Legislative Council: Tuesday, May 30, 2023


Forestry Industry

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (15:40): My question is to the Minister for Forest Industries regarding forestry exports. Has the minister met with the South Australian Timber Processors Association and discussed with them their concerns that only excess sawlog should be exported to China due to the housing shortage in Australia?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:40): As I have mentioned before, I meet regularly with a number of stakeholders across all my portfolio areas. The issue to which the honourable member is referring is a longstanding one, and isn't simply due to the difficulty in accessing housing construction materials at the moment. In fact, Australia has been a net importer of forest products for some time, which is why increasing our plantation estate and investing in South Australia's forest-related industries is crucial to meeting our future timber needs.

That, of course, was reflected in our government's election commitments, which included, for example, a new forestry centre of excellence, development of a forest products domestic manufacturing and infrastructure master plan, as well as our Trees on Farm Initiative. Of course that is in stark contrast to the lack of policy in the forestry area that we saw from the former government, including going into the last state election. I think development of the domestic manufacturing and infrastructure master plan is a key part of ensuring that we do maximise the value-adding opportunities that are here in South Australia and indeed Australia. All of those are important factors to consider.

In general, as I mentioned, the recent announcement by China's ambassador to Australia, that the Australian log import ban has been ended, has been widely covered and, in general, welcomed, notwithstanding caution by some industry representatives. I am advised that the federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry is awaiting further clarification from the General Administration of Customs of China regarding the resumption of log exports to China.