TRANSCRIPT OF SENATOR RICHARD COLBECK
ADDRESS TO PARLIAMENTARY FRIENDS OF FORESTRY GROUP LAUNCH
28 OCTOBER 2014
Thanks Ross, and welcome to all my Parliamentary colleagues. It is terrific to see so many here. When we talked about this Parliamentary Friendship Group back in March in the great hall the discussion and aspiration then was to take forestry out of the political cycle and to make this industry one that didn't have to be concerned about when the next election was coming around. To make it an industry that could get on with the job and not have to continue coming to government for assistance because it was being readjusted.
Joel (Fitzgibbon), it's really good to hear you say that is your aspiration as well; because this is a great and proud industry. As both the co-conveners, Tony (Pasin) and Joel (Fitzgibbon) have said, forestry is so important in the context of regional employment, it's so important in the support of so many of our regional communities. It is the industry that actually underpins the economies in so many of those regional communities. When you take out the forest industry you take the heart out of those regional communities. It is really good to see there is such a strong representation from my parliamentary colleagues here tonight to support the Parliamentary Friends of Forestry Group.
I repeat that my aspiration is that we can get to the stage where we do have a strong bipartisan policy where we take the political cycle out. I'll take the bait Joel, the focus of the Forest Industry Advisory Council is not just for forest and wood products plan, the question that I've put to the forest industry advisory council is how we meet the demand that is coming our way. That is the real question we have to ask.
We know about the values about this industry, we know about its capacity in providing enormous services to the national and global community in respect of carbon storage and services in the context of biodiversity and the same with the other important values that the community desires. And so the challenge that we're looking at in the Forest Industry Advisory Council is actually how we meet that demand, because Joel I think you're right, there is an enormous demand coming towards us and there is absolutely no point us looking at the forestry industry in the context of what we're seeing in the rear-view mirror. Because that is just too narrow a view, much too narrow a view.
We need to widen our horizons and look at the opportunities that exist for the use of cellulose fibre. It is the only genuine source, other than petrochemicals, for long chain polymer cellulose that we know. So then you think about it in that context, the opportunities and the demands for forest products is going to be absolutely enormous. And the way that we manage our landscape, the way that we manage our access to those resources, the way that we make sure our footprint is sustainable is going to be extremely important.
So that's the foundation I would like to see established under this government. I would like to see the opportunity that should be there for the forest industry, so the industry can just get on with making the investments and we can have a secure long-term investment horizon for the industry. So that investment can be made with complete confidence that they're not going to be meddled with by government through an election cycle, that they can get on in developing the products and conducing the research and development that's so badly needed.
I agree with Joel, Australia is probably ten years behind Europe, a long way behind Canada and also behind New Zealand. My aspiration would be to bring us up to the lead and the products that we have available in Australia I think provide us with the opportunity to take some of the next steps in the development of products out of timber. For example, Australian hardwood going into CLT could take that whole concept to another design level.
So there are huge opportunities that exist here in this country, so it's really great to see such strong support from across the Parliament here tonight. I look forward to engaging with you all under the leadership of Joel and Tony. I congratulate both of you on the work that you've done putting this together; it's really fantastic. But more importantly I look forward to being able to put in place strong policies that provide for what is an important future for a very important industry for the country, but particularly for regional Australia.
So congratulations to everybody on being here tonight and thanks for coming out.