Australian ministers welcome passage of bill to repeal Tasmania's forest peace deal, remove protection from 400,000 hectares of forest; opponents say legislation returns forest industry to 'dark days', warn markets will avoid 'contraversial' timber
June 5, 2014
– Will Hodgman's Liberals vowed to tear up the agreement between environmentalists and the timber industry, and moved immediately to repeal laws supporting it on taking government.
If passed by the upper house, the new legislation will remove protection from 400,000 hectares of forest in six years' time.
Resources Minister Paul Harriss said the passage of the bill heralded a new direction for the state.
"The Liberals are committed to rebuilding our forestry industry and creating jobs," he said.
"Labor still haven't learned the lesson of their election defeat."
The Tasmanian Forests Agreement took more than three years to negotiate after decades of conflict in the state.
It swapped support for the industry by environmentalists, who had previously campaigned against Tasmanian wood products in overseas markets, with the protection of contentious forests.
An ALP post-election report identified it as one of the reasons for the party's crushing election defeat in March after four years governing with the Greens.
Both parties opposed the repeal bill.
"We have legitimate questions about how this bill will create jobs when it removes market certainty and doesn't provide a single additional log to the forest industry for at least six years," Opposition Leader Brian Green said.
Greens leader Kim Booth hit out at the government capping debate on the bill.
"In Tasmania today, World Environment Day is a day of mourning, when the parliament is denied the opportunity to properly and fully examine critical legislation," Mr Booth said.
The legislation faces an uncertain path through the Legislative Council, which is dominated by independents.
Minister Harriss said he expected the upper house to consider the bill thoroughly, but also to respect the mandate delivered by the Hodgman landslide.
But environmental groups who were signatories to the peace deal warned of more conflict if it passes.
"Today's decision risks plunging Tasmania back into the dark days," Environment Tasmania's Phill Pullinger said.
"Timber markets won't want to buy timber products from Tassie's native forests because they'll be too controversial."
The bill passed as the state government also announced plans to abolish the Tasmanian Climate Action Council, part of a pledge to cut boards and committees.
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