Thursday, 1 June 2023


Timber industry


Timber industry

David ETTERSHANK (Western Metropolitan) (16:04): (281) My adjournment matter is for Minister Tierney. The announcement of an end to logging in Victoria’s native forests by January 2024, a full six years ahead of schedule, is excellent news for our environment, its threatened species and the state’s economy. We have long known the damage caused by old-growth forest logging. The destruction of these magnificent forests to produce low-value products, such as woodchips and paper pulp, has led to a sharp decline in biodiversity and pushed many of our native animals towards extinction. Increasingly harsh bushfires have further exacerbated the pressures placed on our forests by logging, with vast areas of forest never fully regenerating. Economically it has never stacked up. VicForests, the state-owned business that manages Victoria’s logging industry, has been running at a loss for many years, and government subsidies have been used to prop up an ever-dwindling workforce.

So we congratulate the government on its decision – it is overdue. But this change leaves those workers, skilled and unionised, and their communities in need of new opportunities. The towns of Heyfield and Maryvale, by way of example, face devastating consequences arising from these changes. The government has earmarked $200 million in this year’s budget to allow workers to retrain and enable them to transition to other industries. The obvious question, however, is what those industries might be for the citizens of towns like Heyfield and Maryvale. It also raises the question of how we will fulfil the demand for wood, fibre and paper products.

We strongly suggest that an industrial hemp industry could be part of the solution to both of these problems. Industrial hemp offers a sustainable alternative for the building materials and paper products we need. It can provide long-term, well-paid jobs for workers affected by the end of the logging industry, particularly if there is a tight focus on capturing those jobs in value-added production instead of shipping those jobs overseas, along with the woodchips. The action I seek is that the minister, as part of the timber industry adjustment process, establishes a plan to train and support affected workers to transition into long-term, sustainable jobs in the hemp industry.