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Premier – Climate Change

Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Monday, 6 June 2022

Tags: Climate Change

Ms O'CONNOR - Premier, I know you take a close personal interest in the issue of climate change and how we mitigate it. I also know you are aware of a paper that was recently released by researchers at Australian National University and Griffith University because we've brought it on for debate in the parliament. That paper shows that Tasmania is one of the first places on the planet that has been able to not just reach carbon neutrality but negative carbon status; that is, we sequester more than we emit. Do you agree with the researchers' contention that it is as a result of the forests that have been protected and that they found that the mitigation benefit from forest protection is about 22 million tonnes of CO2 a year? Do you agree that protecting our native forests is critical to our fight to bring down global emissions?

Mr ROCKLIFF - We already have the lowest emissions profile. Tasmania's emissions profile is the envy of the nation and indeed -

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you, Tasmanian Forest Agreement.

Mr ROCKLIFF - the world. We have achieved our target of net zero emissions in six of the past seven years. We have achieved our target for Tasmania to be 100 per cent self-sufficient in renewable electricity generation. In 2019 our net emissions were 108 per cent lower than 1990, while our economy has doubled and over 60 000 jobs have been created. Our Government will legislate a target of net zero emissions or lower from 2030, the most ambitious target in the country and one of the most ambitious in the world. The Climate Change (State Action) Amendment Bill 2021 will put in place a nation-leading framework on climate change.

Tasmania's enviable emissions status and our ambitious targets will deliver brand benefits and bring investment and jobs while strengthening everything we offer and produce here, including advanced manufacturing, hospitality and tourism, science, irrigation, agriculture, aquaculture and resources. Economic analysis demonstrates that actions to achieve our 2030 target will both grow our economy and create more jobs. Our Budget allocates significant funding towards action on climate change, which I am sure you would welcome.

There is almost $10 million over four years to deliver our next climate change action plan and $10 million over four years to replace the Government's ageing fleet of fossil fuel boilers. We have also increased our investment to transition the government fleet to 100 per cent electric vehicles by 2030 to $4.6 million. We are acting across our economy to reduce emissions including in our energy, transport, agriculture, industrial and waste sectors and we will continue to support industry businesses and our community to reduce emissions, adapt and become more resilient to the changing climate.

I have some information around timber -

Ms O'CONNOR - Do you want to call them forests or do you just want to call them timber like your colleague, Mr Barnett, does?

Mr ROCKLIFF - Our Government is a strong supporter of our renewable and sustainable native forest industry. Other governments in Victoria and Western Australia pursue their agendas. I read an article on ABC online in the last 24 hours of the impact in Western Australia, if my memory serves me correctly, of closing down the native forest industry there and the impact on jobs and families' livelihoods. Wood and wood fibre products are used for a myriad of products including house construction and are an effective solution to carbon storage and reducing emissions. When timber is harvested from our native forests it is done so in a sustainable way, Ms O'Connor, in accordance with our world-class forest practices system.

Ms O'CONNOR - You are joking!

Mr ROCKLIFF - I believe that. It is about managing your resources sensibly. I know your objective in closing down our native forest industry.

Ms O'CONNOR - I would like to get to my second question because you haven't answered my first one.

Mr ROCKLIFF - I thought I was actually doing that.

Ms O'CONNOR - First of all, I note that in your answer you didn't once refer to 'our forests', which was the basis of the question and the scientific paper I have cited. I just point out to you that it is a matter of public record that we export about 1 million tonnes of native forest timber as woodchips to China every year, which has a very low carbon life because it ends up in landfill. Do you agree that the continuing and increased protection of native forests is critical to your Government reaching, or maintaining, a net zero profile by 2030 off the back of forests that were set aside during the Tasmanian Forest Agreement as the research confirms?

Mr ROCKLIFF - I believe in sustainable management of our resources.

Ms O'CONNOR - So you believe a million tonnes of woodchips going to China every year and ending up in landfill is sustainable management? That's what happens.

CHAIR - Ms O'Connor, please don't put words in the Premier's mouth. Please let him answer.

Mr ROCKLIFF - Timber sourced from plantations makes up the majority of our total wood supply - approximately 75 per cent, I am advised. However, there is still demand, as you would appreciate, Ms O'Connor, for high value appearance-grade forest products that can only be sourced from native forests and cannot be substituted by plantation wood. Half of Tasmania's forests, or approximately 1.79 million hectares, are protected in reserves. This includes more than one million hectares, or well over 80 per cent, of Tasmania's old growth forests. I am advised -

Ms O'CONNOR - Remaining old growth forests.

Mr ROCKLIFF - Less than one per cent of native forest on the permanent timber reduction zone land is harvested in a given year. Our renewable and sustainable native forest industry supports employment across the state, and we are committed to the long term sustainable management of our forests to the benefit of all Tasmanians.

Ms O'CONNOR - Can I confirm what your Government's intention is, with the remaining 300 000 plus hectares of forest that your Government has removed from future reserve scheduling and called future potential production forests, and which your colleague calls a wood bank? Is it your intention to leave those forests unlogged, or will they be logged; and if they are logged, how do we meet and maintain our 2030 target? Also, will you build a bigger gaol to put protestors in, after your odious legislation passes through both Houses of parliament?

Mr ROCKLIFF - To your last question, it's about supporting people's right to free speech, which is -

Ms O'CONNOR - No, it’s not.

Mr ROCKLIFF - It is.

Ms O'CONNOR - It is about backing in the corporates.

CHAIR - Ms O'Connor, please let the Premier answer.

Mr ROCKLIFF - Supporting Tasmanian's right to free speech, while ensuring the safety of, not only people that want to express their view - and they have every right to - but also ensuring the safety of the workplace is maintained and -

Ms O'CONNOR - You are not going to answer the question about the FPPF forests?

CHAIR - Ms O'Connor, please let the Premier answer.

Mr ROCKLIFF - I am advised 812 000 hectares of permanent timber production zoned land in Tasmania. Of this less than half, or 45 per cent, contains native forests that can be harvested. I want to give you an -

Ms O'CONNOR - Do you want to tell us what your plan is for the FPPF forests?

Mr ROCKLIFF - Perhaps if I can take that on notice, Ms O'Connor, and put the question to our minister for Forestry.

CHAIR - All right. We will move on. Mrs Alexander first, please.

Ms O'CONNOR - I can't get a straight answer out of him, so I thought I would try you.

Mr ROCKLIFF - All right. I will endeavour to give you a straight answer but -

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you.

Mr ROCKLIFF - I'm sure our minister for Forestry will provide the answer for you.

Ms O'CONNOR - No, he doesn't. He just provides rhetoric and clichés.