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Trade Visit to China - Pulp and Paper Companies

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 25 June 2020

Tags: China, Trade, Woodchips, Native Forest Logging

Trade Visit to China - Pulp and Paper Companies, Cassy O'Connor, 25 June 2020



It is almost an exercise in futility, but here we go. Last December, you embarked on a trade delegation to China where you met with representatives of at least two pulp and paper companies to offer cheap, publicly-subsidised Tasmanian native forest woodchips. These buyers have no interest in Forest Stewardship Certification, which must be a relief to your GBE which cannot secure it. Can you confirm the reason native forest logging is ramping up on your watch is to feed cheap native forest woodchips to China, where buyers do not care that the timber comes from biodiverse, carbon-rich, natural forests in Tasmania? In the interests of transparency, Mr Barnett, will you tell the House what agreements were struck with Chinese pulp and paper companies and for what volumes?



Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Clark, the Leader of the Greens, for her question with respect to forestry. On this side of the House, we do know that wood is good. We know that the native forest harvesting industry and the native forest sector in this state employs thousands of people in rural and regional areas. That is why I was proud to be representing the industry and working with Sustainable Timber Tasmania in this state and on the mainland and last year in a trade delegation to China, which is absolutely correct, representing the state with respect to agriculture, seafood, resources, mining and mineral processing and our renewable energy sector. I am very pleased to be promoting and advocating for all these sectors.

I want to refute the baseless and incorrect characterisation of the native forest sector by the Leader of the Greens in which she has indicated that it has been subsidised and we continue to subsidise it. Under this Government, Sustainable Timber Tasmania has made a profit. In fact, the first time in 10 years -

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker, on relevance. The House is accustomed to this minister not answering questions but this was a pointed question. He needs to tell the House what agreements were struck and for how much. What were the volumes? We do not to hear your blathering.

Madam SPEAKER - Order, excuse me. That is not a point of order but I do ask the minister to remain relevant.

Mr BARNETT - Thank you, Madam Speaker. As I have indicated, this side of the House is strongly supportive of our native forest industry, and our forest industry generally in terms of advanced manufacturing, value-adding and downstream-processing in Tasmania and with respect to exports. Everyone in this place, apart from the Greens, knows that exports mean jobs. What I can advise you is that we have had very productive discussions in China and, indeed, elsewhere with respect to the exports of Tasmanian timber and other products.

Ms O'CONNOR - Madam Speaker, this minister is inviting points of order by refusing to go anywhere near the questions; twice now. Could he simply tell the House what agreements were struck and for what volume? This is a matter of significant public interest at a time when we have had the Premier talking about the contribution forests make to climate mitigation.

Madam SPEAKER - I understand all of that but, as you would appreciate, I am not even supposed to know what is going to come out of a minister's mouth, and I do not.

Ms O'Connor - Well, that is probably a great comfort to you.

Madam SPEAKER - Thank you. This is our last day of question time for some time, so I would appreciate cooperation so we do not end it nastily. I ask the minister to continue.

Mr BARNETT - Thank you, Madam Speaker, and I appreciate the spirit in which you have indicated that the deliberation should proceed in this House and totally agree, particularly on this last day of the parliament.

We had very productive and cooperative discussions in China and those productive, collaborative discussions are ongoing. They are obviously between Sustainable Timber Tasmania and the relevant relationships they have with China and elsewhere. You can seek further information and advice, and I can provide that in due course -

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker. This is completely unacceptable. The place for parliamentarians to seek further information and advice is here. We are not interested in trying to get information out of a minister's office because that is an exercise in futility. You have directed us, Madam Speaker, to ask pointed questions. This one was. I ask you, please, to ask the minister to respect the forms of this House.

Madam SPEAKER - It is still not a point of order. I ask you, minister, to try to answer the question.

Mr BARNETT - Thank you, Madam Speaker. With respect to the specificity of the last part of the Leader of the Greens' question, I am more than happy to respond to her as soon as convenient and advise her and this House accordingly.

With respect to the importance of the industry to this place, this state and this side of the House knows how important it is. One of the observations the Leader for the Greens referred to was the importance of the forest industry with respect to climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has made it clear sustainable forest management has benefits in carbon management, social and economic benefits. The Greens continue their calls for forest operations to cause more significant, hotter bush fires. A review of this work so heavily relied upon the Greens states that - (tbc)

Forests and reserves, with no logging did not burn with less severity than multiple use forests with some logging.

It concludes -

A lack of management of fire adopted eco systems carries long-term social, economic and environmental consequences.

Working forests create jobs. Wood is good. They are good for the environment and good for the economy.