Ms DUNN (Eastern Metropolitan) — My question is for the Minister for Agriculture. With the announcement by Australian Sustainable Hardwoods that it will be conducting a staged closure of the Heyfield mill due to an insufficient supply of logs from VicForests, can the minister confirm that the 80 000 cubic metres and subsequent 60 000 and 60 000 cubic metres of timber-grade logs offered by VicForests will not be cut?
Ms PULFORD (Minister for Agriculture) — I thank Ms Dunn for her question, and I cannot help but find the apparent celebration a bit distasteful. There is a community at Heyfield with around 250 people who are deeply, deeply concerned about their future, given the announcement that has been made by the company.
As I have indicated on previous occasions, it is our very strong desire and our intention to find a viable future for this mill. We want the owners of this business to make it available for sale. We know that there is interest in the market, and as the Premier has indicated and I indicated in this place on Tuesday, the government is prepared to be a buyer of last resort if that is what it takes to provide a future for this mill. The amount of timber that VicForests have indicated to the company — the 80 000 cubic metres and 60 000 in the following two years — is a resource that is available.
We want that resource to be available to the mill at Heyfield, and that is the focus of our efforts.
Ms DUNN (Eastern Metropolitan) — Thank you, Minister, for your answer. Minister, if you cannot commit to preserving the forest that was destined to be
logged to supply Heyfield mill, can you confirm to whom these logs will be sold? Will these high-grade logs be sold at pulp log prices to Australian Paper, sold at D-grade prices to Dormit to manufacture pallets or exported overseas as woodchips for a fraction of their value?
Ms PULFORD (Minister for Agriculture) — This is extraordinarily distasteful, I have to say. The union that represents the people who work at Heyfield has been here at Parliament this week, and I can only hope that the people who work in the mill at Heyfield who have union delegates that I spoke to earlier in the week — and I ran into them in the vestibule this morning — have not heard this appalling line of questioning. It is our intention that that timber allocation will be made available for the mill at Heyfield.