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Janet calls out the government on native forest logging

Speeches in Parliament
Janet Rice 26 Mar 2018

I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia (Minister Canavan) to a question without notice asked by me today relating to logging in national parks.

The government are in a total mess over the logging of our native forests. They are managing our forests on the run. We have logging laws that allow ongoing destructive logging that are due to expire in Victoria tomorrow and yet we still don't know whether those laws are going to be extended. At least Minister Canavan ruled out logging in national parks, which the community would breathe a sigh of relief about. For a brief moment, he ruled out logging in native forests, which the community would also be very supportive of, but no, on the logging in native forests, the government want us to just pretend that everything is absolutely fine. Basically, ruling out logging in national parks leaves the complete unsustainability of the logging industry in the balance. What are the government going to do regarding the sawmill statements this morning: 'At the moment, everyone's in denial, but we're in wind-down mode. We're about to fall over a resource cliff in two years time. There won't be enough wood for all the mills.'

Logging under regional forest agreements has failed. It's failed the industry, it's failed the wood supply, it's failed to create long-term sustainability and it's failed our wonderful plants and animals that live in our forests. yet the government are saying, 'Don't worry. Everything's fine. Trust us. We'll keep on logging regardless.' They are rolling over the logging laws for a further 20 years and are refusing to do the scientific work that clearly needs to be done—the scientific work that would show the damage to our plants, animals and forests that has been done for the last 20 years of intensive clear-felling of our precious forests. Our regional forest agreements have been disastrous and destructive over the last 20 years, yet the government are asking us to just put our blinkers on, go full bore ahead and continue with native forest logging.

The outrage this morning over cricket and ball tampering shows that Australians expect their institutions to play by the rules.

It's very clear that the ongoing destructive logging that we are seeing in our native forests is not playing by the rules; it is breaking the rules. It is coming out that the rules are being broken, that our forests are having irreparable damage done to them and that the legal certainty that we were told was there to just rollover these regional forest agreements for another 20 years isn't there. We've had the New South Wales government asking questions about the legal uncertainty, because the comprehensive regional assessments that were done, which underpinned the regional forest agreements, are now 20 years old—yet the government is ignoring that. The government is saying, 'No, we are just going to continue on.'

The really sad thing is that there is an answer to this. We can have a wood products industry without logging our native forests. We are now in a situation where 87 per cent of the wood that comes out of Australia comes from plantations. All of us are in furious agreement that producing wood from sustainable plantations is the way to go. Every year that percentage increases. In the time that I have been involved in looking at forests, it has gone up from 30 per cent to 40 per cent, 50 per cent, 60 per cent, 70 per cent and now 87 per cent. Almost nine out of 10 logs that are coming out of Australia are coming from plantations. The native forest logging industry is absolutely the rump of the timber industry. It is being incredibly destructive. For our forests, for long-term job security and also for long-term certainty of supply, it is about time we plan to be shifting the industry and actually acknowledging that we need to be shifting the industry so that 100 per cent of our wood is coming from plantations.

That's what's going to solve this issue. That's when you won't hear me talking about wood products and the impact on our forests ever again, because we will be able to protect our forests and we will be able to have a modern, thriving wood products industry with wood that's coming from plantations. That will enable us to both have wood and protect our forests. That is the direction we need to be going in. This government is completely blind to it and completely unwilling to acknowledge that that is where we need to be heading.

Question agreed to.

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