The Tasmanian Government’s horror week in the upper house has continued, with MLCs swinging the axe on its contentious forestry legislation. Source: ABC News
The bill would have allowed logging in 356,000 hectares of forests two years earlier than a moratorium would have allowed.
It was defeated in the Legislative Council, with seven MLCs voting it down, with five in favour.
The defeat came after the upper house blocked the Government’s mandatory sentences bill on Wednesday night, a policy it took to the 2014 election.
Leader of government business Leonie Hiscutt made a last-minute pitch to MLCs to pass the Forestry (Unlocking Production Forests) Bill 2017.
“This is a critical bill for the future of the forestry industry and for jobs in Tasmania,” Ms Hiscutt said. She said the specialty timbers industry “desperately” wanted it to pass.
“The industry wants and needs this bill to pass,” she said.
Resources Minister Guy Barnett said the result was disappointing, and pointed the finger at Labor, who voted against the bill.
“Labor are more interested in locking up our forests than locking serial paedophiles or child sex offenders,” Mr Barnett said. “It’s a disgrace, they should be ashamed of themselves.
“Clearly this is a mandate we sought at the last election to stop the lock-ups.”
Mr Barnett would not be drawn on whether the failure of the two bills in the upper house would trigger an early state election. He said it was up to the Premier when the election would be held.
“Whenever that election is, these two pieces of legislation, it’ll be a matter for the Tasmanian people whether they support our efforts to lock up child sex offenders.”
Greens leader Cassy O’Connor welcomed the continued temporary protection of the forests.
“This is a two-year reprieve for some of the most carbon rich forests on the planet,” Ms O’Connor said. “We’ll be there along with the wider conservation movements fighting to make sure those forests are protected into reserves.
“[Mr Barnett] brought forward a piece of legislation that was divisive, and the house of review has rightly rejected it.”
In March, Tasmania’s peak forestry industry group was preparing a campaign against the bill, with Forest Industries Association of Tasmania (FIAT) boss Terry Edwards saying “none of my members believe this is a good idea”.
Mr Edwards said he was relieved the bill had failed.
“We know exactly what the consequences would have been from the passage of that legislation, which we’ve made the Government aware of,” he said. “More importantly, we’re concerned about where to from here.
“They tried to divide the industry up … and I think that sort of divisiveness is unfortunate and unnecessary.”
Mr Edwards said he felt daunted about the Government bringing back the legislation in the lead-up to the election.
“A mandate will not change anything, if they come back with bad legislation, whether or not they can argue mandate will be immaterial,” he said. “Labor exercised two votes, it’s not about party politics, it’s about convincing a range of independents.
“The people of Tasmania are sick of this debate, they are clearly saying they are sick of this debate, they just want it off the agenda.”
But forestry consultant Tony Stonjek said the rejection of the bill was a “setback”.
“We see this as a missed opportunity not only to gain access to resource but to provide employment for workers particularly in the North East and for the small saw millers,” he said. “This is a set back, the forestry industry as a whole was behind this.”