I welcome the opportunity this evening to speak on this matter of public importance. The bushfires which have affected so many Australians and so much of Australia have been a tragedy in so many ways. The loss of life, the loss of people’s homes, the loss of wildlife and the damage to the environment are all devastating aspects of this bushfire season. This matter that we’re discussing tonight, put forward by the Greens, includes some aspects which I think everyone in this chamber can agree on—not all of the aspects, and later on I will get to which elements we don’t agree on, but some.
There is significant work to do in restoring fire damaged environments and helping the recovery of wildlife populations. That work has already commenced under the leadership of the Morrison coalition government. One of the early actions that the government has taken is to make a $50 million down payment for emergency responses to wildlife and habitat recovery. This money is to act on immediate urgent priorities: to care for and rehabilitate wildlife; secure viable populations of threatened species; control feral predators, other pest animals and weeds; and work with landowners to protect unburnt areas adjacent to bushfire damaged areas, which will be important habitats to allow native plants and animals to recover. The Threatened Species Commissioner is advising the federal government on further immediate actions and long-term wildlife protection and will work closely with the National Bushfire Recovery Coordinator. That is, of course, on top of the significant relief that we have provided for those people affected by bushfires as well. This summer’s bushfire season has been a significant environmental challenge, and the initial funding committed by the Morrison coalition government is just the first step to allow urgent emergency recovery actions to be rolled out. More money will be required, and it will be forthcoming. The Morrison government is certainly showing leadership and will continue to do so in all aspects of bushfire recovery.
But what I do strongly disagree with in this matter of public importance that we are discussing here tonight is the Greens’ attempt to shoehorn their antiforestry agenda—an agenda, sadly, shared by the Labor Party in my own state of Tasmania and in Victoria—into a matter about bushfire recovery. It is disgusting that, at a time when the forestry industry is hurting and on its knees as a result of these fires, the Greens are using them to push their antijob agenda. To be perfectly frank, in Tasmania and Victoria the Labor Party is just as bad.
Amongst the many thousands of career firefighters and volunteers who bravely fought bushfires and protected communities this summer are a number of forestry workers. In my own state of Tasmania, our Sustainable Timber Tasmania staff were fighting alongside the Tasmania Fire Service in the community of Fingal to ensure that that community was kept safe. Forestry workers have made a huge contribution and represent a highly skilled and experienced part of our bushfire resource. They understand native forests and how to fight bushfires, because they work in these forests day in and day out.
This matter of public importance also mentions reforestation. Who understands how to regrow and regenerate native forests better than our world-class forestry industry? One of the most common pieces of misinformation that is spread by the green movement in this country is to refer to the harvesting of timber in this country as ‘deforestation’ when they know very well that the trees that are harvested are replanted and the forest is regenerated. It’s a regular occurrence, particularly in Tasmania, to have green protesters complaining of logging of pristine, old-growth native forest in coops that have actually been logged and regrown just 60 or 70 years ago.
As a government, we will of course continue to show leadership in helping our wildlife populations and our native forests recover from fire damage, but what we won’t do, and what Labor shouldn’t do either, is use these terrible bushfires as an excuse to attack our forestry sector and forestry workers, who contribute so much to our regional economies. These are shameful tactics by the Australian Greens to denigrate our forestry industry. I challenge the Labor Party, particularly in Victoria and Tasmania, to denounce them, just as I have tonight.