Image for PM’s forest peace deal challenge

The Premier, Lara Giddings, is expected to update federal ministers today on last week’s Upper House motion rejecting the federally funded forest peace deal.

Last week, the Legislative Council passed the motion opposing the $276-million Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) to stop almost all native forest logging in Tasmania.

Ms Giddings again played down the motion, saying it will not affect the agreement.

She says negotiations with Upper House members still have a long way to go.

“At the moment they have none of that information before them so they’re expressing an opinion that they feel today,” she said.

“That may well change tomorrow.”

The Upper House needs to pass legislation to lock away forests from logging.

Ms Gillard has challenged members of Tasmania’s Upper House.

“Why would they say no to the ability to assist people in this state as it undergoes this transformation?”

“Market conditions have changed , and we’ve got two choices for the future,” she said.

“It’s one thing to vote for a motion, it’s another thing to put your hand up to deny this economy the resources it needs for change.

“When Tasmanian Upper House members are finally voting, the proposition they will be voting on is do they want support to help strengthen the Tasmanian economy or not?”

The Federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, believes Tasmania’s Upper House will capitulate on the federally-funded IGA.

Mr Burke says the IGA is the only way forward.

“When you reach an agreement you expect all parts to be honoured and I’ve got no reason to be believe that they won’t be,” he said.

“And the strongest reason to believe that this will be resolved is that the alternative is unthinkable.

“Imagine if government decided not to do nothing.

“And I find it hard to believe that any Tasmanian Parliament would end up voting for that.”

Upper House MP Greg Hall has indicated the Legislative Council remains firmly against the IGA.

He says the $120 million for economic development is sadly lacking.

“Let’s not forget that back in Mark Latham’s time $800 million was put forward for locking up some of the forests and that was knocked back,” he said.

“This is a paltry amount of money, so let’s say we’ll wait and see what transpires in that respect but certainly at this time I would need a lot of convincing to change my mind.”

Mr Burke this morning joined Forestry Tasmania officials and environmental groups to tour a native and plantation forest in the Wielangta region on the south east coast.

In Hobart this morning Ms Gillard announced that $8-million under the federally-funded forest agreement will be made available for business innovation ideas starting tomorrow.

The Prime Minister will join Federal cabinet members later tonight for the Community Cabinet at Kingston.


• The Wilderness Society, Environment Tasmania: Kingston Beach message to Prime Minister: ‘Thanks but you must now move on forest protection’

On Kingston Beach this afternoon, a a cross section of the community supportive of the Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreements spelt out a message to the Community Cabinet Meeting in Kingston, saying “Thanks, but …”

“We have come here today for two reasons. First, we want to thank the Prime Minister for showing leadership in reaching the historic forest agreement with the Tasmanian Government. Second, we need her to now follow through on the details of the agreement, sign the conservation agreement and stop the ongoing logging in identified forest reserves” said Vica Bayley of the Wilderness Society.

“Of course, we recognise the tough circumstances for timber workers and welcome the exit support provided through this agreement” said Dr Phill Pullinger of Environment Tasmania.

“However protecting unique and important native forests is a fundamental pillar of this agreement. It’s delivery is just as crucial as support for timber workers and contractors” he added.

“The Wilderness Society, Environment Tasmania and the Australian Conservation Foundation, now call on the Prime Minister to sign the federal-state conservation agreement. This will safeguard the initial 430,000 ha reserves of the identified high conservation value forest from logging,” concluded Vica Bayley.

All three ENGOs reiterated their committed to continue to work with the signatories and government to deliver on the promise of this agreement and all of the principles embedded in the original Statement of Principles.

• David Killick, Mercury: Forestry peace deal face-off

THE Federal Government would withhold funding for the forestry peace deal if the Legislative Council blocked related legislation, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said yesterday.

The state’s upper house has moved a motion opposing the deal and has vowed to block laws relating to the $276 million Intergovernmental Agreement.

Ms Gillard told the Mercury that if the Tasmanian Parliament didn’t pass Bills required for forest protection and wood supply then funding would cease.

“We’ve always been clear this is a package and it’s a package for change,” she said. “The economics of the forestry industry have changed, participants in the industry have realised that and that’s what brought them to the table with the environmental groups to talk through how to manage change.

“We want to see a state with strong diversity and jobs growth, and that means every part of the process needs to be complied with and delivered.

“Professor Jonathan West and his verification group need to do what they have been tasked to do, they need to feed that back and then the Tasmanian Parliament needs to enact it. The later funding for regional development is contingent on that.”

Ms Gillard said markets had changed and governments could not stand by and leave those affected to suffer.

“To upper house members in the Tasmanian Parliament, I would say why would they say no to the ability to assist people in this state as it undergoes this transformation,” she said.

“I don’t believe it would be a responsible course for anyone in the Tasmanian upper house to stand in the face of that. It’s one thing to vote for a motion. It’s another to put your hand up to deny this economy the resources it needs for change.”

Ms Gillard yesterday announced that an $8 million business innovation fund made possible by the forest agreement would open today and run until December.

“The Tasmanian economy needs strengthening,” she said. “I want to see for this state a dynamic and diversified economy. What it will mean is that people can put forward their policies and plans about how they want to see their business innovate, diversify and grow.”