ENVIRONMENT Minister Tony Burke has signalled federal Labor is ready to embrace a once-in-a-generation deal to end Tasmania’s forestry wars, as loggers and conservationists inch close to agreement.
Mr Burke told The Australian Labor was no longer haunted by the ghost of Mark Latham’s failed 2004 federal election forest policy, widely seen as contributing to Labor’s loss to the Coalition that year.
“This could not be further away from the events of that year,” Mr Burke said. “What we were talking about then were two different political parties making rival announcements.
“This one began with community groups and industry sitting at a table, where previously people had thought that just getting to the same table was impossible.
“I want to work on a government response to a proposal. The whole reason that this has been viewed with far more respect in the Tasmanian community than some of the political deals that have frustrated people in the past is because it’s been community based. The parties . . . are closer than they have ever been at any point in the history of this issue and I am still hopeful that they can come to a joint position that they can put to us.”
Last week, Mr Burke and other federal ministers met environment and timber groups trying to negotiate a deal to transition the industry from native forests to plantations. Mr Burke refused their calls for the government to arbitrate final sticking points, insisting a plan be agreed without political involvement.
It is believed talks since have made substantial progress and there is confidence an agreed position can be put to government within two weeks.