Legislative Council: Wednesday, November 16, 2022



Limestone Coast Timber Industry

Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. N.J. Centofanti:

1. That a select committee of the Legislative Council be established to inquire into and report on the exporting of wood fibre and other matters regarding the timber industry in the Limestone Coast of South Australia, with particular reference to—

(a) whether the exporting of wood fibre is in compliance with the conditions of sale of the radiata pine forests in the Limestone Coast, sold by the previous state Labor government;

(b) the volume of radiata pine log being exported from the Limestone Coast area by all growers;

(c) the economic benefit and employment opportunities that could be gained through additional wood fibre based industries should the current exported logs be made available for processing in South Australia;

(d) options for increasing the availability of logs to South Australian processors;

(e) a review of water licensing laws applying to forest estates;

(f) opportunities to strengthen the forest and timber products industries in the Limestone Coast of South Australia, and in particular:

(i) barriers to investment in timber resource and processing capacity;

(ii) opportunities to expand the plantation estate, including greater utilisation of farm forestry;

(iii) strategies available to timber processing businesses to secure long-term timber supply;

(iv) strategies to grow domestic manufacturing; and

(v) opportunities to maximise returns for timber processors from forest and timber residues;

(g) policies in other states to constrain resource for specified markets;

(h) the promotion of the economic contribution of the forest and timber products industry to the South Australian community; and

(i) any other related matters.

2. That the minutes of evidence presented to the Select Committee of the Fifty-Fourth Parliament on Matters Relating to the Timber Industry in the Limestone Coast, tabled in the council on 8 February 2022, be referred to this select committee.

3. That this council permits the select committee to authorise the disclosure or publication, as it sees fit, of any evidence or documents presented to the committee prior to such evidence being presented to the council.

(Continued from 2 November 2022.)

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (22:21): I rise in regard to the motion to establish a select committee into the timber industry and advise that the government will be supporting this motion and proposal. I established a similar committee in the previous parliament, and I was pleased that so many within the industry in the region participated in that committee. The submissions that I received as part of that committee greatly assisted myself and the then opposition in identifying a number of matters that fed into our policy development process. It led to a large number of election commitments for the forestry industry.

We know, of course, that there was very little in the way of election commitments by the former Liberal government, now opposition, in terms of commitments for the forest industry, so if establishing this committee will assist them in being a constructive opposition then that is something we will support. However, it is somewhat ironic that the now Liberal opposition is proposing the re-establishment of this committee, given their fierce opposition to setting up such a committee when they were in government.

The member for Mount Gambier in the other place attempted to set up a similar committee during the last term, only for the then Marshall Liberal government to use their numbers to vote it down in the lower house. They did not want such a committee then. I moved to establish the committee in the Legislative Council and because the Liberal Party did not have the numbers to quash it the committee was established. It is certainly a remarkable change of heart, their sudden support, but that change of heart is welcome.

Some of the irony, though, is perhaps magnified when one reflects on the sorts of things that were said at the time when I established the committee in this place. In fact, a government minister at the time described establishing such a committee as being meddling and playing political games at the expense of the industry. Clearly, my chairing of the committee and the enthusiastic involvement of the industry and of stakeholders has changed the minds of the Liberals. It is certainly very welcome that that change of heart has occurred.

There has been an amendment flagged by the Hon. Mr Simms, which is an amendment that we also will be happy to support. It includes reference to the environmental impacts of the timber industry. I welcome this inclusion as it has the potential to raise awareness of the carbon benefits of plantation forestry, being that it does draw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, locks carbon into the trees and then continues to keep it locked in the timber products that are then produced.

That is certainly a welcome addition, because some of those benefits may well be raised in terms of awareness of members of the committee and also perhaps the general public. I look forward to this committee achieving, hopefully, some constructive and non-party-political outcomes. Certainly, I approached the committee as something that would be useful for gaining information and better engagement with the industry. I hope that there will be the opportunity for it to be non-political as it goes forward.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (22:25): I rise to speak in favour of the committee on behalf of the Greens. As the Hon. Clare Scriven indicated, I do have an amendment, and I will move that now:

At paragraph 1, after subparagraph (g), insert a new subparagraph as follows:

(ga) environmental impacts of the timber industry;

I circulated the amendment earlier, and I have spoken to the mover and also the government in relation to this. I understand that both are supportive of the amendment. The reason for putting this forward is it is important, when one is constituting a committee such as this that looks at broader economic contributions of a particular industry, that there is also due consideration of the environment, and hence that has been included.

I note the minister's comments regarding the need for non-partisan contributions on committees such as this and look forward to the government supporting other committees that I put forward in the future in a very similar spirit.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI (Leader of the Opposition) (22:26): I would like to thank the Hon. Mr Simms for his constructive contribution. I also note the contribution of the minister was perhaps a little less constructive and I suggest perhaps her contribution was more party political. I would like to place on the record that the opposition are happy to support the Greens' amendment. I look forward to continuing the good work of this committee into the future. I commend the motion to the house.

Amendment carried; motion as amended carried.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI (Leader of the Opposition) (22:27): I move:

That the select committee consist of the Hon. H.M. Girolamo, the Hon. T.T. Ngo, the Hon. F. Pangallo, the Hon. R.P. Wortley and the mover.

Motion carried.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: I move:

That the select committee have power to send for persons, papers and records, to adjourn from place to place and to report on 30 November 2022.

Motion carried.