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New Federal Forestry Minister must answer industry questions when in Hobart today

New Federal Forestry Minister Joe Ludwig must answer key questions surrounding the future of Tasmania’s forest industry when he visits Hobart today.

Federal Coalition spokesperson for Forestry and Tasmanian Liberal Senator Richard Colbeck said Minister Ludwig must meet with forestry workers and businesses and explain why the Labor Party didn’t release a forestry policy during the election campaign.

“Disgracefully, Labor doesn’t even have a forestry policy,” Senator Colbeck said.

“Labor’s complete lack of a forestry policy is all the more scarier now they are in a formal alliance with the Greens whose number one aim is to destroy the industry and its jobs.”

“Representatives of the forest industry are in the dark as to how the new Gillard Labor Government will support the industry, if at all.

“That is no way to treat a $23 billion industry which employs more than 76,000 Australians.

“The only commitment Labor made to the industry was a last-minute, panicked announcement of $20 million for Tasmanian forest contractors to match the Coalition’s already announced policy.

“Minister Ludwig is city-based and has limited knowledge of the forestry industry, but that is no excuse for Labor’s policy vacuum.”

Senator Colbeck called on Minister Ludwig to answer the following questions:

· Does he support the five principles proposed by the Institute of Foresters (Tasmania) before the Government agrees to any further forestry lock-ups?

· When will the promised $20 million be made available to Tasmanian forest contractors? Who will be eligible for funding?

· Does he support long term Regional Forest Agreements to give investment certainty to the industry?

· Will he provide assistance to small sawmilling businesses to attain international forestry certification?

· Does the new Labor Government support forestry managed investment schemes with enhanced safeguards ensuring ongoing resource for the industry?

· Will he join the industry in supporting amendments to renewable energy legislation allowing for wood biomass to benefit from energy incentives available to other renewable energy sources (as already occurs in Europe)

· Will the Government provide funding to help build the University of Tasmania’s Timber Engineering Centre of Excellence?

· Can he guarantee the ongoing operation of ForestWorks – the industry’s successful Skills Council?.

· Will he be providing additional funding to the industry’s R&D authority, Forest and Wood Products Australia to increase research capacity for the sector?