The forestry industry will be shaking its head at the political games the Morrison Government is playing.
Scott Morrison made a special trip to Tasmania on the weekend to simply re-announce a funding commitment made by Malcolm Turnbull back in September 2017. To date not one cent of the $20 million the Government set aside for the National Forestry Industry Plan has been spent.
Last week the Government announced $12.5 million of the $20 million will be spent on Regional Forestry Hubs and Research Centres. At Senate Estimates this week, Senator Colbeck, the responsible Assistant Minister, refused to provide detail on how the $12.5million would actually be spent or indeed how these Hub sites would provide and deliver the strategic vision for forest industries promised by Scott Morrison.
Last weekends announcement contained nothing new and those in the forestry industry who have now been waiting more than five years for meaningful action and a strategic vision from the Abbott/Turnbull and Morrison Governments, deserve better.
At Estimates hearings Senator Colbeck also claimed the Government has made a decision about the Water Rule review, but couldnt produce any detail and refused to make any commitment to the Rules removal. The Water Rule restricts access to the Carbon Farming Initiative.
The industry is aware that the Morrison Government only committed to this review in response to Labor's commitment to review the Water Rule restrictions with the aim of removing the existing rules in both plantations and farm forestry Carbon Farming Initiative methodologies, to ensure the forestry sector can compete on a level playing field and to play a bigger role in a lower carbon future.
A Shorten Labor Government has committed to holding a summit for the forestry sector to inform the development of a comprehensive forestry strategic plan and in a bipartisan manner, will consider the work undertaken so far. This commitment has been supported by the Australian Forest Products Association.
Labors plan will seek to adequately promote sustainable profitability, local downstream processing, good local jobs. It will be developed by government, industry, employers and trade unions.
The forestry industry knows they do not have a moment to lose as the State of the Forest Report 2018 released this week revealed that the plantation area continues to decline.
Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Forest Products Association, Mr Ross Hampton said, This is exactly what we have been warning that the State of the Forests 2018 would reveal. There is no evidence that this downward trend has reversed in the three years since 2015 and it is my expectation that the next report will paint an even bleaker picture.
With the industry fearing a continuing decline, the lack of detail and strategic direction from the Morrison Government together with hollow promises of being there every step of the way will leave the forestry industry shaking its head.