Interview on ABC Tasmania - Forestry Industry Advisory Council



SEPTEMBER 16, 2014

Topics: Forestry Industry Advisory Council, Chinese investment


JOURNALIST: The announcement last night of a new advisory council, the Forest Industry Advisory Council, took place at the Forest Products Association dinner in Hobart last night. It will be chaired by Senator Richard Colbeck, Senator for Tasmania, and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture. Senator Colbeck joins me, good afternoon.

COLBECK: Good afternoon, how are you?

JOURNALIST: I'm well thankyou. Tell me about this Council, why is it the right way forward for forestry?

COLBECK: Well it's a bit of a change in approach as previously the advisory body to government had been made up of representatives of industry groups from around Australia. We've decided to take a different approach where we have people who are directly involved in forestry businesses around the country. So, we're picking up various sectors of the industry and various levels of expertise to provide that direct advice to government and I think it's a really good group of people.

JOURNALIST: What do you start with? Do you start with the areas of expertise that you need covered and then find the right people, or are the people apparent and you want their input?

COLBECK: Well it's a bit of a mixture of both, I suppose. There are number of people who I'd met through my time shadowing the portfolio and got to know over a number of years working in and with the forestry industry, and other people who come along with particular levels of expertise that are going to be really valuable for the industry.

There are also people who are looking to the future and will give us some good discussion and advice on settings we might make in a policy sense for the future of the industry.

So that's one of the first things we'll start with, starting to look at the future of the industry and how we set a good platform for its growth and its sustainability into the future.

JOURNALIST: How will their work be generated, will they be able to independently come up with ideas for further exploration or to take to the Government?

COLBECK: Well, that's going to be part of the process, we're looking to have a process similar to what's happening with agriculture at the moment, where there is a White Paper process underway.

Forestry is not included in that and there is an opportunity for this group of people to provide me with some advice for a similar type of process alongside of that, given that particularly in the private forestry sector the two are linked and there is real opportunity to do some good work in that space.

But also, they are selected for what they can bring to the table so I'm not putting any restrictions about the issues that they might want to bring to us for discussion.

JOURNALIST: That could be an interesting area for future development, if they have ideas which perhaps may not be directly aligned to Government policy but which they recommend for further exploration. So that would be acceptable?

COLBECK: We're genuinely looking at having a positive future for the forest industry in Australia and this is an overarching body which is providing advice on a national basis.

We've got expertise from the plantation sector; Ian Dickenson from Tasmania from private forestry and farm forestry who is highly regarded from a range of perspectives; we've got people from the sawmilling industry; we've got a couple of professional forest scientist, the president of the Institute of Foresters Rob de Fegely who's the co-chair; Michelle Freeman who was Victoria's Rural Woman of the Year last year and a very smart young forest scientist who brings a whole range of expertise and I've had the opportunity to sit down with her at some functions and just talk to her about philosophy and where the forestry industry might go - so a really good range of expertise that can provide good advice to Government.

JOURNALIST: What's the role of the observers, Senator?

COLBECK: Well that's to bring in some of the industry associations and it changes the balance. It might be that we have some conversations without the observers as part of the process on occasions so we're still working our way though that, but they provide us with some links.

Ric Sinclair from Forest and Wood Products Australia, which is the R&D Corporation for the forest industries, some of their information will be very useful in future policy development.

Michael Hartman from ForestWorks, which is about forest industry training, so again the skills for the industry that is important.

Of course AFPA and the Government agencies involved from a state level. So it gives us a really broad sector of people who are sitting around the table and providing advice to us.

JOURNALIST: You're listening to Senator Richard Colbeck on 936 ABC Hobart. Senator, your colleague Andrew Robb the Trade Minister yesterday announced a deal with Chinese Government owned investment fund committing to spend $3 billion on Australian dairy, beef, lamb and aquaculture assets. Do you see benefits in that deal for Tasmania?

COLBECK: Absolutely, in fact I've had visits recently from businesses out of China very interested in the aquaculture sector. Obviously dairy is an industry where Tasmania has enormous potential and we have a very high reputation for our beef stock as well and King Island for example is one of the best known brands and highly valued brands in Australia.

So I think there is opportunity for investment out of that process and in fact I've had companies already coming to talk to me about how they might start to engage in that process.

JOURNALIST: Good to talk to you about it this afternoon and thanks for your time.

COLBECK: Thanks very much.

JOURNALIST: Thanks very much - that's Tasmanian Liberal Senator Richard Colbeck, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture.

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