The non-par­ti­san ap­proach

The non-par­ti­san ap­proach

Australian Forests and Timber - - FRONT PAGE - By Tony Pasin MP Fed­eral Mem­ber for Barker

GROW­ING UP in a tim­ber com­mu­nity as I did you know al­most by os­mo­sis what a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion the tim­ber in­dus­try makes to our Na­tion and its econ­omy. That might be be­cause your un­cle runs an en­gi­neer­ing firm re­pair­ing and main­tain­ing har­vest­ing equip­ment or be­cause you play cricket with a mill hand and an ap­pren­tice saw doc­tor or be­cause your next door neigh­bour hauls wood­chips to the port. What­ever your ex­pe­ri­ence, you get it.

Th­ese were my ex­pe­ri­ences grow­ing up. Liv­ing in Mount Gam­bier in our Na­tions green tri­an­gle it’s hard to avoid con­ver­sa­tions in­volv­ing the forestry or for­est prod­ucts in­dus­try.

IThat is why was dis­mayed upon be­ing elected in 2013 at the lack of dis­cus­sions tak­ing place within our Na­tion’s Par­lia­ment re­gard­ing the in­dus­try and its con­tri­bu­tion to our econ­omy.

Worse still, I ob­served that to the ex­tent th­ese con­ver­sa­tions did take place they fo­cused on the hy­per­politi­cised non-plan­ta­tion for­est sec­tor. It was this en­vi­ron­ment and the de­sire to im­prove my par­lia­men­tary col­league’s appreciation for and un­der­stand­ing of the in­dus­try that caused me to in­ves­ti­gate the es­tab­lish­ment of the Par­lia­men­tary Friends of Forestry and For­est Prod­ucts.

Along with my fel­low con­vener, the Hon. Joel Fitzgibbon, I was thrilled to see more than 40 mem­bers and sen­a­tors join our newly es­tab­lished friend­ship group in the 44th Par­lia­ment.

In our likely car­bon con­strained fu­ture the for­est and for­est prod­ucts in­dus­try is one of very few car­bon­pos­i­tive in­dus­tries and en­joys bullish prospects. The cre­ation of more than 10,000 forestry jobs since 2013 serves to re-in­force this sense of op­ti­mism. An in­dus­try with enor­mous po­ten­tial to meet do­mes­tic and global de­mand for fi­bre, tim­ber and pa­per prod­ucts is one that will con­tinue to pro­vide the eco­nomic back­bone of many com­mu­ni­ties Aus­tralia wide.

The in­dus­try con­trib­utes over $22.2 bil­lion of eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity each year to the Aus­tralian econ­omy and em­ploys more than 64,000 peo­ple in the for­est, log­ging and pro­cess­ing sec­tors. This is why it is crit­i­cal that pol­icy mak­ers have a deep and ob­jec­tive un­der­stand­ing of in­dus­try, one which is in­formed by the com­mer­cial re­al­ity and avoids emo­tive mis­in­for­ma­tion. Over and above this, the in­dus­try needs to op­er­ate with strong bi-par­ti­san sup­port leav­ing be­hind it the boom bust pol­icy cycle that has plagued the in­dus­try for gen­er­a­tions.

In or­der to take full ad­van­tage of the in­dus­try’s fu­ture prospects, Govern­ment need to get the pol­icy set­tings right. Part of this in­cludes tak­ing the po­lit­i­cal sting out of forestry pol­icy, to find a path that all sides of pol­i­tics feel com­fort­able with so that in­dus­try can plan and invest with cer­tainly for the fu­ture with­out the shocks that can come from a short elec­toral cycle. The es­tab­lish­ment of a par­lia­men­tary friend­ship group has shown that this is pos­si­ble.

The group has a mem­ber­ship from across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum in­clud­ing Lib­eral, La­bor, Greens and in­de­pen­dents with a re­newed fo­cus on our na­tion’s plan­ta­tion re­source.

The pur­pose of the Par­lia­men­tary Friends of Forestry and For­est Prod­ucts group is to raise aware­ness of the is­sues fac­ing the in­dus­try. It is a ve­hi­cle for for­est re­lated groups to speak di­rectly to mem­bers and sen­a­tors, but more im­por­tantly it rep­re­sents a chance to help get the pol­icy set­tings right and take the sting out of the of­ten tur­bu­lent po­lit­i­cal cycle when it comes to for­est pol­icy.

It is no co­in­ci­dence that the last elec­tion was the first in liv­ing mem­ory that did not in­volve a toxic and ul­ti­mately harm­ful pol­icy bat­tle be­tween the ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties around forestry. In achiev­ing this out­come our friend­ship group has served the in­dus­try well and I look for­ward to what more we can achieve to­gether over the next few years in the term of the 45th par­lia­ment.

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