March 26, 2015
Mr CHESTER (Gippsland—Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence) (10:03): Today I rise to speak in support of Gippsland jobs and Australian jobs, particularly those associated with the timber and wood products industry in the electorate of Gippsland. The gross value of forestry and timber products in the wider Gippsland region is $1.2 billion which, of course, incorporates parts of the electorate of McMillian held by Russell Broadbent. It is a major contributor to our local economy. Across Australia there are thousands of jobs associated with forest, wood, paper and timber products in both metropolitan and regional communities.
This week has been a big week for the forestry industry here in parliament. Many of us have taken the opportunity to meet with industry representatives, who are optimistic and enthusiastic about their future. These representatives have been in Canberra meeting with ministers, senators and lower house backbench members to send a clear message that the Australian timber industry is open for business and ready to expand and provide more jobs into the future. This culminated last night with the Innovation in Action industry gala dinner, presented by ForestWorks and Australian Forest Products Association. The evening featured several keynote speakers from the wood products industry and it was well attended by members from both sides of the House.
As the Prime Minister himself said last night, he would like to see the timber industry as a sunrise industry not a sunset industry. I refer to the Prime Minister’s comments from last year and I quote:
We want the timber industry to have a vigorous and dynamic future, not just a past. We want the timber industry to be a vital part of Australia’s economic future, not just something that was a relic of our history.
I commend the Prime Minister, I commend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, Richard Colbeck, and the Minister for Agriculture for their work in support of the Australian timber industry.
I had the opportunity last night to sit with representatives of the Latrobe City Council. They were singled out for praise last night as being the first local government in Australia to adopt a Wood Encouragement Policy. That Wood Encouragement Policy means this council knows the importance of the forest and wood products industry to Latrobe Valley and the wider Gippsland region.
I want to speak in relation to one particular business in my electorate, Australian Paper, which is the largest private employer in Gippsland and employs about 1,100 workers. This company produces recycled paper products and has recently invested millions of dollars in a de-inking plant to develop this growing area. The paper that I am reading off here today was made at the Maryvale mill in Gippsland.
I extend a challenge to other members of this place and federal government departments who are using imported paper in their offices. I find it appalling that there is a long list of Australian government departments which do not source their office requisites from Australian made paper. In weeks to come, I will start naming the departments. There is a long list of Australian government departments that continue to use imported paper. I cannot understand how it can even be possible that paper imported to Australia from Germany, Austria or Indonesia could compete with an Australian made product on price, quality or environmental credentials.
This is a very important Australian industry. It is a very important Gippsland industry. I urge all members, senators, ministers, parliamentary secretaries and department staff who may be listening to start supporting Australian jobs and to start purchasing locally made Australian paper.