“Australia has 155 million hectares of native forests. About 10 percent – 11 million hectares – of those forests are managed for wood production with less than 1 percent being harvested in any one year. The small proportion of forests that is harvested annually is regenerated so that a perpetual supply of native hardwood and softwood is maintained in this country.
And let me say that Australia is fortunate to have some of the best foresters in the world working to maintain our forest assets in perpetuity.”
So began a speech by Martin Ferguson, the Australian Labor Party’s resources and forestry spokesman, to the National Association of Forest Industries titled “Australia’s role in the global sustainability of forestry and forest industries” on 28th November 2005.
The speech was the focus of an opinion piece in today’s The Australian in which Glenn Milne suggests that,
“Ferguson’s speech amounted to the most unrelenting attack on the Greens from a figure of substance on the Labor side of politics since the defeat of the Keating government in 1996. Brown is now on notice. In the words of one senior Labor figure supporting Ferguson: “We’re about sending a message to Tasmania. Some sections of the Labor Party now no longer believe that the rainbow alliance is the way forward, especially when it’s our economic credibility that’s under question. Running around chasing the Green tail just means we’re ignoring our base, and that includes small contractors.”
In the speech Martin Ferguson tries to take the moral high ground on environmental issues as well as shafting the greens.
As Milne reported, Ferguson said, “The Greens are a political movement chasing votes like any other party. The campaign being run by the Greens is aimed at capturing votes, it has nothing to do with the environment or sustainability, and above all, it is dishonest.
The result of the Greens actions could well be to scare international customers away from sustainable forest resources in Tasmania to countries where illegal logging leaves a trail of total devastation, but where ignorance is bliss.”
While the forestry industry and me have been saying as much for a long time, I haven’t read anyting like this in The Australian by a regular columnist or heard anything like this from a federal Labor leader – ever.
The Shadow Minister was talking to the timber industry when he gave the speech. Milne is suggesting the speech is part of a new realignment by the Labor party.
But how will federal Labor promote a pro-forestry policy and also retain some of its inner city seats won at previous elections at least in part because of its popularist pseudo-green credentials which have historically been about opposing logging in Tasmania.