27 August, 2013

D-Day looms for forest peace deal

ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), 27 August 2013

Tasmania's Upper House MPs are considering a critical report on the Government's efforts to address problems with the implementation of the forest peace deal, as they prepare to vote on its future.

A progress report released last month found the success of the deal was being hampered by a "critical" shortage of wood.

The Resources Minister, Bryan Green, has tabled the Government's response in Parliament.

It includes correspondence with Forestry Tasmania, showing the state-owned company now expects to exceed wood supply targets this financial year as it ramps up a technique called cable harvesting.

It also hinges on no more harvesting contractors leaving the industry.

The report confirms a specialty timber supply target will not be met but says a $2 million review into the problem is progressing.

At the same time, Independent Liberal MLC Tony Mulder is pushing for the Upper House to vote on the future of the peace deal legislation as soon as possible.

The Member for Rumney's motion to create another 380,000 hectares of forest reserves is designed to counter Huon MLC Paul Harriss' attempt to kill off the deal.

Mr Harriss wants his motion debated after the Federal election.

But Mr Mulder says Tasmanians are sick and tired of political grandstanding over the issue.

"The important element of this is that the issue gets decided by Parliament and not left in limbo."

Peace deal negotiators want a quick resolution

Industry, union and green groups that signed the historic agreement are pushing for a vote this week, and they want it to pass.

Terry Edwards from the Forest Industries Association says the government's response to problems raised in the progress report should prompt the Upper House to approve the final stage of the peace deal.

"This has been hanging over the industry like the Sword of Damocles now for three years," he said.

"We need to bring it to a close, we need certainty."

Jane Calvert from the Forestry Union says her members need certainty.

"This has to be done and dusted this week," she said.

"Our members have been well aware from the first day of this that there will be job losses. Never the less they have supported it because the alternative to them was devastating job losses."

Debate on Mr Mulder's' motion to accept the protection of another 380,000 hectares of forest could start as soon as today.

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