Address to the 2014 ForestWorks Dinner, Canberra
Julie, I want to thank you very much indeed for that kind introduction. It’s nice to have a list of things recounted to an appreciative audience – it really is nice.
But the most important fact, at least insofar I suspect as this audience is concerned, is omitted from the official resume, because I had the great good fortune of having as my maternal grandfather a shipwright and as many of you would know a shipwright is a marine carpenter. That’s what a shipwright is. A shipwright is a marine carpenter, at least that’s what a shipwright was back in the 1920s when many of our large ships were still made of timber.
My carpenter granddad recruited me to help build a workbench for the new family home when I was in year seven. He joined me in building a timber canoe which I paddled around the Lane Cove River National Park in year eight. He got me to help him to build a large timber shed down the back of my mum and dad’s place when I was in year 9 and for my sixteenth birthday when I was in year ten he gave me a toolset which, until just a couple of years ago when it was lost in a flash flood at home, was still the tools which I used around the house to do the kinds of things which every half useful husband should be able to do!
I can’t say that having a shipwright grandfather made me a craftsman; it didn’t. I didn’t develop the extraordinary craftsmanship of Marty Teare who presented me earlier today with a truly magnificent example of an Australian-made chair which will adorn my parliamentary office - I hope for many years to come.
I didn’t become a craftsman, but I did learn to appreciate the value of timber and the importance of working with one’s hands.
I came to appreciate the forest wasn’t just a place of beauty, but it was a source of resources; of the ultimate renewable resource, of the ultimate biodegradable resource.
So when I look out at an audience such as this this evening, when I look out tonight at an audience of people who work with timber, who work in forests, I don’t see people who are environmental bandits, I see people who are the ultimate conservationists. That’s what I see and I want to salute you. I salute you as people who love the natural world, as people who love what Mother Nature gives us and who want to husband it for the long-term best interests of humanity.
I want to say this: we will never build a strong economy by trashing our environment, but we will never help our environment by trashing the economy either. You understand - what I regret to say not everyone does – that it is possible to combine respect for the environment and respect for nature with healthy private business.
Man and the environment are meant for each other. The last thing we do – the last thing we should want – if we want to genuinely improve our environment is to want to ban men and women from enjoying it, is to ban men and women from making the most of it and that’s what you do. You intelligently make the most of the good things that God has given us.
So my friends, when I say that I want Australia to be open for business, I mean open for business for the forestry industry.
When I say that Australia is not only open for business, but it is under new management, I mean that the people in charge in Canberra – here – value what the forestry industry does and it would be quite a long time since you’ve experienced that in Canberra.
I hope that you will be the beneficiaries of the general economic policies that the Coalition is putting into practice.
You will benefit from the abolition of the carbon tax, ultimately from the abolition of the mining tax.
Many of you will benefit from the cutting of the company tax rate.
Most of you will benefit from the reduction in red and green-tape that we are determined to deliver.
And while it’s not the job of the national government to build the kind of country roads and logging trails which you’re all very familiar with, if we do invest more, as we will and are, in the major infrastructure that our country needs, that obviously means that state and local governments can do more for the kind of infrastructure that you depend upon in your daily life.
I am pleased to say that in the six months since the change of government here in Canberra, Greg Hunt, an Environment Minister who appreciates that the environment is meant for man and not just the other way around, has provided environmental approvals for projects worth some $400 million. I am pleased and proud to have an Environment Minister who wants to see projects go ahead.
I am pleased that because of Greg Hunt’s good work, we now have assessment bilaterals – a one stop shop in other words – for environmental approvals with New South Wales and Queensland, and are working on these with the other states and have high hopes of getting there well before the end of the year.
I’m pleased that we’ve also got a Korean free trade agreement and are working well towards free trade agreements with Japan and with China.
But you’re not just any other industry. You are an industry which has been officially frowned upon for too long.
For three years you were officially frowned upon here in Canberra because we had – I regret to say – a government that was over influenced by the Greens.
I’m delighted to see a number of Labor Members of Parliament in the audience tonight – I see Joel Fitzgibbon. I see Brendan O’Connor. I think Senator Kim Carr is here in the audience. It’s good to see some Labor Members who aren’t embarrassed at coming to a dinner with foresters! Give them the applause they deserve.
Coalition Members – too numerous to mention – all of you, because this is a Coalition. This is a Liberal/National Coalition that values what you do and wants you to be able to make the most of your life.
We don’t support, as a Government and as a Coalition, further lockouts of our forests. We just don’t support it.
We have quite enough National Parks, we have quite enough locked up forests already. In fact, in an important respect, we have too much locked up forest.
One of the first acts of the incoming Government was to begin the process to try to get out of world heritage listing 74,000 hectares of country in Tasmania, because that 74,000 hectares is not pristine forest. It’s forest which has been logged, it’s forest which has been degraded, in some cases, it’s plantation timber that was actually planted to be logged.
Now I’m all in favour of protecting pristine wilderness in proportion – I am all in favour of that. But why should we lock up, as some kind of world heritage sanctuary, country which has been logged, degraded or planted for timber? Why should we do that? Frankly, when this Government comes across examples of actions which are contrary to common sense, we do our best to reverse them. That’s what we do – we try to ensure that government does not do that which is contrary to common sense.
You know, getting that 74,000 hectares out of the world heritage listing is still going to leave half of Tasmania protected forever, but that will be an important sign to you, to Tasmanians and to the world that we respect the timber industry and we want the timber industry to have a vigorous and dynamic future, not just a past. We want the timber industry to be a vital part of Australia’s economic future, not just something that was a relic of our history. That’s what this Government wants.
I don’t buy the Green ideology which has done so much damage to our country over the last couple of decades and I’m pleased to see that there are some sensible Labor Party people who don’t buy it either. I know they’re a minority inside their own Party, but I applaud those who don’t buy the Green ideology. You only have to look – and I see Joel smiling - probably the influence of Madam Speaker sitting next to you. I know you want to stay here Joel, not to be expelled.
But the Green ideology has done so much damage to Tasmania. We all know that Tasmania has the lowest wages in our country. It’s got the lowest GPD per head in our country. It’s got the lowest life expectancy in our country. It’s got the lowest education attainments in our country and it’s got the highest unemployment in our country and funnily enough, for the last eight years it’s had a government, in large measure, dominated by the Greens. For the last four years it’s had a government which was Green dominated, even though prior to that election, the leader of the government said that it would never happen – well, sadly it did happen. The deal with the devil that was never going to happen did happen and I say, the only way to ensure that this Green ideology which has done so much damage to Tasmania and more recently done so much damage to our country, is expunged, is not just to change the government in Canberra but to change the government in Hobart as well.
I promised my great friend that I was not going to make a party political speech tonight and I said nothing about the ALP here in Canberra at this present time, because I know people like Joel are doing their best to ensure the best values of the Labor Party are once more appreciated and respected .
But I do want to say that everyone here tonight that as far as this Prime Minister is concerned, as far as the Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, is concerned, as far as the very hard-working Parliamentary Secretary for Forestry, Senator Richard Colbeck, is concerned, you aren’t just any industry, you are a great industry and a great sector. We believe in you.
We believe in you and we relish and we revel in your appearance in such numbers in this building tonight.
I am so pleased that for the first time in many years, you can come into this building and not feel that you are in hostile territory. I want to assure you that this is friendly country. This is friendly country and I want to see many more buildings in the years to come built in this country that are as beautifully fitted-out with marvellous timber products as this building is here.
The forestry industry of this country has done great things for this building and may it do great things for so many more buildings in our country and around the world in the years and the decades to come.
Finally I want to say that we don’t claim, in this Government, to be experts on everything; we don’t claim to know everything about this industry.
Yes, we have an abundance of goodwill towards your industry. Yes, we want your industry to flourish, but we know that we will do better by your industry if we are as well informed as possible and that’s why I announce tonight that there will be a Forestry Industry Advisory Council, shortly to be finalised by the Government, but I can announce tonight that the co-chairman of that will be Rob de Fegely who is well known to your industry.
I’m sure you’ll keep us on the straight and narrow so to speak insofar as far as your industry is concerned and I’m sure that he will ensure that we make the kind of decisions that ensure that my colleagues and I are welcome at next year’s dinner.