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Meet Australia’s new minister for forestry

Senator Jonathan Duniam, the new assistant federal minister in charge of forestry, was a senior member of Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman’s staff during the development of the new Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement. Senator Duniam grew up in the north-west of Tasmania and went to university in Hobart before entering the public service. Source: Philip Hopkins for Timberbiz

He has extensive experience in policy-making, and subsequently worked as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Mr Hodgman at the time of the Liberals’ 2014 state election win.

He was elected to the Senate at the 2016 federal election and appointed the Assistant Minister for Forests and Fisheries, and Assistant Minister for Regional Tourism, by Prime Minister Scott Morrison this week. He was sworn in as minister yesterday, replacing fellow Tasmanian Senator Richard Colbeck in that role.

Since his election in 2016, Senator Duniam has been an active participant on Senate committees. He served as Chair of the Community Affairs Legislation Committee from September 2016 to August 2017, and was Chair of the Environment and Communications Committee from August 2018 until the election on 18 May 2019.

Senator Duniam described himself as a proud sixth generation Tasmanian with strong family roots planted in the north-west of the state.

“I am married with three sons and know the importance of improving opportunities for the next generation of Tasmanians – to keep them in the state and enable them to build their careers and families,” he said.

“I am a strong advocate for our state and believe Tasmania is the best place to live, work and raise a family. I am passionate about getting out into the local community, and believe my job is about listening to concerns and actively working hard to find solutions by securing results for our state in Canberra.”

Senator Duniam said his aim and focus was to be judged by deeds, not by words.

“It is my commitment to work hard and deliver tangible benefits for the people of Tasmania. Our beautiful island state has so much to offer, and my hope and vision for the future is that our state continues to prosper but also preserve what makes our state so unique,” he said.

Senator Duniam’s immediate challenges include completing the five Victorian RFAs and rolling out more of the Federal Government’s proposed forestry hubs. It has allocated $1 million to four of the planned 13 forestry hubs.

The Government also promised at the election to provide $500 million in low interest loans to plantation growers as part of its support of the forest industry’s aim to plant one billion trees by 2030.

Missing from the Government’s policy is action on removing the water rule, which restricts new plantations in areas of more than 600 millimetres of annual rainfall and 400mm for farm forestry from gaining carbon credits.

Any land with rainfall of more than 600mm is ineligible for carbon credits. Industry relies on regions with 700mm-plus rainfall to produce economic trees and wood of the right quality and species.

The Labor Party at the 2019 election had vowed to immediately scrap the water rule if it won office. Senator Colbeck before the election had vowed to also abolish the water rule.