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Premier - Why Restart the Forest Wars?

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 27 October 2016

Tags: Native Forest Logging, Climate Change


I did not see you in the Chamber for Mr Barnett's ministerial statement yesterday, but we know that the plan to let loggers into 357 000 hectares of high conservation value forest has your blessing. How can you countenance allowing loggers into these forests of global significance, treasure troves of biodiversity and habitats for threatened species? In an age of accelerating climate change, where deforestation in places like the Amazon and Indonesia is driving up emissions, how can you hold up your head when the Government you lead is prepared to release millions of tonnes of sequestered CO2 into the atmosphere from the moratorium forests? Your Minister for Resources takes offence when he is described as a climate criminal, but is that not what your Government is - environment and climate vandals? A question on the lips on many Tasmanians is why is your Government so determined to restart the forest wars in Tasmania, regardless of the social, economic and environmental costs?



Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her question and concern that the entire Government supports what we are doing, what is essential to put our forest industry and the Government arm of it, Forestry Tasmania, as it was known, Sustainable Timber Tasmania, onto a sustainable financial footing. We cannot go on as we were. We do not want to start wars.

Ms Woodruff - You are starting a war.

Madam SPEAKER - Order. We do not need the echo across the Chamber after every sentence the Premier makes.

Mr HODGMAN - It is the Greens' raison d'etre for there to be wars in the forests. It is their reason for being. They are pretending they do not like it but they would love to see a return to the war. We are grasping the nettle and dealing with something the former Labor government was incapable of doing, because it hamstrung through its relationship with the Greens that was designed to secure minority government.

The former minister for forestry sold out an industry he was supposed to support. He was the minister who oversaw a loss of some 200 jobs at Forestry Tasmania, yet he complains when we need to take remedial action that could lead to the loss of up to 35 jobs. Seriously, 200 were lost under the former forest minister, Bryan Green, and nothing gained as a result.

Mr Green virtually had a motion of no confidence moved against by Forestry Tasmania, the body he was supposed to support. I remind the Leader of the Opposition of what was said by Ken Jeffreys, the general manager of corporate relations for Forestry Tasmania in August 2012, when he wrote an extensive email to the staff at FT, informing them of what was going on. I want to put this back on the record.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker. I asked the Premier to justify the actions. There was no mention of FT or Ken Jeffreys. Justify your actions from an environment, social and economic point of view.

Madam SPEAKER - Order. I am going to repeat my previous ruling. Members know that, with a large preamble and a number of questions within a question, a minister, or the Premier in this case, can utilise the time to attempt to answer all those questions.

Mr HODGMAN - Thank you, Madam Speaker. I will highlight the hypocrisy of your colleague, the then deputy premier and minister for forestry, who presided over an attempted public execution for Forestry Tasmania, as FT said at the time. It came after a meeting in the deputy premier's office when one view of what was going to happen took place. Ken Jeffreys said:

However, on arrival, I was informed the plans had changed, that Cabinet had discussed the matter at its meeting the previous Monday and the Greens had insisted on the immediate implementation of option 2 - splitting FT - and the deputy premier and our minister had been 'rolled'.

As a result, FT formed the view the then minister for forestry was seeking to implement 'a public execution for Forestry Tasmania'. That was what was happening under Labor and the Greens with no benefit to our forestry industry whatsoever. The only benefit was to keep Labor and the Greens in coalition. It was a cosy arrangement and at the altar was sacrificed the forestry industry, with 200 jobs lost at FT, hundred of jobs lost in our forest industry and business confidence plummeting.

We are taking action to put Forestry Tasmania back onto a sustainable footing. We are taking action to make sure we are able to support an industry. The alternatives are clear. The Greens would have us, as would their former Labor colleagues, shut down the entire industry. Labor would rather us spend hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers funds, which could be going into schools and hospital, to prop up FT or you can take the actions we are to secure the resource, to ensure financial sustainability and job security. The alternative, under what members opposite are suggesting, could cost 700 more jobs in our forestry industry and that is not something we want to do.

We are very much a government that believes in a growing forest industry. We have turned the corner and lifted an industry that was left on its knees by the Labor-Green coalition. It will require us to restructure Forestry Tasmania and take decisive action. It is difficult, but this is an example of a government acting and responding where we need to, to support an industry that I thought Labor would want to see on a more sustainable footing, but they do not. It demonstrates once again that Labor and the Greens are locked together in their forest policy.

The people of Tasmania have a clear choice. We do not want to see wars, but we want to say to Tasmanians there is a reason why we are doing this, and that is for economic sustainability for Forestry Tasmania and the forest industry more broadly. The people who will be cheering on the prospect of more 'wars', as they call it, in our forest industry will be the Greens. It is their reason for being, it is why they are in the Parliament. The sad thing is that the Labor Party, who used to support the forest industry, is still joined at the hip with the Greens. The Leader of the Opposition has conceded that the next time they get back into government, given half the chance, our forest industry, Forestry Tasmania, and the regional communities that depend upon it will again be let down.

Madam SPEAKER - Order. I am sure the Premier has not heard me say wind up. I remind ministers that when I do ask them to wind up, I mean it. This is not aimed at the Premier because I doubt he heard me on that occasion. The problem we have is when the House is so disorderly a minister cannot hear me asking him to wind up. We will never get through question time at this rate.