Federal Labor’s Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Joel Fitzgibbon, has given the Opposition’s in-principle support for a new National Forest Industries Plan for Australia’s $23 billion forest and forest products sector.
Speaking at an Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) dinner last night, Mr Fitzgibbon urged the Government to deliver the Plan by next year to capitalise on the industry’s potential for growth:
“If [the Coalition] is still the Government, and it’s a good plan, it’s a well thought out plan, and it’s an economically responsible plan, then of course we will support it.
If there is to be a fibre boom, and I think there will be, it’s important to understand that it’s not going to come to us, we need to go to it. To get there, we need a plan, we need a very serious plan and you need government guidance.
It is time for progress for the fortunes of the forest and forest products sector. And of course, the opportunities are many… Yours is a wonderful product – a natural, renewable product, a carbon-storing product that is capable of being grown in a sustainable way. That’s got to be the best brand anyone could hope for in the current global and political environment.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that he was backing the creation of a new Government plan for the forest industries at the AFPA Gala Dinner in September. Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Senator Anne Ruston, has been tasked with developing and delivering the plan.
AFPA Chief Executive Officer Mr Ross Hampton said, “Federal Labor’s in-principle support for this initiative is vital. Without long-term certainty and stability our sustainable, renewable carbon positive industries cannot meet their full potential.
“In 2017 we are a $23 billion industry employing some 120,000 Australians if you include the full value chain. And yet we have a continual trade deficit in wood products of more than $2 billion a year. We are being left behind by other forestry nations which are surging forward with the bio economy and expanding into high value manufacturing using forestry residues for products such as biofuels, bio plastics and bio pharmaceuticals.
“Australia is the seventh most forested nation on earth and maintains certification and environmental management regimes unbeaten anywhere. We should strive to not just provide for our own needs, but also play a leading role in providing forest products to a rapidly growing Asia Pacific Region.”
AFPA will be working with the Government and Opposition over coming months to ensure there is bipartisan consensus for the National Government Plan so that it delivers a step change for the industry and is secure from future political change.