Nov 19, 2004

PM – Albanese outlines ALP’s new principles for Tasmanian forests

PM – Albanese outlines ALP’s new principles for Tasmanian forests

Friday 19 November 2004

MARK COLVIN: There was bad blood in the lead-up to today’s Labor caucus meeting, with a Tasmanian MP calling the Environment spokesman a ‘mangy dog’.

But by the time the meeting was over, Labor was describing it as ‘constructive’ – and saying the party now had principles for a reinvigorated Tasmanian forests policy to take to the next federal election.

With accusations that the forestry policy was ‘electorally disastrous’, Labor wants to reshape its more radical aspects in favour of a platform that both protects the Tasmanian economy and the state’s rare ecosystems.

Toni Hassan reports.

TONI HASSAN: The Labor Party’s loss of two Tasmanian seats has been blamed on the party’s forests policy which involved a logging moratorium to save up to 240 thousand hectares of old-growth forests.

Labor’s newly-appointed environment spokesman Anthony Albanese says today’s caucus meeting affirmed Labor needs to convey its both pro jobs and the environment.

ANTHONY ALBANESE:   What we’ve done is adopt a series of principles. Those principles go to ensuring that there’s a sustainable forestry industry plan for Tasmania, based on the use of plantation timber, selective use of native timber, value adding and downstream processing. That there’s no overall loss of jobs in the forestry industry and that they’ll be further protection of identified Tasmanian high-conservation value – old growth forests, rainforests and other eco-systems. It’s a position that has principles to benefit the Tasmanian economy. To benefit Tasmanian jobs, and to benefit the conservation outcomes for Tasmania.

TONI HASSAN: Is it an admission that the previous policy was too weighted in favour of the environment over the economy?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:   Well I think that the previous policy certainly had in it no overall loss of jobs. It had an 800 million dollar commitment for a sustainable forestry industry plan. So those details I think though, were lost during the emotion of a federal election campaign. We’re adopting these principles. We will go out there, one of the issues that we want to campaign on, is to get away from the argument that it’s a choice between jobs or the environment. The truth is that bad forest practices of clear felling, of old growth forests and woodchipping being the driving force behind the industry rather than simply a bi-product of it, which was the original intention, mean also bad economic outcomes and bad employment outcomes.

TONI HASSAN: Now you admit that the detail was lost. Who’s fault was that, given that much of the policy was only known just days before the poll?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:   Well I think there are things to be learnt from all of our practices and the election campaign. And part of the review and today, was doing that. We now have the principles there outlined clearly, three years before the next federal election. We look forward to holding the government accountable for its policies. It has said that it will protect 170 thousand hectares of Tasmanian forests. We await to see where those areas are exactly.

TONI HASSAN: Anthony Albanese says there was solidarity behind the leader Mark Latham, despite rumblings about his presidential campaign style and rough nut image in the electorate.

His message is that Labor is focussed on the environment with the party also agreeing today to re-affirm its commitment to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and increase flows for the Murray River.

One of loudest critics of Labor and its forest policy was its own member for Lyons, Dick Adams. Mr Adams had earlier described it as a grubby preference deal, out of touch with Tasmanians.

This evening, emerging from the discussion with party colleagues, Tasmanian Dick Adams is far more reconciliatory.

DICK ADAMS: What I was trying to do today was be positive and I spoke about where we should be and the difficulties of the Tasmanian situation, to make sure my caucus colleagues were well aware of the Tasmanian and the importance of forestry in the Tasmanian economy.

TONI HASSAN: Might you have thought they did before?

DICK ADAMS: Well, I don’t think they had that big an opportunity before. I mean, this is the first debate that we really had on a broader scale outside the committee structures on forestry, and I think it was a very good debate. It was very constructive. Everybody spoke with a sense of trying to achieve things, and that’s what it was about. And I think we did that, and we did it very well.

MARK COLVIN: The Labor Member for Lyons Dick Adams, ending Toni Hassan’s report.