Legislative Council: Tuesday, May 30, 2023


Forestry Industry

The Hon. H.M. GIROLAMO (15:53): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question of the minister for forestry about exports.

Leave granted.

The Hon. H.M. GIROLAMO: In response to the federal government's announcement on the resumption of trade of forest exports with China, South Australian Timber Processors Association boss David Quill said only excess raw material should be exported to China. He said, and I quote:

China may have lifted the ban on importing timber logs from Australia, but anyone who takes advantage of this would display a complete lack of regard for the Australian processing industry.

He told the Financial Review:

Any saw log exported would come at the expense of the future survival of that industry…Let's face it—we didn't plant these trees 50 years ago just to satisfy the Chinese market. Australia is not at all rich in terms of timber resources.

Forestry Australia chief executive, Jacquie Martin, whilst welcoming the lifting of the trade ban, also cautioned that Australia remained a net importer of forest products. She said, and I quote:

This is not sustainable given the current housing crisis. We are, in effect, exporting our forest management challenges to other nations when we have highly skilled professionals and scientists who are more than capable of appropriately managing our resources.

We look forward to working with the government to make sure we are no longer dependent on timber imports.

My question to the minister is: in light of Australia's net import of forest products and the current housing crisis, what steps will the government take to ensure sustainable forest management and reduce dependence on timber imports?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:55): I thank the honourable member for her question and I refer her to my earlier answers, which are also relevant in terms of what we are doing, which is fulfilling the various election commitments that we made. One of the key ones there—

The Hon. H.M. Girolamo: How is that even answering the question?


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: —is in regard to a forest products domestic manufacturing and infrastructure master plan. I would refer members to, again, a little bit of a hint in that title, 'domestic manufacturing'. Domestic manufacturing means here in South Australia. I think it is incredibly important that we are able to add value wherever possible, and I have been very encouraged by the various conversations and interactions that I have had with industry—over a long period of time, I might add.

I think it's in all of our interests to be able to value-add here in South Australia. We want to make sure that, to the extent possible, we are supporting local jobs and that we are supporting sustainable resources. We should all know that timber is, as some would phrase it, the ultimate renewable in terms of being the sort of product that we want to be able to use in construction of buildings and, indeed, other applications as well.

That's one of the reasons why I went to Queensland recently and was looking at some of the high-rise timber buildings that are in existence there. Members may or may not be aware—I suggest those opposite are probably not aware because they haven't expressed much interest in forestry in recent years, but they may be aware, some of them might be aware—that I think it was around about 2015, the National Construction Code was amended to enable taller buildings to be built out of timber products. I was able to see some of that that had been constructed.

Members may also be aware—or indeed they may not—that there is a building in Kent Town that has also been constructed of the type of future-thinking products that we are looking at. Cross-laminated timber and glue-laminated timber form an important part of that, and I am delighted that in the South-East of our state, at Tarpeena, later this year, Timberlink will be opening a manufacturing site that is going to be producing CLT and GLT. If I recall correctly, it will be the only facility in Australia that will be producing both of those.

Sustainable forest management was part of the question. I am really pleased that Australian and particularly South Australian forests all adhere to sustainable management practices. It is an important part of the accreditation that they need to be able to not only satisfy the expectations of customers, both domestic and international, but also the international accreditation requirements. I think it's an exciting space. It's a very sustainable area that has a lot of potential and I am very proud that the Malinauskas Labor government is committed to the forestry industry and has so many commitments in place, and developing that will support this important sector.