Thursday, 1 June 2023

Questions without notice and ministers statements

Timber industry


Timber industry

Renee HEATH (Eastern Victoria) (12:16): (173) My question is for the Minister for Agriculture. Michael O’Connor, national secretary of the CFMEU, has labelled the Victorian Forestry Plan advisory committee a sham following the Victorian government’s shock decision to fast-track the closure of the native timber industry. He has since resigned in disgust, saying:

The union is not interested in being a prop for the state’s media unit.

Minister, why did the government not consult with the Victorian Forestry Plan advisory committee?

Gayle TIERNEY (Western Victoria – Minister for Training and Skills, Minister for Higher Education, Minister for Agriculture) (12:17): I thank the member for her question. In terms of the comments that Mr O’Connor made, he is within his rights to make those comments, of course. We have been in active conversation with members of the advisory council for a long, long time. In terms of the decision and the timing of that decision, that was a decision made by the government, and it was made last Tuesday as part of its budget considerations. I have met with Mr O’Connor as recently as earlier this week, and I have always had a good relationship with him. He is a fierce advocate for his members, and we will continue to consult with him and his organisation all the way forward.

Renee HEATH (Eastern Victoria) (12:18): I thank the minister for her response. Labor senator for Victoria Raff Ciccone has publicly slammed the Victorian government for its shock closure of the native timber industry, citing lack of consultation with the unions, workers and the broader sector. Minister, will you now take the advice of your Labor colleague and meet with workers and the sector to properly explain this shock decision?

Gayle TIERNEY (Western Victoria – Minister for Training and Skills, Minister for Higher Education, Minister for Agriculture) (12:18): It is unfortunate that Ms Heath does not understand how government works. The fact of the matter is that we have been meeting with various parts of the timber industry for a long time, even as recently as yesterday. And we will continue to do so.

Members interjecting.

The PRESIDENT: Order! It is a very difficult expectation on me to judge if a minister has answered a question when I cannot hear her answer, but she did answer the question. The people who ask the questions are the ones that make it impossible for all of us to hear the answer.