New legislation ending Tasmania's forest peace deal would be unlikely to gain approval of lawmakers, predicts Forest Industries Assn. chief; warns state's incoming Premier of 'huge' market impact if agreement becomes inoperative
March 17, 2014
– THE new Tasmanian Liberal government will probably fail to get new legislation tearing up the forestry peace deal through the upper house and its only other option to honour an election pledge is ``very dangerous'', signatories of the accord say.
Forest Industries Association of Tasmania chief executive Terry Edwards said yesterday he did not believe the Liberal government could fulfil its pledge precisely as it was articulated during the campaign. ``They cannot do it in the exact way they described it,'' he said.
``To fundamentally change the agreement will require legislation and I personally cannot see the Legislative Council being dissuaded from its previous position in passing the agreement.
``The only other option is to frustrate the agreement to death and make it inoperative so that people lose confidence in it, but that's a very dangerous way to go because the market impact will be huge.''
Mr Edwards said the new minister could refuse to issue new reserves as required under the agreement, which automatically meant terms drafted to please environmental groups would be breached, ultimately becoming a problem for the industry.
Former legislative council member and newly elected lower house Liberal Paul Harris agreed that clearing any legislation through the upper house would be difficult and ``an interesting test'', but he indicated the government would let key clauses of the agreement lapse, defaulting on its obligations and rendering the whole exercise moot.
``The agreement will lapse before it ever gets to legislation. Some of the durability clauses just cannot be met by October,'' he said.
``There is no way the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certifications can be done by October.''
The Wilderness Society Tasmanian campaign manager, Vica Bayley, offered to meet incoming premier Will Hodgman and his team in the upper Florentine forest so that he could ``properly appreciate what's at stake''.
``They can certainly unpick some of the forest reserves which have been given interim legal protection but that requires legislation,'' he said.
``And the simple fact is, if they take the government subsidy away from Forestry Tasmania, it will become insolvent immediately.''
Tasmania's biggest surviving forest group Ta Ann supported the peace deal and executive director Evan Rolley said he would be urging the new government to ``listen to customers and the market''.
``They want one thing, and that is wood sourced from non-contentious forests, and this deal allows us to do that,'' he said.
``The way forward for Tasmania is not to return to conflict but in saying that, it's pretty clear he (Mr Hodgman) has achieved a significant majority. I think it is going to take an enormous amount of goodwill from all parties to figure out a practical, thoughtful way forward.''
Tony Abbott reiterated the federal government's position on forestry yesterday.
``We want to revitalise the forestry industry in Tasmania and to that end we want to take 74,000ha out of the world heritage listing because much of that is degraded, logged or plantation timber and we just don't see the sense in trying to lock up land which is either degraded, logged or plantation timber,'' the Prime Minister said.
``We want to see a renaissance of forestry in Tasmania,'' Mr Abbott said.
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