The non-partisan approach
The non-partisan approach
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.