternative budget that looks at this island through a climate lens, as we must if we are responsible policy makers. I am not going to cop that either.

There is a particular point here. Ms White is trying to make the point that the Greens have held back jobs and investment in Tasmania for decades. That is another lie. It is the conservation movement and the Greens that have spent decades defending wild Tasmania, defending the forests, defending our coastlines and strengthening Tasmania's clean, green brand. The first person to say the words 'clean and green' was Christine Milne back in the Wesley Vale days. Which sectors are wholly dependent on Tasmania's clean, green brand? The agricultural sector, which last time I checked is worth about $1.5 billion each year to Tasmania and is wholly dependent on our remarkable, wonderful, hard-fought, clean, green brand.

Madam Deputy Speaker, which other sector is wholly dependent on our brand? The tourism sector. People do not come here to see clear-felled coupes or dams where there used to be critically endangered species, or canal estates or fish farms ringing the coastline. They do not come here for that, they come here because they know there is nowhere in the world like Tasmania. Nowhere as beautiful and as wild, as quirky, as safe and as peaceful. When visitors are surveyed about why they come here, the word that is used most frequently by visitors to this island is 'wilderness'. They come here because of an ideal of Tasmanian wilderness, and yet we have two parties in this place that do not stay true to the ideal of wilderness or the fact that wilderness is something you could lose so easily and never get back.

We have been attacked by Labor and the Liberals for our opposition to the privatisation of public protected areas. There are plenty of science - I have had it at the Estimates table - which is very clear that wilderness requires protection and has attributes about remoteness and intactness which must be upheld or those places are no longer wilderness. Lake Malbena will no longer be a wilderness when you have between 100 and 200 chopper flights going in and out every year.

If Labor was serious about looking after regional jobs, they would be saying to private developers, 'Why don't you put your developments in the towns and regional centres that sit outside protected areas, so you can provide that stimulus into those communities and into those local and regional economies?' But no, we have a model under the expressions of interest process which will see wealthy tourists being flown into a spot - for example, let us say it is Lake Malbena. They will arrive at Launceston Airport, there will be a special transport by the developer to the location for the helicopter take-off and they will fly into Lake Malbena, stay there for a few days, and fly out.

There is no stimulus to regional economies through tourism developments that, like Ian Johnson's proposal for the south coast track, are remote from towns and centres that are crying out for stimulus. If you are serious about looking after regional Tasmania and the jobs in regional Tasmania, you will be directing private developers and commercial interests to build their tourism accommodations outside protected areas.

We would argue - and I say this to Luke Martin from the Tourism Industry Council often because he cannot help himself and devolves into kneejerk attacks on the Greens - the tourism industry should be on its knees thanking the conservation movement for the hard work of decades to protect what it is that makes this island unique in the world. Instead, what we get is environmentalists and the Greens being vilified. Well, we sleep pretty well at night, Madam Deputy Speaker. I sleep very well at night, knowing that my vote contributed towards the extension of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. I sleep very well at night knowing that my vote contributed towards the Tasmanian Forest Agreement, which gave the industry and this island, for the first time in decades, an opportunity to breathe out, an opportunity for peace, and to have a look at other ways of doing forestry.

Earlier this week I sat down with representatives of Forico and New Forests and it is exciting when you have ethical timber companies working in Tasmania with a sustainability lens, working in the plantation sector committed to reforestation, committed to real downstream processing. It is exciting, but how possible would it have been if we had not have signed up to the Tasmanian Forest Agreement? This is a junk motion and we will not be supporting it.