Mr YEADON (Granville-Minister for Information Technology, Minister for Energy, Minister for Forestry, and Minister for Western Sydney) [2.22 p.m.]: I would like to update the House on a large new log tender that could result in more than 100 jobs for the Central West.
Mr SPEAKER:Order! I call the honourable member for Wakehurst to order.
Mr YEADON: Last Monday the honourable member for Bathurst and I called for expressions of interest in 450,000 tonnes of logs from State Forests softwood plantations in the Bathurst, Orange, Lithgow and Oberon areas. The results speak for themselves. Last week more than 20 representatives from 15 companies and investment groups attended a State Forests information day about the tender. These included companies and groups of investors from overseas and interstate, as well as existing local timber processors. There is considerable interest in investing in new value-adding processing facilities that could lead to the creation of more than 100 jobs in the Central West. That is an excellent response which confirms that the availability of this additional wood could lead to a significant expansion in economic activity and employment based in the Central West softwood plantations. New processing facilities could produce sawn timber products for domestic and export markets and for expanding the local manufacture of panels and other wood fibre-based products.
Mr SPEAKER:Order! I place the honourable member for Oxley on two calls to order.
Mr YEADON: The plantation management and timber processing activities based in those forests already provide direct economic benefit to the region of around $150 million per year and directly employ more than 800 people, so already it is a significant regional industry. In fact, the Central West in the second largest pine plantation region in New South Wales, the southern area of Tumut-Cooma being the largest. Potential investors in this resource were also interested to learn that approximately 15,000 hectares of privately owned softwood plantation within the region are capable of producing an estimated 100 tonnes of sawlogs and 150 tonnes of pulpwood a year.
New processing facilities in the region would further boost investment in private plantations. Imagine what economic activity would be generated if these plantations had an extra layer of environmental, international value through carbon credits! Unfortunately, that is not the case because the Federal Government refuses to ratify the Kyoto protocol. This State has led the world in working on carbon sequestration and carbon credits. This is the time we have been waiting for. Every commentator and expert agrees that Australia will benefit from signing the Kyoto protocol. New South Wales has certainly worked to ensure that some of those economic benefits are achieved.
We are on the starting grid, we have the motor ticking over and we are just waiting for the starter to drop the flag. However, someone called John Howard is lying right in the middle of the grid. It is interesting to gauge the commitment of Opposition members to the development of rural industries. No wonder they are so much on the nose in their own electorates; they will do nothing for their regional communities. The criteria of State Forests for evaluating bids from prospective purchasers of additional wood in the Central West will include a detailed assessment of the regional economic benefits to be generated by each proposal put forward. Again the Government has a defined plan to ensure that it maximises the economic outcome for regions such as Macquarie. The next step for those parties interested in tendering is to lodge a proposal for all or part of the wood on offer. The Government looks forward to those formal proposals. Based on the proposals, a short list of preferred proponents will be selected and invited to present detailed tender submissions by 28 October.
Mr D. L. PAGE (Ballina) [2.27 p.m.]: The Opposition always welcomes the creation of new jobs, and it welcomes the potential of 100 new jobs associated with the tender for 450,000 tonnes of softwood timber. However, the Minister for Forestry drove a forest agenda that cost this State hundreds of jobs. He took away the resource that was available to the timber industry under the regional forest agreements [RFAs], and the Premier was right in there with him. It ill behoves the Minister to try now to take credit for creating 100 jobs when he cost the regional areas of New South Wales hundreds of jobs. The RFAs have been put in place, yet the Government is now looking at converting State forests that were agreed to under the RFAs to national parks. To not honour an RFA that was passed by the Parliament and signed off by the Commonwealth is to betray the Parliament. I ask the Minister and the Premier for an undertaking that they will not unravel the RFA in the fourth year of a 20-year agreement. The Minister referred to jobs in the timber industry. I point out that the Government's native vegetation legislation is having an adverse impact on timber resources on private land. Why is that occurring?
Mr SPEAKER:Order! I call the Minister for Transport to order.
Mr D. L. PAGE: It is occurring because members of native vegetation committees who know nothing about silviculture and the timber industry are drawing lines on maps, locking up timber resources on vast areas of privately owned land and saying, "You can't touch it". The Minister must recognise that he has taken away half the Crown resource. Although plantations are coming on line, albeit too slowly, New South Wales is far behind the 20:20 vision, which aims to treble the size of the plantation estate by 2020. That leaves us with the private resource, and the Government's native vegetation legislation is ruining completely any opportunity to access it. The Minister made some comments about the Kyoto protocol. The reality is it would have been better if everyone had ratified the agreement at the time. However, key countries-such as the United States of America, which is responsible for 25 per cent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions-would not ratify the agreement. Why not? The United States would not ratify it because the Chinese and the Indians would not do so.
Mr Yeadon: They have.
Mr D. L. PAGE: The Chinese have because the agreement is not binding on underdeveloped countries. That point is often lost. It is not the sort of agreement that would bind Australia. The Federal Government is within an inch of achieving the target set out at Kyoto, which is to achieve, by 2010, 108 per cent of 1990 emissions. Australia is on track in that regard. The fact that we have not signed and ratified-
Ms Moore: It's a disgrace!
Mr SPEAKER:Order! The former member for Kiama is in the gallery and he will want to know that the honourable member for Bligh is on her best behaviour.
Mr D. L. PAGE: Even though Australia has not ratified the Kyoto protocol, we are on track with regard to its prime objective: to reduce by 2010 greenhouse gas emissions to 108 per cent of their 1990 levels. Emissions in Australia are currently running at 111 per cent so we are not far away from achieving the protocol target-and we still have eight years in which to meet that objective.
Mr SPEAKER:Order! Government members will remain silent.
Mr D. L. PAGE: Instead of trying to score political points in this place, the Minister should examine his record on forestry. This Government has cost the State hundreds and hundreds of jobs. The next time the Minister makes a ministerial statement he should ensure he tells the truth.