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Friday analysis: Victorians says show me the money Mr Duniam

Minister Duniam

The Federal and State governments, understandably, have a lot on their minds. Apart from running the country – a big enough job by any measure – they have had to handle a pandemic and in New South Wales’ and Victoria’s case the recovery from the bushfires. Source: Bruce Mitchell

To that end, Assistant Minister for Forestry Jonno Duniam announced at the end of June – two months ago – a $40 million Forestry Recovery Development Fund.

But, in the words uttered in the 1996 film Jerry Maguire; show me the money.

That’s what Carter Holt Harvey, HVP Plantations, Alpine MDF (Wangaratta) and D&R Henderson (Benalla) as well as Independent federal member for Indi Helen Haines want the Federal Government to do, and quickly.

They say that despite funding announcements made to support the industry in May and June, they are still waiting to be told how to access any of the funds.

They have asked the government to act on the support package on 23 June involving the $40 million Forestry Recovery Development Fund and the $10m for Salvage Log Storage Fund, as well as an 11 May announcement of $15 million for Salvage Log Transport Assistance.

And they wrote to Senator Duniam to say so.

Not so, says Senator Duniam on Thursday: “…we’ve taken the necessary time to consult with the industry and the relevant states on the guidelines to ensure that the guidelines meet the needs of industry.”

Not so, say the signatories. They, apparently, haven’t heard a word.

“Each of these announcements was welcome, but in the months that have since passed, there’s been no action,” they wrote.

“No funding has been delivered. No applications have opened. No guidelines have been released.”

This delay is simply not good enough, and it will be interesting to see how quickly things get moving.

The NSW Government meanwhile acted quickly accepting without question all 76 recommendations of the independent NSW Bushfire Inquiry.

And the government said that any issues not covered in the report that are still relevant to the protection of property and life will also be further examined.

Again, it must be hoped that the actions match the words.

Meanwhile, in timber industry terms – in particular native timber – all attention is now on Tasmania.

In a little over seven days the Greens have demonstrated how far they will go to achieve their aims – the Bob Brown Foundation’s legal action which it hopes might end native forest logging in Tasmania started it off – and they have demonstrated how little they are enthused in listening to anyone who might have an alternate opinion regardless of the forum.

One Tasmanian Labor MP faced constant interruptions in State Parliament from Green MPs while defending the local timber industry.

Shadow Minister for Infrastructure Shane Broad was speaking in reply to a motion moved by the Green Leader Cassy O’Connor roundly criticising the timber industry in Tasmania and Sustainable Timber Tasmania and calling on the State Government to end native logging in the State.

During her speech, Ms O’Connor was interrupted once, by Building and Construction Minister Guy Barnett, on a point of order.

Once that point of order – Mr Barnett objected to her use of the word “bloody-minded” – went in her favour Ms O’Connor kindly accused Mr Barnett of his being bloody-minded himself.

Ah, the rough-and-tumble of energetic and stimulated Parliamentary debate.

It was Dr Broad’s job to reply to Ms O’Connor’s motion.

Dr Broad did an admirable job, challenging the many points Ms O’Connor raised.

He was five sentences in when the heckling from Ms O’Connor and the Member for Franklin Rosalie Woodruff began.

And it continued, ad nauseam.

Dr Broad summed it up nicely.

“It is incredible. Every time I get up to talk about this and lay out a series of points to make a point, I get shouted down. You are so intolerant of anybody else’s opinion. It is extraordinary for the party of so-called tolerance,’’ he told Parliament.

Ms O’Connor’s reply: “It’s just that we can’t listen to (expletive) without challenging it.”

On, and on it went.

Now, this sort of behaviour in parliament, both Federally and in the various States, is nothing new.

And it would be naïve to suggest that any party is blameless.

But this goes beyond “good natured heckling”.

It demonstrates that the Greens will stifle debate on their strategies at whatever cost and in whatever venue and at any time.

Surely at a time when national and state economies will likely be in a deep recession with the loss of potentially tens of thousands of jobs rational, measured debate is called for.

But, given the Greens’ approach to debate, that clearly will not be on their agenda anytime soon.