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Friday analysis: Tasmania Labor not for labourers

All week we’ve been following the to and fro in Tasmania where Labor believes it is supporting workers by not supporting the Liberal Party in its efforts to improve workplace protection legislation. It has cited other workers such as nurses and teachers as its concern but not forestry and timber workers. Source: Mandy Parry-Jones

Forestry, timber workers and the companies that employ them have been under constant threat from green groups such as the Bob Brown Foundation, very often they have been placed at risk and work has had to stop. But where is the mind of Tasmanian Labor, it’s with the nurses – don’t get me wrong I have no problem protecting health workers but how many times have they had protestors lock themselves onto hospital beds or invade an operating theatre.

That’s not Labor’s claim of course as Shadow Minister for Resources, Shane Broad said: “Under the proposed legislation, nurses protesting about a lack of resources outside our hospitals or factory workers demanding better leave entitlements could be fined or even jailed.” However, the proposed legislation was drafted so that situation could not occur.

My point is why has Labor deserted its workers in favour of protecting protestors when its own constitution says: “The Australian Labor Party is a democratic socialist party and has the objective of the democratic socialisation of industry, production, distribution and exchange, to the extent necessary to eliminate exploitation and other anti-social features in these fields”. In my mind, anti-social is the protesting occurring in Tasmania.

The end result is that Labor has stomped on the legislation but with an egocentric offer to support the laws if they have a hand in drafting them.

Meanwhile Labor in Victoria has had to concede that promised plantations to replace native forest by 2030 was a furphy, but it was not the Hon Jaclyn Symes Minister for Resources who conceded, it was Victoria’s Agriculture Minister Mary-Anne Thomas. Minister Symes has been hiding her light under a bushel for some time, so it comes as no surprise that the admission was handballed to another minister.

According to The Age, Minister Thomas said the government had been clear that plantation trees planted now will not be ready by 2030 and that they will not be replacing native forests tree-for-tree. That’s ‘clearly’ a revelation that we expected but not one that had been clearly expounded until now.

It’s okay though, grants are on offer of up to $400,000 to 11 key forestry communities where native timber is – and was – an important source of jobs.

“We’re supporting workers and their families through this time of change with an inclusive plan for the transition away from native timber harvesting,” Agriculture Minister Mary-Anne Thomas said. Again, it was Minister Thomas at the fore. However, what’s not clear is what can they transition to, what other options are open to towns like Marysville and Powelltown.

On a more positive note, the Federal Government is more in tune with the need for forestry on many levels ranging from climate change to the importance of the industry to exports and for local prosperity.

Just recently at the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) Members’ Forum in Canberra Federal Assistant Minister for Forestry Jonathon Duniam said the forest industries’ significant contribution to climate change mitigation is not well recognised.

This followed the release of a report from the House of Representative Standing Committee on Agriculture and Water Resources called “Aussie logs for Aussie jobs”.  With Committee Chair Rick Wilson MP saying that more needs to be done if the timber industry is to flourish into the future. Perhaps he could send the report down to Tasmania.