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Resources - Native Forest Logging

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 9 September 2021

Tags: Native Forest Logging, Environment, Climate Change, State Budget

Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, I didn't get a straight answer out of you on the anti protest laws that your Government wants to reintroduce. I might ask you about a real leader, WA Premier Mark McGowan, who announced yesterday that Western Australia would be ending native forest logging and he says this:

Our native forests are unique, beautiful and important, particularly in the fight against climate change.

Today we've announced our plan to end the logging of our native forests ensuring a total of nearly 2 million hectares will be protected for future generations. The new policy will come into effect from 2024.

He goes on to say:

Our government will support workers, businesses and communities in the south west with links to the forest industry through a $50 million just transition plan and contracts will be honoured through to the end of their natural close at the end of 2023.

Why wouldn't Tasmania show the same kind of climate leadership and announce an end to native forest logging?

Mr BARNETT - I am delighted to receive that question and I thank the member. One thing it makes very clear is that you can't trust Labor when it comes to forestry. This is another decision of a Labor government. The Victorian government and now the Western Australian government.

Ms O'CONNOR - The thing is Mark McGowan doesn't want to be remembered as a climate criminal. That's the difference, isn't it? Mark McGowan wants to be remembered for climate leadership.

CHAIR - Order, Ms O'Connor, you asked the question. The minister is answering the question.

Mr BARNETT - That's right.

Ms O'CONNOR - He's using it as an opportunity to attack Labor again.

CHAIR - Ms O'Connor, let's not go over this. I can't direct the minister on how he answers the question.

Mr BARNETT - You can't trust Labor. What we do know is that under that decision 500 jobs will be thrown onto the unemployment scrap heap.

Ms O'CONNOR - No, they won't. There's a $50 million just transition plan to transition those workers.

Mr BARNETT - There will be 500 jobs lost.

Ms O'CONNOR - You're being dishonest again.

Mr BARNETT - There will be 500 jobs lost in the native forest harvesting sector. It is sad and disappointing. This is the sort of thing that happened under the Tasmanian Forest Agreement. You haven't learnt your lesson. With all the lockups that occurred back in 2013 two out of three jobs were lost, 4000 in Tasmania in total. This is a great shame and a great disappointment, but you just can't trust Labor.

Ms O'CONNOR - They're putting $50 million into transition for workers.

Minister, that was the most pathetic and predictable response to our questions. The fact is that the Premier, Mr McGowan, has taken this decision on the basis of the latest science which says we're in a code red for humanity. The young people who contributed to the Commissioner for Children and Young People's consultations in Tasmania are all calling on the Tasmanian Government to end native forest logging.

They want that sort of leadership. They don't want the sort of partisan garbage that just came out of your mouth then. Do you recognise that logging of native forests is contributing towards global heating?

Mr BARNETT - There is a range of questions in there -

Ms O'CONNOR - No, there is one question.

Mr BARNETT - I totally reject the insulting remarks that the member made about the minister.

Ms O'CONNOR - Which one?

Mr BARNETT - Talking about garbage coming from my mouth, which I totally reject.

Ms O'CONNOR - Well it did, it is.

Mr BARNETT - You could use a form of words which could perhaps be a little more gentle and respectful.

Ms O'CONNOR - You could not try to control me or tell me what to do. Respond to the Tasmanian young people.

Mr BARNETT - You're entitled to your opinion and as minister for the Government supporting the forest industry I am entitled to mine.

Ms O'CONNOR - Why don't you answer the question.

Mr BARNETT - Mine is one of strong support for the industry.

Ms O'CONNOR - So the question was, do you recognise that native forest logging and burning contributes towards global heating according to the scientists?

CHAIR - The minister is still answering the question, Ms O'Connor.

Ms O'CONNOR - He's not.

Mr BARNETT - It's a further question and I'm happy to answer it because the answer is no. I don't agree with the member.

Ms O'CONNOR - You don't agree with the scientists?

Mr BARNETT - I don't agree with the member but I do agree with the science.

Ms O'CONNOR - You luddite.

CHAIR - Order, Ms O'Connor.

Mr BARNETT - I agree with the fact that we have a sustainable forest industry.

Ms O'CONNOR - So sustainable you can't get FSC twice.

CHAIR - Ms O'Connor, please.

Mr BARNETT - The petulant interjections are becoming incessant. Nevertheless I will continue.

In terms of the science and in terms of Tasmania having a fantastic record when it comes to zero net emissions -

Ms O'CONNOR - Because of the TFA forests, you know.

CHAIR - Ms O'Connor, please. I'm sorry, but if the interjections continue I will have to name you and go to the Speaker. We can't go on like this for two hours. Please ask the questions. You are heard in silence while you are asking the question; allow the minister the same.

Mr BARNETT - Thank you, Chair. I appreciate those observations and remarks directed to Ms O'Connor.

In answer to the question, we are committed to mitigating climate change. Tasmania was the first jurisdiction to achieve zero net emissions and did so for the first time in 2013, six of the last seven years. We have an excellent track record. The IPCC supports our approach.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Chair. The minister is misleading the House. The IPCC report does not support the Government's approach. I will read sections of the IPCC report into the Hansard if I have to.

Mr BARNETT - Thank you, Chair. That gives me the opportunity to read certain sections of the IPCC report into the Hansard because the IPCC report supports the Government's approach.

Ms O'CONNOR - Untrue.

Mr BARNETT - The IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land released in August 2019 said:

Sustainable forestry management can maintain and enhance forest carbon stocks and can maintain forest carbon sinks, including by transferring carbon to wood products.

The research shows that a mixed strategy of conservation and timber production is more likely to be optimal for atmospheric carbon reduction. Trees that are actively growing absorb carbon, removing it from the atmosphere and restoring it in wood. Roughly about three times as much carbon as old mature trees, as a rule of thumb.

Mature trees absorb a minuscule amount of carbon in comparison to growing trees which is why the cycle of harvesting in trees, then replanting and regrowing forests, takes significantly more carbon from the atmosphere than ceasing harvesting.

Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, you completely misrepresented the IPCC report which did point out that sustainable forest management can play a role, but the native forest logging industry in Tasmania is not sustainable to the extent that it has failed to secure forest stewardship certification. The IPCC report says:

Examples of response options with immediate impacts include the conservation of high carbon ecosystems such as forests; a wide range of adaptation and mitigation responses, for example, preserving and restoring natural ecosystems, such as forests; biodiversity conservation et cetera.

A short time ago you talked about Tasmania's positive emissions profile. As you know the data shows that our emissions profile went into the positive from 2013 14. Will you concede that it is the Tasmanian Forest Agreement forests that have made a major contribution towards our positive emissions profile?

Mr BARNETT - That is a very long statement followed by a question at the end. I won't be verballed by the honourable member but I will say in response to the question that we reject the simplistic argument that the cessation of timber harvesting is the best strategy for carbon emissions reduction or mitigation.

The Government recognises the viewpoint of the experts and the science, namely the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Energy Agency. These organisations have concluded that the sustainable management of forests including a mixed strategy of conservation and timber production is more likely to be optimal for atmospheric carbon reduction.

I won't repeat the earlier quote of the IPCC which I referred to, but I will repeat another quote of the IPCC of August 2019 where it said:

Where wood carbon is transferred to harvested wood products, these can store carbon over the long term and can substitute for emissions-intensive materials reducing emissions in other [9.46.06]

The first instalment of instalment of the IPCC sixth assessment report reinforces findings from the previous IPCC reports, most notably 2019 Special Report on Climate Change and Land. Its findings are consistent with the Tasmanian Government's approach to active forest management.

While a recently released IPCC report points to deforestation as a contributor to the rising emissions from the land use change in forestry sector it is important to note that there is no deforestation in our public production forests. Our native forests are regrown.

Ms O'CONNOR - I will just ask the question again because you refuse to answer it. The emissions data turned around from 2013-14. This is the data that the Premier points to for Tasmania's positive emissions profile. Do you acknowledge that it is the forests which were saved under the Tasmanian Forest Agreement as well as our native forests more broadly that are the major contributor to Tasmania's positive emissions profile?

Mr BARNETT - I have heard the same question again, so I will provide the answer.

CHAIR - I would say take the question again, minister. Just because you don't like the answer, Ms O'Connor, doesn't mean he didn't answer the question.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you, Chair. He spoke after I asked the question, but he didn't answer it. The question is straightforward. Does he acknowledge that reason we've got such a positive emissions profile is because of forests that have been protected?

Mr BARNETT - The simplistic argument put by Greens that the cessation of forestry operations is the best way to mitigate against our climate change or reduce carbon is wrong.

Ms O'CONNOR - It is a straightforward question. The fact that you cannot say yes, says so much more about you. It's a fact. It's a scientific fact. You can look at the data and it will tell you that after the Tasmanian Forest Agreement our emissions profile changed for the better. Can you acknowledge that?

Mr BARNETT - The accusations and unfounded allegations by the member are not accepted by me or the Government. They are misleading claims.

Tasmania is 108 percent below the level of our greenhouse gas emissions in 1990. We are a world leader. We stand head and shoulders above other jurisdictions for a whole range of reasons. It is an extraordinary achievement which should be acknowledged not just by the Greens but all members of Parliament and the community. You are attempting to claim credit for the current situation. You should remember that the changes to land usage under the Labor-Greens government came at massive price and that was jobs. Two out of three jobs in the industry were lost and it came at a massive price. It decimated the industry.

Ms O'CONNOR - Chair, I also have a quote from the Premier's Estimates on Monday which confirms that the reason we have such a positive emissions profile is because of our forests. I'm asking the minister if he agrees with this statement. I understand that the reason we have the carbon sink is that we've changed the land use requirements around those native forests and so now they appear as a credit as opposed to where they would have been a deficit. Do you agree that Tasmania's protected forests, those where we have avoided logging, are primarily responsible for Tasmania's nation leading emissions profile?

Mr BARNETT - I don't agree with the way the member has characterised the quote of the Premier. The Premier has made it very clear that these matters should be based on science and economics. In the media release of 6 September the Premier made a comment that Tasmania continues to lead the way when it comes to taking action to reduce our emissions, increase renewable energy and fight climate change. He then went on to say:

As part of this action, an independent review of the Climate Change State Action Act 2008 has been undertaken. Any new target must be based on both science and economics.

He's released the results of that economic analysis, which I referred to earlier. It must be based on science and economics. We have a vision to grow our economy, create more jobs, provide opportunity and deliver a cleaner world. We're on track to do that. Our plans for renewable energy and the low net emission profile we have will deliver opportunities to grow our economy and create more jobs.

Ms O'CONNOR - The minister again refused to acknowledge a fact about our emissions profile and the role of native forests in delivering that profile. I'd like to now go to the issue of exploration drilling grants, minister.

Minister, are there any plans to convert any of the future potential production forests, which the Greens acknowledge are of high conservation value and reserve quality, to permanent timber production land either for logging or for any other activity?

Mr BARNETT - We introduced the Rebuilding the Forestry Industry Act in 2014 to secure a wood bank and provide a future sustainable forest industry in Tasmania.

Ms O'CONNOR - You know the Premier calls it a carbon bank, don't you?

Mr BARNETT - The legislation was designed to secure a wood bank for a future sustainable forest industry. It's managed by Crown land. It falls the Minster for Crown Lands, which is not me. FPPF land does not permit the harvesting of native forests other than for special species timber in a prescribed manner.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Chair. I would just like the minister to answer whether there are any plans to convert or exchange FPPF land?

CHAIR - I can only repeat my earlier ruling that I can't put words in the minister's mouth, Ms O'Connor.

Mr BARNETT - I was answering the question and will get to where Ms O'Connor has some interest. FPPF land does not permit harvesting of native forests other than for special species timber in a prescribed manner.

The final decision on any exchange or conversion of FPPF land rests with parliament. No exchange or conversion of FPPF land has occurred or been sought since the act has commenced but the Government continues to engage with the industry about the FPPF wood bank and will continue to do so.

More than half of Tasmanian forests are already protected in reserves. The industry is worth $1.2 billion, employing 5700 people. We support them.