Legislative Council: Wednesday, March 22, 2023


Limestone Coast Timber Industry

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI (Leader of the Opposition) (14:31): I seek leave to provide a brief explanation before asking a question of the Minister for Forest Industries on timber processors in the South-East.

Leave granted.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: The opposition has been approached by community members who have significant concerns that the company which bought the harvesting rights to the South Australian government plantations is now, in spite of terms of the lease agreement, planning to terminate supply agreements to two family-owned sawmilling businesses in the Mount Gambier region. The magnitude of the cutbacks is apparently such that these timber processors may be forced to close their doors, resulting in no employment for 130 personnel. As Minister for Forest Industries and as a constituent from the South-East:

1. Is she aware of these concerns?

2. What is she doing to ensure these family-owned sawmills are not forced to shut because they cannot access supply of timber?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:32): I acknowledge the member's question. Of course, I am familiar with these concerns, partly because these were concerns that were raised over previous years when those opposite were the party that was in government. It appears that none of that was addressed during that time. However, I do acknowledge it is a difficult issue to address, given that log contracts are between private parties and therefore there is limited ability for intervention from government.

One of the actions that I have taken since becoming minister was to write to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in regard to what opportunities there are for parameters to be put in place that might enable local processors, who perhaps can't compete on the same basis as the larger processors, to be able to access timber.

I am glad that those opposite are finally taking an interest in the timber industry, because of course this is something that has been aerated for a number of years and yet this is the first level of interest that we have from those opposite. I met recently—

Members interjecting:


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I met recently with the South Australian Timber Processors Association. We, of course, talk about these sorts of matters quite frequently. They were going to be having an online meeting with the ACCC, and I am hopeful that that might be one avenue that we can pursue in terms of assisting those processors.