Bill introduced by Tasmania's recently-elected premier to repeal forest peace deal unravels state's 'best chance' of developing forest industry, says opposition leader, calls for 'rushed' legislation to be withdrawn, redrafted
May 28, 2014
(Herald Sun )
– Opposition leader Bryan Green had remained tight-lipped on his party's position after an internal review of the ALP's disastrous election loss partly blamed the agreement.
It was negotiated by environmentalists and the timber industry over three years, seeking to end decades of conflict that had scared off markets.
It eventually swapped 500,000 hectares of forest protection for support of the struggling sector, which has lost half its workforce in recent years.
Will Hodgman's Liberals campaigned on tearing up the deal and introduced legislation to undo most of the reserves in the new parliament's first week.
The bill will easily pass the lower house but faces a tricky journey through the independent-dominated Legislative Council.
Speculation suggested Labor would abandon its support of the peace deal as it seeks to distance itself from four years of sharing power with the Greens.
But Mr Green told parliament the bill had been rushed, moving it be withdrawn and redrafted.
"We will not take a position that is false and leads the Tasmanian people down the garden path into an unknown," he said.
The opposition leader accused the government of cynicism for appearing to undo the deal but quarantining the proposed reserves from logging for six years.
The importance of the industry receiving the environmental tick of approval, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, needed to be recognised in the legislation, he said.
Funding issues needed to be addressed, procedures simplified and markets secured, said Mr Green, who also called for a bipartisan approach to the issue.
"What this does is it unravels the best chance we've ever had in recent history to see the growth in the forest industry that everyone wants," he said.
Resources Minister Paul Harriss said not enough wood was available to the industry under the peace deal.
"Tasmania's forest industry and the use of our forest assets for economic gain is not something of which we should be ashamed," he said.
Agreement signatory The Wilderness Society said the repeal bill undermined stability for both markets and conservation.
"Customers of Tasmanian wood can no longer have confidence that Tasmania's forests have the protection they need to guarantee environmental sustainability," spokesman Vica Bayley said.
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