Legislative Council: Thursday, February 08, 2024


Australian Forest and Wood Innovations

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI (Leader of the Opposition) (14:20): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question of the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development regarding Australian Forest and Wood Innovations.

Leave granted.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: The federal government is currently assessing expressions of interest for two research centres, given the operational name of Australian Forest and Wood Innovations. One already exists at the University of Tasmania and, in total, the research centres will receive over $100 million in funding from the Australian government over the next three years.

Mount Gambier has 140 years of history of growing and producing world-renowned forest products, with well-established research capabilities at the University of South Australia. Co-location with the Forestry Centre of Excellence aligns with the existing collaborative model for sector growth, industry legacy and vision for the future. Myself and the Hon. Ben Hood, Liberal representative for the South-East, have both written to the federal government in support of this proposal.

My question to the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development is: given the strategic importance of applied research development innovation in the forest and forest products industry and the Green Triangle, can the minister inform the chamber what support she has given to the proposal for a federally funded research centre to be co-located in Mount Gambier with the Forestry Centre of Excellence?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:22): I am absolutely delighted that the opposition has finally acknowledged the importance of the industry that is the forest industry sector in South Australia. It is wonderful to find that they have discovered that this is important in terms of its economic contribution, in terms of the number of jobs it provides and also in terms of its identity in the South-East.

Of course, we know that those opposite went to the last state election without a forestry policy, without a forestry policy at all. The then minister responsible didn't turn up to the forum that was in Mount Gambier and sent a video message that looked like it had at least 10 different takes through it, such was his familiarity or lack thereof with the topic. We know that those opposite occasionally pay lip service to the importance of the industry, so I am glad that there is finally some level of interest.

The Forestry Centre of Excellence, of course, is about bringing together various funding streams. It was an election commitment of the now Malinauskas Labor government. It's something that is incredibly important. We have huge reserves of expertise in terms of research, particularly around genetics, for example, but not confined to that and so working with the federal government and the funding is a key part of what we are doing in the South-East.