Matter of Urgency: Native Timber Harvesting, 21 June 2023

Senator BABET (Victoria—United Australia Party Whip) (16:01): I rise in support of Senator Duniam’s urgency motion—of course I do. I am appalled by the accelerated destruction of the native timber industry in my home state of Victoria. The industry has been a vital part of Victoria’s regional economy for 170 years—more than 170 years—but instead of being given until 2030 to transition they have been blindsided with destruction within six months. The Andrews Labor government has taken an axe to many hardworking Gippsland communities such as Orbost and Hayfield.

Our native timber industry is the lifeblood of many of our regional towns, and its closure on 1 January is expected to cut 4½ thousand jobs—incredible. Children are in tears because their parents might not have a job next year. They don’t know how they will put food on the table. They don’t know where they are going to go, how they’re going to feed their kids. It is wrong. They will default on mortgages, schools will close, local football clubs—gone. This plan is a plan to destroy country towns, and it is heartless and, more importantly, unscientific. Premier Dan Andrews recently said that he wasn’t here to be popular. That is what he said. My God, is he correct—I can’t stand the man. He may be popular with Greens leader Mr Adam Bandt and the Chinese Communist Party—he is popular with them—but I guarantee he will never stand face-to-face with those regional Victorians whose lives he is destroying.

The industry regulator works hard to ensure the long-term health and productivity of our beautiful native forests. Far from damaging ecosystems, sustainable logging prevents devastating superfires because the industry has a vested interest in protecting the sustainability of native forests. That is why it logs selectively and regenerates native species, creating healthy, resilient forests which provide a unique home for flora and fauna. Before the arrival of settlers, Indigenous Australians used to reduce the risk of fire and of intense fires by back-burning. That is what they did. The native timber industry achieves the same result by maintaining firebreaks and access roads, reducing fuel loads and conducting prescribed burning. Disgracefully, the Andrews government is not interested in these benefits, but is interested only in courting inner-city Greens votes. That is all he is interested in, and it is not right. Labor needs to stand up for the forests. (Time expired)