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Colbeck’s welcome comeback to forestry may be cut short

Senator Richard Colbeck

After the Federal government’s recent political spill a change has come that will certainly be welcomed by most of the forestry industry as well as Tasmanians. Richard Colbeck has been given the portfolio of Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources assuming responsibility for forest industries. Sources: Timberbiz, ABC News

Senator Colbeck takes over from Anne Ruston who takes on the new role of Assistant Minister for International Development. Senator Ruston has done a good job with forestry and is to be congratulated for her clear-headed approach to the issues facing the industry.

“I commend Senator Anne Ruston for the work she has done in this portfolio and congratulate her on her new appointment,” Minister Colbeck said.

Australian Forests Products Association (AFPA) chief executive Ross Hampton said that this latest ministerial reshuffle means a changing of the guard for Federal Government forestry responsibility, which has been made very close to the delivery of the National Forest Industries Plan.

“I sincerely thank Assistant Minister Ruston for her enthusiasm for our industries demonstrated over the past three years and wish her well in her new role,” Mr Hampton said.

“I welcome back Assistant Minister Colbeck who has previously served as a Parliamentary Secretary and Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for forestry and who initiated the development of the Government’s National Plan.

“Senator Colbeck is well acquainted with the challenges faced by our industries and the need to provide the policy settings to allow our industries, which employ some 120,000 people across the full value chain, to thrive into the future.”

The Coalition Government announced the development of the National Forest Industries Plan last year recognising the need to provide our renewable forest industries strategic policy and support. Industry stakeholders are keenly awaiting the content of the National Plan and are looking forward to its announcement on September 12.

“Forest industries need a range of policy reforms including a commitment for new trees in the ground, in both plantations and farm forestry, a commitment for certainty for native forestry, as well as fast tracked infrastructure, increased focus on R&D, and investment in bioenergy,” Mr Hampton said.

Senator Colbeck said that he looked forward to working with his counterpart in the Tasmanian State Liberal Government, Primary Industries Minister Sarah Courtney, and the Tasmanian primary industries sector to drive new opportunities for the State.

“Tasmania now has a voice back in the Ministry and I look forward to advocating on behalf of our State,” he said.

While Senator Colbeck is delighted to return to this portfolio it may be a short stint in the job as he is facing a pre-selection battle that could put his seat in the aParliament at risk.

Senator Colbeck lost his seat at the last election, only to return to the Parliament this year in the wake of the citizenship saga. He is the only Tasmanian Liberal facing re-election at the next federal poll.

ABC News has stated that multiple sources have confirmed that conservatives want either former federal MP Brett Whiteley, who has since twice failed to win the northern Tasmanian seat of Braddon, or a female candidate at the top of the ticket.

Mr Whiteley, who refused to comment when contacted by the ABC, called Senator Colbeck, as a courtesy, to tell him he would be seeking pre-selection.

Following his promotion under Mr Morrison, Senator Colbeck told ABC Radio Hobart that he hoped pre-selectors would put him at the top of the ticket.

“I’m working steadily around the pre-selectors, talking to them, receiving positive feedback but that’s a matter for the organisation,” he said.

“I’m pitching to lead the ticket as the only sitting senator on this half but also now as a member of ministry.

“I think I’ve got a few credentials on the table in support of the candidacy and look forward to the support of the panel.”