Fibre and Wood Supply: Assessment Report Figures

My question is for the Special Minister of State representing the Premier.
Thursday, May 11, 2017 - 12:00pm
Speaker:
Samantha Dunn

Ms DUNN (Eastern Metropolitan) — My question is for the Special Minister of State representing the Premier. The Victorian Environmental Assessment Council (VEAC) Fibre and Wood Supply: Assessment Report was released yesterday. It was part of the work requested by the Forest Industry Taskforce. The report details current resource availability and describes in it a reduction in ash sawlog of 43 000 cubic metres reduction per year due to the expected future impact of measures in place to protect the Leadbeater’s possum. Can you advise the house if the 43 000 cubic metre per year figure is correct?

Mr JENNINGS (Special Minister of State) — There will be a lot of people around the state of Victoria who are actually looking at this and probably scratching their heads about the method by which you calculate timber volumes now or into the future. So thank you for instantly providing me with an opportunity to become Eddie the expert on that subject. Can I say to you that the information that has been provided by VEAC is consistent with other assessments that have been made by other people who have expertise in this area and consistent — —

Ms Dunn interjected.

Mr JENNINGS — Why not? If they are of that view, why would that not be something that you would be happy to hear if VicForests were of that view? The issue is that there is a consistent assessment of timber availability by most people in fields with expertise in this area, with the exception of what is purported by the National Party to be the volumes that may be available — and that is based upon their licking their finger and holding it to the wind. Other assessments on the base of the timber availability say that there is a restraint on that resource, and there is a consistent restraint on that resource. What I think Ms Dunn has done is look at what has been a bundling of issues in relation to the fragmentation of the availability of timber supply going beyond the prescriptions of the buffers that have been provided by the Leadbeater’s possum numbers and other issues in relation to timber access. The cumulative effect of those measures may actually see that number being ascribed to what the constraint might be anticipated to be in the future.

Ms Dunn — On a point of order, President, my question is very narrow and relates to a specific dot point.

Mr JENNINGS — I am just telling you it is wrong. That is what I am telling you. The question is wrong.

Ms Dunn — The 43 000 cubic metre figure is wrong or the question is wrong? 

Mr JENNINGS — Your assertion now is wrong. It is not as narrow as you believe.

Ms Dunn — My point of order is — —

Honourable members interjecting.

The PRESIDENT — Order! Ms Dunn is raising a point of order with me, and I cannot hear her. Ms Dunn, without assistance. Ms Dunn — My question is very narrow; it relates to the 43 000-cubic-metre figure described in this report. It is a very straightforward question in that it asks: ‘Is that figure correct?’.

Ms Shing — On the point of order, President, in the course of a number of interjections Ms Dunn has in fact broadened the scope of the initial question and the minister has been responding to that. In addition to that I note that the minister still has 2 minutes and 5 seconds on the clock, and to provide a context is not unreasonable in accordance with the standing orders and your earlier rulings in this regard.

The PRESIDENT — Order! I do not uphold the point of order as such. In fact I think in some ways the minister has addressed the very specific matter that Ms Dunn raised in his remarks thus far, and he may return to perhaps be more explicit in that regard. I think that the minister was showing that the expertise of the particular agency suggested that he was not in a position to dispute that figure. That was what I took up from his remarks. I am paraphrasing obviously, but that is what I took up from the remarks and I thought the minister had already addressed that matter in that way. Perhaps he will return to provide something that will satisfy the member a little more.

Mr JENNINGS — Thank you, President. The bizarre thing is that I was actually thinking that the more information I was giving and the more responses I was giving to Ms Dunn would have made her happy. I cannot quite understand what her need is in this question. The 43 000 number was published, so to that extent the 43 000 number is correct. I was actually telling her how in fact that 43 000 is made up and who actually accepts it and who does not accept it. If she does not want that information, then maybe she might in her supplementary question ask me additional things that she may be interested in in what I was volunteering to her. 

Supplementary question

Ms DUNN (Eastern Metropolitan) — It is my understanding that VicForests and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), have reworked the calculation to properly reflect the reduction of ash sawlog per annum and that it is far lower than that included in the report. Will the government insist that the report be reissued with accurate figures?

Mr JENNINGS (Special Minister of State) — In fact now Ms Dunn is making things up. I think she might have been better off to stick to how she started. What I can say to Ms Dunn — —

Mr Finn interjected.

Mr JENNINGS — I am not quite sure now; does Mr Finn want that number increased or reduced? What is his interest in this endeavour? What we are talking about is the people who are doing this estimate. They come up with an outcome, and everybody wants something different.

Honourable members interjecting.

Mr JENNINGS — I do not think so. In fact, funnily enough, we do understand that you actually deal with the cards you are dealt. You are dealt with your responsibility; you act in accordance with it. That is the hallmark for this side of the chamber. Other people may just want to take an oppositional position on everything and say that it is all too hard — in fact the world is hard; isn’t it complex? — and deny any opportunities to act in it. We are trying to take responsibility for this matter.